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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.

One quirk I found annoying while browsing Hulu is that PlayLater displays many of the short clips with the label "s01e01," misleading you into thinking a clip is a full episode.

PlayOn and off

Unfortunately I had a heck of a time getting the PlayOn software to work reliably. Sometimes it would work flawlessly, other times it was an exercise in futility attempting to get a video to play. My PC exceeds the minimum requirements, and the System Check tab within PlayOn's settings even confirmed that my system was up to snuff. I received 'Max' results for bandwidth and CPU, and all green for hard drive and memory. And even though I use all 802.11n Wi-Fi in my house, I even had issues with PlayOn when I tested with the PC hooked up to a wired connection, with 40Mbps speeds.

My first attempts to stream Hulu videos to my Chromecast or Roku were a failure, with the PlayOn load screen getting to 100 percent and then freezing up or just a displaying a black screen on my TV. Strangely, after I tried a few other video sources and then went back to Hulu, everything worked just fine. From then on out, Hulu was actually one of the services that worked the most reliably with PlayOn.

Netflix was another story. I saw the Silverlight plugin freeze up, PlayOn become unresponsive, a black screen show up on the TV instead of video, and other oddities. At times when PlayOn became unresponsive on my PC, I'd see the CPU usage shoot up high and remain pegged until I restarted PlayOn.

I tried to watch The Daily Show, but PlayOn could not detect the video automatically. When the PlayOn browser window launched, the video showed up as a blank box. Oddly enough, if I resized the browser window a bit, the video would show up in a tiny box. But even after I clicked on the video and attempted to cast it, it would never show up on my TV, with the loading graphic just getting stuck at 100 percent.

With all the issues I had with PlayOn, I'd be hard-pressed to recommend it, but perhaps you'll have better luck than I did. MediaMall needs to fix some bugs and improve the compatibility if PlayOn is to be the all-encompassing internet video solution that they advertise it to be.

 

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