Monday, 20 April 2009

Media Centre's - Plex

I've been looking into different media centres for use in my home. I made a previous post about XBMC. This showed a lot of promise, but had a few issues (since that post I've tried the SVN version and a lot of the problems have been resolved). Since the main use I have a media center is on a mac mini below the DVD, I though I'd give Plex ago.

Plex is a media center that was forked for XMBC and only works on Intel MacOSX. The aims of the project are to produce more integrated version of XMBC for OSX.

As I stated in my previous post, I've been running MediaCentral from Equinux. However this had a few problems:
  • Unable to eject the DVD!
  • Not able to play .mkv's (they don't show up in the media lists)
  • No plugin support
  • No meta data display
Also whilst looking at XMBC I found that playback of media was choppy (This might not be the case with the SVN version, I've yet to try this).

Anyway I'll start of by saying, I've been very impressed with Plex. First of it plays all my media files with no problems, both low def and high def content.

Once of the features that I really like is the the remote control support. Both Plex and XMBC (I'd not tried this till now) allow you to use a harmony remote. So I no longer need to use the apple remote with it's limited buttons. This has been really great. It makes the media center much more usable as I refuse to attack a keyboard and mouse to something below the TV.

It's also possible to add special buttons for things like "Eject". So finally I'm able to eject DVD's from the mac mini with the use of a remote control. This is quite a big deal as I've always had to do it via SSH session from a laptop before.

The plugin support has been hugely improved from what I'd seen with XBMC. I've been using the iPlayer plugin and this is very responsive and no longer needs to spend ages reading content from the BBC.

The interface for downloading new plugins is very slick, I was quite impressed. You just go to the application section and select the pluing you wish to install. This was a big advantage over XMBC. Another nice feature is the automatic update. I was prompted to ask if I wanted to install the latest version. I select yes (with the remote control) and it installed the latest version!

Plex inherits all the good features of XMBC, so it has some really good themes (once i got used to default on called "MediaStream" I've really got to like it.) It's meta data support is also great.

The only negative I've found so far is that it does not allow the playing of DVD's. From what I've been able to find out, they claim that this is buggy and have disabled it. This is a real pain, at the moment I've using the PS3 to play DVD's. I'm hoping that this gets turned back on at some point. It's worth noting that XBMC has no problems with DVD's.

So in conclusion a very good media center for the OSX machines that does everything I'd want with the exception of DVD playback.
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