iPhone Life magazine

Review: UPnP player / control point "ArkMC"

As it doesn't have any kind of non-UPnP playback (that is, it can't play back local files), I haven't evaluated ArkMC (AppStore link; $2.99, Universal) in my UPnP bible listing and comparing all regular multimedia players (also with) UPnP capabilities.

As you will see from the pros/cons list below, you won't want to use it if you do need high-resolution support during software decoding. Otherwise, it's a decent app. Of particular interest is AC3 support during hardware playback of iOS-native files. If you, on your UPnP-enabled NAS server, have tons of MP4's (MOVs / M4V's) with only AC-3 audio tracks and don't want to add an iOS-compliant AAC track to them and want to stream to your iDevice, you should take a closer look at ArkMC. (And backup the IPA before Dolby makes Apple remove the player from the AppStore because of the AC-3 support...)

A filelist on my iPhone 5 (as you can see, there's no 16:9 screen support):



Pros

AC3 support, even during hardware playback
Hardware playback (including even Apple CC's)
Good MSMPEG-4 decoder
Can act as a UPnP control point (one that just acts as a proxy between a UPnP (file) source and a UPnP media render hardware); for that, it has proved to be excellent. Given that for example PlugPlayer costs $5 (and isn't even Universal) and doesn't support as many containers and video formats for local playback, this app is definitely a better choice, should you also want local playback.

Cons

No 16:9 screen support  
No SSA subtitle support  
Absolutely no support for local playback
Doesn't make use of the full resolution during software decoding on small-screen devices like the iPhone 5. An example resolution chart screenshot of playing back an MKV:



When playing back an iOS-native file, there are no such problems. A screenshot showing the playback of the same resolution chart, but from an m4v file:



Unfortunately, this also applies to the Retina screen of the iPad 3/4. That is, you do NOT want to use it for playback on any high-resolution iDevice (any iPhone / iPod touch model starting with the iPhone 4 / iPod touch 4, respectively – along with the iPad 3 and 4).

Note that, as usual, you shouldn't pay attention to the AppStore reviews. In the US AppStore, the previous version has received two one-star reviews. Both are factually plain wrong: the player does play back files off UPnP sources and it does discover them.

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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.