As some may know, I’m a geek who loves his gadgets. Nowhere is this more evident than in the living room where I currently have a HDTV, A/V receiver, Xbox 360, Mac Mini and a Drobo. Having backed up a large collection of DVDs and Blu-Rays to hard-disk I needed to find the best way of playing them in the comfort of a nice sofa. I’ve been through a range of boxes, OSs and systems but have found my perfect match in Plex/Nine.
Many years back I had an old Windows box hooked up to the TV, running XBMC, WMC and later MediaPortal. And none of them were any good if truth be told. The box itself was old and struggled to play anything above 480p, while its constantly droning fans were enough to rule it out completely. In terms of software it was like looking through a list of UI-rejects, each more hideous than the last. XBMC has really come on leaps and bounds since, but in those early transitional days from the Xbox it was just an eyesore.
After I bought my first Mac I decided to give Plex a go, running on my laptop and hooked up to the TV. As they say, it was love at first sight. Here was a system with all the power of XMBC (pulling in IMDB data etc) with the beauty and elegance of OS X. In fact, it was enough to cause me to go out and buy a Mac Mini purely to run Plex on. Flash forward twelve months and I upgraded to the next level. A brand new 2010 Mac Mini running the freshly released Plex/Nine.
Plex/Nine doesn’t bring much in the way of new features in the player. It has some new options, feels a bit nippier, but overall is the same old interface. The real magic has happened to the media library that contains all of your films, TV shows, photos and albums. Before this was handled all within the Plex player which made it a hassle to update (especially if serving media from one computer to another). Plex/Nine has completely decoupled the server and player, which has opened up a world of possibilities (more on that later).
Content is now added to the Media Manager, with information pulled from IMDB, TheTVDB, FanArt, Wikipedia and more automatically. All of this is then available straight away in the Plex player. No more having to update the library whenever you add new content. It also makes the initial set-up much simpler, something Plex has been very keen to focus on. Unfortunately a lot of people have derided the team for the focus on server over player. What they fail to realise is the fact that to add new features you first need a solid base, and that is what Plex now has.
As an example of what this server now offers in the way of robustness, the Plex team simultaneously launched an iOS app alongside Plex/Nine that lets users control their Plex player as well as play content on their iPads/iPhones as well. This is amazing stuff, replacing the need for other apps such as Rowmote Pro and StreamToMe that I was using before. In even better news, Plex today announced a partnership with LG to bring support to their range of TVs. This is incredible news as it makes them a viable rival to the likes of the newly launched Apple TV and Boxee Box.
In the next versions the Plex team can begin adding new and cool features, now that they know the new server model is working correctly. For now I am more than impressed with the features on offer. I couldn’t imagine going back to using DVDs or the media centre facilities provided by consoles. So here’s a big thank you to the wonderful people behind Plex.