News More News
On my Roku, the Plex channel description reads, “Plex magically organizes your video, music, and photo libraries and streams them to all your devices.” Magical organization is a topic of interest in pretty much any area of my life, so I set about learning more about the service recommended by more tech gurus than any other.
By all accounts, Plex is the best, most thorough, and flexible service available for organizing media for playback. It’s Alexa-enabled, can stream to just about any device, and syncs progress between users. The basic service is free or you can get access to premium features for only $4.99 per month. It’s got high ratings in the Apple Store and the Google Play Store. It sounds like it might have magical powers.
A trend I’ve noticed recently is that our generation is responsible for maintaining technology for the extended family. If you’re helping your in-laws cut the cord or have a college kid who still wants to watch the family movie library, Plex is an ideal service because it allows you to manage it all from one location. Managing your family’s photos, music, and movies remotely is a huge convenience for those in the middle of the so-called sandwich generation that cares for aging parents while raising kids. As a bonus, it allows you to share your precious family photos and home videos with everyone simultaneously.
Streaming all of your content over the internet requires little in the way of hardware and devices, so you can get rid of the DVR, your Blu-ray player, and store all those old DVD’s in the basement. A computer and a fast internet connection is all you need to set the whole family up to listen to music, look at photos, and watch TV shows on just about any device.
Plex is a one-stop shop for watching your favorite movies, sharing family photos, streaming video on demand from Hulu and Netflix, or watching the latest episode of your favorite broadcast show. What makes it magical is that you can do all of these things through just one interface instead of switching between multiple apps.
I have to admit that the idea of bringing order to my chaotic collection of video, music, and photos sounds wonderful. Having it available on any device anywhere and being able to share it with family is just the icing on the cake.
Plex support has thorough, user-friendly support and includes a step-by-step guide to walk you through organizing your library. The very first sentence in the Quick Start guide makes you wonder if magic is real, though. It turns out that you have to organize your content and have a few technical skills to help the magic along.
“This quick start is the fastest way to start using Plex and assumes you have a certain level of technical proficiency.”
Plex will work best for those familiar with root directories, naming conventions, and file storage. As a positive, though, the service is designed so that one expert user can manage the library for an entire family, which might make your family think you’re the one that’s magical.
With a little bit of human intervention, Plex will scan and index your media and present you with an intuitively organized library ready for streaming. The final result is a library that anyone in your family will easily be able to use.
To get it all together, you’ll start by gathering all of your media files and sorting them into five main categories—movies, TV shows, music, photos, and home videos. You can include all types of media in almost any format.
A handy Setup Wizard will lead you through naming your server and setting up your media libraries. Once you’ve imported the files, Plex identifies titles and adds lyrics, artwork, cast biographies, TV episode descriptions, and more. You’ll have the chance to correct any issues if needed during the setup process.
Once you’ve finished all of the hard work sorting, importing, and setting up your libraries, then you’ll get to reap the benefits. Open up one app, search for a favorite photo, song, movie, or watch a sports event live via your over-the-air antenna on broadcast TV. No matter what you want to see, watch, or hear – it’s all in one app. But you don’t have to be in one place. You can access it from your Roku, TiVo, Apple TV, PlayStation, Xbox, Android, or iOS device no matter where you are.
One of the benefits of having a perfectly organized media library is that you can use Alexa voice control to access it. Alternatively, you can use the built-in remote control inside the Plex app for full control over playback. Both of these methods make it easier for the very young or older family members to find content and play it back with ease.
Over time, you can scan and refresh your library to add new content. You can also add playlists, or curate a collection of movies. You can also favorite your best photos, share a favorite music playlist, or have a virtual reality viewing party. If you upgrade to the premium pay service, you’ll have access to more content, offline downloads, cloud storage, and more.
I love the sheer number of choices available for streaming TV, and I’ve never regretted cutting the cord. But even I can admit that a single user interface is preferable to managing all of your passwords, apps, and payments for multiple streaming services. Plex offers a valuable contribution to the cord cutting era by helping organize the extraordinary content libraries while integrating broadcast channels and streaming services.
Plex solves one of the most challenging aspects of the cord cutting era by putting all of your content in one place and giving you a friendly interface to find just what you want to watch. If it makes your family believe that you’re a bit magical, go with it.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
Disclaimer: This article may have had additional images, links or data that was added by this site's editor.