We’re still waiting for the magic bullet solution to the problem of storing and streaming digital media across your home network. One of the key problems you’ll face is watching video or listening to audio in different formats on your iOS device. Out of the box, your iPad or iPhone supports a very narrow range of Apple-friendly media formats, which is fine if everything’s coded in iTunes and ready to go, but what if it’s not?
The solution to playing back a wide variety of media on your computer (including DVD video) is VLC Media Player, so it makes sense that a solution for your iPad or iPhone would involve the open-source media player in some way.
VLC Streamer takes the multi-codec support of VLC Media Player and delivers a tool that can stream just about any media content from your computer to your iOS device without requiring you to convert it or transfer it physically first.
It requires you install VLC Streamer Helper on your PC or Mac first, but then all you need to do is connect to your computer from the app and either load movies already queued up on your computer, or browse your computer’s hard drives from your iOS device first to select what you want to watch.
VLC Streamer offers the perfect blend of convenience and tweakability – you don’t need any insider knowledge to get started, but you’re also able to control various aspects of the stream, such as its resolution. The free version – which is ad-supported – is also restricted in that you can only watch files directly from your hard drive, but upgrade to the full version for $1.99 and you’ll be able to save movies on to your iOS device too, perfect for offline viewing or if the demands of streaming keep bringing up the dreaded “buffering” sign or cause lip-sync issues. Speaking of which, we recommend queuing up media before trying to watch it, which gives your computer time to transcode it before you try streaming it, which will eliminate most problems.
VLC Streamer is of most use to those who want easy access to a single computer’s media library, although you can install the Helper on every single computer in your network and then switch between each as and when required. While not as convenient as a full-blown media server solution, it’s the perfect choice for those wanting a fuss-free way to watch a wide variety of media - irrespective of format – on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.