The most convenient way to get videos for your iPad is via the iTunes Store (and for a better range and lower prices the iTunes US storeâ€¦ see our tutorial here).
However if for one reason or another you have movies or TV episodes you’ve legally acquired elsewhere in AVI or MKV format you may want to know how to play them on the iPad.
The official way to do it is to use an app to convert them to Apple’s supported format — MPEG-4 H.264 — and then copy them to the iPad using iTunes. Transcoding video from one format to another can take hours depending on how fast your computer is and transferring them using the iTunes interface is cumbersome.
Fortunately Apple hasn’t stopped third-party developers from creating video players for other formats.
APC tested a selection of iPad video player apps and found the most reliable one was the $2.99 GoodPlayer.
It can play both AVI and MKV files (along with a bunch of other video formats) though we found only standard-definition files could be played on the original iPad; playing 720p MKV files requires the processing grunt of the dual-core A5 processor in the iPad 2.
However the winning feature of GoodPlayer is the ability to transfer video files to and from the iPad using a number of methods outside iTunes.
Transferring to the iPad via FTP
GoodPlayer runs its own FTP server on your iPad so as long as you have the app open on the iPad you can use any FTP client on your computer to copy files to the iPad. (In fact GoodPlayer beat Apple to Wi-Fi transfer of video files).
You can set up a favourite in your FTP app of choice (the one we used is Transmit for Mac) by using the IP address of your iPad. You don’t need a username and password but you do need to change the port to 21000.
You can easily see the IP address of your iPad by tapping on the ‘Wi-Fi’ button in the top-left corner of the GoodPlayer main menu.
Obviously the FTP server in GoodPlayer is not secure as it doesn’t require a username or password so bear that in mind. Anyone on the same Wi-Fi network as you who knows your IP address and the special port number can download upload or delete video files stored in the GoodPlayer app.
However they can’t access any other files on your iPad and the FTP server closes down if GoodPlayer isn’t the active app open on the screen of the iPad.
We clocked Wi-Fi transfers to an original iPad at about 3MB/s which meant a 547MB TV show took about three minutes to copy over.
Streaming/downloading from a computer using SMB
GoodPlayer can also connect to standard Windows/SMB shares on a network. To get to this mode you have to click the globe icon in the bottom-right hand corner of the GoodPlayer main menu then select ‘SMB/CIFS Client’.
To add your SMB server click the + sign at the top-right corner of the SMB Servers screen. Enter the appropriate SMB server details and you should then be able to connect to the share and download or stream videos to your iPad.