If you are using this site you will have used Kodi but many believe Plex to be for the enthusiast. Our Plex review is the first of a number of planned posts for this application. Plex is a media streaming tool that delivers the best streams to the widest number of client devices you may own. Plex is a Server to Client solution meaning that you setup a desktop PC as your server and it will deliver your content to the devices you want to watch it on. It is surprising that Plex is somewhat behind Kodi in terms of popularity when in many areas it out performs it. In this Plex Media Server review we will take a look at how Plex operates and how it can benefit your media streaming enjoyment.
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Plex Media Server Review – Stream to Multiple Rooms & Devices
The aim of this Plex Media Server review is to give you a good overview of what Plex is and a look at its features. One of the first questions you may ask before install is how much does Plex cost? If you want to setup a Plex solution the bulk of its functionality is free. The media server software and many of the client applications a free of charge and you can setup a great solution for no cost at all. But if you really want to unlock the Plex to its full potential with all bells and whistles you need to purchase a Plex Pass. The Plex cost for the premium pass is £3.99 ($4.99 US) monthly or £94.99 ($149.99 US) annually. This Plex review is divided into three sections; Plex Media Server, Plex Apps and Key Features. [Read: Enable Kodi DLNA – Create a Kodi Media Server]
Plex Media Server
In the first part of this Plex Media Server review we will look at the server component. The Plex Media Server software is available for multiple platforms. This includes Windows Mac, Linux and a range of NAS drives. It is perhaps most commonly used on the Windows OS. It runs in the background behind all of your other applications. If you want to complete any configuration tasks you use your browser. The Plex Media Server install is simple. Download and run the executable from the Plex website and tell it where each of your media collections can be found and what they contain. Plex will then work its magic pulling in box art and media information ready to be pushed out to clients over your network. [Read: Plex Media Server Install – Three Easy Steps]
As I have said Plex Media Server runs in the background of your system and will start on boot. You do not need to launch the application every time you want to access your content. If you want to make further configuration changes or you want to add new media libraries simply enter the following into your web browser and you will be directed to you Plex Media Server home page:
Plex Apps – Client Devices
Next in our Plex review we must look at the receiving devices. Once your Plex Media Server setup is complete it is time to install Plex apps onto the devices that you want to stream your content to. The list of supported systems that you can use Plex with is huge. This includes the following devices and systems:
- Amazon Alexa
- Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick
- Android TV Boxes, Tablets and Smart Phones
- Apple TV
- Chrome Cast
- Kodi Media Centre
- Playstation 3
- Playstation 4
- Smart TVs
- Windows PCs & Smart Phones
- XBOX 360
- XBOX One
The majority of these client apps offer configuration free connectivity to your Plex Media Server. Simply download and install the application for your chosen device form its relevant store and it will detect your Plex Media Server on your home network. You can then browse through all of your media libraries on your receiving devices with full box art and info text as if the files were on the devices themselves. [Read: Steam Link Review – Stream Games to Every Room]
Plex Review – Key Features
There are many great tools available with Plex and you will struggle to find a more feature rich solution. The vast majority of these feature are free whilst some require a Plex Pass subscription. Plex is designed to stream Movies, TV Shows, Music and Pictures (and now live TV) to multiple devices in the best possible quality. One thing that struck me with Plex is how remarkably easy it is to setup and use. With many similar media server solutions you really need to know what you are doing to get the most out of them but with Plex it is all simple. [Read: Top Mini ITX Cases for the Smallest HTPC Build]
The next part of the Plex review lists some of the key features the software solution has to offer. Some of these are part of the free Plex Media Server subscription whilst some require the Plex Pass. [Read: Best PC Game Controllers for HTPC – Emulators & Steam]
One of the reasons that Plex offers the very best media playback capabilities is its transcoding. This is a process whereby Plex converts your selected media file into the best possible format for the receiving devices. This ensures that you get the very best picture and sound quality on whatever device you are using it on. Plex transcoding is rather CPU intensive and decent CPU is required if you are planning to use multiple simultaneous streams. In most cases most modern CPUs will more than do the job.
Plex offers DLNA capabilities which is a standard used by many tablets and smart TVs for streaming media over the air. If your Smart TV has a DLNA receiver you can instantly browse your media libraries using its native DLNA app and no Plex application install is required to receive content. [Read: Enable Kodi DLNA – Create a Kodi Media Server]
Casting & Flinging
Cast content from your mobile or tablet device straight onto your TV (requires Chromecast). Start content on one device and then fling it over to another and resume exactly where you left off.
The following features are included in the Premium Plex cost (Plex Pass).
Download content from online channels including Ted Talks, NPR, Spike, Comedy Central & Soundcloud straight into your Plex solution.
Live TV & DVR
Hook up a digital tuner to your Plex Media server and stream over-the-air TV channels straight to your Plex receiving apps. Great for putting your digital TV into multiple rooms.
These include; lyrics for your favourite tracks, mood playlists to tailor your audio streaming to your mood and Plex Mix to play similar tracks one after the other like your own radio station.
Sync the content on your Plex Media server to your mobile device and enjoy your favourite movies or music when you are on the move (when your Plex Media Server is unavailable).
Plex can be synced with the leading cloud storage providers giving you access to your media content when your Plex Media server is offline or you are away from your network.
Trailers & Movie Extras
Download high quality trailers for your favourite movies and extra content for each film. This give you the full DVD/Blu-ray experience from your digital media.
There are too many features to cover them all in one Plex Media Server review. This list only scratches the surface of what this application has to offer and there are many many more.
Plex Media Server Review Final Thoughts
There are many media centre solutions available but if you are looking for a media server then few come close. Plex Media Server gives you the ability to stream your content to any room in your house and to any device. It also allows multiple streams so your kids can enjoy one movie whilst you watch another. With the Plex transcoding system you will always get the very best quality tailored specifically for the device you are using. [Read: Gaming On Your HTPC]
Plex is extremely feature rich and remarkably easy to use. Some other media centre solutions perhaps offer more in the way of addons but for its server capabilities and multiple streams Plex is simply unrivaled. Now that you have completed our Plex Media Server review download it and give it a try. You can get yourself up and running and ready to stream with the free version. In most cases this alone will more than suite your needs. Once you get started you will soon want to get yourself a Plex Pass. For the additional features you get the premium Plex cost is insignificant. Plex Media Server is a top HTPC solution! Following our Plex review we will be publishing a number of Plex user guides in the coming weeks.