The best way of sharing video, music and photos over your network is by using a media server. And if you want your media server to work with a wide range of devices – mobiles, computers, consoles, smart TVs and more – then you want to pick one that’s DLNA certified.
There are plenty of DLNA-certified media servers out there – even a recent update to Plex Media Server added DLNA support – but they’re not all equal. The better ones tend to cost money, but while Serviio comes as a 14-day trial of a Pro version, after that date it’ll revert to the fully functional free edition, which contains all the functionality developed during the app’s beta.
The free version lets you stream both local and online content over your local network, supports a variety of third-party devices as well as your PC and mobile, and includes on-the-fly transcoding. It’s also capable of pulling metadata from internet sites such as thetvdb.com, so you simply name up your files correctly (typically moviename or tvseries-s00e00) and it’ll pull all the details you need to browse your media collection from another device.
Serviio comes in two parts: the server itself, and a console for configuring it, such as choosing which folders to include. It requires Java, which makes it cross-platform, and can technically be installed on ARM-based NAS drives, allowing you to run a server directly from your network drive. Sadly, it overwhelmed our under-powered ShareCenter DNS-320, forcing us to retreat to TWONKY on that device.
No DLNA media server is going to compare favourably to Plex’s wonderful user experience, so perhaps it’s a little unfair to compare Serviio directly to it. It’s worthy of consideration, particularly thanks to its internet scraping capabilities, and decent codec support, but there are still glitches, both in playback and correctly identifying content from its metadata, that count against it. It also rankles that certain features – specifically the lightweight web-based media browser and ability to access your media from outside your home network – are restricted to the $25 Pro version only.
Version 1.4 brings:
- a totally new MediaBrowser (Pro only)
- CDS /browse method now includes ETag header indicating if the response can be cached by the clients; ticket #714 (Pro only)
- added support for transcoding 4-2-2 pixel format videos for playback on older player which only support 4-2-0; ticket #671, #709
- added presentation category for MPAA movie rating; ticket #380
- CDS search mechanism changed to give more accurate results; ticket #696
- added profile for Xbox One
- added automatic image rotation to PS3 profile
- added support for video thumbnails on Samsung F series
- removed using user-agent in FFmpeg commands if the protocol is not http(s); ticket #708
- updated stream URL validation, to allow multiple # characters; ticket #71