Vulkano Flow Review: Watch TV on Your iPad

Have you ever wanted to watch TV on your iPad? The Vulkano Flow by Monsoon Multimedia hooks up to your cable box and allows you to stream TV to your laptop, desktop, iPhone or iPad through Wi-Fi or 3G. And when you are hooked up to Wi-Fi, you can even access the shows recorded on your DVR.

The device is similar to the Slingbox, but the entry level Vulkano Flow is just $99, making it a bit cheaper than the $179.99 Slingbox SOLO. Both systems require an app download to watch on your iPad, with the Vulkano Flow app going for $12.99 compared to Slingbox's $29.99 app.

Vulkano Flow Features

  • Watch TV in near HD quality
  • Change channels and access your cable box's menu
  • Connects to cable, satellite, DVR and TiVo boxes
  • Access shows recorded on your DVR

Vulkano Flow Review - Installation and Setup

While it might sound daunting to get your TV flowing from your cable box to your iPad, the hardware installation of the Vulkano Flow was extremely easy. The box itself is thin, lightweight and can easily fit on top of your cable box or DVR. To get the process started, you simply need to hook in the composite cables provided in the video out of your cable box. You then connect the Vulkano to your TV through the composite video out, though if you are using HDMI to connect your cable box to your TV, you can skip this step.

After plugging the Vulkano's power into an outlet and powering up the box, you will want to connect the Vulkano to your home network via an ethernet cable. (You can set up the Vulkano Flow wirelessly, but hooking it up via the ethernet cable during the initial setup will make things a lot easier.) At this point, you will need to download software for your Windows or Mac to configure the Vulkano Flow. (Again, you can setup the Vulkano without a Windows or Mac, but it will make things a lot easier.)

The installation program is pretty simple to use. It does the heavy lifting for you, searching your network to find the Vulkano Flow. You'll be prompted for a name and password to give the device so that it can be identified on the network. You'll also need to know the brand and model of your cable box or DVR so that the program can change channels and access the menu.

This entire process will take about a half hour and is relatively painless.

The Vulkano Player

When you downloaded the setup program for your Windows or Mac, you also installed the Vulkano player. But to get the TV signal to your iPad, you'll need to download the Vulkano Flow app, which currently costs $12.99. Yes, while the Windows and Mac software is free, the iPad software will cost you, and for that, we'll have to deduct a half star rating from this review.

The player itself works well, though there is an annoying delay between pushing the channel up and down button and it being received by the cable box. This is similar to the delay of using some of the remote control apps on the app store, such as Verizon FIOS's Mobile remote.

You can change channels with the channel up and down, key in a channel directly or store your favorite channels to the app. What you can't do is page up and page down through the channel guide, which as most people know, is the fastest way to channel surf. But while channel surfing is more difficult, they do get kudos for allowing you to store your favorite channels to the app.

However, the biggest downside of the app is the lack of video out support. This means you'll have to rely on display mirroring if you want to hook it up to another TV in the house, which will only work on the iPad 2. It also means the image won't take up the full screen of the TV.

Watching TV With the Vulkano Flow

But the real test is how good a job the Vulkano Flow and Vulkano Player do of letting you watch TV, and for that, it holds up pretty good. Even in areas of the house where I tend to get spotty WiFi reception, the Vulkano Flow was able to perform well, helped in part to the buffering it does as you load up the video.

As for the video itself, it could be better. The Vulkano Flow boasts "near HD quality", which is a fancy way of saying that it doesn't quite make it to 720p, much less 1080p. But you'll really only see the difference here if you hook it up to another display, such as watching video through your PC's monitor. On the iPad, the video quality is good enough that you won't really notice much difference.

If you want to get TV on your iPad, and you don't want to pay the higher price of a Slingbox, the Vulkano Flow is definitely a good alternative. The video quality won't be quite as high as the Slingbox Pro-HD, but then again, you also won't have to shell out over $300 to get that HD-quality video. And even the Slingbox SOLO is a more expensive option than the Vulkano Flow for basically the same service.