Review: VLC Remote | webOS Nation
 
 

Review: VLC Remote 25

by Robert Werlinger Wed, 24 Mar 2010 12:11 pm EDT

VLC Remote ($4.95 in the App Catalog) is a slick utility that allows you to control the open source VLC media player from your webOS powered phone.  It's still in its early stages, but the program shows some real promise

Setup

VLC Remote comes in two parts: The first is the application that’s downloaded from the App Catalog, and the second is an application that’s downloaded from the developer’s website and is installed on the PC or Mac that VLC media player is installed on.

Once the companion program is downloaded and installed, it will automatically configure VLC to accept input from the device. From that point, the pairing process is painless: You can either enter the IP number supplied by the connection assistant (usually the IP address of your computer on the local network), or use the pairing assistant to help automate the process. To get the server application working correctly, you may have to modify your firewall settings.

After this is done, the on-phone application will automatically sync up with the connection utility without you having to go through the process again.

Features and use

In addition to being able to control the media player, VLC Remote allows you to view files on the computer from the phone itself. The file browser works well, and navigating through various folders is easy enough. I liked the option to set a default folder for the file browser, and I’m a fan of being able to hit one button to go back to the list of available drives. There are a few things that I’m not a huge fan of in the user interface, though. First, the program never provides feedback about where you are in the folder hierarchy, which means that if you aren’t a very organized person and you have videos stashed in multiple locations throughout your computer, it can be easy to get lost and have to go back to the top level. Second, the back gesture that you’d expect to take you to the previous folder dumps you back into the remote scene instead - I’d much prefer a dedicated on screen UI element to toggle between the file browser and the remote in this case.  Those nags aside, however, the program is certainly usable.

   

The playlist section appears to be a work in progress. Whenever a file is played, it’s automatically added to the playlist, of which there can only be one at a time.   Playlist management options are minimal – you can delete files from the playlist management scene, but you can’t rearrange their order in the playlist. 

VLC Remote features the transport controls you’d expect on any remote control (play, pause, volume and track position scrub) and a few advanced controls such as subtitle and audio track toggle (for different languages), video speed and audio/video sync, with most controls functioning reliably and interfacing with the program well. The only control that doesn’t work well (or at all) is the window positioning pad that is revealed by swiping to the side in the playlist area and/or utilizing the redundant on-screen UI element.

  

The program also displays in landscape mode, which spaces the transport controls out, removes the playlist view, and makes the volume slider and the scub bar significantly bigger.

Performance

I tested the program on two machines; one machine running Windows XP SP3 and the other running Windows 7. The application worked as advertised for the majority of the time, though I did have VLC media player crash a few times on the XP box while using the app, and the file browser would sometimes time out on me while I was attempting to find video files on the Win7 box. 

I did notice a significant increase in battery drain while the app was running - we're talking the loss of nearly 5% in 15 minutes.  

Wrapping up

The media remote options for webOS are still sparse, and VLC Remote works sufficiently enough to be a solid contender in this space. Once you get a hang of the sometimes unintuitive UI, it works and it works well. There are some UI nags that need to be addressed to be sure, but give this app some more time in the oven (it’s only at version 0.2 as of this writing), and I’d say those issues will be worked out. With that said, it did feel at times like I paid  $5 to be a beta tester for the program.

Pros

The core functionality is there, and it's stable

Cons

There are still some UI concepts, especially in the file browser area, that need some refinement
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