Best SMB Streaming Video Player for iPad Mini?

Discussion in 'iPad Apps' started by LastSilmaril, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. LastSilmaril, Dec 27, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012

    LastSilmaril macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    Hey all,
    So I'm trying to figure out what the best streaming video player is for the iPad Mini. I have read many of Menneisyys2's posts on video players, but they aren't particularly organized by whether they support SMB/CIFS streaming.

    The main issues appear to be 1) the removal of Dolby codec support by most developers 2) who has implemented any kind of MKV hardware decoding. My needs are a bit more basic though - I'm having trouble decoding even 720p MP4 files with AAC audio over SMB at the moment.
    I tried a few free players and managed to narrow it down to two, but even they are ho-hum. I'm not convinced the OPlayer uses hardware decoding in such a case, even with "Use Quicktime" set to on in the settings - though turning it off and turning on 'Use FFMpeg" in the settings makes things less choppy and a bit more watchable. I'm also not sure but I think that instead of using the Videos interface when ostensibly hardware decoding, as I'm pretty sure it did a few weeks ago, the new version now uses OPlayer's own UI during 'hardware-assisted' playback. When playing MP4 videos with multiple audio files, the reported length of the movie is always very wrong - 2hrs longer or more (an issue I've also noticed in xbmc/OpenELEC for the Raspberry Pi...). But anyway it's worse than this - while most low-bitrate XviD/MP3 SD content (old TV) work great, "higher bitrate" AVIs (still SD, and by high I mean 'relatively', like, 1.5Mbps) will stutter. And of course AC3 issues. Now, most of my playback right now is in fact watching old TV shows, so this app is serviceable...but it's not a solution when my viewing habits inevitably change.

    eXPlayer seems to work a bit better. It has a nicer interface (more generic but also more legible) and less behind-the-scenes options than OPlayer. But more than that, it actually does have hardware acceleration enabled for SD and 720p mp4s. 'High-bitrate' SD AVIs are hit-and-miss. MKV playback is of course abysmal in both and neither of these do AC3.
    Here's the kicker though: MP4 decoding in software is pretty bad, even for 'high-bitrate' SD content. Now, if hardware decoding works, you ask, then what's the problem? Well, Apple's internal player can't deal with multiple audio tracks. It just plays them all at once...which is an interesting experience but of course, er, not terribly useful. (On multiple audio track mp4s, the 'way too long length bug' is also apparent here.) When using the hardware player, eXplayer also can't deal with text-based subtitles.

    So: is there a player out there that
    a) can do hardware decoding of MP4/MKV video
    b) can do so with multiple audio tracks and subs
    c) can do so whilst decoding AC3
    d) doesn't choke on SD content, period, and,
    e) can do all that while dealing with an SMB share as a source?

    This is what I've gathered so far:
    • yaPlayer has a reputation for solid hardware decoding, but doesn't do SMB and doesn't do AC3.
    • AVPlayerHD does AC3 and also has a good reputation, but can't do SMB.
    • GoodPlayer apparently has good hardware decoding, can do SMB, but can't do AC3.
    • 8player is intriguing. FFmpeg AC3 libraries can be added after the fact, and while it doesn't have SMB support (disappointing) it does have support for DLNA servers. As it happens, I have one of those set up in order to stream music to my receiver...but it seems to have issues streaming anything at all to 8player (log on the server says an index-out-of-bounds error...sloppiness). Shame because 8player has a really nice interface - basically a touch version of Sony's XMB, or CrossMediaBar. I haven't quite given up on this because of the interface and the promise of AC3, and would like some advice on what the best DLNA server is, or how to configure the one I'm using (Universal Media Server) properly to use with 8player for further testing.
    • CineXPlayer can apparently do everything, but reviews on the appstore say streaming support is poor and causes it to crash. Menneisyys2 also claims it has poorer hardware decoding than some other players.
    • BuzzPlayer might be the answer (except for not having AC3 support). I don't know what its performance is like playing back from SMB shares and don't know how it handles multiple tracks.
    • What the situation is when playing multiple audio tracks in conjunction with hardware decoding is completely unclear.
    • What the situation is when playing 'high-bitrate' SD content is completely unclear.

    So...any recommendations? Or am I out in the cold? AC3 support is kinda-sorta negotiable, since I can do something about that (transcode using eac3to/qaac), and anyway a good amount of content I've got still uses low-bitrate MP3 *shudders* for audio. But multi-track support with hardware acceleration and SMB are not. So right now I'm leaning towards Buzz or Good, but need to know more.

    ...So...does this thing exist? Thanks for listening folks.
  2. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    BTW, have you read my SMB streaming article?
  3. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    Lol, so of course I miss the relevant sounds like there is no one app that will do everything, and that maybe I should buy eXplayer for mp4 and Buzz for everything else.
    I'm not clear on what hardware you're testing on though, or if that makes a difference wrt my question.
    Besides that - I took a look at the UPnP article as well now, and noticed that you recommended that people simply use the server built into Windows Media Player on Win7. I'm not sure if you're not actually a Windows user or what, but that server is pretty horrendous. It causes WMP to hang or crash when opening, and is woefully inconsistent at keeping the media library index up-to-date; most of the time it doesn't even try to do this without actually starting WMP (since monitoring the library folders is apparently not a Windows service or anything). Moreover, when I browse with 8player lite, none of my MKV files show up at all - even if they are, indeed, in my WMP library. So that really isn't a great solution at all. That said, I tried using Universal Media Server with 8player lite, but though I could successfully browse my media, I couldn't get anything to play. Maybe the app developer could help me out...

    I'm assuming that hardware decoding in conjunction with multiple audio tracks is impossible at this time over SMB?

    Thanks for the quick reply!
  4. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    It doesn't - all iDevice models (even the 2007 ones) are capable of hardware decoding of iOS-native formats.

    Nope, not a Win user, a Mac one. I look around and will fix that part of the article.

    Mail them - the answered my mail (sent to their support address) very quickly.

    You mean MP4's (and the like) with mutiple audio tracks? HW decoding should work. I can't currently test it (I'm on another Wi-Fi network seemingly not allowing SMB shares), but I don't think it is impossible to play back these shares. PlayerXtreme, for one, is able to switch tracks in iOS-native files.
  5. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    I'm sorry; I meant with respect to software decoding. I know the A5 chip is now several generations behind.

    Yup, in fact, that's exactly what I meant. When I try to playback mp4 files with multiple tracks in 8player* or eXPlayer with hardware decoding, it all goes to crap and plays them all at once, with no option to select just one. Maybe I'll buy PlayerXtreme if that's the case. Do you think you'll be able to double-check that?

    *Got it working with UMS almost perfectly, still working on it, may post a guide if it comes to it. The problem right now is that files that have muxed-in subs don't have their MIME-types recognized properly (x-matroska is recognized as mpeg by the *server*; it then attempts to transcode the file needlessly, to the ruin of all). This is from what I understand, a limitation of UMS, but I'll ask around over there. Shame; if I get it to work it would be great, since it maintains no library and simply serves up a file tree (no update hassle nonsense), and since 8player does AC3 thanks to the ffmpeg zip (though mkv decoding is in SW and is crap in 8player...)
    8player also works well out of the box with Serviio and probably Mezzmo (didn't try the latter since my trial expired) and Twonky (uninstalled), but they're not free, and they maintain libraries that need to be scanned.

    Thanks again for the quick and informative replies.
  6. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Sure I will in a few days' time. (Now, I'm on a guest network and can't use MM streaming protocols.) I'll let you know.


    It depends on both the player and the CPU. Basically, an A6 (iPad 4/iPhone 5) can play 720p flawlessly and 1080p almost flawlessly using the top players (AVPlayerHD). Unfortunately, many of the, otherwise, excellent-to-stream apps don't belong to the category of players with top decoders - for example, 8player's and GoodPlayer's h.264 decoder stutter really bad with videos (almost) flawlessly played back by better players.

    An A5, unfortunately, in no way can properly decode 1080p h.264 in any way (don't believe if anybody states the opposite), only computationally much less demanding formats like MS-MPEG4.
  7. Namtaro macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2011
    By SMB streaming you mean the files will be on a server or another computer?

    If so, I use Air Video - plays all the videos I've thrown at it perfectly. Everything is encoded or converted w/e on the fly within the computer it's installed on.
    It's much like universial media server where on the computer based software you add the folders you want to share and on the ipad side, you have to log in and everything's working! Since everything's done on the computer side, I can play any video on my iPhone 4 as well.
  8. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    I'm sick of running all this extra software on my desktop/server that ostensibly does the same thing. Do the videos play well on your iPad Mini as well?
  9. Namtaro macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2011
    Like I said, it's played everything I've thrown at it perfectly. Anime in MKV's, Blu-ray MKV rips, Blu-ray MP4-AC3 rips. It does it all since it does the decoding/converting server side. I'd rather have my server do the heavy lifting rather than the iPad Mini, wouldn't you? Just note that if you want subtitles, you'll have to tick off the H.264 passthrough which degrades the quality slightly, but nothing huge.

    I just have Air Video for my iPad's and Universal Media Player for my PS3 on the server. Works like a charm.
  10. LastSilmaril, Dec 31, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012

    LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    Right, I was just making sure you were speaking in reference to your iPad Mini and not your iPhone. there's that option as well I suppose. I should still like to hear back from Menneisyys2 about PlayerXtreme/multiple audio tracks (not trying to rush him or anything...)

    Oh, does Air Video handle multiple audio tracks btw?
  11. Namtaro macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2011
    Also not quite sure what you mean by multiple audio tracks... do you want two of them playing at once? If you mean when there's multiple audio tracks and you want to be able to pick between them, yes it can do that.

    Air Video was 2.99, but totally worth it IMO. I use it almost daily and it hasn't failed on me yet.
  12. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    I will pay for quality; not an issue. And yes I meant being able to select between multiple audio tracks on a single video (i.e. between languages or commentary tracks). Thanks for your replies.
  13. Menneisyys2, Dec 31, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012

    Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    I've tested the file at . Unfortunately, PlayerXtreme can't switch between the audio tracks when streaming over SMB.


    Yes, it can. NOT during playback, tap the video; then, an additional audio / subtitle bar pair will be displayed. Tap the former one and set the track you prefer. An example (click for enlarge):


    BTW, the other, excellent desktop streamer, Plex, also can with the above-linked file via exactly the same widget as the stock Videos player.
  14. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    Bad news about PlayerXtreme, but it sounds like the desktop streamer route is now the way to go. Cool beans. Thanks for the update.
  15. Namtaro macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2011
    Just note that when you pause the video and switch the audio or subtitle and play it again it remembers where you were and doesn't restart the video!
  16. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    I have found that if the mp4 files are muxed properly, with the audio files set in one group and every track except the first disabled, then eXPlayer HD can play the multiple audio tracks when using the native player. Ditto for subtitles. What it can't seem to do, even when it works in the iOS 'Videos' app and in iTunes on the desktop, is recognize properly formatted Apple chapters. I sent an email to the app developer about this but haven't received a response (maybe Menneisyys2 would have better luck...)

    Still, now that i know how to mux the files properly, I have patched MeGUI accordingly (the patch has been accepted but is only in svn at the moment) and alerted the author of My MP4Box GUI as to how to increase compatibility with iOS. Thanks for all the help...


    One other thing I've found is that if you set a high-ish maximum bitrate when encoding, you will likely experience stuttering, even over n networks at close range, even if the maximum bitrate is far less than the theoretical bitrate of your network. I am going to try again with a max bitrate of 10000kbps and see if that fixes it.


    Re: Plex, it seems like seeking is piss-poor when I use it on my Roku 2 XD (wired connection straight to the router that the Plex server is connected to). This makes me skittish. I wonder if there's some setting there that I'm ignoring that'll make it run smoother...
  17. LastSilmaril thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2012
    With the release of the iOS 6 jailbreak earlier this week, I finally managed to get XBMC up and running. This blows anything you can buy in the app store out of the water (certainly when it comes to streaming via smb). The UI is slick and well-thought out, and everything works like a dream - even 720p mkv with AC3!
    I no longer need to keep ripping to mp4/aac (no multichannel aac support on rpi), which is great!
    SD content is also perfect. And the price is right, at $0.00 :)
  18. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Yup, this is why recommended JB'ing and using XBMC. Apple's restrictions are really silly and really dumb down the entire system.
  19. Cptnodegard macrumors 6502

    Jan 17, 2013
    I just tried XBMC based on this post, but I find it to be extremely awkward. Resets the moment you switch out of it, which is ridiculous. No on-screen volume control. Awkward on-screen controls where auto-hiding controlsis on a timer rather than tap-to-hide. Resume feature that only works if you stop the file and then leave, not with just exiting the app.

    Are the really no other apps out there with hardware decoding, SMB and AC3 support? XBMC is the only one I've found that plays the files properly, and ironically, the app that screws up the most when it comes to everything else.
  20. Menneisyys2, Mar 10, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013

    Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    1. Both It's Playing and AVPlayerHD (the two players that come "close") ticks two of those three checkboxes (the first two for the former and HW decoding + AC3 for the latter). Sorry. (You could REALLY consider remuxing to AAC MP4's. Several players support HW-assisted MP4 playback off SMB sources.)

    2. Unfortunately, XBMC's GUI has been developed for mouse-based interfaces and is, consequently, VERY clumsy on iDevices. Alternatively, you could try the other skin (instead of the default Touched), Confluence (which the iPad Retina-friendly custom build at comes with by default), which you might like better. (However, it, of course, doesn't fix the other resume-related issues.) Change it under System > Settings > Appearance > Skin.
  21. Cptnodegard macrumors 6502

    Jan 17, 2013
    sad to hear it's so random with all the features existing, but not in the same app. remuxing isnt an option as I need this to be a better alternative to just splashtopping my PC, and that means it just needs to work
  22. webvan macrumors member

    Oct 22, 2009
    Been trying to find the best setup to stream from my RavPower WD-01 that creates an SMB Network and it's been a bit of a struggle! Went the XBMC way and managed to connect and see the file structure but no files, be it videos or music. Searching hasn't brought anything up, I must be missing something obvious? Thanks for any hints!
  23. Takenlife macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2012
    I'll be glad to contribute my find a few weeks ago to this thread who still needs help (searching on google) lol.

    NPlayer for iOS uses all streaming techniques:

    Direct Streaming URL

    Those are the options of this godly app.

    Go NPlayer ! It's sleek it's stable and fast!

    I airplay stream .flac all day long to my apple tv.

    tweet @ nscreenplayer for support. No I do not work for them.
  24. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    You don't need to add this disclaimer - after all, I myself also recommend this app as the Nr.1. generic player here :) So we know it's the best.

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