Sunday, January 27, 2013

Watch Your Movies on iPad - Plex for iOS Review

Steaming of movies and TV shows content has exploded over the past few years, thanks to services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. These services are great because they offer a low cost monthly subscription plan, around $8 USD a month.  I have eliminated TV programming from my cable provider and now rely primarily on streaming content.  These services provide lots of content, but they don't provide every movie or all TV shows.   To supplement these services,  some movie lovers like myself maintain a separate private collection of movies and TV Episodes .

Whether you buy your content digitally from Apple or Amazon or converted your DVD discs into digital copies, you may have a collection that you want to view as well. The content, stored on the computer's internal hard drive or stored on an external USB hard drive can usually be viewed only from that computer. As most of the owners of private digital collection will quickly discover is that a single computer is not a good place to watch all of this content from. The TV is still the preferred method to watch this content.

If your computer is mobile or located near your TV and the computer has an HDMI port or HDMI doggle,  you can buy a HDMI cable and run it to your TV. Even better, get the same HDMI cable and buy an Apple TV device or a Roku Streaming device to allow you stream the content to your TV. While the big screen (32" and above) TV continues to be the preferred viewing portal in the home, the Tablet and Smartphone is definitely the next preferred portal to view media.

Naturally Netflix and Hulu Plus have made mobile applications to stream their content to these platforms. While this cool and expected, you may not realize that you can also stream your own content to these mobile devices as well. Apple has a feature called "Home Sharing" that allows you to share movies, videos and your music to your iPad (or iPhone).  That's right, you don't have to download all of your content to your device in order to watch or listen to your media. This is true if you are on the same WiFi network. So you can be on the couch with your wife and she can hog the big screen with the Housewives of Atlanta and you can watch your movie on your iPad (you will need a pair of headphones though).

While Home Sharing works well enough and it is free; it is not the best way to watch your movie collection. Home Sharing simply displays a list of movies without any movie descriptions. Plus Home Shared movies are only viewable while in your home.

One iOS app that is available in the AppStore for streaming your own content to your mobile devices is called the Plex for iOS app.  Plex for iOS provides instant access to your entire media library wherever you are. It is like having your own Netflix service at home.

Simply install the Plex Media Server on your Mac, Windows or Linux computer and enjoy your movies, TV shows, music and photo library at home or on the go.  The service downloads the cover art, movie description and other important movie details to your computer.  Plex Mobile integrates seamlessly with the desktop version. You can stop watching a movie in your living room, and continue right where you left off on your iPhone or iPad. All of your ratings, viewed status and more is kept perfectly in sync.  Plex looks fantastic.

Here are some screenshots

A Powerful Remote

Plex Mobile is also a full-functioned remote for the Mac and Windows versions of Plex Media Center. You can easily control any Plex running in your house, and play any media remotely or locally through the same rich interface.

Plex supports a wide range of video, audio and photo formats as well as online content from Plex Channels.

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