When Chromecast launched last summer, consumers everywhere immediately wished to display local content from their phones and tablets onto the big screen. Having the ability to cast photos and videos of your choice was in such demand that some developers even found unsupported hacks and methods to get the job done. Ultimately, Google closed the gaps while they ironed out the Chromecast SDK leaving Chromecast fans everywhere yearning for the ability to cast their own personal media with Chromecast. That wait is finally over thanks to Avia, Chromecast’s first personal media player.
For those not aware, Videon, the company behind Avia, is no stranger to Google or Android, working with Google and Sony on the first Sony Google TV Blu-Ray player back in 2011. Their relationship with Google do to previous app support for Google TV and Android allowed them this launch opportunity with Chromecast. We go hands on with an exclusive review below.
Avia’s goal is to help users move their personal media between devices from a variety of storage locations. Like previous versions of Avia, you can link the app to cloud storage, local storage, and network servers.
- Cloud storage – A this time, Avia only allows you to link your Dropbox, Facebook, or Google+ accounts. If you use Dropbox for photo and video storage or have the automatic camera upload feature enabled, this is for you. Avia allso supports Facebook photos and videos, allowing you to view and cast any media that’s been uploaded to your Facebook account. While Avia is still using the old retired Picasa name, the final cloud storage option is in fact Google+ Photos. If you share photos or videos on Google+ or have Auto Backup enabled, this is a great option seeing as Google+ allows for unlimited photo and video uploads. Additionally, during our interview, Videon told us that Google Drive support and other possible storage options are on the roadmap, so stay tuned.
- Local storage – Your prayers have finally been answered. Just as it sounds, Avia automatically scans your local device storage looking for videos, photos, and music and allows you to cast them to your TV. This is probably one of the most sought after features for Chromecast as many people store media on their phones and tablets. Not everyone embraces the cloud.
- Network storage – If you have a local media server, such as a DLNA server, Avia can be linked to cast your content from a networked computer or server to your Chromecast. For example, if you have an extensive photo collection, video, or music library and happen to run a DLNA server such as Windows Media Player, Avia can stream content from that server to your TV. If you have multiple Android devices, let’s say a tablet with videos and a phone with photos, either device can be enabled as a media sharing device, allowing you to pull all of your media together from all sources, into one library.
After you’ve added all of your storage locations, you’re now ready to begin using Avia and Chromecast with your own personal media. If you’ve added music, all music added to your library is indexed, adding album and artist art where needed, making this feature one of the best in class. If you have an extensive library, Avia’s built in search feature allows you to search your music, photos, or videos by entering the media title, movie name, or image name into the search box. If searching isn’t your thing, you can browse content by album name, date, playlist, ratings, by folder name, or get the whole list by selecting all.
While playing Music with Avia or on your Chromecast, you can choose to enter DJ mode or Jukebok mode. DJ mode immediately changes the song as soon as a new one is selected while the Jukebox mode is similar to YouTube’s TV Queue, allowing you to add music to a list.
With Photos, you have the option to view the individual photo or go into slideshow mode by hitting the play button. You can configure the slideshow options via settings, such as changing the image display duration as well as choosing different types of transitions.
While Avia is going to godsend for those wishing to cast locally stored content to Chromecast, Avia does have some limitations for Videos and for some, might not be the final app for tackling Chromecast. When it comes to videos, Avia does an amazing job at playing and casting supported content. You’re going to be limited by the types of codecs supported by your device, your DLNA server, and of course the Chromecast itself. Avia does not do any sort of audio or video transcoding. If you have a plethora of MKV movies, some videos won’t play and others will play, but will be missing audio. Once again, this isn’t a problem with Avia, it’s just unsupported content. With that said, some AVI movies, MPEG files, and mp4’s will play just as intended if their codec is supported. If you’re ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays from your personal collection, be sure to encode them with a supported codec. As for videos taken with your phone, you shouldn’t have any issues at all and it works great.
The cloud storage option works quite well for pulling in content from Dropbox and Facebook. At the time of this writing, we were given a pre-production build of the application and Picasa did take a couple seconds to retrieve photos and videos. The team informed us they are aware of a few issues and plan on making improvements prior to launch. Besides the slight delay, photos from Picasa worked quite well. Also, the team does plan on eventually changing the name and icon to reflect Google+ Photos since Google+ Photos has replaced Picasa web.
Avia is free to install on the Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore, but you’ll need to complete an in-app purchase for $2.99 to enable Chromecast functionality. In addition to adding Chromecast support, the paid version enables another perk, Themes support. If you’re on the fence about purchasing this app, it’s worth knowing that in early 2014, Videon plans on raising the price of Avia to $4.99. Previous Avia Pro owners will automatically be upgraded to the new version that supports Chromecast and the updated version will be available to Google TV owners as well.
Having the ability to use Chromecast with the photos and videos recently taken on your phone, competing with Apple TV mirroring, has been one of the most sought after features since Chromecast’s launch last summer. Avia’s ability to accomplish this and more definitely makes it a powerful tool that you’ll want to add to your personal media arsenal.
Sounds great but hesitant about compatability. If it were a surething, would of got this app and bought a chromecast.
He doesn’t know. *chuckle*
Meant video formats
the free app will is a good way to see what works and what doesn’t. Then upgrading is easy.
yeah but I’d have to get the chromecast as well, don’t feel like returning it if it doesn’t work with my video collection
No you don’t. aVia works on most android phones and tablets and works with most dlna servers (like windows media centre and mediatomb). So you can see if your phone will watch your movie and if it works, chances are it will work on the chromecast too. google has been pretty consistent with what media it they want to support on local devices. Some hardware manufacturers go above and beyond, but the software decoders are pretty robust by themselves.
thanks for the tip, I’ll try that
No problem. It is a plug for my company, least I can do is tell you how well it works. :)
Tried last nite playing .avi movie from avia on my chromecast. Did not work at first; Got “File Type not supported” error. Used Handbrake to convert from .avi to .mp4..and voila !!!
Heaven forbid! You might be out a whole $35! Hell, even if you just use it to display the built in wallpaper, you will get your money’s worth! Just get one.
Could you use Avia to connect to say PS3 media server which will transcode videos on the fly to stream any video to Chromecast?
Avia will connect to ANY DLNA accessible server. If PS3 supports DLNA, then yes.
There is some setup to do. Sometimes the ps3 media server doesn’t recognize avia as an android device and transcodes the videos into a more compressed form than needed. Changing the profile of avia on your ps3 media server to a basic android device, or a better option is to be associated with your specific device.
Hey. I configured the ps3 media server, and it is working pretty well on my android, but I can’t cast to chromecast. I always get the messenger that the file is not supported. But it is! If the file is on android, I can cast to chromecast with no problem. any ideias? thk u.
Well, either the ps3 media server is actually transcoding the file on the fly when you play it on your android mobile (usually has to buffer a bit at the beginning and prone to buffering during) and not when being cast, or your device can play more than android by itself and because it is the device in control the server doesn’t change the file. The ps3 media server has a pretty big community and they talk more about transcoding and how to set up for specific devices; I don’t know enough about how chromecast works to know why it wouldn’t change the file for casting too. You can probably set some sort of default file out type for when it can’t detect what it is being sent to and see if that works. That’s my best guess. Sorry I can’t be more help.
How do they get around the limitation that Koush couldn’t? Money to Google? What’s the catch?
The SDK is now out for users… Koush was using an unapproved method to reverse engineer the SDK preview I believe.
Hopefully Koush will update his app to support chromecast.
Hopefully all apps will update their apps to support Chromecast. Koush’s focuses on local media, which is nice, but accessing Facebook, G+, Twitter, Vine, CNN, Huffpost, etc. content is nice. Every app with that nice little cast button is what I’d like to see.
Koush was using an unsupported method. Avia is using an official SDK method.
why? Who needs Koush with officially supported apps. quit being a fangirl.
It won’t even connect to ChromeCast. Pretty disappointing.
What are you talking about? The app updated this morning and connects just fine to Chromecast…
I can see my ChromeCast device but it will not let me connect to it.
Reviews on Google Play also saying the ChromeCast functionality does not work. Hopefully they get that fixed soon – this App has a lot of promise.
server capacity bumped. try again.
I’m having the same issue. Using my Sprint Moto X that is still on 4.2.2. Maybe I’ll try it from my Nexus 7 when I get a chance and see if it works from that.
Found the issue, power cycle your chromecast.
You nailed it – thanks!
Just looked and more apps. Revision3 and beyondpod among them. Maybe google finally accepting apps widely
Derek, what about videos from G+? And videos that perhaps were from your circles in your stream? More recently with the video backups of G+, we’ve stopped uploading videos to YouTube, the obvious downside is that they can’t be Chromecasted out to our TVs. Is there a way to play these with Avia?? I know you showed the photos from G+, but wasn’t sure if you said anything about the videos. Sorry if I missed that.
Videos can be casted. I did not show that in the demo, you didn’t miss anything. Rest assured though, they can be casted from G+ as well.
Casted right from G+? Did I miss a G+ update? Or Avia allows this through G+?
Sorry…no. I meant videos can be casted within Avia once you connect your G+ Photos / Picssa account.
That is one ugly app though. Functions great, but ugly
The previous version was pretty ugly. This version at least is mostly Holo and a mix of the old UI. It functions as intended as you said.
Why do they still not have trial versions of these apps
So does it make sense to pay for the Chromecast support since this is the only way to access certain content at the moment, or will others (including Google??) join the party later on and allow free Chromecast support of said content? I don’t mind being an early adopter, but I don’t like “exclusive” deals that gouge users when a free option is around the corner (and no, $3 isn’t a gouge, but it will add up in their pockets!)
the company that produces avia is a small company, and the r&d that went into avia will take a lot of users to recoup. The charge for chromecast support is so engineers can keep working and not let the project die.
Fair enough. Thx for the reply
Was that a diaper in the pic of your commode? It was just such a random pic.
Yes. Hahaha. My daughter took off her diaper and I told her to throw it away…so she did. I took a pic and sent it too my wife for a good parenting laugh.
I’d like to see an Avia vs Plex article, what are the pros/cons. I don’t have either so I don’t know, but I’ve been waiting for something like that that can play content off my NAS (previously doing with a Boxee, which worked pretty flawless but would like to retire if Chromecast can do it just as well).
Plex can get videos offsite for a $3 monthly subscription. If you pay for that, their Android App is free. Otherwise, you’ll pay a one-time $5 fee to get local videos. No cloud (Dropbox, G+, Facebook) is available from Plex at this time. Avia only works with videos on your current network or on certain cloud sources, but is only a one-time $3 fee.
If Avia can get Drive support quickly, I’ve already got the 200GB option and will just store my videos there. Otherwise, the Plex option for offsite streaming is tempting. Which you use is up to how you want to set things up and spend your money.
I stayed away from Plex because i thought it was a subscription for chromecast support… this is not clearly described on their website.
I’ll see what’s what when I get home, hoping it’s what I’m looking for.
I must be missing the part about Google+ support? When I login to aVia, I see a setting for Picasa, which is nice, but I don’t think Picasa is exactly the same thing as Google+, is it? For instance, will I be able to view video that are in Google+ communities?
Further, even with Picasa, if I click it, I see none of the albums that I have there. Is there some trick to getting this to work?
It’s labeled as Picasa, but videos that I had auto backed up (as of last week) to Google+ ARE available. You WON’T be able to view videos from other G+ users, however. At this time, only your own G+ videos are available to cast.
Watchout! Information in this article may be inaccurate, the version on the amazon app store 6.x, so it may not have the chromecast yet. I just purchased it and after spending lot of time found out that version is different. Trying to contact the support to see what I can do next.
Amazon takes more time to update to a new version. When the amazon version is bumped, you will have the new one, including your in app purchase.
Paid for the upgrade. Casting local videos from phone buffer to the point of not being able to watch. And before you ask, I have a very good, fast connection on both phone and chromecast.
Next, it can’t find my media server. Been trying a long time.
Huge waste of $3.
You could do all the local streaming for free if you bought a plair 2 for 49 bucks
I bought this on a whim. The fact is that I have a plethora of devices for network playback…MX2, WDTV, Boxee Box. I bought it more out of curiosity.
But I have actually read nothing but negative reviews of the Plair 2. Doesn’t seem like the best solution…
Mirroring support to Chromecast is coming…may as well just wait for that to cast media for free.
Using a Nexus 7 and the fastest service from TimeWarnerNYC, I’ve had no problem casting mp4 video to my TV. No buffering, no skipping for both one hour television shows and two hour movies. I don’t know much about codecs, but I used the standard “to MP4” setting on Format Factory and it was all good. Also, I followed some instruction I saw somewhere and after setting up Avia on my tablet but before I got started casting, I did a factory reset on the Chromecast. Now, Avia just needs to fix the way ugly, not-intuitive interface.
Surprising it does not cast .AVI files considering AVI is in their name! :)
One question, when casting from local media, does it still involve sending everything over the internet (using data both ways) or does it stay on the local wifi network?