Twonky Beam Browser hands-on

Showing your friends the latest viral video traditionally requires huddling around a smartphone or tablet, which is odd when you're sat in a room with a 40-inch flat-screen. Web connected TVs or media units like the Apple TV will let you watch YouTube as long as you spend five minutes tediously inputting the search term on your remote. For those of us who can't afford a unified Airplay setup, there's PacketVideo's Twonky Beam Browser, which lets you push mobile content to your TV as fast as your wireless router can handle it. Does it work as well as advertised? Is it the answer to your prayers? Read on to find out, dear reader, read on.

Beam's essentially a browser overlay -- only differing from your regular web portal thanks to six buttons on the bottom frame that control your media: On/Off, Device Selection, Play, Stop, Volume control and a queue for your videos. The home screen lists officially compatible channels you can use the browser with, including YouTube, Vimeo and Funny or Die. Any HTML5 video you surf over will have a "BEAM" logo slapped on it (pictured), which you just need to tap and a few moments later, it'll start playing on your TV. While you surf, you can then queue up subsequent videos without stopping the one you're watching.

In theory, setup should be instantaneous as long as everything's connected to the same wireless network. In our case, it took a little coaxing to get the iPad and Apple TV to recognize one another. Once it works, it'll behave the same as any Airplay-enabled device, so Flash videos won't work here. Android devices, sorry to say, come with the same limitations, so no late-night Google-video MST3K marathons for you.

Beam Browser does nothing revolutionary, but the freedom it offers you is welcoming. Fundamentally, it'll span any HTML5 video on the internet, whereas your Apple TV is limited to the iTunes store, YouTube and Vimeo. Most web-connected TVs are tied to premium options like Netflix and Hulu, but Twonky offers you the ability to vault over the walled garden. As Flash video dies out, you'll find this app's utility increasing and what's more, it's free -- so you really don't have any excuse not to keep it around.