APP OF THE DAY: Twonky Beam review (iPad / iPhone / iPod touch)
People may have heard the name Twonky before, but apart from those au fait with home networking and streaming media, most will probably not realise what the technology does.
That's essentially because Twonky isn't a games console, smartphone, TV, NAS box or amplifier, even though it has connections (quite literally) with all of those. It's a technology that helps many of those types of kit talk to each other and stream content between them. It's a handshake client that takes the fuss out of media streaming. Oh, and now it's in an app or two, too.
Although there's some technological wizardry that goes on behind the user interface the Twonky Beam browser, from PacketVideo, is a stunningly simple application to explain. It basically allows you to send online web video from your iPad (or iPhone/iPod touch) to a Smart TV, AV amplifier, Apple TV, Xbox 360 or other video-playing connected device.
It uses a browser infrastructure to allow you to find video content and, at the tap of an on-screen button, have it play on your home display rather than the iOS device's touchscreen. Easy as Pie (rather than Pi - you try memorising an infinite amount of numbers).
You do need compatible kit, of course, such as the Samsung 55C8000 we tested it on, but there's plenty out there that will work with the app. Twonky has helpfully put together a list of equipment tested so far, and also hints at those it should work with theoretically, and it includes a whole swathe of TVs by Samsung, Denon AV receivers, Sony Bravia tellies and more.
Cunningly, many of them don't even require you to choose an option in their menu settings, or switch channels. As soon as you try to "beam" video content to them, they'll play it. Well, after a bit of a pause, that is. But we get ahead of ourselves. First, let's talk about the process itself.
The Twonky Beam browser lists a variety of video sources which it recommends as working including YouTube, Vimeo, CNN, IMDB and The New York Times. The company also says it should work on others you fancy visiting, but not all will be supported. It lists that it works with the BBC but, because of iOS restrictions combined with the broadcaster's reliance on Flash video, it didn't allow us to stream its content in our test.
However, sending YouTube clips long and short is a doddle. Go to the video you want to watch and its online screen with show a massive Beam button overlayed. Tap this and instead of playing on your iPad screen, it'll start to play on your TV instead. You can even choose to play HQ (High Quality) clips if your home network isn't overstretched.
It doesn't matter in what video format (bar Flash) it was originally recorded because the application performs real-time encoding - hence the start up delay. The final video it sends is in a format it knows your compatible equipment can read.
There are few other options. You can create a playlist of clips from different sites, rather than just wait until each is finished before streaming another. And you can switch between devices instantly, as it sees all compatible kit that is currently on the network.
As a last bonus, while it is designed to stream video, you can also use it to send music or photos too - the former can even be played through a Sonos system.
Sure, if you have a connected TV set, you are likely to have YouTube already available on it, but have you tried to use a conventional remote control to find the specific clip you want to watch? Using an iPad and Twonky Beam is a much more intuitive solution, and it has rapidly found a permanent place on Pocket-lint's multiple devices. Neat.