PlayTo Streaming App: Like AirPlay for Android

Recently the Roku Box added a PlayTo channel. The Xbox 360 and a number of other devices became PlayTo compatible. And while no one is talking about PlayTo, it is a reliable, easy-to-use Android app that makes it possible to stream video to Smart TVs and media players from media libraries on your home network and from a large number of video websites. It's quietly been developed and upgraded over the past year and has become compatible with a number of popular media streamers and Smart TVs.

To use PlayTo, open the app on an Android smartphone or tablet. Choose to stream online content, content from the mobile device, or stream home content from computers, media servers, or network attached storage (NAS) drives. Once you find the video you want, play it immediately in the Android PlayTo app, or tap the yellow arrow to stream to a player on your home network. Once the video begins playing on the TV or device, playback is controlled by the TV or device. This is in contrast to other streaming media apps that send a video to a player but playback is still controlled by the app.

The Roku Box requires that PlayTo be downloaded as a channel in order to receive a video stream. Others devices, like the Xbox 360, Sony Bravia TVs, and Samsung TVs, simply appear in the list of available players without requiring any special downloads. PlayTo is compatible with AirPlay and can be played on an Apple TV or other AirPlay devices. Google TVs, Roku Boxes, and AirPlay devices that aren't found automatically by PlayTo can be be added by entering the device's IP address. The IP address is a series of numbers (typically 192.168.1.x) that the router assigns to each device on your home network to signify its location on your home network. To find the IP address of a device, go into its settings>network>network status.

The other content option is to stream video from a number of websites. NBC, ABC, TBS, and OWN are just a few of the websites available, along with sports websites ESPN, and most pro sports leagues. Streaming from the list of websites is a hit-and-miss affair. Many videos display an error message or won't play, particularly when streaming to a Google TV.

On the other hand, PlayTo streams home content almost flawlessly. Once a video is chosen, and the play to button is tapped, it instantaneously starts playing in a resolution that matches the video file. The picture quality of a 1080p video of "Hunger Games" that we had downloaded to our NETGEAR ReadyNAS, was near Blu-ray quality. There was no buffering. Videos from both online and your home libraries can be added to the PlayTo video que for easy access. This is convenient when you haven't finished watching a video and want to go back to it. Unfortunately, it does not have a resume feature, so you must fast forward to the point where you left off.

Anyone who has an Android device should have the PlayTo app. Particularly those people who have made the switch away from an iPhone to a Galaxy 3 but still want to stream video to their Apple TV. There is a free PlayTo lite version of the app that oddly plays only the first five videos in a folder. The upgrade, PlayTo Universal, costs $4.99 but is well worth it.

forumshrew's picture

I registered so I could comment on this article and app.

I love this app because:

1. Unlike Plex I can stream content from computer without additional software installed (ie Plex Media Server).

2. Start stream (either internet content or PC content) from app on tablet. THEN power off tablet (saving battery life). Stream continues till it plays in its entirety. (granted you wouldn't do this for a 2 minute youtube video).

3. I have access to more PBS content using app then I can get from PBS website itself (don't know how that happens but it does) On PBS tap tab that says all videos.

Having more than one roku you have to guess which one to use to stream to but not a problem.

Developer has a great app that I hope sticks around, but he has to be more responsive to user support, and users have to take some responsibility in setup.(ie roku you setup channel using your account)

Barb, glad to see someone promoting this app. Great article