How to stream content from the PC to a phone or tablet

The latest generation of powerful wireless routers, one can stream content from the PC to phone or tablet, and watch it anywhere at home

It just seems so unnecessary to be forced to sit in front of the PC at home to watch a movie. Thanks to the latest generation of powerful wireless routers and the rather nifty Plex application ecosystem, you can now stream content from the PC on to your phone or tablet, and watch it anywhere in your home. Here’s how you can do it.

Step 1

Share your home PC’s or laptop’s movie library

Install: Plex Media Server

The PC’s hard drive, which holds your movie library, needs to be made accessible on the tablet and phone. Install the Plex Media Server on a PC (Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD) and point it to the folder (or multiple folders; there’s no limit on how many you can share) where the movie/music files are stored. It will also share the picture gallery. Plex will then share the folder’s contents over the network, to any device connected and running the Plex app, and also regularly update the library, to check for any new files.

Step 2

Stream movies to your tablet, anywhere in your home, from the Plex-enabled PC

Install: The Plex app on your tablet or smartphone

The Plex app seems to be available for almost every smartphone and tablet platform—iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8. Irrespective of which tablet you have, chances are there is an app compatible with your device. This enables you to access the Plex server installed on the PC (in Step 1), and the content it shares. Connect both devices to the same network, and we arrive neatly at the next step.

Incidentally, Plex also works brilliantly on other devices that you may have, like the Sony PlayStation, WD TV Live, D-Link Boxee Box and Google Chromecast.

Step 3

The Wi-Fi router is the critical device

Before the words “network set-up" give you stress, let us assure you that you don’t need to do any geeky stuff. Simply ensure that the broadcasting PC as well as the receiver tablet/smartphone are connected to the same Wi-Fi access point. If your PC doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, connect it via the wired route to the same router that also wirelessly hosts the tablet.

Is your existing router good enough?

If at all, this is the only investment you will need to make in terms of hardware. If your current wireless router supports the “n" standard, you are good to go. If not, we would suggest that you get one that will support video streaming between devices on the same network, including high-definition (HD) files. If buying a router, try not to pinch pennies, and get the higher-end hardware, which will last you longer and handle HD files better.

WD My Net N900

WD My Net N900

( 6,000 approx*)

Supports 450 Mbps wireless transfer speeds, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, the latter being better for video streaming, and also has two USB ports for the printer or hard-drive sharing. Good enough in most instances.

D-Link DIR-850L

D-Link DIR-850L

( 6,500 approx)

This little beast from D-Link supports wireless “ac" transfer rates up to 1,200 Mbps, but has only one USB port. Will be ideal for streaming HD files, complete with 5.1- or 7.1-channel DTS audio codec.

Apple AirPort Extreme ME918HN-A

( 13,500 approx)

Dressed in white, the AirPort Extreme supports the next-generation Wi-Fi standard, wireless “ac" and transfer rates up to 1,300 Mbps. From what we have experienced, this router has the best range in a typical home (with walls and other obstructions).

*Prices may vary.