While Hulu, YouTube, SlingTV, and DirecTV are battling each other with ad-revenue in hopes to capture the cord-cutters out there, Plex has been effectively building its media-streaming offerings and allowing users to share all of their content wherever they need it. Luckily for all of us, streaming the content that we love across the internet has been getting easier over the years, but it’s also just as easy to stream your own downloaded-content across your devices using Plex. There are also several cost-saving advantages that Plex offers over traditional DVR, and you can use it anywhere you have internet.
The major difference between Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, or Vudu (or any of the online streaming services out there) and Plex, is that with Plex you are sharing your own downloaded-content. Now if you got that content legally, or illegally through a torrent service, is on you, but the content is all just as easy to manage with the application suite. Streaming legally obtained, or self-created material is the easiest, and that’s what I will talk about moving forward. Current Plex users know all about the wondrous ways that the service allows you to stream content from one device to another across your home, but the service is growing, and more people are looking into it and finding new ways to share their favorite media. The Plex Community on Reddit is always a popular spot with users, and it has easy to follow guides and tips for maximizing your content and settings.
I myself only recently started looking into Plex after I upgraded my PC, I wanted to create a dedicated media-server within my home with the extra components form my previous builds. This is one of the most popular options for using Plex, and the hardware you need to run an efficient streaming service within your home is minimal. If the idea of ‘dedicated media-server,’ or ‘application suites’ or multiple devices gives you cause for concerns, don’t be intimated, this is not a complicated procedure. All of this media sharing was a great reason to start looking into Plex, but what made me jump at the chance to test out the new Plex offerings was the new ability to record TV (via DVR) to my media server. This was a huge bonus, since some sports, live-shows, and networks weren’t available on Hulu and other services that I frequently use. The cost of DVR through a cable-company is ridiculous in my opinion, and I was excited to be rid of the fees.
The basics are simple, Plex will store and organize all of the movies, television shows, and home videos that you create on a hard-drive of your choosing. You then sync these files with the Plex serves and they will become available through the Plex app on another device. Devices like iPhones, iPads, or Android Devices can download the Plex app from the dedicated stores, and there is even a desktop suite that will let you access the content from other computers. If you want to setup the files to be available to you when you are outside of your home, the setup is a little more complicated, but very manageable. The basic service of streaming your media over the same network is much simpler. Dedicated PCs, like the media-server PC I made, are the most popular option. This is because the device with the HDD has to be on to access the files from another device. A dedicated PC can stay on all the time, and will use very little power when not in use. Now I mentioned that a lot of people use torrents and other illegal means to fill up a HDD and stream the content to themselves. Obviously we can not condone this usage, but there are ways you can store DVDs, and other content that you own and make that available for yourself whenever you need it. Plex put together a little promo-video to show potential users, and you can check that out below.
Even if you don’t use Plex for downloaded movies, the DVR service is what really hooked me on trying it out. All of this is made possible with TV tuners, which are often extremely cheap, and can obtained through your cable company. You will need some extra hardware to make the most of this situation, but it is a way to ditch the cable-box for good. Cable companies charge anywhere from $7-$10 a month to rent most boxes, and DVR boxes can go into the double-digits and they charge you every month. With Plex and a TV tuner, you can have all the fun of DVR without giving the cable company any extra money. You will want to pick-up a HDHomeRun (starting at $99 at Amazon) and use the TV Tuner card from your cable company to start recording your TV. The TV Tuner card cost me about $3 from Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) and was sent to me in about two-days. Once connected, Plex saw all of my channels, and I could start recording or watching content right away. It’s a great way to watch your TV from anywhere you have internet, and the ability to record is just icing on the cake. I should note that using the Live TV option is for Plex Pass members only, and you will have to pay $5 a month for the service.
I’ve only briefly touched on a few of the features that Plex and Plex Pass offers, there are so many ways that you can benefit from the service. Interested parties should check-out the Plex App Features page to get a quick overview at what the service offers, and it’s free to try.