The latest installments of all three iOS devices, namely, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, come with pretty reasonable storage capacities. At their maximum, they offer you 64 gigabytes of storage space – plenty for all your music collection, videos, games, apps and whatever else you want to fit it. However, try fitting a lot of HD movies in there and see how fast you run out of that seemingly-vast storage capacity. Furthermore, not only does storage become questionable, but also the fact that Apple does not allow many formats to play natively on their platform, and you need constant conversion from one format to another to make sure that the desired videos will actually play on your iOS device.
What if you had the ability to stream videos to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad from your computer directly; irrespective of the video’s format, resolution or storage space, and rest assured that the video will play on your device no matter what. Look no further, because Air Video provides exactly that: streaming video to your iPhone and other iOS devices over WiFi (and even 3G) for free!
The feature-packed Air Video application comes in two components; a server running on your computer (both PC and Mac OS supported) and a client application on the iOS device. It allows playback for all popular codecs (AVI, MKV, DivX etc) with on-the-fly conversion, and supports resolutions of up to 1080p (true HD). Furthermore, the videos are not stored on your device’s internal memory, so storage is neither a concern nor condition.
Setting up the server is pretty easy. First, you need to download the free server application for your respective platform. Once that is installed, you can configure the window for which folders to share, view the conversion items and their progress, control the program’s settings, remote access etc. Air Video also supports subtitles, and all operations performed are log for troubleshooting or any future reference.
You can add folders from your local hard drive for broadcast to Air Video server, or you can share entire iTunes playlists for streaming content. Ensure that you are getting ‘Server Running’ message in Air Video server and that’s it for the setup on computer’s side.
Next, download the client application on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. There are two versions available, a free one that serves as a trial, and a paid, full version costing $2.99. The free version is limited to show only four random videos from a shared folder at any given time.
When you launch the client application for the first time, you’ll be presented with a Servers screen which needs to be configured for any local server to show up. Simply hit the add button and you’ll get a couple of options to manually add the server, as well as a list of all available Air Video servers on the local network. Tap the one you want to add and you’re good to go.
With the server added, tap it for a listing of all the shared folders, containing within them all the shared files. Tapping on a file for playback will present a multitude of options, including direct playback, live conversion, up front conversion, addition to iTunes etc. You can also control the conversion settings for each individual video.
Air Video offers quite a few options for streaming video playback. The direct play is available for most videos, in my experience, that are MP4 encoded. In case a video cannot be played directly, you’ll be notified that the format is unsupported and you need to convert before proceeding. This is where the true power of Air Video comes to play.
While you can perform a conversion on the video and then play it, Air Video offers conversion on the fly where you can stream the video as it is being converted. This feature, dubbed ‘Play with Live Conversion’, ensures that you do not have to suffer long wait times for any video to first get converted; instead, you can start streaming videos to your iPhone just like normal while Air Video server handles the conversion process in the background, ensuring smooth, uninterrupted playback for the user.
Other features of the program include video zooming during playback, improved seek support, TV Out support, and background playback over Air Play (in beta still). The program requires iOS 3.1 or later to work, with some features dependent on the latest 4.3 update as well. Air Video requires your router to support UPnP or NAT-PMP protocols for correct port forwarding.
Overall, Air Video offers a great video streaming solution for both local network (Wi-Fi) and even 3G, but be prepared for some hefty data usage with the latter. The free version offers a solid preview of the program’s capabilities, and even the paid version isn’t very pricey considering the goodies it offers. Tell us what you think through your comments.