Although I’m a big fan of Plex for the new Apple TV, VLC for the Apple TV is also a big win for the platform. Not all the features work as you’d expect, but it’s still a great application.
Multiple Format Playback with VLC
The killer feature of VLC is the ability to play files that iOS or the Mac doesn’t natively support media with file types like AVI files. Unfortunately, the AVI files wouldn’t always play the audio for me. That’s a known bug that should be fixed in a later update to the app. Other files like MKV and MP4 worked just fine.
Play Files Off On Your Local Network
With all the apps for the Apple TV, most people won’t have a problem finding content. The notable exception being Amazon’s Prime TV library. VLC lets you play the stuff that’s already on your computers. It allows you to log into computers on your network through SMB and even finds UPnP media services like Plex. Although I didn’t test it, connections through FTP are also supported. Once you navigate to the folder, VLC starts playing the file. The app does the heavy lifting of converting formats.
The files don’t have to be in public folders, VLC lets you save login credentials. For all of the logging in, you’ll want to use the Apple Remote App that finally became available for the new Apple TV. Or, better yet, you can pair a Bluetooth keyboard to the set-top box.
Remote Playback – Drag and Drop File Play
This feature is my favorite. You don’t have to setup a server or stream the video. All you do is navigate to the IP address of the Apple TV in a web browser. Then drop in a file and VLC saves it on the Apple TV. Of course, these files will take up space on your Apple TV, so you probably don’t want to keep huge files stored this way.
Using the remote playback prevents the hiccups and traffic from streamed content. The file is there and ready to play whenever you want.
If you have customized radio taste beyond Pandora, the Apple TV doesn’t offer too much. VLC lets you put in any stream using the Remote Playback interface. Once there, it’s accessible through the Network Stream option. In Settings, you can set the audio to play in the background. That’s an excellent option if you’re working out with your Apple TV or just chillin’ with a screen saver.
Why Not Use Plex?
Plex is easy to setup and use, so using VLC seems like an extra step. Plex is free to use on the Apple TV. One of the benefits and flaws of Plex is it remembers where you left off and what you were watching. In our household, with multiple people using the Plex server, that becomes a problem. If someone else uses Plex, it loses its place for other people. Using VLC for some of the content solves that problem. I can either drag a file directly into VLC for playback or just navigate the Plex server from the VLC interface.
VLC also gives you a little more control over playback features like the speed and subtitles. If you want the audio of a file without the video, VLC can do that.
Since VLC is free, it’s a nice app to add to your Apple TV collection. With it, you’ve got a few more options for playing your audio and video files, and that’s a good thing.