Plex – A Fantastic Media Server

I’ve come across a cool free media server called Plex which manages and facilitates streaming my video files and music files to my connected devices. I remember looking at Plex a few years ago and didn’t think too much of it, but the version they have now is fantastic. Here’s some of it’s features:

  • Can automatically identify your videos by titles and will pull down poster art and episode/movie descriptions automatically from common database servers
  • Has many grouping options such as “Watched”, “On Deck”, etc.
  • Has the ability to stream video and music across a network (either internal LAN or external WAN) from your home PC, at different transmission speeds.
  • Will transcode videos on-the-fly when necessary based on the network connection speed to the client app.
  • Very easy to use interface on the server and client
  • Client apps available for Android, iOS, and PC devices
  • Media Server program available for Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux systems

I normally take my recorded TV shows (from EyeTV) which are stored on my iMac system and stream them to my Acer A500 Iconia Android Tablet or Google Nexus 7 Tablet in my house. I have been using the streaming capability of the ES Explorer Android app (which simply plays a selected video using its video player), but the Plex system is much more robust. It seems to work great, and what’s even more cool is that I can stream transcoded video to my Android Smartphone or Tablet while on travel from my home iMac even on a slower network connection. Pretty cool stuff. In addition, the Server Interface on my iMac looks great.

Of course, nothing is perfect and here’s my list of gotchas:

  • You can “Direct Play” videos from the server to your connected device which will stream the video as-is (no transcoding), but the video needs to be in a format that is native to the connected device. In my case, have all my stored videos be mp4 or m4v format (with h264 and ACC codecs). Video quality is great, but you need a fast network connection to avoid delays with buffering. If you have buffering, then you probably need to reduce the quality and size of your videos or resort to transcoding to a lower resolution.
  • For streaming videos outside of your home network, you’ll need to configure your router to port forward port 32400 to your media server computer. This isn’t a big deal, but my be a little complicated for non-nerds.
  • Video buffering delays is a potential problem, so you may need to adjust your network for maximum performance or even use the router option called “QoS” to force certain connected devices to your internal network to have higher priority when it comes to data transmit speeds.
  • Although the Plex Media Server is free to download and use, the Android and Apple iOS app are not free. The Android App for Plex is only $4.99, so it’s still a good deal (cheaper than a lunch at McDonalds!).

In all, I’m really pleased with the Plex Media Server. I’m going to continue using it and see if has any other glitches or problems. But for now, it seems to be a great way to stream my recorded videos to my Android Tablet!

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