Home Technology PlayOn gives cord-cutters an offline DVR, but it's pricey

PlayOn gives cord-cutters an offline DVR, but it’s pricey

Whereas streaming video has a number of issues going for it, watching TV offline isn’t one in every of them.

Streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu don’t work with out web entry, and dwell TV providers reminiscent of Sling TV and YouTube TV include cloud-based DVRs that solely work on-line. These necessities is usually a downside for some potential cord-cutters, significantly those that don’t have quick, reliable web service at residence.

That’s what makes PlayOn’s new Android TV app so intriguing. With sure streaming gadgets, reminiscent of Nvidia’s Protect TV or the brand new TiVo Stream 4K, you’ll be able to document exhibits from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and different streaming providers, then obtain them for offline viewing. It’s a intelligent option to take care of web pace limits and nonetheless have a lot to observe.

The one downside is PlayOn’s convoluted worth construction, which may get costly shortly.

How PlayOn downloads streaming video

PlayOn has been round for greater than a decade, and I’ve lined it a number of occasions on this column. Till now, I’ve principally centered on its Home windows software program. For a one-time buy of $70 (and infrequently on sale for a lot much less), that software program helps you to document exhibits out of your streaming providers onto a PC.

Not everybody has a devoted Home windows laptop, although, so in late 2016, PlayOn launched a cloud-based model of its service. As a substitute of constructing you document exhibits by yourself {hardware}, PlayOn Cloud information applications remotely, then helps you to obtain them by means of its iOS or Android apps. You possibly can then solid the movies to Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or Fireplace TV over an area Wi-Fi connection.

Jared Newman / IDG

PlayOn’s cellular app helps you to signal into streaming providers and handle recordings.

That strategy additionally had one downside: Most telephones don’t have ample storage for dozens of flicks or TV episodes, so that you needed to hold most recordings on-line till you wanted them. With the brand new Android TV app, you’ll be able to plug an exterior onerous drive into your streaming participant, load it up with downloads, then watch them offline immediately by means of your TV. PlayOn can document movies from greater than 20 streaming sources, together with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, Showtime, Tubi, and CBS All Entry. (You continue to want to make use of PlayOn’s iOS or Android apps to signal into these providers and arrange recordings.)

I examined this on an 2017 Nvidia Protect TV with a 128GB thumb drive, and whereas the interface might use some polish, I used to be impressed with how the software program labored. PlayOn presents a easy, two-part menu, indicating which recordings are saved on-line with PlayOn, and which of them are on the gadget itself.

playoncloudandroidtv Jared Newman / IDG

The PlayOn Android TV app can obtain recordings for offline viewing.

You possibly can obtain recordings manually, set them to obtain robotically, or schedule them to obtain throughout off-peak hours. The app robotically makes use of exterior storage when obtainable, so recordings don’t eat up house on the streaming gadget itself, and it even has an choice to robotically skip over adverts.

playonoptions Jared Newman / IDG

PlayOn helps you to skip adverts and schedule downloads for off-peak hours.

When you’ve downloaded some movies, you’ll additionally see a “House” tab in PlayOn’s iOS and Android apps, itemizing all the things that’s saved in your Android TV participant. Hit the solid icon on the top-right nook of the app, and you may stream movies from Android TV to different gadgets reminiscent of Roku or Chromecast over Wi-Fi, with no web connection required.

It’s additionally price noting that PlayOn’s recordings are saved as MP4 information, which you’ll be able to freely entry by means of the Android TV file system. (They’re saved below android/media/com.playonrecorder.cloudapp on no matter storage drive you’re utilizing.) I attempted pointing my Protect TV’s Plex server to that listing, and was delighted to see all of PlayOn’s recordings present up in my media library. Combining PlayOn recordings with Plex’s over-the-air DVR might result in some actually attention-grabbing potentialities.

playonfilecommander Jared Newman / IDG

Recordings are uncovered as MP4 information, which you need to use as you see match.

There may be one caveat to level out: All of PlayOn’s recordings max out at 720p. That’s not likely an issue for broadcast and cable exhibits, however if you happen to’re hoping to document Netflix or Disney+ exhibits in 4K HDR, you’ll be disillusioned.

The value is an issue

So what’s the catch? As I discussed earlier, all that cloud computing doesn’t come low cost, so that you may find yourself paying quite a bit to document a big library of flicks and exhibits.

PlayOn fees for its cloud providers in two methods: One is predicated on the full variety of recordings you create, and the opposite is predicated on how a lot knowledge you retain on PlayOn’s servers at any time.

PlayOn’s $5-per-month plan, as an illustration, offers you 20 recording “credit” monthly—with one credit score equaling a single TV episode or a complete film—and allows you to retailer as much as 100GB of video at a time. You possibly can keep away from hitting the storage restrict by downloading movies and deleting them from the cloud, however the variety of credit monthly is absolute.

PlayOn additionally sells bundles of further recording credit. A bundle of 100 credit, as an illustration, prices $25, whereas 200 credit prices $40. You possibly can both use these credit along side a storage plan or on their very own. Within the latter case, you solely get seven days to obtain every recording earlier than PlayOn deletes them for good.

That is the form of factor that makes extra sense when you begin utilizing it, however PlayOn’s cloud plans are quite a bit to soak up at first look, and so they’re rather more costly over time than PlayOn’s flat-rate PC software program. That’s why I’ve largely ignored the cloud element till now.

Nonetheless, I can see some situations through which PlayOn Cloud may work out. Recording all 201 episodes of The Workplace from Netflix, as an illustration, would value somewhat over $40 in PlayOn credit. That’s lower than half the worth of the entire sequence on DVD, and it’d be cheaper in the long term than paying for NBC’s Peacock service, the place The Workplace is headed in 2021. PlayOn’s recordings are additionally yours to maintain without end, even if you happen to cease subscribing to the streaming service they got here from PlayOn itself.

playondloptions Jared Newman / IDG

In low-bandwidth situations, having the ability to obtain at off-peak occasions might be important.

Apart from, there some of us for whom downloads are the one sensible possibility. In case your web speeds are too sluggish for streaming HD video, PlayOn is the one possibility wanting outright piracy that permits you to obtain first and watch offline later. Even streaming providers that help offline viewing, such Netflix and Amazon Prime, relegate the function to cellular gadgets, so you’ll be able to’t watch on a bigger display.

You may need to interrupt out a calculator and a spreadsheet to determine if PlayOn cloud makes monetary sense; but when it does, it’s a strong option to document streaming movies for later.

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