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Apple disrupts your video conferences with AirPlay and Sidecar

June 23, 2023

Apple disrupts your video conferences with AirPlay and Sidecar

Have you noticed more laggy online behaviour from your MacBook than you are used to?

Network latency causes poor video conferencing, gaming and web browsing. So it was with a bit of shock that we found that Apple, the king of user experience, at times has really poor and self-inflicted network latency.

In our recent testing of the Network x-ray chrome extension, a free plugin for testing network quality for video conferences using the QoO framework, we came across a latency problem on a MacBook running Ventura 13.0. When it happens, the additional latency is in the order of the network traffic taking a trip around the world (at equator).

The latency measured by Network x-ray were unacceptably high, often measuring in the hundreds of milliseconds. After careful investigation, we identified the culprit to be AWDL (Apple Wireless Direct Link), which is primarily used for AirPlay and Sidecar. This issue has been confirmed by others to occur on Big Sur as well as versions 13.1, 13.2, and 13.3 of Ventura. Keep on reading to uncover the root of the problem and discover an easy workaround to mitigate the AWDL-related latency issue.

When testing the MacBook's performance, we observed a significant difference in latency before and after disabling AWDL. Here are the results of our tests:

AWDL enabled (default state):

  • Average: 118 milliseconds

  • 10% worst: 264 milliseconds

  • 1% worst: 437 milliseconds

AWDL disabled (after applying workaround):

  • Average: 36 milliseconds

  • 10% worst: 38 milliseconds

  • 1% worst: 54 milliseconds

As the data shows, disabling AWDL led to a substantial improvement in latency across the board. This implies that AWDL is indeed causing the high latency experienced during testing.

Workaround: Disabling AWDL

Fortunately, there is a simple workaround to mitigate the AWDL latency issue on your MacBook. By following these steps, you can temporarily disable AWDL until the device enters sleep mode:

  1. Open Terminal on your MacBook.

  2. Enter the following command:

                sudo ifconfig awdl0 down

This command will disable AWDL until your MacBook goes to sleep. If you wish to disable AWDL again after sleep or at any later time, use these commands:

                sudo ifconfig awdl0 up
                sudo ifconfig awdl0 down

These steps will re-enable AWDL temporarily and then disable it again. Hopefully Apple will find a way to avoid this problem in the future.

Conclusion

If you've been experiencing high latency on your MacBook running Ventura 13.0 or other mentioned versions, the AWDL (Apple Wireless Direct Link) could be the cause. By temporarily disabling AWDL using the provided workaround, you can significantly improve your MacBook's performance and reduce latency. We hope this blog post has helped shed light on the AWDL latency issue and provided a practical solution for users seeking a smoother and more responsive experience on their Apple devices.

References 

If you're seeking more information about the AWDL latency issue and the workaround we've discussed, we recommend checking out the following references:

  1. Disabling AWDL to Work Around Ventura Wi-Fi Issues - Michael Tsai's Blog [Link: https://mjtsai.com/blog/2022/12/19/disabling-awdl-to-work-around-ventura-wi-fi-issues/]

  2. Wi-Fi Jitter/Erratic Ping Latency Due to AWDL (Airdrop, Airplay) - MacRumors Forums [Link: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/wi-fi-jitter-erratic-ping-latency-due-to-awdl-airdrop-airplay.2373916/]

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