By Jason Snell
May 30, 2020 9:40 AM PT
Service Station: Plex Pass
I am my own streaming service. I have converted a large portion of my collection of movies and TV shows that once lived on Blu-Rays and DVDs into files that live on my Mac mini server, which I can watch via the Plex app on any of my devices. I have instant access to stuff that doesn’t appear on any existing streaming service, which is awfully convenient. I fully admit that the Plex lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it’s been a great way to get some of my favorite stuff out of a big plastic bin of DVDs.
After setting Plex up in my house, I discovered that the Plex Pass service added a whole new dimension to my library: mobile sync. For the last couple of years, I’ve been taking a few minutes before trips to download movies and TV shows to my iPad to watch while I’m traveling. Recently, most streaming services have finally added the ability to download files for when you’re somewhere without a good connection, whether it’s an airplane or a cabin in the woods. With a Plex Pass subscription, I can do that with any of the files on my server—so I don’t need to subscribe to Hulu to take the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me when I travel.
It’s never been easy to transfer movies and TV shows from a Mac to an iOS device. It’s always been possible, but syncing media files over a wire was slow and finicky. With Plex, it’s easy.
Recently I’ve also taken advantage of another feature of Plex Pass, access to the PlexAmp iOS app for audio playback. Yes, I could use this app to play back my local music library, and I’ve considered that. But in my moment of need—the early days of the 2020 baseball season that hasn’t happened yet—I wanted to lay in the hammock in my backyard and have baseball playing in the background, to give the world a bit more of a sense of normalcy. Fortunately, I have a collection of MP3s of the radio broadcasts of the playoff runs of my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, from the past decade.
Adding long baseball games to Apple Music made no sense, but adding them to a Plex library was so easy that I managed to do it while laying in that hammock, using just my iPhone. Within a couple of minutes I was streaming a baseball game from the fall of 2010 and enjoying the sounds of a sport that isn’t available right now in the real world.
Plex Pass also enables a DVR feature if you’ve got a TV antenna and an HD tuner box, which might appeal to cord cutters, though I can’t get TV signals at my house, alas.
Even more than using Plex itself (which is absolutely free, by the way), using Plex Pass is an acquired taste for very specific needs. But again and again, I find myself having a problem that can be solved by Plex—even if I’m laying in a hammock in my backyard.