Air Playit HD: Free Your Media

I’ve been on the lookout for a decent free app that will allow access to my music and video collection at home, with minimum fuss. Air Playit HD is just that app. It’s stable, fully featured and supports streaming not just over Wi-Fi, but crucially over 3G and 4G networks also.

The setup is simple, requiring a small server program to be installed on a PC at home, and once you tweak a few settings in the app you’re away! In this article, I’ll review the features, but also give you a brief how-to to get you up and running quick as a flash.

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Free Your Music — For Free!

If you are unsure about taking the dive into iTunes match, yet you still want access to your music (and video) library without having to selectively synchronize small sections of it, Air Playit HD provides a really good solution. What’s more, it’s free, so give this little gem a try just for the fun of it — you’ll be impressed, I’m sure.

Firstly, download the Air Playit HD helper application for your PC or Mac and install. When the helper app is up and running, install the iPad app and start it. You should immediately be able to see your home PC listed in the Local Server section at the top of the app.

Configuring your first server.

Configuring your first server.

Now, before adding this local server, quickly open up your Air Playit HD helper app on the PC, tap Shared folders and add a source folder with a meaningful share name. Source folders don’t have to be on the local machine — anything that your host PC can see can be added. This is ideal for setting up links to NAS devices, or USB hard drives on your host PC. Now on your iPad, press the + button in the top left corner and add your local server, it should just appear. Then you can tap on your server and you should be able to browse to the content shared in the first step.

Viewing the available remote files.

Viewing the available remote files.

Features

If you have been wondering about signing up for the iTunes match service to get access to the 25,000 songs in your home iTunes library, the music player in Air Playit HD might be another alternative. The audio playback begins instantly from your library, although it lacks any cover art. There are start/stop/pause controls, a volume slider and a repeat all/repeat one toggle, which is reasonably good for a built-in player.

The built-in music player in action.

The built-in music player in action.

Functionality

So, lets look at what the app has to offer in terms of functionality — you’ve got video playback here for many different video formats (MKV, M2TS, MP4, WMV, AVI), offline conversion, local download options and variable bit rate streaming. There’s high speed scrubbing when in full screen, and the ability to resume from playback point if you stop and restart a video. During playback, you can skip back 30 secs, and toggle between full screen and windowed mode. Refreshing the screen after adding a new share ensures it appears instantly. Similarly, refreshing the contents of a share updates it for any new media recently added.

All video conversions happen on the host PC — just fire and forget, then download them later.

Music playback controls stay on screen when you return to the home menu, which is a nice touch. If you lose them, simply touch the playback icon in the top left corner and they reappear. Tap on the music track to play (stream), or tap on the left (Download) to pull this down to the iPad. You can play the same track on multiple devices at the same time, with only a little extra CPU overhead on your host PC.

Once music is playing on your Air Playit HDapp, simply press home and get on with other things as the music plays seamlessly in the background. You can adjust the volume of the background music with the hardware volume controls, although the application didn’t seem to respond to the hardware mute button. One for the developers, there.

Out and About

You will need to change your router settings to get the 3G streaming to work. Login to your router, and navigate to your “port forwarding” settings. Add/enable a new port to 37218, select protocol TCP. The port should be set to forward to your Air Playit HD host PC’s local area network IP address. If you’re struggling with this, add a comment and we’ll try and help get you up and running. Not all routers will support this configuration, so it might be worth checking that you can forward a port on your router config before embarking on the whole setup process.

Once complete, you simply add your remote IP address as a connection in Air Playit HD and voila! You get the same access to files and folders as you had in the purely Wi-Fi setup.

Sharing folders remotely is very straightforward.

Sharing folders remotely is very straightforward.

One thing to note, of course, is that if you need to restart your router, and you don’t have a fixed IP address, the configuration will need updating. You can, of course, set up an Internet alias name service that will keep track of your changing IP address, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Final Thoughts

So, there we have it — all of your video and music shares available to you anywhere while you are out and about in a 3G or Wi-Fi enabled area. The usual warnings about 3G data plans and mobile Internet data use apply here. Take it for a spin — its free to try (and with a little help if needed), we should be able to get you up and running in no time at all.


Summary

Easy and free remote access to music and video files over Wi-Fi and mobile networks

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  • MC

    Thanks for the review. Haven’t heard of this and will be checking out Air Playit as an alternative to my current setup.

    I’m also interested in learning more on how to “set up an Internet alias name service that will keep track of your changing IP address.” Would you happen to have any articles on this or know of a good source that could help?

    Thanks again!

    • Mark Simpson

      Hi MC – There are a number of services that allow this functionality.

      If you Google for “dns free”, that whould give you a selection of sites to get you started.

      Mark.

  • Sune K

    How does it stand in comparison to Plex, Xbmc or Air Video Server?

    • Mark Simpson

      Hi MC – There are a number of services that allow this functionality.

      If you Google for “dns free”, that would give you a selection of sites to get you started.

      Mark.

    • Mark Simpson

      Sune K – It is more stable than Air Video Server in my tests. I’m not familiar with Plex, and XBMC is an add-on that’s really only available for jailbroken devices, which is outside the scope of this site.

      Mark

  • Thomas

    A silly question perhaps, but does it support AirPlay for streaming to Apple TV?

    • Mark Simpson

      Yes it does – its taken me a while to test, but its there if you need it.

  • Bryan Gibson (@BryanG)

    Thanks for this review! I’ve been looking for a replacement for the 2 apps that I used to use before their functionality started getting dicey with the release of iOS 6. Both Video Stream and Air Video no longer work for me, so I’m hopeful this app will put an end to the constant headaches!

    • Mark Simpson

      Would be interested to here if they did

  • K shaw

    Sorry for the complete noob question but does your pc have to be powered up to stream to iPod / iPad etc? Or can I do this whole it’s switched off

    • chad

      K Shaw, yes, you have to have the computer running. The server has to be on and this is stored on your PC, which then links to your router which feeds your other devices through WIFI. ON IS THE WAY!

  • Chad

    Having major issues getting anything outside my my residence to lock up with my server. Saying Im having IP and port issues…. Ive forwarded my port on tcp, and can get this to work locally, but when Im away from home and try to access, from a friends WIFI (remote wifi) then I get the error message. How do I get this worked out? Ive tried with firewall off too, and no success. A walkthrough would be good, I have an actiontec V1000H router supplied by Telus. Movies for the kids at the grandparents via Ipad is the goal here.

  • jaggedtears

    This app does not play DRM protected media. Instead it opens it in Safari, which I have no idea why it plays in Safari.

  • Claire

    I seem to be having problems with the playback “stop/starting” all the time, am new to this and don’t know if I have to change setting somewhere so that it plays without any pauses! Most annoying when watching a film and it pauses continuously!

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