How to stream video content to the iPad

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time so for the past few weeks I’ve been scouring the web and the app store to find a simple way to stream movies to the iPad. Sure, you can convert movies to MP4 and then copy them over, but what if you just want to watch something on the spur of the moment? Waiting 10-15 minutes for something to convert takes the thrill away. But after a little looking I found two really cool apps that let you stream the most popular file types like .avi and .wmv. Depending on your desktop machine it may take a few seconds to buffer enough for the stream to start but once they get going the playback is really good!

First up is Air Server which is a $2.99 app that uses either iTunes or the Bonjour client to push content to the iPad. The setup honestly took less than a minute and all I had to do on the iPad was start Air Server and it picked up my desktop right away. On the desktop you start the "server" component and select which folders you want so share. When the client connects the contents of these folders are playable.

Air Server is very straightforward. In the main window is the player, on the right are the names of the file and small thumbnail of the video. Simply pick a movie, wait a few seconds and it will start playing. That is really all there is to it. The movie converts on the fly so there is nothing stored on the device.


Video Server is other option and it’s just as easy to set up and use (it also uses iTunes or the Bonjour client). You run the Video Server component on the desktop, add the folders the client can see and then connect with the device. The player for Video Server is a little different in that it has larger thumbnails and by default the player is a smaller window. It lets you start watching content while at the same time browsing other selections.


Like Air Server it takes just a few seconds to get the content buffered up and then away it goes.

Also, each app can convert the content for you so that you could actually store it for later viewing.

Both apps are the same price at $2.99, both are universal apps so you can play on both sets of devices and both offer a Lite version to make sure it works with your network. I tried them both out on an old Pentium 4 machine with 4GB of ram running Windows XP and a quad core Athlon II X4 machine running Windows 7 with 8GB of ram. Obviously Windows 7 got started quicker and when jumping forward it resumed faster, but if you just let it play both machines worked just fine. I didn’t notice any stuttering or loss of frames. Honestly they both work so well that it’s hard to recommend one over the other. It really comes down to which player you like better. I chose Air Server because I thought the player was a little more simplistic. I’m fine with just the list of files and the small thumbnail, but it’s just a personal preference.

I ended up watching several Simpsons episodes as well as a full hour of Oz and Hugh Drink to Britain and I didn’t notice a single hiccup. If you want to stream video to your iPad or iPhone rather than having to convert everything then either of these two programs are a must have! I love when technology is this powerful yet easy to use.

Air Server – $2.99 in the App Store

Video Steam – $2.99 in the App Store

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