Review/Freebie Alert: everyAir – Play PC/Mac Games in iOS
For a limited time everyAir, one of my App Store favorites, is free. The developers of everyAir set off to do something quite ambitious – design an app that would allow users to play PC/Mac games on their iOS devices. That is exactly what they accomplished over time and quite a few updates. At this point, the app does it smoothly with practically no lag and a very decent video quality.
How everyAir works is similar to a cloud computing service such as OnLive: everyAir streams footage of a game running on a computer to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The biggest difference between this and the well-known OnLive service is that everyAir utilizes your own computer rather than distant servers and everyAir makes games playable on iOS devices. Game streaming has been optimized to work surprisingly well through the developer’s dedication. Performance can be hit-or-miss, however.
Through my own testing with the latest update and an iPad 2, performance has improved considerably from earlier versions of the app. I was able to play Mass Effect 2 and stream videos at 20-30fps with an amazingly low latency of 20-60 milliseconds. Put in perspective, movies are typically shot at 23fps, so that is smooth. In fact, some computers may not even be able to play some games with that frame-rate while the everyAir server software is running, so bad performance can be blamed on your computer at times rather than everyAir.
When I had said that performance can be hit-or-miss before, I was referring to one of the app’s oddities: sometimes when I connected the app, I would only see a low frame-rate of around 10fps and a latency of 150 milliseconds while streaming videos or playing games. However, this has been easily remedied by pressing the home button twice (which disconnects the device) and reconnecting once or twice. If you are seeing results like this, I would recommend connecting and reconnecting. Actually I would usually see poor performance first then have to reconnect for the app to work well, which is not a deal-breaker since it can work well. I hope that the issue that is making the performance be so random is found and fixed.
The video quality of the app is good. Even at the highest quality setting, text is still not incredibly sharp and the picture lacks finer detail, but at least it still works really well. I have found that there is zero performance difference between setting the quality slider lower and setting it to the max, only a distinct quality difference; so you should be able to set the video quality to the maximum that everyAir allows. The biggest issue I had with video quality was tearing occurring in some games, another thing I hope is fixed eventually. A tip: set your computer’s resolution to 1024×768 for the best performance and the best-looking video on your iPad since that is the iPad’s native resolution.
Two key features are missing from the app to really make it shine: audio and customizable controls. The developer did say that these would be added soon, so everyAir will become significantly more practical for playing games in the future. Right now everyAir is the only remote desktop apps with joystick controls. Unfortunately the controls are not optimized for anything other than some RPGs and MMMORPGs since you only get a D-pad, a joystick, and a spacebar button. These are better than not having gaming controls, of course. Once you can customize controls, I am confident just about anything will be playable.
Unfortunately, I have not found the iPhone version to be as good. It seems that the app is unoptimized for the Retina Display (unless I was encountering a bug since the UI is) while in the computer view since video quality is really low. Significantly improving the video quality of the iPhone version and making setting up a 3G connection easy would make the iPhone app so much better.
Game streaming technology is still very much a beta thing, and thus everyAir feels like a beta app. The developer has been incredibly dedicated to improving the experience, and it really shows. They still have a while to go for everyAir to become practical for playing PC/Mac games in iOS, but they’ve got more than the groundwork done since video streaming (on the iPad at least) can be great. The app deserves to be more successful, especially since it is trying to reach a striking goal and it is obvious that the developer is capable of reaching it within a few more big updates. If development continues at the pace it is now, everyAir could almost be like another app with just a few additional features, and I will be more than willing to review it again.
What are you waiting for? It is available at the price of free right now, so you have no excuse not to get it. If you don’t get it during the promotion, it is still worthwhile to pay full price for everyAir.
Written by Michael DeLisi