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Plex ends support for home theater PCs with new desktop app

Plex, the media server software that powers many a home theater setup around the world, has announced that it’s ending support for its Plex Media Player software for the desktop, replacing it with a new desktop app. For anyone who uses a streaming set-top box, like an Apple TV or Roku, to access their Plex library, this move won’t have any impact on their day-to-day use of Plex at all. But for people who preferred to use their PCs connected directly to their TVs, it’s a serious blow.

The now-discontinued Plex Media Player featured a TV Mode, which effectively gave PC users a way to interact with their content from a couch, using a compatible remote control. The new desktop app has been stripped of this user interface, making it hard — if not impossible — to use a single device as both a Plex Media Server and a Plex client. The exception to this remains the Nvidia Shield TV, an Android TV set-top box that can still serve both functions. No reason has been given for the decision to switch to a player app for PCs and Macs that can’t run a TV mode.

Plex claims that these days, the best Plex experience can be had by using a streaming set-top box, because these devices have become much more powerful since the heyday of the HTPC (home theater PC) and can play almost all media files natively, without the need for a powerful PC running the show. Strangely, Plex suggests that one of the benefits of using a dedicated set-top box is that these small devices don’t use much electricity (presumably compared to running a desktop PC). And yet, unless you’re using a Shield TV, you’ll still need a computer or NAS somewhere on your home network running Plex Media Server, so we’re not entirely sure how this represents a way to save on your electric bill.

The new desktop app features a refreshed interface and replaces the “sync” option for downloading media files with the more logically named “download.” The name has changed, but the feature works the same way, and still requires an active Plex Pass subscription.

The Plex Media Player isn’t dead yet. Plex plans to keep updating it, but only for a few more months. Its end-of-life is currently scheduled for January 30, 2020.

If you’re new to Plex, or are thinking of installing it, check out our complete guide to using it. If you’re a die-hard home theater PC user, it might be worth looking at Kodi. It lacks some of Plex’s features, but it continues to be an all-in-one solution for those who want to keep their computers connected to their TVs.

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