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Hands on with PlayOn and PlayLater, an iffy media server

Wes Novack | May 12, 2014
A smorgasbord of video content is spread out atop the table of the web, but much of it is inaccessible to TVs and devices like Roku. But for content hounds who want to have it all, including the kitchen sink, MediaMall says it has the solution. The company's PlayOn media server plays internet (and local) video on your PC and streams it to your game console, Roku, Chromecast, or another supported device connected to your TV.

And not every video providers has apps for every platforms: Amazon Instant Video doesn't work with Chromecast, but PlayOn can fill that void.

Casting the wide 'Net

PlayOn's browser extension lets you browse for a video on the web and then click the extension's button to launch it in the PlayOn browser window. From there, you click the "Cast to TV" button in the bottom-left, which allows you to select a device to receive the stream. After a brief loading period, the video should then begin playing on your selected device.

The video quality coming from PlayOn varied from great to a little bit pixelated. If you have another method of getting the video that you are looking for onto your TV, such as through a content provider's official Roku channel, you'll likely get better picture quality going that route.

On some websites, PlayOn won't be able to detect the video automatically. For those cases, you'll have to manually click on the video in the PlayOn browser window, then click the play button on the next window, wait for it to start playing, and then finally click "Cast to TV."

Casting via the PlayOn Android app

PlayOn offers apps for Android, iOS, and a few other mobile devices. I was able to easily connect to my PlayOn server with my Moto X. Both devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, naturally.

The PlayOn Android app functions as a handy remote control as well as a media player. You can stream videos directly to your Android phone, in glorious high definition. But the Android app interface is a bit clunky and navigating it takes some practice, especially when drilling down into the various channels.

The Android app has an option to restart your PlayOn Media Server in the Android app, which is particularly useful if it locks up. First tap on Other from the main screen, then PlayOn Info, Server Options, and Restart PlayOn.

PlayLater works but technically isn't allowed

For the most part, the PlayLater recording software worked wonderfully for me. I was able to record content from Hulu, Amazon, TBS and Netflix, all without any problems. (Just keep in mind that doing so violates each service's TOS.) I was also able to stream the PlayLater recorded videos to my Android smartphone and my Chromecast.

The PlayLater software inserts a slide with your name, email address, and IP address at the beginning and the end of each recorded video, so you probably don't want to upload these videos to the Pirate Bay.

Oddly, there is no "Cast to TV" option within the PlayLater interface, only an option to play the video locally. You have to use one of the PlayOn apps to cast recorded content to your TV.

 

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