PopCast for Apple TV
Wide format support
Needs a powerful PC
A Swiss army knife streaming media app, PopCast lets you fling a wide range of video formats around an Apple-centric home.
The Apple TV is great for watching video files on your television, as long as you’re happy to stick with iFriendly file formats and stream from iTunes or an iGadget. PopCast lets you break these shackles, streaming almost any video format from a computer to an Apple TV or Google Chromecast plugged into your television. For now PopCast only runs on Windows, with support for Windows 10, but there’s a MacOS version on the way.
The free trial version lets you stream five minutes of video, which should be enough to determine whether PopCast meets your needs. The app transcodes video formats on the fly to appease the Apple TV, which means you’ll want to run it on a reasonably powerful Windows computer‚ especially if you’re streaming high-definition video. Transcoding on the fly can offer a more convenient alternative to regularly batch converting downloaded videos just so that they’ll play nicely with the Apple TV.
The PopCast app notifies you if your computer is struggling under the load, but you’ll know because you’ll have connection issues and the video will regularly pause to buffer. Windows devices with Intel Atom processors will struggle to make the grade when it comes to 1080p video and perhaps 720p. You’re also at the mercy of the quality of your Wi-Fi network; if it’s flaky you may get better results switching across to Ethernet.
The PopCast app features an Airplay-style drop-down menu listing Apple TVs and Chromecasts connected to your home network. You will need iTunes installed on your PC, so PopCast can use Apple’s Bonjour networking format. If your Smart TV or Blu-ray player is a DLNA renderer, visible to iOS streaming media apps like 8player, it’s unlikely to be visible to PopCast.
There are no remote control features for PopCast. You need to be in front of the computer, so you’ll probably want to run it on a notebook PC rather than a desktop PC tucked away in the study, unless you’re prepared to walk from the couch to the study just to press play.
If your PC has the grunt to keep it happy, PopCast could make a handy addition to your streaming media toolkit. The picture quality is great and it supports a wide range of formats including MPEG 1/2/4, DixV, MOV, MP4, M4V, MKV, OGM and WMV, but not copyright-protected files like iTunes movie downloads. It will play M2TS files ripped from Blu-ray discs using an app like AnyDVD HD, but not VOB or ISO files ripped from DVDs.
Using PopCast is simple, you can either drag and drop files into the PopCast window or queue up a playlist. It can play video files from USB storage or across your network from another computer or network drive, assuming you network can cope. PopCast won’t recognise DLNA media servers.
Bottom line. There’s more than one way to get video files on your television, so whether PopCast is a good fit for your lounge room depends on what else you have at your disposal. Considering that you need a powerful PC (or eventually Mac) at your disposal, it may be easier to install a transcoding media server like Plex on that computer and then use the Plex iOS app to stream video to your Apple TV or Chromecast. This way you don’t need to be sitting in front of the computer to send video to the television.
If you’re happy to drive everything from a PC, then PopCast may be the app you need to make the most of your Apple TV.