Air Video Is Great Locally, But Has A Little Trouble Going The Distance

iPhone
3.5
 

Air Video

Publisher(s)  InMethod s.r.o.
Developer(s)  InMethod s.r.o.

Platform(s) Reviewed  iPhone • Genre(s)  Video Streaming • Release Date  May 21, 2010 • Version Reviewed  2.2.4 • Price (as reviewed)  $2.99

Pros    Excellent quality Video and Sound, Works flawlessly on local LAN.    Cons    Poor results when streaming remotely, unless you have a really strong wireless signal, or convert videos ahead of time.

 

Air Video (from InMethod s.r.o.) is an app that lets you stream video files from your PC to your iDevice. On your Mac or PC, you install the Air Video Server and select which directories to share. From the app, you will automatically see all Air Video servers on the local network. You can specify a remote server either by IP or by Server Pin (this feature was in Beta at the time of this review, basically it allows you to enter a 9-digit code identifying your server in case you don’t know your IP address).

From within the app, you simply select the server from the list, and then step through the directory structure of the shared folders to find the file you wish to watch. Each directory will show the number of files it contains in ()’s. If you restart the app, it will start off in the same server/directory you last used.

Once you select which file to watch, you have the following options:

Play Directly

Possible only if the file is already an mp4 file.

Play with Live Conversion

The file will be converted to mp4 while you watch it.

Convert

The file will be queued for conversion, and an mp4 version of the file will be created in the same directory. Once the file is converted you also have the option of adding it to your iTunes library, assuming iTunes is on the same server machine.

One particulary nice feature is that when you pause a video, the next time you use the app to access that same file, it will ask you if you want to resume from the paused point or start over from the beginning. Resuming from a paused point works quite nicely.

I used Air Video with a variety of source file formats, including HD Transport files (.tp) recorded on my PC TV Tuner card, .avi, .mkv and .mpg files. The performance amongst file types was comparable for all source formats, however, the performance difference between streaming video over a local WiFi LAN vs. Streaming over the Internet was rather apparent. Streaming files across my local LAN via wireless worked great. I was able to use the “Play With Live Conversion” option and watch anything in real time.

Unfortunately streaming video across the Internet proved to be less than stellar. I was really looking forward to to Air Video’s ability to stream video across the Internet, thinking this would be useful for my recent trip to San Diego Comic-Con–I figured this would be a great way to pass time at the airports and while waiting in line for the TV panels in Ballroom 20. However, I found that most of my time was spent struggling just to get my videos to play.

For remote video viewing, playback would stop after a few minutes, and it was tough to complete anything with live conversion. Sometimes I had trouble just getting the video to start playing. I tried at several locations–a Starbucks a short distance from my house, the gym at my workplace, and the airport. I had the best luck when I had a full 3 bars of wireless service, anything less and it was hit or miss (mostly miss). I was only able to make it through an entire 30 minute video when I did the conversion first.

From the app you are able to queue files for conversion on the remote machine. For a 30 minute TV show, this only took about 4 minutes. The nice thing is that once you are done watching the converted file, you can remotely delete the converted mp4 file directly from the app. I also tried the “add to iTunes” after conversion option. However, the converted file would not sync to my iPhone 4–I needed to go through a second conversion selecting Advanced->Create iPod or iPhone version from the iTunes menu.

One thing I noticed was that as soon as the wireless connection went down, the video would stop and I couldn’t play until I had a wireless connection again. While this may be good for anyone worried about their 3G data usage, those who would want to watch their video anyway are out of luck. I should note that this is a universal app, meaning that it will run on the native resolution of your iDevice, whether it be an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad and it supports the TV out functionality of the iPad.

In Conclusion

In summary, this app works wonderfully over a local LAN, and I would give it a 5 star rating for local LAN usage–there was no need to convert files ahead of time. For those who want to watch their videos from a remote location, your best bet is to use the app to queue some files for conversion beforehand. Then either sync these to your device via iTunes, or make sure your destination has a very good wireless signal. Balancing the stellar local performance with the hit-or-miss remote issues, I would still recommend Air Video, but would suggest that potential buyers download the free version first, to better judge the performance for themselves in the scenario in which they plan on using it.

Screenshots