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VLC for Apple TV review: Goodbye format woes

Jon L. Jacobi | Jan. 20, 2016
The Apple TV is a great networked media player, but it would be greater still if it supported more file types and played from more locations.

Interface

On Apple TV, VLC comes closer to acting as its name implies than on any other system. Rather than simply presenting you with a player, then forcing you through arcane menus to retrieve media from a network resource, it immediately pops up with the local network resources. Cool.

In my case, that’s several PCs and Macs, plus three NAS boxes. Yes, I have a lot of stuff. VLC understands the SMB (Server Message Block) networking protocol used by Windows, AFP (Apple File Protocol), and the aforementioned DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) media-streaming standard, so any device using those (in other words, just about everything in the universe) will show up. This is all done independently from Apple Home Sharing, which is limited to iTunes instances with it enabled. VLC can also play files stored locally on the Apple TV box.

Perfection deferred

Okay, the capabilities are there, and VLC works pretty darn well. It still suffers some of the same minor issues it does on other platforms. First off, I wouldn’t exactly call it ugly, but it’s certainly not the prettiest child in the Apple app family.

It also had the image display bug I mentioned earlier, and didn’t always fail politely on a bad or unknown file. It never hung the unit, as some other players I’ve tested have, but it would be nice to receive notification that it didn’t understand a file rather than the impolitic skip to the next file you do get. I also had some issues with it not re-selecting the proper folder in the list; i.e., the one I just exited from.

Get it

None of those annoyances matter much when all of a sudden your Apple TV box can play virtually any file from any of your devices without any cash outlay on your part. That’s a nice upgrade right there. In fact, Apple ought to thank the VLC folks for so drastically expanding the capabilities of its box. Since it probably won't: Thanks VLC folks!

 

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