The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

girl ipad   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or TabletOne of the things I like most about modern tablets and other portable devices as opposed to laptops is that you can watch videos in your bed, on the sofa, or in the garden without feeling like there’s a fevered walrus sitting in your lap.

Then again, there’s the slight inconvenience of having all my media stored on my computer, and the tedious process of manually adding videos to your iPad through iTunes. It’s worth it, but not all that fun. That’s why I started streaming my videos from my computer to my tablet.

Before we get started, let’s clarify what I mean by ‘streaming’. Although some of the apps discussed below let you stream your video over the Internet, in general we want to stream the video over your local network. That way, streaming video won’t impact your Internet bandwidth, and streaming quality only depends on the speed of your router.

1. Connect To A Desktop Client Application

The easiest way to stream video to your device is probably to connect to a desktop client; an application on your main computer that’s ready to play ball with your mobile or tablet. This requires very little set-up, and offers a high compatibility, as most of these client applications are ready to transcode files that don’t play natively on your device.

Air Playit [Android & iOS]

Air Playit’s desktop client is available for Windows and Mac. The mobile application is free, both on iOS and Android. After selecting the folders you’d like to share in the desktop application, your videos should show up on your device.

airplayit   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

Besides streaming transcoded videos to your device, Air Playit can also convert the video on your computer with the click of a button, so it can be downloaded over your local network and stored on your device for later enjoyment.

Emit Lite [Android & iOS]

Apart from Windows and Mac OS X, Emit’s desktop client is also available on Linux. Emit Lite does most of what Air Playit does, with one added benefit; Emit is able to display subtitles from SRT files, and softcoded subtitles in MKV files. However, this free version is ad-supported, and ads can be shown even while you’re watching videos.

emit   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

The Linux client and subtitle support might give Emit Lite the edge over Air Playit, even despite the sometimes intrusive ads. After all, subtitle support is indispensable for a lot of foreign users, and anime lovers.

Boxee for iPad [iOS]

A lot of you will be familiar with Boxee as a desktop media center, but Boxee is also available for the iPad. Like its desktop counterpart, you can use it to queue, watch and discover online media, but you can also stream video from your computer to your iPad over your local network. This requires the Boxee Media Manager software, which is available for Mac OS X and Windows.

boxee ipad   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

Apart from the Boxee Media Manager, it doesn’t hurt if you’re using Boxee as a media center on your computer as well. With this, you can push videos from your iPad to Boxee on your desktop when you feel like swapping your tablet for the big screen.

2. Connect To a UPnP/DLNA Server

A desktop client might give the best media compatibility and fastest set-up from scratch, but connecting to a UPnP/DLNA server gives more flexibility. The chances are you’ve already got a UPnP/DLNA server. Most media center applications double as a UPnP/DLNA server; this can usually be turned on in the preferences.

By default, these servers don’t transcode media. This means that the files visible on a UPnP/DLNA server are not necessarily playable on your device. Some of the applications listed below support other video filetypes, like AVI and MKV. Otherwise, you’ll need to convert some files in advance, or use a UPnP/DLNA server application that supports transcoding like MediaTomb (Windows, Linux) or PS3 Media Server (Windows, Mac, Linux).

BubbleUPnP [Android]

BubbleUPnP is one of the best Android applications of its kind. Although BubbleUPnP itself is no formidable media player, video playback can be delegated to other applications, so you can play virtually any media without transcoding or prior conversion.

If you’re looking for a good media player to accompany BubbleUPnP, check out Angela’s article on the 8 Best Mobile Video Players For The Android Phone.

bubblyupnp   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

It should be noted that this free version of BubbleUPnP comes with some limitations. As such, the playlists you create are capped, music downloads are limited to batches of maximum 40 tracks, there’s a time cap on remote control of the local renderer, and there’s a limit of three plays per app launch when BubbleUPnP is called from an external application. All in all though, BubbleUPnP does what we want it to do.

Media Link Player Lite [iOS]

DLNA/UPnP applications are a dime a dozen on iOS, but almost all the free ones are limited in such a way that renders them practically useless. One exception on this rule is Media Link Player Lite. Nevertheless, it supports only the most rudimentary video formats. This simply means you’ll have to use a media server that’s able to transcode your files, as outlined above.

upnpios   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

Not an option? You’ll have to go premium, or access your media in a different way. One of the best UPnP/DLNA applications is 8Player, which can play most any file. However, the lite version will only let you play the first five files in every folder, prompting you to upgrade for full support.

3. Connect To An FTP Or SMB Server

Although UPnP/DLNA is a protocol that’s at ease sharing digital media, it’s not the only way to access a remote server or computer. Two other popular network protocols are FTP and SMB.

FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol, and it’s one of the standard protocols to share files over a network (e.g. the internet). SMB, also known as ‘Samba’, is the default way to share files and folders from Windows desktops, but you can also enable it on Mac OS X (System Preferences -> File Sharing -> Options) and add it to Linux.

ES File Explorer [Android]

ES File Explorer is a free Android file browser. It’s an application you may want on your Android device in any case, but the main features we’re concerned about are the ability to connect to remote network shares. This means you can view the contents of folders that are shared on your computer and, as a result, the video files therein.

es file explorer   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

Now, because ES File Explorer is not the video powerhorse we’re looking for, we’ll want to open these files in another application like MX Player. Again, if you’re looking for an Android video player, Angela’s 8 Best Mobile Video Players For The Android Phone is a good place to look.

OPlayerHD Lite

OPlayerHD Lite, as a rare case, is almost as magnificent as its premium counterpart. The main difference between these two is a very non-intrusive text ad. The application does everything we need; it lets you add SMB network shares and connect to FTP servers, making it easy to scour your computer for a video across a network.

Untitled 2   The Top Free Ways To Stream Video From Your Computer To Your Mobile Or Tablet

No need to outsource the rendering to another application; apart from browsing video sources, OPlayerHD also comes with a very decent video player. You can expect to play most any video file, with subtitle support added into the bargain. Other interesting features let you download these videos for offline enjoyment, and TV Out.

How do you bring your video to your iOS or Android device? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: stockimages / Free Digital Photos

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36 Comments -

Josh Vogler

I’ll 2nd the option of using ES File Explorer and MX Video Player. I have yet to run into a video file that hasn’t been able to be streamed this way. You need a better file explorer anyway if you have an Android, plus a video player that will play more file types. I feel these are must have apps already, so it’s a bonus that they make it really easy to stream videos also. If you take the time to setup bookmarks in ES of your network shares video directory, you can be watching a remote video in just a few clicks.

Simon Slangen

You’re absolutely right. A friend tipped me off to ES FE and MX VP to stream videos, and I’ve been using it more and more myself as an alternative to the desktop clients. It has the added benefit of being able to browse video files from e.g. a friend’s computer without much prerequisites. :-)

Jason Ivey

I have found Emit to work really well for my wife’s Kindle Fire when remote. When at home, I have been using the Bubble Upnp with great success for both the Kindle Fire and a Rom’d Kindle Fire. I am going to give Air Playit a try, never heard of that one.

Simon Slangen

Cool, let us know how it compares to your experience with Emit.

Sachin Kanchan

loved the OPLayer

Simon Slangen

Protip: you can also send video files to OPlayer HD from Safari on your ipad by adding an ‘oplayer:’ prefix to the URL, e.g. oplayer:http://website.domain/video.flv ;-)

Dalsan

TVersity works well, also. Can be used in the network or via internet. The desktop app streams with transcoding capabilities to almost any device connected to the network or internet, either through the internet browser or upnp app. I use it to stream to our DVD (DirecTV receivers), Wii, Playstation 3, XBox 360, tablets, cellphones, and other computers throughout the house. It has music streaming capabilities as well as pictures, and the ability to stream over the internet so you can be out of the home to access them at any time.

Simon Slangen

Thanks for the tip, Dalsan. I think you need the pro version of TVersity for media transcoding, though. PS3 Media Server is a good free alternative.

Dalsan

I have used it for a year, you may be right, but have had no problems. I have the free version and have the transcoding option on, the only time it told me I needed to purchase the pro version for transcoding was when I tried to stream to an iPad.

Simon Slangen

Ah, yes, that must be it. The TVersity website says real-time transcoding is enabled in the free version “except iPad/iPhone/iPod”.

Kylee Kanavas

Where did you get it?

DalSan Mack

Shortly after this posting, TVersity became a pay for program. You might be able to get the older version elsewhere, which is free to user, just no more support for it. Here is an older freeware version. http://tversity.en.malavida.com/

Smith Scavo

I like Air Playit very much due to its supporting of so many video codes.

Fernando Buzi

I’m looking for an app that would allow me to do the opposite: stream live content from the tablet to the pc. Say broadcast Filmon’s TV content to my laptop, so that I can watch it big screen on the Projector. Do you know of any app that can do this? I use a Samsung GT 7500.

Simon Slangen

Hi Fernando,

So far, I haven’t been able to find a wireless or cheap solution that provides a sufficiently high framerate for video. Depending on your tablet, you might be able to connect it to the TV using the the right cable.

That being said, there are several projects that allow you to mirror your (rooted) Android device to your computer if you can live with a low framerate.
AirDroid
MyMobiler
Android Screencast
Droid@Screen

Hope that helps.

Rustam

I use ArkMC for this. It streams few HD movies at the same time.

GamE

excellent can ne body explain about dlna server ?

Simon Slangen

Essentially, you’ve got a DLNA streaming application / server where your video is located, and a remote video player / client / renderer on mobile device.

If you open the DLNA client on your tablet, it should be able to find the DLNA server that’s on your computer. The server will tell the client which videos are available, and once you’ve made your choice, begin streaming it to your tablet.

A lot of software to stream videos locally works the same way, but DLNA/UPnP is the industry standard.

Ilyas Mohammed

I like to have one. cool

GamE

better use hdmi

Sacha Obado

Its worth checking these solutions out.. i have and i am using airplayit

Mike

can I use the PS Media Server for streaming videos to my Samsung SmartTV?

Simon Slangen

This should work if the SmartTV supports DLNA (which I think it does). :-)

Stu

How on earth did you manage to miss Plex on this article? It is a fantastic media streaming application and has a servers for Mac, Windows and Linux and provides client applications for iOS, Android and Windows Phone making it probably the most cross-platform out of all solutions mentioned here.

http://www.plexapp.com/

Doug

Probably because Plex isn’t free – last time I checked, anyway. The server is, but neither the IOS nor the Android client are.

Maz

And you forgot Windows Media Player.

Vijay

I have used almost all of them, but I like Emit for its simplicity. As it is multithreaded, you can even transcode a HD video on-the fly and tream it to your android.

paul hendrick

hi, is it possible with any of these programmes to stream sopcast from my pc or samsung galaxy tab to a samsung smart tv?
thankyou,
paul

Chris

XBMC is up and coming for Android. I’ve been playing with it on an android computer on a stick. Search Amazon for mk802 to see what I picked up. As such I’ve been playing with various streaming options to get content to the TV via a wireless connection. Skifta and MX Player is a good combination to use. I use that to connect to the free Serviio media server on my Windows desktop from Android. I’ve used Skifta, from the Android phone, to push content from the computer as well as from the phone to the WDTV box connected to a TV as well. That might be the solution for the person wishing to push content from the Android device to something else instead of pulling content to the Android device.

Anonymous

For iOS devices, Air Video is the best, hands down.

Rustam

I Use ArkMC https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arkudadigital.arkmc.gm for Android. It’s DLNA certified app. I watch movies from my WD NAS, and Windows Media Player. It’s available as an UPNP renderer in the network. Also it’s able to control by Sony TV.
As far as I know there is iOS version available as well.

Simon Slangen

Thanks for the tip!

Rustam

I use ArkMC for Android. It works good for me. Able to playback movies from WD NAS, stream movies from Tablet to TV, control my DLNA/UPNP devices in local network

Oly

Why nobody ArkMC to that list? (DLNA app with YouTube)
(https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arkudadigital.arkmc.gm)

A.B. West

Great informative article! Using Galaxy Tab2 with ES File Explorer. Used it with MX video player, FLV player, the really great DICE player. Tried it with Realplayer, Mobo player… a mass of players, among which DICE is outstanding. But my videos always stop about 15-20 minutes in. ES FE unexpectedly switches from LAN to LOCAL. And I have to go back to LAN and relocate the edition of HIGNFY or Real Time I’ve been watching on my PC. Really messes up my insomnia remedy. I have a really strong WIFI signal, so it’s not that. Are you familiar with this behavior? Do you think Air Playit would present the same problem? Or should I try to figure out how to use ES FE as FTP host? Appreciate any suggestions you might have.

Tina Sieber

This question is very specific, but you might be lucky and receive some good feedback on MakeUseOf Answers. Good luck!