Plex isn’t the flashiest brand new streaming media app in the Market but it certainly is one of the more reliable and flexible ones. There are few applications of this type that can handle as many formats for videos, music, and photos. With Plex, you can practically play anything you throw at it whether the source is online or local. And it presents all your streaming content in a well organized and easily navigable UI.
There are actually two parts to the whole process of using Plex. You need to have the Plex Media Server on your desktop at home and the Plex for Android client on your mobile device. The former is free to download and install while the latter has to be purchased in the Android Market.
Setting up the media server
Plex Media Server comes in three flavors: Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. It was mainly designed for Macs so this version has the most features. The Windows version lacks some support such as those for Netflix or Hulu plug-ins. The one for Linux is still in beta.
1. Establish your preferences.
Once you’ve got this installed on your desktop, launch your web browser and type this URL on the address bar: localhost:32400/manage to get to the app’s management screen. Click on Preferences at the upper right corner to open up the settings. From here you can give the media server a name or set up access control with username and password.
2. Add videos for streaming.
Take note that the app works better with a specific directory structure so you can display the right screenshots and blurbs. It is recommended that you keep the default scheme. Go back to the main management screen and click on the small plus sign at the bottom left corner. This will open a dialog box where you can start adding folders of your videos.
You can drag-drop the folder manually, click on the plus sign to browse, or directly type in the path of the directory. For the Windows version the format should be: \(server IP address)(sharename)(name of folder). Click on OK and/or Add Section. On the main management screen, the new folders should appear on the left pane under Library Sections. When you select it, pics and descriptions of each video file in that folder should appear on the right main panel.
Setting up the client on your Android device
1. Configure the client settings.
Tap the Menu button then on Settings. Turn on the “Find Nearby Servers” option. As long as your mobile device is connected to the same network, the name you just gave your media server should appear. Choosing the “Add a New Server” means you’ll manually enter the media server’s name and IP address. You’ll know which server is active by the bright green dot next to its name.
2. Watch the streaming video.
Navigate back to the client’s main screen and press Library. You should see a list of the new video files you added earlier in the server. Simply tap on the file you want to see and it should start streaming to your Android device.
Plex actually works for both iOS and Android devices which is good news for users who mix and match their mobile gadgets. According to the developers some of the limitations that are in the Android version of the client are a lack of support for Netflix, Hulu, and the video_ts, img and iso video formats.