Sidecar system requirements

Sidecar, one of the most exciting new features in macOS Catalina 10.15, lets you use your iPad as a Mac display and your Apple Pencil as a graphics tablet for pressure-sensitive drawing and sketching in Mac apps, marking up screenshots and PDFs and more. But do your Mac and iPad devices meet the minimum system requirements needed for the Sidecar feature?

As mentioned, Sidecar enables Catalina users to extend their Mac desktop by using their iPad as a second display or even as a high-precision input device across creative Mac apps.

Sidecar, in Apple’s own words…

From Apple’s Catalina press release:

For users on the go, Sidecar makes it easy to bring an extended display with them so they can spread their work out over two displays wherever they happen to be. When paired with an Apple Pencil, they can use their iPad to draw, sketch or write in any Mac app that supports stylus input.

Sidecar is a great tool for editing video with Final Cut Pro X, drawing with Adobe Illustrator or marking up iWork documents. And like all Continuity features, Sidecar can run on a wireless connection, so users can work with greater mobility.

But will Sidecar run on your Mac and iPad?

Sidecar system requirements

Sidecar requires a Mac computer with Intel’s Skylake processor or better and iPad models that support either the original Apple Pencil or the second-generation Appel stylus.

Supported Mac models:

  • MacBook introduced in 2016 or later
  • MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
  • MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later
  • Mac mini introduced in 2018 or later
  • iMac introduced in late 2015 or later
  • iMac Pro introduced in 2017 or later
  • Mac Pro introduced in 2019

Supported iPad models:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (sixth generation or later)
  • iPad mini (fifth generation)
  • iPad Air (third generation)

Requirements for Wi-Fi mode:

The following additional requirements apply for using Sidecar in wireless mode:

  • Same iCloud account on each device
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff must be on
  • Both devices are within 10 meters (30 feet) of each other
  • Instant Hotspot is disabled for the iPad’s cellular connection
  • The Mac isn’t sharing its Internet connection

Sidecar can also be used in wired mode to cut down on latency: connect iPad to your Mac with a cable, then simply select the tablet via the AirPlay menu in the menu bar of your Mac.

Sidecar system requirements

For good measure, these are the iPad models that support Apple Pencil:

Apple Pencil compatibility:

  • iPad Air (third generation)
  • iPad mini (fifth generation)
  • iPad (seventh generation)
  • iPad (sixth generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (second generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (first generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch
  • Apple Pencil (2nd generation):

Apple Pencil 2 compatibility:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch

Continuity Sketch and Markup in Sidecar work with all Mac computers running the macOS Catalina software, iPad devices running iPadOS and iPhone devices running iOS 13.

App support

For the most part, Sidecar just works.

You just ensure that both your iPad and Mac are signed in to the same iCloud account and are on the same local wireless network (or connected with a cable). To get started with Sidecar, you just select your iPad from the AirPlay menu in the menu bar of your Mac. Sidecar support is included at the system level for all apps, including both general navigation and drawing with Apple Pencil.

Sidecar system requirements

In addition, many popular third-party apps are supported by Sidecar, including Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Photo, Pixelmator Pro, ZBrush, Cinema 4D, Maya and many more.

Mac apps that already support drawing tablets, like Photoshop, are automatically supported by Sidecar. Some apps may need an update to bring advanced stylus support, like pressure and tilt sensitivity or specifying custom behavior for double-tap on the side of Apple Pencil.

What about Luna Display?

The arrival of Sidecar has Sherlock’d Luna Display.

It’s a USB attachment that uses hardware video encoding and fast wireless transfer to do literally the same thing as Sidecar. Having realized they’re unable to compete with Apple’s free feature, Luna pivoted into computer-to-computer display sharing.

With a simple software update, existing users gain Mac-to-Mac mode that turns any Mac into a secondary display, especially useful if you have a rusty old Mac lying around somewhere.

They also intend to support Windows in the future.

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