Making The Best Media Center Better, With a Plex Pass [Giveaway]
Love Plex? You’ll love a Plex Pass even more.
Plex Pass gets you new features, earlier than everyone else – and exclusive features only available to Plex Pass holders. If you love your home media centre as much as I do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Read on to find out more about the premium Plex experience – and we’ve got four lifetime Plex Pass licences (worth a total of $600) to give away!
What Is Plex?
If you have no idea what I’m talking about but I’ve piqued your interest, I’ll make this brief: Plex is the best media centre software around. We’ve written an extensive Plex guide before, but here’s the short version of what makes Plex so great:
- It’s beautiful. With DVD covers and movie posters, metadata, and more – Plex just looks fantastic.
- Doesn’t require lengthy setup. There’s a number of complex ways to gather metadata and posters for media, but it usually requires an obscure naming scheme to be in place first; Plex does it all automatically. You don’t need to sit there and tediously rename every file just so it conforms to a particular scraper format. Just put the files in your server folder.
- Runs everywhere. Windows, Mac, web-based, and mobile clients – they’ve got your covered. The server choices are a little more limited, but that’s just where your media is actually stored. The server transcodes media on the fly, so your client always sees an optimal version of it.
- Tracks playback. Want to finish watching that movie in bed? No problem: pick up where you left off on your tablet. Quickly find unwatched, recently added or currently watching media.
- Plex It online media queuing. As you browse the web, a simple bookmarklet will let you queue up a media item (such as from YouTube or Vimeo) on your server for watching later.
- DLNA compatible. On the rare occasion that Plex isn’t available for your platform – like a Blu-ray player or older “smart TV” – Plex offers full compatibility with DLNA home streaming protocol.
- Remote streaming. Not at home? No worries – with a little router setup , you can view all your media on the go.
With all this available for free, you’d be forgiven for wondering what features a premium Plex Pass can get you. Let’s talk about what’s currently on offer – but remember, more features are being worked on all the time, and as a Plex Pass holder you’ll get priority access to them.
Early Access and Free Mobile Apps
Plex for Xbox One is the newest release from the Plex team, and for the time being, is only available to Plex Pass holders exclusively. At some point, it’ll be made available to the general public, but at a price – Plex Pass holders generally get these new versions for free, ahead of everyone of everyone else. They’re also currently offered preview versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 versions.
For Roku or Android owners, Plex Pass entitles you to free versions of the paid apps.
Trailers And Extras
The true home cinema experience means having some trailers before movies – with a Plex Pass, you can do that. Simon showed you before how to manually add trailers for movies you already have, but the Plex Pass trailers experience means it’s done automatically, and you can view trailers for upcoming releases too.
Setting the trailers feature isn’t quite as easy as I’d like, but hopefully they’ll streamline the process. Firstly, trailers need to enabled both on the server, and on each device you use as a client. To enable them for the web app, for example, this means updating both Settings -> Servers -> Extras and Settings -> Player -> Extras. You also need to ensure that the Freebase movie agent is enabled – make sure you follow the support document outline precisely. It was this last crucial step of enabling Freebase as an additional “agent” for movie info which finally enabled trailers for me.
Eventually, I did did get trailers to play, and they’re as awesome as expected – a true cinema-like experience. It made me realised how much I missed them as a method of movie discovery, and having them automatically injected into the home cinema experience is a stunning addition.
Extras such as interviews and cast profiles are also automatically sought out for local media, though these tend to only be available for the very newest releases.
A new feature for mobile users, Camera Upload automatically adds your mobile photos to the Plex Media Server – and works across platforms. Combined with shared user access, this makes it easy to view photos on any device and distribute them to friends and family.
Although Apple offers similar functionality with shared folders, it requires everyone to buy into the Apple ecosystem exclusively: Plex works with iOS and Android- and the Plex client is available on practically anything.
Plex Sync And Cloud Sync
Plex is designed for streaming media to any device simply – it automatically transcodes items to an optimised, compatible format. But mobile data coverage is far from perfect, and you don’t always have a web connection – that’s where Plex Sync comes in.
Plex Sync transcodes, then downloads the optimized media to your device for offline playback. Perfect for commutes and long journeys. Using it couldn’t be simpler: from your mobile client, find the movie you want synced (before you set off off your epic adventure), and hit the download button. You will of course need to make sure to have enough space available locally, but you can set a limit so you don’t accidentally fill your entire device’s storage.
Cloud Sync is similar, but designed for times when your home server is inaccessible but another cloud provider is fine; it doesn’t sync locally, but it does prepare a copy of the media and sync it to somewhere else – Box, Copy, Google Drive and Dropbox are currently supported.
The home environment is usually not a single user one, so it’s surprising that most systems are still set up as such. With a Plex Pass, you can give multiple users access to specific media libraries – useful to restrict children’s viewing to only your educational video library perhaps; or for sharing photos with the family.
Of course, this needn’t be in the same home either – you can share specific libraries with friends or family across the country, which they can even view using a web client – so you can basically make your own personalised and super-powered Netflix.
Setting this up is absurdly easy. From the web interface, select your server and select Share Server. Type in their username or email address, and you’ll probably want to deselect the share all libraries option, which will allow you to choose specific libraries only to share. Hit save and you’re done! They’ll also need to accept the invitation, of course, but they’ll be emailed an invite automatically.
Note: the default server behaviour is to make everything available on the local network – so if you’re trying to restrict libraries to different members of the same household, you’ll need to enable local network authentication first. Do this from the Plex web app -> Settings -> Server -> Connect -> Show Advanced.
The best value Plex Pass is a lifetime subscription, available for $149 – but it’s only going to be available for a limited time. You can also subscribe yearly for $39.99, or monthly for $4.99 – sign up for a Plex Pass premium! It’s a small price to pay if you’re serious about your media experience and wish to support the developers of the best media center app, ever.
We’ve got FOUR lifetime Plex Passes to give away, worth a total of $600 – enter below for your chance to win one!