I was looking for an easy to use device for my mum, who wants to occasionally grab movies to watch on the go. I didn't do my homework properly and just bought an iPad because it seems to be a synonym for "easy to use".

Until I found out that to watch movies using the built-in player, they have to be transcoded.

What would you recommend to make it easy for my mum to grab a movie from her computer and watch it on the iPad? Is there an app that would just play any format without transcoding? If not, what's the easiest way out? She's got a pretty slow PC; definitely not something I'd want to do video transcoding on.

P.S. I'm still wondering if I got this wrong, because it's a bit hard to believe. This is anything but easy-to-use at the moment :( Am I totally misunderstanding something?

  • Can you give a list of formats you are interest in? "any" and "common" are rather broad... And did you already investigate the possibility to get her some movies in an iPad friendly format?
    – nohillside
    Nov 6, 2011 at 13:38
  • @patrix She already has a large collection in the avi container and a few in mkv; I assume the codecs are probably varied too.
    – RomanSt
    Nov 7, 2011 at 11:42

3 Answers 3


VLC would have been your best bet, if you got a hold of it before it got removed from the App Store.

I'd say your next best option is Air Video - it comes in two parts: a server component that you install on a Mac or Windows box, and the client app you download to your iPad. It'll let you stream videos from the machine to your iPad (thereby reducing file transfer times), but even better, with transcode it on-the-fly if it's a non-native iPad format.

I know you say her computer is slow, but how slow? Air Video will scale down the res if the server can't handle it, so it shouldn't choke trying to live transcode a 1080p MKV on a P4.

  • Air Video seems to do the job. Apparently it also acts as a nice and easy format converter too, for movies on the go.
    – RomanSt
    Nov 8, 2011 at 22:11

As lpacheco said, VLC works, but it was removed. I personally think VLC has the better UI of the two and thus easier to use, and since its for your mom, the more preferable app. One way to get it is to jailbreak the iPad (when the iOS 5 untethered jailbreak comes out), and install VLC for iPac via appsync/installous. After that, you add the video file to VLC through "File Sharing" under the apps tab of the iPad sync page.


I use VLC Player for iPhone, but it was removed from the App Store due to an incompatibility between its open source license and the App Store terms.

I learned that AVPlayer does the same, but it is a payed app. Pretty inexpensive, tough.

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