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I am using a Windows 10 PC and I want to access and control it using my iPad. So I installed Microsoft Remote Desktop on my iPad. The problem is that when I play videos in remote desktop, quality is really really choppy. So I tried switching to VNC. In VNC, the quality is fine, but the video plays very sluggish.

Now I tried using Infuse on my iPad and accessed shared videos on my PC, and when I am streaming videos through infuse, they play fine, so I know that my LAN speed is good enough to support a decent video playback. So why don't the videos play well when I am using RDP or VNC, and is there any solution?

  • Flagging this as a dupe because there is an older answer that gives expanded info that I describe, but in a format I think is more succinct. – JakeGould Jan 13 '16 at 5:20
  • I would not have discovered the other question because while I am interested in RDP, I don’t know what VNC is. Keywords in the title make a huge difference. – Clever Little Monkey Feb 20 '18 at 2:46
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So why don't the videos play well when I am using RDP or VNC, and is there any solution?

Easy. VNC and RDP are very practical/pragmatic protocols designed mainly for remote systems access and administration. Not video playback. If you remotely connect to a system to administer it, the fact the mouse lags a little is not that big of a deal because the goal is not the visual smoothness of mouse movement, but rather just making sure the pointer can be positioned correctly when you interact with the system.

The problem is that VNC and RDP are not really optimized to stream video at high quality; they are designed to stream a desktop interface in a way that allows the interface to be just usable enough to allow for the remote administration/access a system. This is done by only redrawing specific areas of the screen when needed during a remote connection session; basically a type of on-the-fly video compression optimized not for smoothness but for practical use.

To see what I mean, remotely access your desktop on the iPad and then do something like open a dozen desktop Windows; I think you will notice a visible delay and some stuttering when drawing even on a rock-solid, high-speed connection. And that is only with bare-bones desktop imagery/visuals being streamed to you.

In contrast, video playback often demands the video area be redrawn at 24 or even 30 frames per second to achieve smoothness of movement. Factor in that the video area can be something large—such as a basic HD 720x480 playback area perhaps—and VNC and RDP will just utterly choke on that since it’s not designed to compress visual data smoothly at that rate.

Unlike a desktop video playback—where the video data is compressed and a small portion of the video will be updated at a time to effect a playback stream—VNC and RDP will just attempt to redraw the whole video area at every moment something changes. And while VNC and RDP do compress the data it sends, again the compression is not optimized for video playback. The protocol VNC and RDP currently uses is just not designed or intended for smooth and high-quality video frame-rates.

That said, Microsoft seems to be taking strides to improve RDP performance in RDP 8.1 and RDP 10. But that is an exception to the rule: In general you just can’t rely on VNC or RDP to be reliable for smooth video streaming. This is why stand-alone streaming apps exist and work: They are designed to stream video streams to a playback device that knows how to properly decode—and display—that stream.

  • RDP as you noted not only supports RemoteFX but also supports Windows Multimedia Redirection since Win7/Server 2008 R2, where it basically just sends the source video file over the RDP session and has the client render it locally. With that said, I wouldnt be surprised if it only works on the official MS Windows RDP client.I've been running a Server 2016 RDS server and can play back video just fine over .11n Wi-Fi as long as it isnt full screen. Although this seems to be more of a limitation of my laptop rather than the protocol, a MacBook Pro with a 3Ghz dual core i7 isnt fast enough. – Muh Fugen Mar 12 '17 at 8:58
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If you run the streaming client on your iPad, the data over the network is still compressed, as for example, the H264 stream is beeing transmitted.

If you use VNC or RDP, the stream is uncompressed on your computer. VNC and RDP both compress the stream again, but by far not as effective as a video codec.

So this is the reason why playback is very slow.

I don't know much about IOS, but if it was a Android Device, you could install ES File Explorer and connect to your PC using Windows File sharing, which would send the stream still compressed over the network.

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You should try by installing a DLNA server on your PC and share the videos you want. You can also even set it up to reencode on the fly videos that your iOS does not support.

On the tablet side, you would need a video player that supports streaming or a DLNA client.

Since this protocol has been developed for this, you shouldn't get problems. VNC/RDP are developed for other tasks, so video is not that good.

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