We are inundated with all different types of media every second of our lives these days. Actually, to say that we are merely “inundated” might be a bit of an understatement. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that different sources of media have become engrained into who we are. As technology becomes increasingly a part of our daily lives, it also becomes increasingly an extension of humanity.
We are always taking in some form of media, even if we aren’t consciously aware of it at all time – be it music, movies, tv shows, pictures, videos, podcasts, website, social networking, etc. – and most of these activities and pleasures are inconveniently spread across numerous platforms and devices and operating systems. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a single piece of software that enabled us to easily access all of our media without having to open up a million different apps and windows and tabs and screens all the time?
Well, luckily for us, such a service does exist. It’s called a software suite. In fact, there are quite a few different software suites out there for us to choose from. Picking the right one is really just a matter of figuring out which layout we like best, which one enables us to consume the media that we want to see in the way that we want to see it, and which one is going to be the most affordable!
Whether you are on your phone, laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or catching up with your favorite binge-worthy series on the TV, you want a software suite that can keep up with you. One that works, flawlessly and dependably, no matter where you are or what device you are using it on. Turn any device into a smart TV thanks to newer programs like Plex.
Plex got started as a hobby project, a piece of freeware, in December of 2007, when a developer named Elan Feingold cobbled together a DIY media center app for is Apple Mac computer. Then – and this is where the real genius of Plex started to kick in – he decided to port the media player XBMC (now famously known as Kodi) into his Mac Os X.
Also, at about the same time, Cisco founders Cayce Ullman and Scott Olechowski were also interested in porting XBMC into Mac OS X. They noticed how much progress Feingold appeared to be making thanks to his regular updates on the XBMC online forum, contacted him directly, and offered support and funding for his project.
From there, Feingold, Ullman, and Olechowski teamed up together to get working on the project in January of 2008. The trio founded Plex Inc. in December of 2009. This, however, was much to the dismay of many popular streaming platforms.
Although Plex initially created apps for servers like Hulu and Netflix, many streaming services were not pleased with this. Hulu, for instance, put forth ‘countermeasures,’ deliberately changing their HTML so that Plex could no longer parse it. Upon the controversy, Hulu and Netflix are no longer offered as a part of Plex.
That being said, Plex has managed to create good relationships with content production companies as well. As of November of 2019, for example, Plex announced a list of 19 production companies with whom they would be partnering, including big names like MGM, Lionsgate, and Legendary. Plex has also partnered with Tidal in 2018, offering music and podcast streaming to their milieu. In August of 2019, Plex also announced that it had struck a deal with Warner Brothers, which opened the floodgates for a ton of television content as well.
Plex is the perfect example of a tech company that faced many challenges years into having already established a business model and was able to adapt to these challenges, coming our victorious and relatively unscathed in the end. It turns out that Plex didn’t need Netflix or Hulu to find success after all! And today, Plex makes the lives of hundreds of thousands of users so much easier by offering a ton of content and a means by which to access their own files in the cloud, all from one convenient place.
Plex, in my opinion, has a smart design. It is sharp. It is professional. It stands out. I love the gray and yellow theme that it deploys (a rare color combination for a tech brand, it seems). It just looks great. There is a certain ‘physicality’ to it, if that makes any sense, with the way that it is designed. It almost seems to have a sort of matte finish to it. It is a calm and minimalist design that will not disappoint.
As far as accessing your content goes … it literally could not be any easier. Picture Netflix and iTunes somehow having a software baby together. The outcome would be Plex. You can browse your media – movie titles, series, albums, etc. – by recently viewed, “on deck,” or by genre. This is the main screen of Plex. To the left of this browser window, however, you’ll also find an iTunes-Esque navigation menu. From here, you can browse by media type: music, movies, pics, videos, podcasts, etc. Even create playlists of any sort of content you like! It is a truly powerful layout.
So, the content of Plex is really just a matter of what accounts you link to it and what content you choose to add to it. Think of it as a sort of personal media library/streaming service aggregator hybrid. Anything you want to access (save, of course, for your Netflix and Hulu accounts), you can add to Plex.
Plex also, thanks to those aforementioned agreements with the big 3 film production companies, has tons of movies available to stream, completely free of charge. You don’t have to pay or subscribe to watch any movies on Plex. Just immediately dive into thousands of titles, from all around the world – from Bollywood to Hollywood, you will love the selection of movies that Plex offers.
Plus, as I touched on already, Plex has teamed up with Tidal to offer an integrated music streaming experience. Choose from up to 60 million songs (and additional podcasts on top of that) by linking a Tidal account to Plex. No more switching between apps to access different kinds of content. Go from your favorite episode of The Office to a photo album of your anniversary, to bumping your favorite Jay Z album without ever leaving Plex’s media center.
Plus, Plex also offers the ability to stream live television and DVR your favorite shows. Again, for free! As long as you have a compatible antenna, Plex will allow you to access local TV channels and stream live programming. They also offer plenty of web channels to choose from – be it GQ, PC Gamer, Conde Nast, or Engadget, now you can enjoy all your favorite web series on the big screen by browsing these sites almost as if they were cable TV channels.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
The Plex experience is completely streamlined and consistently great across all devices. Just to give you a quick glimpse at how users have enjoyed Plex across its top 3 most used devices: Plex has an overall rating of 4 on the Google Play Store; it has a 4.7 on the Apple App Store; and a 4.1 on the Roku app store. I, however, think that the Google Play and Roku users are being a little nitpicky because this app is great no matter where you run it if you ask me.
Pricing and Plans
Well, we have already discussed how one of the things that makes Plex so great is the fact that it is a freemium service. This means that you can start streaming movies and live TV today (or just using it as a personal media file cloud server), absolutely free of charge. They do offer a paid subscription version of Plex, too, though.
Plex Premium offers advanced audio options: a discount on Tidal, advanced audio mixing options, hybrid caching, silence compression, and higher-quality album artwork and artist bios. It also offers premium photos with auto-tagging, timeline viewing, and automatic uploads. Lastly, you’ll get a theater-like movie and TV experience with cinema trailers before the main event and extras like actor and director interviews, and behind the scenes features.
If you want Plex Premium, it will cost you either $4.99 a month; $39.99 a year; or a lifetime subscription for $119.99.
Suggestions that I have for Plex
It would be great, of course, if Plex could rectify their relationship with Netflix and Hulu. Could they manage to do this, Plex would easily become the one-stop-shop for all media streaming needs. This is probably not in the best interest of Netflix or Hulu, so I doubt it will happen … but, hey, a guy can dream.