A while ago, I was looking for a way to stream Movies and TV Shows stored on my hard drive to my bedroom TV.
There are a great range of set-top boxes available such as Roku, Apple TV, Now TV Box & Chromecast which allow access to streaming content such as Netflix; however none offer an easy way to stream your own content out of the box. Even with an Apple TV; you are obligated to use iTunes to manage your content. This is where Plex comes in.
So what is Plex?
Plex is an application for your Mac or Windows PC that allows you to stream content from your hard drive such as Movies, TV & Music to a variety of devices including iOS, Android, Roku & Chromecast. Streaming works on your local network but you can also view media remotely if you have a good enough connection speed.
Set-up is fairly simple once you have installed Plex on your main computer. You don’t have to add items manually; Plex will search through your files and pull information and artwork from the internet; in much the same way as when you import a CD into iTunes. It will even play the theme tune from TV shows in the background while you select episodes. The user interface is sleek, easy to use and allows you to sort and display your content in various ways.
iTunes music/videos/podcasts and iPhoto photos are fully supported and it can also access content from external channels such as YouTube and iTunes Movie Trailers as well as videos/photos from your mobile devices. The only downside is you can’t play movies bought or rented from the iTunes store.
The paid ‘PlexPass’ version includes extra features such as a ‘cinema mode‘ that will play trailers before films to create an enhanced home viewing experience. The free version works perfectly well without these features however so there is no need to purchase a pass. This has been a relatively stable and stress free way for me to stream my media around the house: I currently use it on an iPhone 5, MacBook Pro, Roku 3 Box & iPad Air and the interface and performance has been consistent across all platforms.
It is worth noting however performance will be dependant on the speed of your network and the speed of the computer you are using as the ‘Plex Server’ as it will use up Bandwidth and CPU.