Review: Air Playit
An excellent free solution for streaming videos to your iDevices.
Flawless playback; Free; Supports most popular formats; Works well even with old devices.
Love them or hate them, iDevices are by far some of the best media playing devices. However, a major hurdle has been the fact that you need to convert media, especially videos, to compatible formats before you could transfer them to the device to play. This conversion takes time, which is a pain. Another hurdle was that there is only a limited amount of space on the devices, thus not allowing you to place as many videos or even a season of your favourite sitcom in the inbuilt memory. All these hurdles have been overcome by an application known as Air Playit, which makes use of the Wi-Fi capability of these devices to stream media files directly without any pre-conversion. You can literally browse your entire movie collection and pick up the one you want and the best thing is that it even works over the internet if you have a fast enough internet connection on your PC and the iDevice. The best thing is that this application is completely free. We took a look at this interesting application and here is what we have to say.
How It Works?
Air Playit works on a client-server model, which means that a server software resides on your PC, while a client software is installed on your iDevice. It works with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. A version for Android devices is also in the works, but it is not yet ready. We will first take a look at the server software.
While the server software is available for Windows as well as Mac, we have reviewed the Windows version, which is a 16.3 MB download. Mac users can download the 10.1 MB server from here. While we will explain the Windows version, the Mac version is not much different, so this review can be easily followed even by Mac users.
Once you download and install the server software, you must register for free using the form that pops up. All you need to provide is your name, surname, and email address.
Once registered, the server starts running and you are taken to the main window. Here, you can view the information such as the port number, local IP address, and internet IP address, which you must note down for future reference. You can also change the name for the server.
The next page allows you to decide upon password-protected permissions to set for the media being shared. There are different level users such as Admin, who can access all media, Kids, who can access restricted media, while Public level users can access media that is not protected by any PIN or password.
The Shared Folders page, as the name suggests, is to specify media folders to be shared for access to iDevices. Local folders can be chosen by browsing and specifying share name, which will be visible to the iDevice. All the files and folders under the shared folders become shared and accessible as well. Each folder shared in this way can be granted permission levels from the three mentioned on the Permission page. Additionally, you can also import iTunes Playlist and click on Apply.
Next is the Conversion page, where you can choose media for offline background conversion on the PC, to any of the several formats for different Apple devices. In the source contains multiple audio streams, you can choose the one you want in the converted file, in addition to the subtitle language, if any. Multiple files can be added for conversion and they will be queued after the first file.
The next page deals with web browser accessibility of this server from any internet connected device capable of displaying streaming videos. All you need to enable this function by checking the box next to The server can be accessed by web browser, and type the address specified at the bottom of this page, in the web browser of the internet connected device or PC to view the list of media files from the shared folders. On opening the URL, the browser displays a listing of the contents in the HTML format with links to play the media file with live conversion at the server end, or to play the file directly at the original resolution if the internet speed is fast enough at both ends. Clicking on the former will play it at the resolution, bitrate, and fps specified on the Web page.
The last page of the server lets you specify the output folder for the converted files and other settings such as a custom port, if the default conflicts with another application.
Once this server is up and running with the folders shared as required, you can install the client software on your iDevice by searching for Air Playit on the App Store. This is a free application and the proper version for your device will install if you install it directly from the device using Wi-Fi.
The first page of this app lets you specify the server settings. Since we have a local server, you must click on Add Local Server.
If the local server is not visible in the page that opens, you must click on Specify Address Manually. Here, you can specify the details from the first page of the server on the PC, such as local IP address, port number, and PIN if necessary. Do not forget to set the Connection type to Remote Wi-Fi just to be safe. These settings are presets for the streaming audio and video bitrates, with Local Wi-Fi having the highest and 3G having the lowest. You will have to experiment with this setting to find out the highest bitrate possible for streaming videos to your device. If you are going to access the server using a 3G connection or Wi-Fi, but from another location, then you must set this to 3G or Remote Wi-Fi and specify the internet IP address instead. There is a 4G option, but it is of no use for us at present due to the lack of 4G networks. Click on Join.
If all went well, you will now see the server name on the main page.
Clicking on the name of the server will display the shared folders, and clicking on them will display the media files and folders within.
Clicking on the media file opens the playback page. Here, you can choose to either directly play the file, or play it using live conversion. The latter option is especially useful with older devices and when you do not have enough bandwidth. Alternatively, if you want to carry the file around, then you can choose the Offline Conversion option and add it to the Tasks list while specifying attributes such as video bitrate. The file gets converted on the server PC and gets listed in the Air Target folder on the server page. You can then browse to the media in this folder and find that the Download to iDevice option has now got enabled. The video will be transferred to the device over Wi-Fi once you click this option. Alternatively, you can also transfer the file to your iDevice using iTunes and play through the native video player.
You can also specify the video and audio playback bitrate to suit your device's capability. If the file does not play, you can lower the quality a bit and try again. You can also manually specify the resolution, fps, audio stream (in case of multiple audio streams), and subtitle.
Video playback is very similar to the way it plays files locally stored on the device. Playback is considerably smooth and there is no lag at any point of time. It was found to be surprisingly good even on older devices such as the iPhone 3G. Seeking a location on the timeline will take you to the location within no time. Since the user interface is very easy to use, browsing to the required files was found to be very easy.
Air Playit is an excellent free application that does everything only available in paid versions of its competitors. The good thing is that it does everything well, without any restrictions. It supports playback of more than 320 file formats, and can play them back using live conversion on the server. It even supports initiating offline conversion tasks through the client software on the iDevice. The HTTP server is a nifty feature, which lets you access the shared media using any web browser. Video playback is flawless, regardless of the format of the source. The good thing is that it even works with older devices, which are normally incapable of playing HD media. The best thing is that with all its full features, it is completely free. While it is usually true that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, in this case we have to make an exception.
Ease Of Use: 5/5
Value For Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
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