Plex is one of the most widely used pieces of software for distributing media content from a media server to a variety of different devices; and now it’s getting an overhaul.
While Plex Media Server will remain the same, the Plex Home Theatre application is being completely replaced with an App that closely resembles those found on other platforms.
The new App is called Plex Media Player and will be available on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X operating systems completely free; currently it’s only available to Plex Pass subscribers however.
Plex states that its reasoning behind the change was to offer customers a ‘leaner, meaner, more beautiful, purpose-built high-end Plex experience’.
While Plex Home Theatre already supports an extremely wide variety of file formats, Plex Media Player goes even further thanks to the implementation of mpv.
For those unaware, mpv is a free, open-source and cross-platform media player that supports pretty much every media file format out there – much like the more popular VLC from VideoLAN.
To help build the new Plex Media Player, Plex hired the primary contributor of mpv.
That’s not the only piece of software powering the new Plex Media Player however, as the company has also integrated the Chromium 45 web engine.
Integrating the Chromium engine has ensured that Plex could get a consistent experience across all of its Apps, whether it is those available on Smart TVs, such as LG or Vizio, as well as those available for games consoles.
Plex wants to provide its users with consistency no matter what platform they’re on; but the unification could also help the company fix bugs quicker than before.
While the unification of the UI is an important part of this update, the technology has also provided a variety of other performances.
Not only should users enjoy hardware accelerated performance boosts, even on devices like the Raspberry Pi 2, but there’s also support for ‘true 4K’, multi-channel music tracks and improved compatibility with H.265 video files.
A variety of features have also made the jump from Plex Home Theatre, including refresh rate switching, display sync and rich subtitle support, meaning Home Theatre users should still be familiar with Media Player.
It’s not all good news for Plex users however as a variety of features are currently missing including one crucial one for installers; support for starting Plex with remote controls.
Plex has been adapted for a variety of home automation platforms over the years, including Control4, but currently Plex Media Player lacks this support.
Logitech Harmony and other smart controller owners will now be unable to press one button to start Plex, as that functionality is also missing from Plex Media Player.
Cloud Sync servers are also currently unavailable, as is the ability to search; although the latter is said to be coming sooner rather than later.
Other planned features include manually specified connections, TV theme music and video playlists.
Plex is also exploring possibly adding skin/theme support in the future; although as of right now developers are actively locked out of this part of Plex.
And that’s the last major change with Plex Media Player – some parts are no longer open source.
Throughout Plex Home Theatre’s history developers and tinkerers have been able to contribute and modify the software to suit their needs, although that’s no longer the case with Plex Media Player.
Certain parts of Plex Media Player are open source, including the ability to compile/port the application to new platforms not officially supported, improve and fix bugs in the video/audio playing layer (mpv), adding new input methods that require access to the OS/hardware and the ability to improve key mapping and other OS integration features.
Anything done in the web client will be officially close sourced however, which includes fixing bugs or improving the communication with Plex servers and cloud and changing/adding to the UI.
Plex Home Theatre will continue to be available for the immediate future, although Plex has stated that it won’t be actively developing the application, opting to go all-in on Plex Media Player instead.
Not everyone can get Plex Media Player right now however, as it’s currently restricted to paying Plex Pass members.