UPDATE: Don’t want to pay for Air Video? Get the free equivalent Air Playit
There are a couple of ways to watch video on your iDevice – iTunes or the YouTube app. I have a 16Gb iPad, which limits the amount of video I can store, so I like to stream the video to my device. This is done through having the video files on a server (either a dedicated computer or just any computer your media is on).
In order for this to work, you run a bit of software on this computer to serve the video files and then a compatible client on your iDevice to view the streamed media. In this article, I’m comparing between two such services, StreamToMe and Air video – Both of which are available to download on the app store for £1.99.
What you see here is two services running on my netbook server . They are, as shown left to right, ServeToMe and Air Video. Running one of these services will allow you to stream video from your computer to your iDevice. First I’ll compare the server software then the client software.
ServeToMe, the server side to StreamToMe has the cleanest interface allowing you to configure little more than the folders you want to share and settings for external access (outside of your LAN). Air Video also allows you to configure these, but also has a tab to show you the status of any conversions taking place.
I should say now, the two programs work in different ways. StreamToMe works by supporting a wide variety of video file formats, whereas Air Video converts any format it can’t support – or rather the server software does. Within this, there are two types of conversion that can be done. One of these is live conversion where the video is converted live and streamed straight away (will require a sufficiently powerful processor), the second is offline conversion. With the second, the video is placed in a conversion queue. Once finished, the video can still be streamed, which is advantageous as your server doesn’t need a processor fast enough to convert it live. There is also an option for adding the video to iTunes so you can play it any time without being connected to the server.
Below are screenshots of the client applications, Air Video and then StreamToMe respectively. I’ve found Air Video to be the best interface overall. This is mainly because it makes best use of the screen area available on the iPad – You can browse through the directories on the left while watching a video on the right. Of course, both applications can play video full screen too.
The only feature StreamToMe has over Air Video is the search bar, as you can see below.
Overall, I have to recommend Air Video, it’s more feature rich and flexible – the ability to download files for later viewing is also a real bonus. If however you just want a simple solution that doesn’t require a fast processor on the server side, StreamToMe may also be useful.