Plex is a media server that does so much right out of the box I’m not going to attempt to cover it all. Yes, there are other media servers that do similar, and yes plenty of them are free.
I am currently using the Plex Media server in my setup as the central workhorse that feeds my Roku and Android TVs, my Android phones, and my daughter’s iPad 2.
A Plex Pass will cost you. You can pay ~$100 for a working server for life, or you can piece together an XMBC/Kodi to fit your needs and poke holes in your router’s firewall and all that fun stuff.
You don’t necessarily need a Plex Pass as a note. You can use most options free as long as you want.
I’m not knocking the other free routes, just talkin’ Plex here. I may explore the other free routes at some point.
I’ll mention that even with the free non-Plex Pass edition, Plex does a whole lot (including operating as a DLNA server if you want.) I ran the free version for nearly two years before I needed to up to a Plex Pass for my new needs (DVR, TV Guide.) After using it once I chucked Windows Media Server for good.
Plex is supported out of the box on Windows, Android, iOS, Roku, Chromecast, and I’m betting a lot of other things but it works with everything I personally have.
It contains (with the Pass,) a DVR with a TV guide that works with the HDHomeRun CONNECT (and many others.) Without the Pass it’s still got the ability to pull information about TV shows and movies you’ve placed in its care and sort them by what’s it time to play next, what’s new, what’s best rated, what’s most recently released in theaters, other movies with this actor in it that you possess, average rating, etc etc etc.
It’ll also pull you extras from somewhere if you want to see commentary on the movies. I’m really not sure where it finds those.
They also recently announced they would shortly be rolling out the ability to stream live TV to devices connected to your media server. Supposedly it’s working on iOS at the moment. I’m waiting here tapping my foot.
Transcoding a live TV stream will allow you to basically enter a Plex app and never have to leave for most viewing needs.
You can stream your shows directly to your viewing device, or you can transcode them so they’re smaller and take them along with you on your phone or tablet wherever you go (save data or stuck on an airplane).
Not enough bandwidth? Transcoding real time or pre-done for lower bandwidth. Don’t have a server or don’t want to leave your computer on all the time? Cloud storage. Don’t have a computer/doing this entirely from a phone/tablet? Plex Cloud Server.
Works with not-exactly legit content? Yes. Cloud works with not-exactly legit content? Not necessarily. Currently your cloud storage provider may see that you’ve plopped in some offerings from The Pirate Bay and delete them. They also may catch that a legitimate movie you ripped from your own DVDs and delete it. You’ll have to check with them what they’ll allow storing.
That’s on your cloud storage provider though.
I don’t have much of a use for the cloud options personally – due to work I’ve got a computer on 24/7 at home, but it isn’t something I’m against.
Got a friend elsewhere with a Plex Pass recording shows and want to share? You can friend them up and see their media/stream it down.
What’s more interesting than what Plex does as a media server is how little it doesn’t currently do. The only things I can think of at the moment that would totally finish off the product other than live streaming for all devices (coming,) are:
- Ability to record shows off of streams/services as sometimes I want to grab that Netflix movie before it disappears, or have Sesame Street recorded as soon as it drops (I’m currently using Playon to do this)
- Find duplicate movies/shows and let you delete based on a screenshot of how good/bad they are
- Ability to play from a torrent stream
- Ability to scramble media stored on cloud servers so cloud storage provider can’t scan for copyright infringement
- Ability to offload movie from local to cloud for transcoding (currently you can move it and then transcode if if I remember correctly)
So yeah, Plex is awesome.
For transparency’s sake I’ll mention they did give me a Plex Pass recently, which allowed me to use the DVR function. I have not sold my reviewer soul for this Plex Pass. I was a fanboy before the DVR options opened up by the Plex Pass.
So yeah, if you’re looking for something that works, works well, and doesn’t require pulling your hair out to set up, head over to Plex and check it out.