Setup Plex for a local-streaming smorgasbord
If you have a bevy of video content on a personal laptop or desktop computer, look into adding Plex Media Server to your computer or NAS as well as the official Plex application (channel) from the Roku channel store.
Plex Media Server will index all of your movies, music, and photos on your computer and (via the Plex Roku Channel) give you an easy way to browse and play those files on your TV. It’s like creating your own private Netflix.
While the Plex software can automatically transcode video formats that aren’t supported by Roku hardware, it’s best to utilize video formats like MP4 and MOV in order to get the fastest streaming experience. Using a free, open source solution like Handbrake is probably the simplest solution for converting video files into those streaming-friendly formats.
In addition to streaming video files stored on your home network, the Plex software also allows you to continue accessing certain private channels that were closed down or removed for any reason. For instance, a few years ago there was a gap between HGTV removing its private Roku channel and releasing its official version. During that time, you could still access HGTV video via the HGTV channel on Plex. While the interface can be somewhat complex at times, the ability to continue watching that content is invaluable for cord cutters.
Use the Roku smartphone app for private listening, voice search, and more
Available for free on iOS and Android devices, the official Roku app gives you a wealth of options, including: full remote control of any Roku in your home; the ability to browse, add and delete channels from your account; and the ability to stream music, videos, and photos located on your device.
Music fans will appreciate the ability to shuffle tracks as well as the ability to create playlists within the application. For your photos, you can adjust the transition style and tweak the speed of the photo slideshows as well as stream a specific song from the mobile device during the slideshow.
Voice search, which was previously only available to Roku 3 or Roku Ultra users via the included wireless remote, is now available to all Roku users via the app. It’s a great way to avoid the hunt-and-tap method for text entry.
But perhaps the coolest addition to the Roku app is Private Listening. Supported by all of the latest Roku hardware, this feature lets you listen to whatever content is on your Roku via the headphones plugged into your phone or tablet. It’s also smart enough to know when you unplug your earphones, turning the volume back on for the TV accordingly.
What did she say?
The Roku remote has a handy instant replay (or skip back) feature that lets you rewind your video by 10 seconds each time you use it. But for a truly helpful instant replay — one that helps you figure out muddy dialogue or thick accents — turn on the closed-captioning for instant replays, which can be done in the Captions Mode setting on your Roku.