DLNA: The AirPlay alternative aiming for two billion streaming devices

Tue, 24 May 2011, 11:17am

Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)

If you're looking to stream music, movies and images around your home, Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) technology could be the answer. And the good news is that your TV, Blu-ray player, smartphone or other AV device, may already have the technology built-in. This year DLNA is looking to step out of the shadows and make sure that you know the technology is there and exactly what it can do.

As Apple grabs headlines – as it does – with the launch of its AirPlay technology, DLNA is keen to present itself, together with a host of partners and products, as the alternative when it comes to streaming content around your home.

DLNA is a collaborative group of more than 200 companies that aims to ensure that sharing audio, video and images between network-enabled devices is simple. Any two (or more) ‘DLNA-certified’ devices should happily share information between each other over your home network.

With certified devices including PCs, NAS devices, TVs, AV receivers, Blu-ray receivers and smartphones, and compatible manufacturers including the likes of Denon, Nokia, Onkyo, Panasonic, PS3 and Samsung (branded as Allshare, see above), DLNA wants to make it clear that you could easily be pinging content around your home using kit you already own.

Samsung's DLNA service is branded Allshare

The number of devices in circulation that are DLNA-certified is predicted to hit two billion by 2014, with more than 11,000 individual products already on DLNA’s extensive list. Big numbers compared to the handful that support AirPlay.

One new product from DLNA aims to help you navigate that wealth of kit. The DLNA Product Search app is available for free on iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices, and allows you to quickly check whether or not products are DLNA-certified.

Also new for DLNA is the chance for devices to be upgraded to support DLNA via an app. The alliance has made the necessary software available this year to allow companies to offer consumers an app to upgrade previously uncertified devices.

DLNA Product Search app
DLNA Product Search app

An example of this is Skifta. A media sharing Android app, it became the first application to become DLNA-certified earlier this year, allowing you to access and send content between devices using an Android smartphone.

There are plenty of other DLNA-related applications – even on the iOS platform – though DLNA are at pains to point out that only those carrying the DLNA-certified logo are officially approved.

Perhaps most intriguing is the launch in the US of DLNA-certified set-top boxes by the three biggest cable TV providers: Comcast, Cox and Time Warner. As well as giving you access to your normal TV content, it will allow the set-top box to talk to other DLNA-certified devices in other rooms in your home – smart TVs, most obviously – and stream content directly to them.

The HTC Sense is one DLNA-certified smartphone
The HTC Sense is one DLNA-certified smartphone

While there's no news of this coming to the UK as yet, DLNA is in talks with the relevant companies and with a nod and a wink it's a case of 'watch this space'.

The technology may not be new but DLNA seems eager to remind us that not only does its streaming technology exist, and on thousands of products, but its set to become even more common and more versatile.

So, as we often say in product areas where Apple is concerned: if you do want an alternative, DLNA could well be it...

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I've used a DLNA compliant fileserver since April 2009 to sent video to my PS3 and it works a treat!

Anyone with long term experience of DLNA knows just how bad a standard it is & why it is unpopular.

* Terrible fragmentation, so one device does not work with another or features like pause/rewind don't work as expected, the worst offenders are the big name AV companies like Sony, Philips and Samsung.

* Appalling media support, often the media your trying to send isn't even supported by the device, DLNA only mandates MPEG-2 or WMV video to be DLNA compliant nothing else !!!. Transcoding video is not part of DLNA standard and is a by-product of this failure, not all platforms can transcode media either.

* No support for DLNA digital media controllers, try sending your media to a PS3 via smartphone guess what it doesn't work as it's not a DLNA DMC compliant renderer, only a handful of devices are and not all work properly in this area due to fragmentation of the standard.

* Not point to point, DLNA requires a server.

DLNA is a complete and utter mess from someone who has been in media streaming land for 10 years & I’ve used a very wide range of hardware over that time. The standard is so loose and watered down by companies that participate in it who can't be bothered to implement feature x/y/z that it frustrates consumers and is the number 1 reason why SMB/Samba is so popular among other media players even LG is bypassing DLNA instead allowing customers to browse network shared folders directly as it's often a better experience.

DLNA is a poor substitute for Airplay as Apple provide a slick and consistent experience that is point to point with no server needed in addition all necessary codecs must be supported by the Airplay device. DLNA is nowhere near as friendly to use

EDITED BY MODS for drugs reference and potentially libellous comment

, go ask in any media streaming forum about DLNA and you’ll get negative feedback.

+1. I gave up trying to get my Sony TV and Sony Bluray player to stream .AVI and .FLAC off Windows Vista. Obviously these are obscure, unknown formats...

Wasted far too much time with Twonky and the like chasing down undocumented configuration options.

I've tried several DLNA control point apps on iOS and they all silently die or freeze.

DLNA is incredibly fragile, it may work with MP3 and Windows Media Player 12. Anything else is an unknown.

yammers wrote:
DLNA is a poor substitute for Airplay

Possibly the funniest thing I have ever read in a reader comment.

I imagine the DNLA's authors enjoy the odd wisecrack

lazarus1803 wrote:
I imagine the DNLA's authors enjoy the odd wisecrack

Indeed: that Discovery of Natural Latent Abilities is a laff-riot, I gather...

Well said yammers. Why cant WHF put together something as well argued, detailed and most importantly based on real world experience rather than just blindly regurgitating industry press releases ??.... this 'article' smacks of poor/lazy journalism and doesnt do any credit to the mag at all ...must try harder Mr Cox !

lazarus: It's not meant as a review of DLNA, rather a brief summary of what it's about, what it can do, and what they have planned for the future. I think you're assuming everybody knows all about DLNA just because you do, which isn't the case.

A fine rant, sir. Always good to hear readers' opinions. We've tested plenty of DLNA devices over the years and it's not always had brilliant results but arguably wouldn't go quite as far as you! By contrast, plenty of people enjoy what it offers. See here: http://www.whathifi.com/forum/home-cinema/whathifi-dlna-vs-airplay


I agree as to the pointlessness of trying to get anywhere with DNLA. Is it a coincidence that its practically invisible to the average consumer? Airplay is currently miles ahead. This is a poor article that just about reaches the level of advertising copy. I thought this magazine was better. Where's the copy editing?

Curtisbe wrote:
I agree as to the pointlessness of trying to get anywhere with DNLA. Is it a coincidence that its practically invisible to the average consumer? Airplay is currently miles ahead.

I'd be willing to bet there are rather more streaming content systems currently in use employing DLNA/UPnP than there are using AirPlay.

Curtisbe wrote:
This is a poor article that just about reaches the level of advertising copy. I thought this magazine was better. Where's the copy editing?

It's a report of how the DLNA – and yes, it is the DLNA, not the DNLA – sees things developing. Not an editorial review, not a statement of how we see things, but the result of a briefing Joe had with people from the DLNA. Nothing more.