In a couple recent posts regarding my home media server, I discussed Plex, an amazing software package that includes server and client software along with a web player and mobile apps. Though you can read all about Plex at plex.tv or in my previous posts, I want to take a few minutes to discuss some of the features that makes Plex a powerhouse when it comes to enjoying your media.
With every Plex installation you get a certain set of basic (but awesome) features:
- A web interface that not only organizes your media but also makes it beautiful to browse through.
- An "on deck" playlist that keeps track of your movie or TV show progress so you can pick up where you left off on any other device.
- Tons of channels for viewing online content such as recent episodes of The Big Bang Theory or every episode of South Park ever aired.
- Android and Apple apps to view your content when you're not sitting in front of your TV or computer.
- Many more that I won't mention here because features are always being added.
Aside from these standard features, there exists a list of premium features reserved for Plex Pass subscribers. Eventually, some of those premium features make their way into the list of standard features that can be enjoyed by everyone. Support for Chromecast is one of those such features that was briefly discussed in my previous Media Server - Updates post. As of that writing, Chromecast support required a Plex Pass membership which the folks at Plex so graciously donated for the purpose of this article today. Here are just some of the premium features that make Plex even more awesome.
Yes, Chromecast support is now a standard feature. However, that wasn't the case when I started writing this article so I'm leaving it here. Besides, this is probably my most-used Plex feature. I stream an episode or two of my Archer collection to the Chromecast in my bedroom every night as I fall asleep. That being said, Chromecast support within Plex isn't just limited to local media. Movies, TV shows, music, photos, channels, and nearly anything else available in Plex can be sent to your Chromecast. I say "nearly" because there are some channels (such as CBS) that don't work with the Chromecast. It's not a Plex issue, though, it's an issue with how CBS presents their videos. Oh well, there is still a vast plethora of other media to enjoy.
Plex Sync is responsible for converting/copying content to your device. Taking your tablet on a cross-country flight and need a few movies to stave off boredom? Plex Sync has got you covered. Perhaps you are adamant about watching your preferred workout video every day? Plex Sync will keep you in line. While I am far from religious about my "training" regimen, I do like to make sure I have access to my 10 Minute Trainer videos regardless of whether or not I have access to my Plex account. Simply open up the Plex app, click the pin icon in the upper right corner and specify your settings. For me it's all 10 episodes at low quality. Now when I'm not connected to the Internet (or just don't want to connect to public Wi-Fi) I can open up the Plex app, browse through my library of synced content, and start watching the video as usual. When you're done with those videos simply select something else to sync or just stop syncing what you have and it will be removed from your device. Plex Sync is a must have for those constantly on the go or anyone that wants to keep a movie or two synced just in case your stranded without Internet access.
Though I love syncing media to my phone, sometimes I don't want to watch movies on the tiny 4.8" screen. If I'm traveling with my laptop I would just rather sync right to my computer so I can enjoy my media full screen. This is where Cloud Sync saves the day. Initial setup takes place on the Plex website where you need to give it access to you DropBox account (or other storage provider). Once setup, all you have to do is find your media in the Plex web interface, click the "Sync to Device" button, and select "Cloud Sync." After allowing the process to complete, you can view your synced content from the web interface or other devices. If you so desired, you can even trudge through the litany of nested folders to find your video file directly in your dropbox folder. Though a great feature, Cloud Sync doesn't see a lot of use in my library. I either Plex Sync right to my phone or I have my laptop connected to the Internet and will have access to my entire library remotely.
The above is just a hint at some of great features Plex offers as premium (and recently standard) features. It is up to everyone individually to determine if the cost of a membership is worth it for specific needs. With Chromecast support recently moving from premium to standard we can only hope more of these features become standard soon as well. If not, toss a couple bucks to the folks at Plex to not only gain these awesome features but also to support future development of the product.