Apple released macOS Catalina, the latest major update to its desktop operating system. Going into the update, a lot of Mac owners were excited for a feature called Sidecar. Sidecar allows you to use a newer iPad as a secondary display with your Mac. It’s a feature that’s been available on macOS through a variety of third-party apps for a couple of years now, but, as usual, Apple’s ability to deeply integrate Sidecar into macOS made the feature all the more compelling. There’s just one issue with Sidecar: you’ll need a relatively new Mac and iPad.
The laptops that Sidecar works on are:
MacBooks from 2016 or later (the second generation of Apple’s ultra-thin [and now gone] laptop line)
MacBook Airs from 2018 or later (Apple’s recent redesign of the MacBook Air)
MacBook Pros from 2016 or later (Apple switched to butterfly keys in the Pros in 2016)
It’s disappointing to see that Sidecar doesn’t work on any older laptops without the company’s perpetually troubled butterfly keyboard, which has gone through three iterations and is now covered under an extended warranty program Apple launched last year specifically to address the issue for certain models.
One theory that explains the limited number of devices that support Sidecar is that the feature depends on HEVC, a high-efficiency video codec. Starting with the Skylake generation, Intel added built-in support for the codec to its CPUs. Even if true, it’s still a disappointing limitation since some of the more powerful Broadwell-equipped Macs could have likely handled the feature.
You’ll also need a relatively new iPad to use Sidecar, too, and it will have to support Apple Pencil. Apple says all iPad Pros are supported, as well as the 6th gen or newer iPad, 5th gen iPad mini, and the 3rd gen iPad Air. And no matter which you use, it will need to be running iPadOS 13.
Apple says Sidecar also works on desktop Macs with Skylake chipsets or newer, including:
Mac minis from 2018 or later
iMacs from late 2015 or later
The upcoming 2019 Mac Pro