Infuse, a versatile iOS media player by FireCore [review]

By , Apr 30, 2013

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (teaser 001)

Over the past few days I’ve been testing Infuse, an iOS media player by FireCore, the team that brought you the aTV Flash Black for your jailbroken Apple TV.

Given their expertise in bringing support for streaming dozens of file formats to Apple’s set-top box, it goes without saying I was very much looking forward to testing Infuse for iPhone and iPad.

The App Store is home to some nice media players, Plex being my personal favorite, but none fully taking the pain out of properly rendering iOS-unfriendly video file types on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices.

In my personal opinion, Infuse addresses the media conundrum in one fell swoop while incorporating possibly the best subtitles support on iDevices to date and taking full advantage of Retina screens and Apple’s newest and most powerful mobile chips…

Infuse supports as much as fourteen different video file types which are common on the web and other platforms. Have a bunch of videos encoded in Microsoft’s AVI format? Not a problem. MP4? Infuse will work fine with these. MKV, you say? That, too.

Built-in support for non-iOS video file types means you can simply throw the clips you’ve amassed over the years at Infuse without having to waste time converting the individual files into H.264 just to play them on your iOS device.

Need more convincing before we delve deeper in the review?

Here, check out the official promo video.

The app understands the following video formats: 3GP, AVI, ASF, DVR-MS, FLV, M4V, MKV, MOV, MP4, OGM, OGV, WebM, WMV and WTV. As for audio tracks, Infuse supports AAC, AC3, FLAC and MP3.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot, Home)Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot, Ticket)

Pretty impressive, no?

Also cool: Infuse has a handy trakt.tv integration which scrobbles everything you watch back to the trakt service, lets you keep track of the clips you’ve seen and get suggestions based on those you’ve liked.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 005)

While other apps like AcePlayer and Plex also transcode your media, most do so by way of a desktop application that sits running on your Mac or Windows PC, taking care of transcoding on the fly.

Those that transcode video directly on the device, such as CineXPlayer, crush on me a lot and leave a lot to be desired in terms of comprehensive support for video formats foreign to iOS.

Adding videos

Like many other media jukebox, Infuse supports iTunes File Sharing. Getting your videos over to Infuse is a simple matter of dropping the media files into the Infuse section listed at the bottom of your device’s Apps section in iTunes. Adding media using iTunes File Sharing doesn’t copy the video files to your iTunes library, which is a good thing.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iTunes File Sharing 001)

Another benefit to iTunes File Sharing: your media gets transferred to the device immediately upon adding them to Infuse’s file sharing section, without having to synchronize with iTunes.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (Open in Infuse)

Infuse also lets you download videos from your Dropbox, add them from email attachments via the ‘Open In’ feature and sync iOS-friendly clips through iTunes.

User interface

Upon launch, the app presents you with a skeuomorphic interface that emulates a wooden shelf akin to Apple’s iBooks app. In portrait, the top half of the screen is dedicated to your media artwork and the rest renders the thumbnails of your media files.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 001)Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 002)

Infuse pulls poster art and fanart from the web, using artwork and info from TheMovieDB and TVDB. The app uses both the file name and underlying meta data to figure the best movie thumbnail and it gets the job done with remarkable accuracy – I have yet to found a feature film Infuse would struggle to recognize. You can pull this section down to refresh cover artwork.

Turn the device upside down and the interface morphs into an effective theater-like mode, where most of the screen real estate gets used up by the video’s teaser graphics, with thumbnails lined up alongside the bottom.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 003)
So, how does pull to refresh work in this view?

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 004)
Easy, you just swipe to the right to refresh.

To access options from the artwork interface, tap the bookmark icon in the top right. You can also drag the bookmark down to reveal the settings UI akin to the McTube app.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 010)

Here is Infuse’s ticket interface on my iPad 3 in portrait mode.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 006)

Tapping the video opens up the gorgeous movie ticket-like interface which shows you key information about the movie, including actors, run time, release year and more, alongside the Play button.

The player

The Infuse media player supports Dolby Digital Plus sound, movie chapters, multiple audio tracks, center channel boost for cleaner dialogue and three zoom options (Normal, Crop and Stretch).

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 006)

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 007)

As I mentioned before, Infuse has by far unmatched subtitle support. Infuse can use subtitles you already have. Alternatively – and this is a major selling point – the app can download subtitles from OpenSubtitles.org.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 009)

I also like how Infuse allows me to adjust subtitles while a movie is playing with custom font sizes, typeface color, shadow or outline (or both), time offset, encoding and more. To access these, just tap to reveal on-screen options and hit the gear icon in the upper right and up pops a menu with three sets of options.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 009)

By far the most useful option is Infuse’s built-in support for automatic downloading of subtitles from OpenSubtitles.org in any supported language. It’s ridiculously easy and effective, up to the point where I no longer have to remember to painstakingly download my subtitles manually and bring them over to Infuse.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot, Subtitles)

And if you thought Infuse’s support for fourteen video and five audio file formats was great enough, check out the following list of supported subtitle formats: SRT, SSA, ASS, DVDsub, PGSsub, XSUB, Timed Text, VobSub and DVB.

Of course if you already have your own subtitles, Infuse can use those as well.

Playback engine

Infuse features an engine optimized for the latest Apple mobile chips. As a rule of thumb, the newer an iOS device, the smoother the playback. For example, my third-generation Retina iPad was able to play most full HD Blu-ray MKV rips without any stuttering.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot, Ticket)

Large movie files that are optimized for quality would lose frames from time to time, but the iPad 4’s speedier chip should take care of that. Of course, H.264-encoded videos play smoothly because iOS devices feature hardware-assisted H.264 playback.

FireCore claims Infuse on the iPad 2 is able to decode Full HD 1080p H.264/AVC videos at thirty frames per second.

Wrapping up…

I have a few gripes with the app, the biggest obviously its lack of AirPlay streaming as it vastly reduces Infuse’s usability in home theater setups. More sources for artwork, info and subtitles would also be nice.

And in case I’m too lazy to fire up iTunes on my Mac to transfer some movies, I would very much appreciate a built-in WebDAV capability to wirelessly transfer video files from any machine on my network, using a standard web browser.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot, Playback)

Other than that – and apart from the glaring omission of AirPlay media streaming – I have no major complaints about Infuse. Matter of fact, from my vantage point – and given Apple’s discrimination of many popular video file types on iOS devices and the headaches associated with making subtitles work on iOS – Infuse’s flawless subtitle integration alone justifies its asking price.

Infuse 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot, Trakt)

If you know your way around iOS, are no stranger to iTunes File Sharing and use your iPhone or iPad for media consumption, Infuse is a must-have. Provided FireCore adds native AirPlay support and expands on the feature set with future updates, I see no reason whatsoever to remove Infuse from my Home screen anytime soon.

You can grab it from the App Store at five bucks a pop.

If you need more information, check out the Infuse web site or the introductory blog post.

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  • Роман Айсин

    Looking good but absolutely useless for me. Luck of UPnP/DLNA or Smb is bad. And 5$ for that? For me the best player in App Store is nPlayer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/techninjoe Joe Gonzalez

    Given how awesome Flash Black is at streaming from my mac to my Apple TV, I was really hoping that this would transcode like Plex. I like Plex but it’s super buggy at times and would love a better solution to media streaming. Oh well.

  • http://twitter.com/int3nsive Int3nsive

    I like the UI.. people can say whatever they want but I think skeumorphism in some apps are really great!

  • http://gxgow.tumblr.com/ Nicolas Loots

    A lot of multimedia players are supporting MKV, but I haven’t seen any of them play them fluently on A4 devices e.g. iPod Touch 4. I hope this one actually does.

    • http://twitter.com/JesusGoncalvesA Jesús Goncalves

      If it doesn’t work out for you, It’s Playing plays MKV smoothly on my iPhone 4.

  • Chiraag Thadani

    Wonder how this compares to AV Player though

  • Sentry

    Looks awesome. And pretty sexy. Think I’ll be getting this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.dehaven Michael DeHaven

    I gotta say the subtitle stuff is really neat but not enough to get me to budge from Plex because I have a roku, but I have yet to try it on an iTV

  • http://twitter.com/Nullbrand Niclas

    It has AC3 support but how about DTS?
    No player I know has both, (and streaming capabilities) except for XBMC…

    • http://twitter.com/jacobtf Jacob Nørgaard

      Exactly. 90% of my ripped MKVs have DTS = this is pretty useless for me. XBMC rocks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenrick88 Kenrick Fernandes

    can someone suggest a free movie player in the app store that is capable of playing all video files smoothly on the iphone 5 ? thanks

    • RarestName

      XBMC is the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702896269 Marek Ratajczak

    Well, here is a thing for You to consider: my WAY outdated and archaic iPad 1 plays 720p mkv files smoothly with XBMC Media Center (other formats too), haven’t found any appstore player that would be capable of it, including Infuse. Also, it’s capable to use 8 different subtitles sources not only OpenSubtitles. Just to add it’s a free app :) available on Cydia, so i’ll stick to it for now and forever when it comes to video playback.

    • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

      I was just about to say that. My iPad plays any and every video format thanks to XBMC and it’s free and open source! I’m surprised this isn’t really talked about much on iDB…

      • http://twitter.com/eduo eduo

        Of course you know why it isn’t: Because it requires a jailbroken iPad.

        I’m surprised this isn’t really mentioned most of the time XBMC is brought up. It surely isn’t in your comment and the one above.

        I’m not saying it’s hard to jailbreak, I’m saying it’s a huge entry barrier for most, and that explains why it’s not as popular and common.

        As for subtitle sources, you’ll usually see OpenSubtitles universally for three main reasons:

        1.-It has a proper api with a hash-based search engine, which is far more accurate than name-based searches (it has a fallback name search, so it also solves that problem if it arises).

        2.-It’s universal: Has subtitles for everything (not just series or movies) and in all languages. Most of the others either focus on a type of video or on specific languages or even on specific releases.

        3.-Has very large download limits compared to other others and allows multiple-file searches and downloads.

        So, while other sources are convenient, they’re usually unused.

      • http://twitter.com/aidanharris1 ✪ aidan harris ✪

        You’re right about the jailbreak part but for those that do jailbreak I honestly believe XBMC is above every other multimedia player.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mehrabh Mehrab Haque

    “FireCore claims Infuse on the iPad 2 is able to decode Full HD 1080p H.264/AVC videos at thirty frames per second.” Pleaseee help me with this how do i convert/format it to 1080pH.264/AVC by it i mean my vidoes on my mac/pc Please helppp or can i use an app to convert it somehow?

    • http://www.facebook.com/rsaint67 Roque Santos

      Try Handbrake

  • http://twitter.com/Paulyboy69 Paul Natsch

    So I suppose this won’t stream videos from a Mac ala Air Video? I record alot with my EyeTV HD which then automatically converts the recordings to an iTunes-friendly format then places those converted files into iTunes. Air Video is connected to the folder they’re stored in and streams them from my Mac to IOS devices. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of this Infuse but it works well and I’m not actually copying any videos to my devices, which is important because video files take up a lot of space. If Infuse offered the same ability I would most likely purchase it.

  • http://twitter.com/martinbusek Martin Busek

    Who is looking for a good app for mac, that streams video to Apple TV, best is BEAMER I think. It also support DTS and DD. http://beamer-app.com

  • http://twitter.com/callmefil fil

    So whats better CinexPlayer or this? I like the dts from cp

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001809600195 Nada Tosnas

      CinexPlayer is good, but really buggy. I’m gonna wait a few days till this one gets more reviews.

  • Gorgonphone

    all i want is a player that can load al the crappie web video formants still floating around..

  • Kurt

    Very attractive app. But I’ll stick with Plex, but if it goes down in price perhaps I’ll give it a try. Looks great.

  • Mohamed Rimzan

    good effort

  • simieski

    Great to have trakt scrobbling. But lack of uPNP and SMB for me doesn’t make it worth the price.