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Plair plays Web content on your TV, but needs more work

Jonathan Seff | April 25, 2013
There's a ton of streaming video content on the Web, but I think most of us would agree that it's a more enjoyable experience to watch that content on a TV rather than a computer display. At least that's what Plair Media is hoping with the release of its $99 eponymous video streaming stick.

Once everything was set up, The Plair auto-played a GoPro demo reel of HD adventure footage, which looked great on two different TVs. For those interested in the specs, the Plair has a 1GHz ARM processor, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a built-in GPU to support 1080p video.

From your computer

To choose content from a computer, you just visit a website. Plair has a list of featured channels including ABC, CBS, Fox, A&E, SyFy, and USA, but if there's supported video on a site you visit, you'll see a blue icon (a TV with a play button on it and some lines representing a wireless signal) in the upper right corner of the video. Click it and choose to beam the video, and it will start playing on your TV. Usually.

When it played, the results were usually quite good--although I encountered some delays before the video would begin. I played video from a number of different sites, including NBC, PBS Kids, Comedy Central, and YouTube. The quality of the video depends on what's being served as well as the robustness of your Internet connection. And because the content isn't coming from your computer, you can do other things with it--or even shut it down--without impacting the video. You won't be able to control playback at that point, but it's a neat trick to try.

What's not supported? Currently, you can't play anything from Netflix or Hulu, and there are other sites with video players that the Plair can't deal with. The company plans to add support for additional sites, and says it will respond to requests as well.

And then I had times where all I got was a white screen when I tried to play something. I had to unplug the Plair and then plug it back in to get everything to work. The company says the white screen is due to Flash crashing (insert your own joke here) and that restarting Chrome should reset things (it didn't for me), but is working on a better fix.

Another time I started playing a show, then my computer could no longer find the Plair. I had to quit and relaunch Chrome, re-authorize the plug-in, and then connect again.

In addition to Web streaming, you can also send videos and photos from your computer's hard drive to your TV via the Plair. It won't work with any DRM-saddled content, however, such as iTunes Store videos. When you select a video, the plug-in "prepares" the video for streaming and then you can watch it. You can create playlists of content you want to stream as well. Playing a 1080p video from my laptop worked, but the playback was a bit jittery. (On its site, the company notes that, "Some phones cameras make very high bitrate videos that are not supported on WiFi networks. Most phone cameras don't have this issue.")


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