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Plex’s new app turns the NVIDIA Shield into a media server

TechCrunch TechCrunch 9/06/2016 Sarah Perez

Plex has for a long time been one of the more popular services for streaming your local content, including music, photos, movies and TV shows you’ve ripped from DVDs – or, ahem otherwise acquired – to other devices. However, its one downside is that it required you to run its media server software on an always-on dedicated PC, Mac, or NAS. That’s no longer the case, the company announced today – you can now use a NVIDIA Shield Android TV streaming media player to both store your content and play it back.

This is the first time that Plex has worked without the need for a standalone media server running 24/7, which is a notable step forward for the company. But it’s not surprising that the NVIDIA Shield can run Plex’s server software – it is, after all, a fairly powerful gaming machine thanks to its 8-core 64-bit CPU and massive GPU, in addition to being an Android TV platform.

The Plex media server can run directly on the device itself, and supports hardware-accelerated video transcoding (H.264, MPEG2 and HEVC)!, 4K video at 60 fps, and multiple simultaneous streams, says the company. Plus, the Shield has 500 GB of storage available, with the option to add more via USB or over the network. (The 16 GB Shield can also run Plex’s media server, but will lack the large storage capacity.)

However, just because Plex has found a workaround to the always-on PC problem in this case, that doesn’t mean that the company will bring similar functionality to other streaming media players in the future. More likely, they will continue to run the Plex app which connects with the media server elsewhere on your network. The Shield was a bit of a one-off – something that made sense because of its hardware, and the opportunity to appeal to those customers who use Plex to stream their sizable media collections.

“The SHIELD offers the perfect mix of capabilities for us to be able to enable this functionality,” states Plex on its website. “In the future we’d like to expand to support accelerated transcoding on other platforms, as well.”

Plex says it’s finalizing the software now in partnership with NVIDIA, who will release a firmware update later this month. The Plex app in the store will be updated at that time, too, to include the media server.

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