A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted about doing a review on a new media server software called VidOn. Most people have heard of Plex and Kodi/XBMC for streaming content for mobile devices and home theater systems. The VidOn media server is right in the same category, but VidOn, like Plex, can transcode media on-the-fly to make it available on pretty much any device [in theory].
Unfortunately, my experience with the VidOn media server and the various VidOn media applications and services have been less than impressive. In fact, I haven’t been able to get a lot of the VidOn applications to work properly, thus I wasn’t able to accurately review the product/service.
Where To Get The Software
The VidOn media server can be downloaded from the VidOn website. [http://www.vidon.me/]
The installation file for the VidOn server [v2102] is just under 70 MB. With a broadband connection, downloading the installation file for the VidOn server should not take you more than just a couple of seconds.
The installation of VidOn server is very easy and very much just default settings all the way through. The VidOn server does something that I haven’t seen with some other media servers which ask for firewall permissions. At the end of the installation, you are asked to reboot your system.
My Initial Impressions
Before I got to use anything, the VidOn server walked me through a few basic screens. First, welcoming me to the VidOn server, then asking me what kind of media I’m going to be serving up and then finally where the media was located. After the VidOn server had that information, it went directly into being through my media library and building up my catalog with movie metadata and movie posters.
VidOn server does exactly the same thing as Plex and Kodi and digs through your media and organizes it to make it more presentable.
One thing that I think that the VidOn server does better than others is that it automatically detects the differences between movies and TV shows for media that stored in the same directory. Most people would separate the different types of media between movies and TV shows, but if you don’t do that the VidOn server would make an attempt to split those out and catalog them for you automatically.
All this effort into organizing and cataloging your media is all for the service of streaming your content to remote devices. VidOn is also in the android streaming box, built on XBMC. The VidOn media server is supposed to stream your content to the VidOn Android TV box. I didn’t have a VidOn android device, so I wasn’t able to test with that aspect of their service.
Unfortunately, this is where my experience with VidOn in the VidOn media server, and supporting applications ends and my troubles began.
While the installation of the VidOn server was simple and default and the VidOn server was able to find my media and start cataloging it, I was never able to get the VidOn server to stream content to any of my devices. It was very odd that you have this server application that seems to function very well on the face but doesn’t work in reality.
When I contacted VidOn support, I was advised that I was using the wrong version of their software and I need to download another version; a newer version— a beta version.
In downloading the new version, I advised by the software that any previous versions have to be uninstalled before a new version can be installed. I had no idea at this time that with VidOn server being uninstalled, it completely wipes out your media library. Any adjustments or corrections that you’ve made to your media library in the VidOn server are lost. Sad to say, but I was highly unimpressed with the fact that each time you wanted to install upgraded version of the VidOn server, and wiped out my media library. The wiping out of the media library was highly inconvenient because it took a long time for the VidOn media server to dig through my entire video catalog and collect all the appropriate data.
I continued to contact VidOn support through their support forum on various issues. Essentially, I was told there was no correction, no troubleshooting and that they were working on a new version.
As far as trying to watch my media on other devices, I have an android device, so I downloaded the VidOn player, and that didn’t work. I downloaded the VidOn player HD, that didn’t work. I downloaded the VidOn cloud application, that didn’t work.
The VidOn cloud application is more like the Plex client for android; you log into the application, and then the application connects to your server remotely, and then magic is supposed to happen. I never received any magic. In fact, I was never able to log into my account successfully, nor was I able to get any kind of acknowledgment from the VidOn cloud application that my VidOn server is running. I tried multiple times to log into the application, and I verified that I could log into the website with the correct credentials, but I was never able to connect to my VidOn server.
I really expected the VidOn media server to be something special. The VidOn media server advertises itself as a media server that catalogs all of your media and serves it up to portable devices; supporting a wide variety of media formats and transcoding on-the-fly.
Strong Points [it was pretty]
- Installation is simple; defaults.
- Presentation; I think that VidOn did well on presentation.
- The VidOn server seems to do a very good job at digging through your media, collecting metadata and movie posters.
Weak Points [it never worked]
- A complete non-working application/service for me. Nothing ever worked.
- Support forums on the server/applications are less than impressive.
- Installing upgrades with the VidOn media server forces a wipeout of all previously collected data, resulting in a huge waste of time on reinstall. There’re no options to retain the data.
- VidOn media server does not automatically update to the latest version.
- VidOn media server never connects to client stations and vice versa.
- VidOn media server does not verify that the version of the server is compatible with the media client [VidOn player and VidOn cloud].
- VidOn seems to be in the process of developing their service [beta] and using customers as guinea pigs. Seems to be no stable version of the VidOn media server or VidOn cloud [player application].
- The VidOn media server does not have the ability to play the videos on the server. You can’t verify that the VidOn media server is actually going to serve up media properly.
- The VidOn media server/service does not offer a Windows version of their software so they can be used for home theater system; that effort is solely focused on the VidOn android box.
- VidOn media server does not have a Roku client; strictly android and Apple. But I have been advised that they looking to add that in future.
Good intentions are there, but the execution is plagued with failure. There’re a lot of things that the VidOn server was supposed to be and I’m sure that the VidOn server in the future will get better, but right now he was an utter failure. Other than the VidOn server functioning as a pretty application that can successfully install, the application did nothing. And the handling of the media database lacked so much, especially on upgrading the versions.
The developers seem to be taking a lot of time in presentation and that’s good to have a nice user interface, but it’s, even more, essential that the applications work. From my perspective, it looks as though VidOn is looking to compete directly with Plex media server, and that’s a good thing.
VidOn is really going to have to work on their simplification of communications, verifying that people can log into their accounts, accessing their servers and just making sure that their service works. Nothing discourages me more than buggy software.
Because of the user interface being so refined, I’ll probably check back with them in about a year.
Credits and Reference
If you have any thoughts or opinions on this, let me know in the comments below…