Network Streaming Players

Plex Adds New Features


So I have been using Plex for the last five or so years to organize and play my ripped DVDs and Blurays. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that Plex was slowly adding features to make it a one-stop-shop. Plex recently has added a host of new curation features to help you find what you own and tell you what service might have the movie you want to watch. Wait…What? Plex, a free program, adds powerful curation features to take you out of Plex to other services? Is Plex going to make itself a verb, and we will “Just Plex It!”? Let’s discuss. 

What’s New?

There are a lot of new features, but three that we are really excited about:

So it’s no secret that Plex has had Tidal integration and integration for their live TV and DVR functions. But what Plex has added is a more powerful universal search function that searches beyond the movies you have added and scours the other streaming services to match your search. So, for example, I entered Star Wars into the search bar, and not only did it show me the various versions of Star Wars I had ripped, but it also showed me the ones on Disney+ and my Google Play account. 

This universal search feature is by no means a new idea. My Nvidia Shield has similar functionality. The difference is that Plex works pretty well, and it searches beyond the apps that I have installed on my Nvidia. So there could be a movie that I want to watch, possibly on a free service like Tubi. It will tell me this so I can download the app and be watching in no time. I don’t know about you, but this is a handy feature.

Universal Watch List

I don’t know if you are like me, but I have lots of shows added to my watchlist. I enter them but then immediately forget about them because I may not log into that app regularly. Enter the Universal Watch List. 

This feature lets you aggregate all your watch lists into a single app, Plex, and keep track of them. I know that this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But this is invaluable for my wife, who has a smattering of shows across all of our streaming services. 

You can tag items that aren’t even out yet! The universal watch list will tell you when your shows are available for streaming. Hello, Yellowstone Season 5!!!

Discovery

The Discovery tab is just like it sounds. It aggregates new, and trending shows for you to see what people are watching and possibly discover your next weekend’s binge-worthy show. 

I am on quite a few forums, and many people write that they hate these features and refer to them as advertising. I like having suggestions, and I have discovered many new movies or shows outside my wheelhouse because of this. 

Most importantly, the Plex Discovery isn’t tied to a service. Netflix’s suggestions seem to be little more than them suggesting their most recent releases. I’m hoping that Plex’s Discovery tab will more derived from my actual watching habits.

How Do I Get It? 

Easy, you need to have the latest version of the Plex Media Server or Plex client – desktop or app-based. Then you select the streaming services you have so that it can aggregate the data based on your subscriptions. Then you choose the appropriate tab from the sidebar and go to town! 

If you don’t want to create an account, you’ll lose the ability to use the Discovery tab or Universal Watchlist. But you can still search for where to find a show by going to Plex.tv and typing in the name of your show. It’ll allow you to select the show from a drop list. From there, it will show you all the ways you can stream the show or movie.

Issues 

As with anything new, expect some bugs in the beginning. The most common issue reported is that the Universal Watch list doesn’t update the watch list on your streaming service. So this means that you will manually have to mark them as played. 

The second common issue reported is that Plex doesn’t take you right to the movie or show in the streaming app. It will start the app, but you have to search again after you are in the app. I assume this has something to do with the way Plex integrates into the API. I would guess that as they refine the features, they will be able to overcome this and have it either go right to the movie or have the movie play through Plex.  Update – it seems as if they have fixed this. I searched for a movie and it took me right to the movie on my app.

If you are using the website without signing in, expect some idiosyncrasies. Often you can’t search for content by director or actor. If you are looking for other content by the same director, you’ll have to find one of their other movies or shows and then click on their name. The library isn’t complete yet. There wasn’t a single reference to a Kurosawa movie in the search for example. As this service matures, we expect that some of these wrinkles will be ironed out.

Our Take

I’ll be honest; this is a feature I didn’t know I wanted until I started to play with it. I am all for having a single app or service control my entire streaming catalog, plus my ripped content. Right now, I use Plex to integrate my media with Tidal, so I don’t have to use two apps if I want to listen to music. I suppose if Plex can fix some of the bugs, or even better, allow that content to play within Plex… this will be a game-changer. 

I hope that these features gain some popularity so that Plex will put the time and effort into perfecting them.

Do you like or hate these new features? Let us know in the comments. 


2 Comments on Plex Adds New Features

  1. James Nicholas Willmott

    Plex is heading more and more towards online content, and ignoring it’s core user base. I only use Plex to play back my own content (Flac files from my CD collection that I have stored on my local Plex server). I don’t want any of the online / streaming features, and it frustrates me that they keep automatically enabling new features when a new update is released. It’s a pain to switch off all the crud.

    There has been an outcry about PLEX showing adult content to children in the new Plex discover feature. They enabled this new feature automatically at the last update. The feature wasn’t pre-announced nor was it properly tested.

    • Andrew Thomas

      Hi James. That is a fair point. I don’t think that it’s ok to show any adult content without an explicit warning that makes you aware.

      I had a different experience with the rollout. When I started my server after the update it told me there were new features and asked if I wanted to opt in, and then it asked what streaming services I wanted.

      Hopefully Plex will listen and have two tiers, one for those want only personal media and one for those want the online options.

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