One 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 setup, and offers a high compatibility, as most of these client applications are ready to transcode files that don’t play natively on your device.
One of the most popular apps in this category is Younity. It’s packed with featured and has a modern, clean feel to its interface.
With the desktop app installed on your PC or Mac, and the mobile app on your Android or iOS device, you can access your computer’s files with ease. The Premium version is only $2.99 a month, and it gives you the ability to download any of the files from your computer for offline use.
Download for Android: Younity (Free) [No Longer Available]
Though the Android version hasn’t seen an update in a while, ArkMC remains a crowd favorite due to its simplicity and the fact that it doesn’t require a subscription. You can try out the Lite version for free and upgrade to the Paid version for $3.99 if you want ($5.99 on iOS).
The Lite version is fully-featured but only allows you to access 5 items per folder. Obviously that’s not a great long term strategy, but it should give you time to figure out if you want to commit to the Pro version.
Download for Android: ArkMC (Lite | Pro)
Plex is notable for being on so many different devices, from Smart TVs to game consoles, and it’s just an overall solid media center with lots of features.
You can get a Plex Pass for $4.99 a month that gives you access to a ridiculous number of extra features, including a DVR function, automatic syncing, parental controls, multiple user access, lyrics, song identification, and more.
Download for Android: Plex (Free)
Download for iPhone and iPad: Plex (Free)
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 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.
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.
Download: BubbleUPnP (Free)
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) andit 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.
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.
There are also several alternatives to ES File Explorer that you might want to check out.
Download: ES File Explorer (Free)
OPlayerHD Lite [iOS]
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.
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.
Download: OPlayerHD Lite (Free)
How Do You Stream Video?
How do you bring your video to your iOS or Android device? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: stockimages / Free Digital Photos