Price Free/$3.99 (premium)
User ratings 4.5 stars
Reviewer rating 5 stars
Whilst most newspaper and magazine publishers have been shamelessly plugging their own applications for the much-hyped iPad, the best we've found to date came along with little fanfare.
Best of all, on a platform dominated by applications that are significantly more expensive than the little brother iPhone apps (I'm talking to you Angry Birds and Flight Control), there is a perfectly functional free version available.
The app in question is the media streaming Air Video.
Air Video is available for the entire spectrum of iPhone OS products. So iPod Touch and iPhone users have been enjoying this application for some time. But it is on the iPad that Air Video shines.
Now, let's imagine you have a folder or perhaps even a hard drive full of multimedia. Not saying you use BitTorrent or anything. Maybe you do. But either way, you have a healthy mix of movies, TV shows, the usual suspects, that you've acquired over time.
Air Video enables you to consume all the media in that library, seamlessly and effortlessly, whether its stored on Mac or PC, over your network on your iPhone OS product - in this case, your iPad.
This app really begins to make the case for Apple's tablet device.
Sure, you can download the latest show from the US and sit in front of your PC. You can take the time and spend a bit of cash to burn it to DVD. You can use your USB and plug it into a laptop.
Or you can stream it to your iPad, kick back on the couch (or the bed dependent on what you are watching) and enjoy. All your content comes with you on the iPad.
Still not convinced?
Let's go back a step. You have downloaded the media and now want to view it.
You were burning the DVD and the numerous error messages start flashing. 'This file will not fit on the media device selected'. 'The DVD player does not recognise this file type'.
Oh, OK, well now I will have to figure out the codec, use a conversion utility, then take the file, burn to DVD (or place on USB, export to Media Player etc) all of which makes this download process more and more frustrating and time consuming - and to be honest too much hassle when I can wait for free-to-air TV to screen that final episode next week....
Here's another key feature of Air Video. It has a built in conversion tool. Even better, it can perform the conversion on the fly.
This means almost any file type, regardless of codec and compression, can be converted and played, on the run.
In testing, we threw almost every file format at Air Video and it performed brilliantly.
There's more good news.
Hook the iPad up to a projector or your flat screen and you now have a powerful media centre, without any of the integration and data management hassles.
Once the media is on your hard drive, streaming it over your network doesn't place any data download/upload demands on your network so there is no worries about data usage.
Even better, when converting on the fly, Air Video doesn't store anything on your device, no additional files are produced. So if your device is a little short of space, no problems there.
Oh, and one more small thing. It has remote access. It works outside your network via 3G.
Not bad for a free app, huh?
Even the paid version at $3.99 is an absolute steal.
DISCLAIMER - Darren Winterford is the director of app development house Creative Licence Digital. He has no commercial relationship with the publishers of Air Video, but wishes the app was one of his!