Because web browsing on a TV is rarely a satisfactory experience Apple doesn’t include a web browser channel with the Apple TV. However, if you’ve a burning desire to catch-up with your favourite sites on your 42-inch HDTV, there are ways. If you have an Apple TV you can stream whatever is on your Mac to your TV screen using AirPlay. You can also mirror what’s on your iPhone or iPad screen to your Apple TV using AirPlay, and there are also apps available for iPhone and iPad that are able to use Apple's AirPlay technology to stream a browser interface to the Apple TV.
How to stream a Mac display to a television screen via Apple TV
One way to browse the web on your TV screen is to stream what’s on your Mac display over to your TV screen via your Apple TV. To do this you will need an Apple TV and a Mac that is compatible with AirPlay Mirroring. If your Mac is older than 2011 (or in the case of the Mac Pro, 2013) it won’t offer AirPlay Mirroring. Also, only generation two and three of the Apple TV support AirPlay video. You will also need to be running Apple TV Software version 5 or later on your Apple TV. Read more about using AirPlay to stream from your Mac to TV here.
If you Mac does support streaming to the Apple TV you should see an AirPlay icon in the menu bar, which when selected opens a menu.
If you don’t see this icon, check that your Mac is on the same network as your Apple TV. When you are using AirPlay Mirroring this icon will turn blue.
It may be the case that you need to turn on AirPlay on your Apple TV before the icon will show up on your Mac. Here’s how:
On your Apple TV, click on Settings > General > Network and make sure the Apple TV is connected to the same network as your Mac (and iOS device).
Now click back on the Remote to return to Settings and choose AirPlay. Set AirPlay to On.
On your Mac, go to the top right corner and click on the AirPlay icon. Choose Apple TV and then either choose to mirror your Mac screen, or use the TV screen as a separate display. If you choose to mirror you will see exactly the same content on your Mac screen as you see on the TV. If you would like to continue to use the Mac for something else while streaming to the Apple TV you can choose to use the TV screen as a separate display.
Another way to choose the TV display on your Mac is go to System Preferences > Displays and click on AirPlay Display and select Apple TV.
If you still don’t see an AirPlay icon (like the one below), or the AirPlay Display or AirPlay Mirroring options in System Preferences, and you are sure that your Mac supports AirPlay you may be having some issues with your network. We have some troubleshooting solutions here in this article: How to set up an Apple TV, navigation shortcuts, AirPlay tips and troubleshooting advice.
You can choose to view the content of your Mac's screen mirrored on the TV, or you can set the TV screen up as a second screen for your Mac, which would enable you to multitask, perhaps watching one thing on the TV screen while working on something else (although note this doesn't work as well as we would like).
How to surf the web on an Apple TV using your Mac and AirPlay
Now that you can see your Mac display on your TV screen you just need to open a browser on your Mac, and navigate to a web page. That page will now be available to view on your TV screen.
This is perfect if you are searching for holiday ideas with a partner, as both of you can share the display. It’s also a great way to view friend’s Facebook albums.
The main issue you are likely to experience is the fact that the text tends to be too small to view from the other side of the room. Don't expect to easily surf from the couch with a screen a few meters away.
Of course, most people looking for a way to surf the web on their Apple TV screen are looking for a way to view video content and other media on their TV screen.
In many cases there will be content available that you can now watch on your TV screen. For example, we were able to stream iPlayer, ITV Player, and 4OD from our Mac to our Apple TV screen, although we found that the playback could be quite jittery and in some cases pixelated, the audio did at least come out of our TV speakers. If you are going to view content this way it is advisable to mirror your screen, rather than use the TV as a second display because when we did the latter the content we were streaming to the TV was very pixelated. Read more about watching OnDemand TV on your Apple TV here.
The other issue with surfing the web on your TV screen, while using the keyboard and trackpad on the Mac in your lap to control what you are doing, is that you might as well be using the laptop to search. You could plug in a separate mouse and keyboard and use them as a controller, but it isn’t the most elegant solution. This is where the iPhone and iPad come in, offering a way of surfing the web using the iOS device as the controller.
How to surf the web on an Apple TV using AirParrot on your Mac
There are also alternatives to using AirPlay to connect to your Apple TV. The AirParrot app ($13.99) beams your Mac’s screen and media files over to your Apple TV (as well as some other devices including Chromecast). AirParrot offers some feature that aren’t available via AirPlay. For example, you can mirror the entire screen or just a specific application.
How to stream your iPhone/iPad display to your television screen via Apple TV
Streaming your iPhone or iPad display to your television screen via an Apple TV is similar to doing so on your Mac. On your iPhone or iPad swipe up to enter the Control Centre, and select the AirPlay icon, which should be there so long as you have AirPlay activated on the Apple TV, and both devices are on the same network.
As with the Mac, you will be able to choose to mirror the screen of your iOS device, or send the content to the TV screen. Unfortunately, whether you mirror the screen or not, once you are using your iPhone with the Apple TV you won’t be able to do anything else with it.
When streaming the display of your iPhone to your TV the mirrored screen you see on your TV will be a portrait version of your iPhone when held upwards. Some apps only have a portrait version, so rotating the phone will have no effect (we're looking at you Facebook), but if you have an app which changes it's layout if you rotate it to landscape view, you will be able to view those pages on your TV using the whole of the screen.
You can now open Safari on your iPhone or iPad and surf the web on your TV screen. This is a mush better surfing experience than trying to surf the web when mirroring the screen of your Mac. The text is sized perfectly to suit how far you are from the screen and legible from the other side of the room.
You can also view various apps on your TV screen this way, although some may have limited functionality if they aren’t set up to work with AirPlay. For example, you may find that audio may not come out of the speakers in your TV if the app doesn't support AirPlay fully. For this reason some of the TV channel websites will playback content when you are mirroring the screen of your Mac, but don't work when you attempt to use AirPlay to view the TV shows on via your Apple TV.
How to surf the web on an Apple TV: Using Web Browser on iPhone or iPad
While you can surf the web on your TV screen via Safari on your iPhone or iPad, navigation isn’t seamless – you are basically looking at your iPhone in order to type or navigate the page, so you might as well be surfing on your iOS device.
This is where the Web Browser for Apple TV app (£1.49 – previously called AirWeb) on an iPad or iPhone comes in. This app beams pages directly to the Apple TV and turns the screen of your iPhone into a remote control for navigation.
If you install the Web Browser app on your iPhone or iPad you can use AirPlay to beam web pages over to your Apple TV and browse the web on the big screen.
Your iPhone or iPad will still need to support AirPlay Mirroring, but that's basically anything from the past few years. You'll also want a decent home network.
Set up is easy. Just install the app on your iPhone and then go to settings on your Apple TV and make sure that AirPlay is on and that in Audio and Video it is set to Adjust for AirPlay Overscan. Next pull up on the Control Centre on your iPhone, turn on AirPlay on your iPhone, and choose to Mirror. Now open the Web Browser app.
Once you have Web Browser working you can and enter the URL - say, www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer for iPlayer. Then you can watch the programmes you want. You do need to know the URL you need however.
The only issue we encountered is that when a programme we were watching on iPlayer ended the iPhone crashed and we had to reset it.
If you are hoping that you will be able to view content from ITV Player and 4oD this way you will be disappointed. Those urls were not supported by the app because they don’t use AirPlay. So this is still no solution for sending OnDemand content to your Apple TV.
How to surf the web on an Apple TV: Using AirBrowser on iPhone or iPad
Web Browser isn’t the only app available for iPhone that will let you browse the web on your Apple TV. There is also AirBrowser (£3.99) which, like Web Browser lets you browse the web on your Apple TV using your iOS device as a remote control.
Here are some other tips for using the Apple TV