Some friends and I were talking about the best way to serve up media in our homes.
I have a hard drive full of movies I’ve ripped from DVDs I own as well as a few hundred CDs that I’ve ripped over the years.
The problem is storing the files in a safe place that is accessible to all the devices I want to use for playback.
I’d like to be able to play the movies on my Apple TV as well as my iPhone and iPad, both at home and away from home streamed over the internet.
I also want to play my music on the Sonos multi-room music system.
In doing my research, I settled on a pretty well-known media server solution called Plex.
I’m sure there are plenty of you who are already Plex power users; it’s one of those things I’ve intended to research for a while.
I’ve known of Plex for years, but I’d never taken the time to get to know what it can do for me. Plus, Plex has evolved over the last few years into a really mature product that can do pretty much everything I need.
At its core, Plex is free server software to share your media files. Plex Server can run on a computer (PC, Mac or Linux), on a NAS (network attached storage) box like those from Drobo or Synology or even certain Wi-Fi routers. Plex Server can even run in the cloud. You just point the server to your media files on Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.
Once you load the Plex Server software, you copy your media files to it and then set up ways you’d like to access the files.
The server software also helps organize your media by going out and finding cover art, song lists and movie information.
There are a ton of ways to watch or listen to the content.
Non-mobile apps are free. These include Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, smart TVs, TiVo and game consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. You can also use your Plex content on mobile devices like Android or iOS, as well as computers, but access to mobile apps is not free.
For example, with the Plex iOS app, you can pay a one-time $4.99 in-app purchase, or subscribe to Plex Pass, which is the paid tier, for $4 per month, $40 per year or $120 for a lifetime subscription. With Plex Pass, you get access to all the paid apps as well as some additional features like mobile sync for offline watching or listening, wireless syncing of photos from your phone or digital camera, lyrics and liner notes, and a DVR to record over-the-air broadcasts to your Plex library.
So I’ve loaded up Plex Server on a NAS box, loaded some movies and music, and now I have to configure my Apple TV and Sonos for playback. I also have to set things up so I can watch and listen when I’m away from home over the internet.
When I get things fully functional, I’ll write a longer review, but until then, I wanted to put Plex on your radar if you’re looking for a similar solution.
To start your own Plex research, go to www.plex.tv.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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