I hate to admit it, but I’m somewhat of a file hoarder. My digital collection of movies, music and photos can be best described as chaotic. While I tell myself that it’s organized chaos, I’m at a point where it’s nearly impossible to navigate through the labyrinth of folders and obscurely-named files. More importantly, it’s become frustrating to keep media accessible across different devices. There are times when I want to stream music via my consoles or tablet, but various unsupported file types and codecs make that impossible without going through the time-consuming process of converting.
This is why I’m so excited to have finally found a solution: Plex TV. At its core, Plex TV is a media server that allows users to organize and stream all file types to devices that support the app. Nearly every device I’ve tested so far supports Plex. What makes Plex TV so unique is its diverse reliability. It does everything it promises, and it’s stupendously easy to use.
"What makes Plex TV so unique is its diverse reliability. It does everything it promises, and it’s stupendously easy to use."
Plex TV offers a free version, a monthly subscription of $4.99, a yearly subscription of $39.99 and a lifetime membership that only costs $149.99. While the free version carries plenty of features for most users, the affordable subscription plans provide numerous extras. The basic free subscription lets users organize data via the Plex server and stream everything either locally or when away from home. Using metadata to pull media info from the web, Plex TV displays files in clean Netflix-style menus for easy overview and access. Content can be shared with other members within the Plex network/friends list, and there are dozens of free channels (Food Network, Comedy Central, TED Talks, Apple Trailers, and many others) that can be installed free of charge.
A paid membership, otherwise known as Plex Pass, gives members early access to new apps and features, as well as wireless mobile and cloud syncing for automatic photo uploading. This allows users to free up storage on handheld devices while still allowing access to various files via the Plex server. The Plex Pass also allows users to install the app free of charge across several platforms. Usually, the app costs $4.99, so the membership is unquestionably worth it if you’re planning on using the server across multiple devices.
"I never have to worry about file incompatibility or disorganization again. The elegantly-designed user interface makes it easy to manage files and access them on pretty much every imaginable device."
I’ve tested the Plex TV service for an entire week, and as far as performance and reliability go, the experience was nearly flawless. Movies and music stream without a hitch, and a drop in internet speed automatically adjusts the quality without interrupting play (similarly to Netflix or Amazon Prime). However, there are a few small hiccups worth mentioning. Sometimes, the app struggles to connect to your server and requires multiple restarts before finally working. This only occurred on a handful of occasions, and I’m sure the connectivity issues will be ironed out as the service grows.
Plex TV is also strict about file-naming conventions and categories. When setting up new folders, it’s important to place movies within the movie category, and TV shows within the TV shows category. If you accidentally mismatch categories or title files in a way that suggests another format, the media won’t be accessible. This isn't so much a criticism since Plex encourages users to stay organized, but it’s worth pointing out in case you accidentally misplace files and are trying to figure out why they aren’t showing up.
Plex TV is one of the most impressive and useful new services I’ve tested in a long time. I never have to worry about file incompatibility or disorganization again. The elegantly-designed user interface makes it easy to manage files and access them on pretty much every imaginable device. Being able to start watching a movie on your PS4, and later transition to seamlessly streaming on your iPhone is both liberating and surprisingly innovative. Who knows, if their developers continue refining the platform, Plex TV may even be the future of game streaming.