Getting an Android device to stream video from a shared Windows folder
With my move to Android for the majority of my devices, I’ve had to revisit my local WiFi video streaming system. With iOS, I simply use Splashtop remote desktop to stream the entire computer screen, which is a system I prefer because it allows me to watch half of something on the computer and the other half on a mobile device without having to even pause the video – it’s the same device that plays the video after all. Splashtop doesn’t work as well on my two Exynos powered Android devices however, and certainly can’t keep up with video the way it can on my iPad. As such, I started looking for a new way to do things.
While Splashtop has issues with the chips in my devices, those chips mean that direct video playback is not an issue. Because of this, I really only need to stream the file from a computer, I don’t need it encoded or anything like that. The first thing I tried was to get my preferred video player, MX Player, to connect to a shared folder on my computer. That didn’t work because MX Player, like many other video players, can only stream from direct file links, not browse network folders and drives. The next thing I tried was a service designed to stream video across any network connection and to any device, by allowing you to encode video on the fly. Turns out that in their enthusiasm to make it work with slower devices, the notion of a device that doesn’t need videos encoded never struck them. When it started encoding even standard definition video for my S II no matter what settings I played with, it disappeared from my device rather quickly to put it that way.
The solution I ended up with is ES File Explorer. It’s a file manager that has over 10 million downloads in Google Play, and among its many features is the ability to connect to shared Windows folders. After failing to login to my computer using a guest account (which the folder was in fact set up to allow), I logged in with my admin account credentials and it worked straight away. My single shared video folder popped up, all the files were visible, and clicking an HD video file gave me the option to open it in MX Player where it played beautifully. No pointless encoding, simply file streaming to an app that handles the format natively.
So there you have it, a simple way to get access to your shared folders from Android, and stream video from them without any other services in between trying to decide what works and what doesn’t The auto encoding services are great if you want to stream video over an internet connection or have devices that isn’t able to handle the files directly, but sometimes such services are too fancy for their own good.