I’ve always been interested in medthods of playing my video library on my iOS devides – It’s especially useful because I have a TV-Out cable that I use to effectively watch videos from my computer on my TV. Previously I have compared ‘Air Video’ and ‘Stream to me’, finding Air Video to be the best solution. Today I found ‘Air Playit’ in the app store – It’s very similar to Air Video but free (at least for now). To clarify, Air Video is currently £1.99 while Air Playit is free.
I should say now, both services perform a similar task and both operate in a similar way, they both require you to install a client app on your Apple device and also the server software on the computer containing your media library. I won’t be covering everything each software does the same in depth, I’m focusing on where they differ. But simply put, each is capable of live conversion or converting and streaming the converted file.
You may know that video conversion is one of the most processor intensive tasks you can make your computer do, if you’re interested, I’m using a Samsung NC10 netbook (1.6Ghz, 160Gb HD, 1Gb Ram). This ISN’T enough to support on the fly live conversion, you’ll need a more powerful computer than mine
This screenshot (left) shows the Air Video server running. It’s a simple yet practical interface allowing you to choose what folders your videos are in – The same page on Air PlayIt is nearly identical (below).
This, however is where you’ll see the first difference between the two offerings. Air Playit provides a simple permissions system, which lets you allow/restrict access to specific folders based on the 3 preset user groups. It’s a nice addition though unless you have your videos preorganised into age specific folders it’s likely to be of little use.
The iOS clients are also pretty similar, both are being shown running on an iPad. Air Video (left) and Air Playit (below).
Both use a similar layout with Air Playit being a bit more crowded while seemingly not adding any more functionality
If you didn’t know, you could almost mistake the two for different skins of the same application they’re that similar.
I don’t really know where to fit it in but Playit also supports streaming (and caching) music. Not a feature I really need but again, a nice addition.
It may seem that Air Playit is by far the best choice, being free and offering slightly more functionality but it does have some shortcomings Most notably is that there is no ‘Time Remaining’ when performing conversions. This may not bother you if you put films on to convert overnight and don’t really care when they’ll be done, but if you want to know if you can watch your show in half an hour or 3, it becomes frustrating. I also noticed that there was a ‘jitter’ in the converted video a few times a minute which wasn’t present in Air Video.
The other problem with Air Playit is that converted videos are stored in a completely different directory to the source video, so you have to look in a different place for them – or check the list of recent conversions. Air Video can do this, but bydefault will place videos in the same directory and neatly overlay the names of the two videos into one so when you select the file to play it’ll automatically play the converted one. This also reminds forgetful people like me if I’ve converted a video or not.
Air Play it, again compensates by offering more features, it can play DRM video (purchased from iTunes) and also runs a web server showing the complete list of video available with links. As this is a webpage and just plain HTML, it will work on any computer/mobile. The other ‘killer’ feature of Air Playit is that you can download converted videos for offline viewing. You can only view the video within the app itself but this isn’t really a limitation. This is something that Air Video cannot do – it offers a feature where you can save the video to iTunes, but that requires a computer.
This brings me to my solution. I’ll use both. Firstly, I do suggest you buy Air Video, it’s really good, clean and well built and will display video with the converted and original vile as one also, because an ETA is given on conversions, use it to convert video too. Because it’s free, also install Air Playit and the server software for the simple reason that you then have a way to download any converted video to your device when you’re without a connection.