After several years of hacking different solutions into previous Apple TV set-top boxes, Plex has finally been able to launch an official app for the 4th generation Apple TV. This was made possible due to the inclusion of the App Store within the Apple TV software. While Plex has already launched on devices built by companies like Roku and Google, this is the first official client app for an Apple set-top box.
Similar to other set-top box versions of the Plex app, the Apple TV version lets users stream local video and music as well as view libraries of stored photos. This media is stored on a computer within the home that’s operating on the same Wi-Fi network and running Plex Media Server, free software that’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD. The app also opens up access to Plex Channels, a section of the app that streams online content from services like TED Talks, Vimeo and Revision 3.
Within the Apple TV version of the Plex app, users will be able to view details about movies and television shows such as synopsis, actors, director, studio, the Rotten Tomato rating, film length, genre, year of release, resolution of the video file and closed captioned options. The app also loads Rotten Tomatoes review snippets of films within the video library, ideal for getting an expert’s quick take on a film.
Using a similar interface for music, users can view a description of an artist as well as the genre of an album. Plex has included shuffle controls within the app as well, ideal for skipping around on tracks within a specific mix, album or artist’s entire library of music. There’s also a handy option for someone unfamiliar with a particular artist. The “Play Popular Tracks” option will stream all well-known tracks, thus increasing the likelihood of recognition simply by listening.
The app is free for any 4th generation Apple TV owner to download and use in combination with the free Plex Media Server software. However, users also have the option to upgrade to Plex Pass, a premium version of the software that unlocks a multitude of useful features. One such feature is GraceNote’s music matching software, the same software Apple uses to match music to artists within iTunes. If you have a music library of MP3 files stored outside of iTunes, it can be useful for identifying tracks, albums names and artist names.
Other Plex Pass features enabled on the Apple TV include access to Vevo’s library of music videos, options to load movie trailers prior to the start of a film and managed accounts to restrict content based on a user’s access level, ideal for families that want to keep the R-rated movies away from the kids. Outside of the Apple TV, Plex Pass includes two great options for mobile users; a cloud syncing feature to stream content from the cloud as well as a mobile sync feature to take content offline to areas without reliable Wi-Fi.