It’s true: Kodi (that’s XBMC, so we understand each other) is the most versatile and elegant media center now available, but it’s definitely not the only good one. Plex is a complete solution that employs a client/server structure to browse and play your films, TV shows, music, and photos via a shared network, and also boasts versions for all sorts of platforms, including game consoles and several Smart TVs.
At the user level Plex has nothing to envy the aforementioned XBMC in terms of library viewing and management, with automatic downloads of covers and info for each film or TV show, an update system for new additions to your catalogue, and a sexed-up interface that displays the background art of your content. It is, in other words, a respectable living room multimedia center that you’ll want to show off to all your friends when they come round.
Plex Media Server is the cornerstone of the system, and you’ll need to install it on the computer where your library folders are stored. You can manage it directly from a webapp on your browser, with the advantage that you can even play films directly without having to use any additional software, and it’s equally installable on desktop computers or an NAS.
If you want to be able to sync all your content you’ll need to create a free Plex account, then login with your details on any other device and associate it with the libraries you’ve set up on the server via a simple process that involves entering a short access key to permanently confirm the connection.
Now comes the fun part. Plex takes the concept of multiplatform functionality to dizzying levels. Its multimedia player, Plex Home Theatre, has versions for Windows, Mac, Linux (via third-party programs), Android, iOS, Chromecast, Roku, FireTV, and even consoles like PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and their successors up to the current generation.
The mobile applications are especially interesting to use, as with them you can remotely view photos and videos stored on the memory of the device (although some features are reserved to the premium version via a monthly subscription, among them cloud synching of photos and interconnection with online third-party video channels to integrate them directly into the client).
All these features can also be extrapolated to music, allowing you to share full music galleries catalogued into playlists, as well as listen remotely using features typical of music streaming services such as random play or viewing/organizing by group or genre.