These days we all have lots of devices in our home that are connected to the internet. From a connected smart TV to a Console, and from mobile phones like Android and iOS based devices to a simple hi-fi set, they are all connected.
Although many manufacturers tried to make their devices compatible so you could for example stream a youtube video from your phone to the TV, it still can be a pain to get every device talking with each other without having to worry about what format something is in.
For this, Sony and a lot of other manufacturers created DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance). The DLNA is a non-profit collaborative trade organization established by Sony in June 2003, that is responsible for defining interoperability guidelines to enable sharing of digital media between consumer devices such as computers, printers, cameras, cell phones, and other multimedia devices. These guidelines are built upon existing public standards, but the guidelines themselves are private (available for a fee). DLNA uses Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) for media management, discovery and control. UPnP defines the types of device that DLNA supports (“server”, “renderer”, “controller”) and the mechanisms for accessing media over a network. The DLNA guidelines then apply a layer of restrictions over the types of media file format, encodings and resolutions that a device must support.
DLNA members have stated that the common goal of using standards-based technology is to make it easier for consumers to use and share their digital photos, music and videos. As of January 2011, over 9,000 different devices have obtained “DLNA Certified” status, indicated by a logo on their packaging and confirming their interoperability with other devices. It is estimated that more than 440 million DLNA-certified devices, from digital cameras to game consoles and TVs, have been installed in users’ homes.
So how does it work?
The biggest problem with all of this is that a lot of the connected devices these days do not support every single file format that you want to play. For example a Sony Bravia TV will play MPEG files but it will not directly play MKV (x264) movies. There are multiple solutions however to make this work. The thing we are going to talk about today is a DLNA mediaserver.
Over the last couple of months I have been testing a lot of these so-called DLNA mediaservers and each one of them has their pros and cons but, I could finally make a top 3 for you all where I can ensure you it just works. Right now there are over 30 different DLNA servers available for all platforms. Problem is however that some do not transcode on the fly, which you definitely want if the device you are going to play to does not support a specific file format, for example MKV. Down below the top 3 DLNA Mediaservers that will actually make sure that whatever file you throw at them, will be auto transcoded on the fly so all your devices can play whatever you have stored.
Plex (also known as “Plexapp”, “Plex Media Center”, or “PMC”) is a partially open-source freeware media player and server with a 10-foot user interface, which is available for multiple platforms like Windows, Mac, Linux and NAS devices. Its source code was initially forked from XBMC Media Center on May 21, 2008; this fork is used today as a front end media player for Plex’s back end server component.
Plex’s front end media player, Plex Media Center, allows the user to manage and playback video, photos, music, and podcasts from a local or remote computer running Plex Media Server. In addition, the integrated Plex Online service provides the user with a growing list of community-driven plugins for online content including Hulu, Netflix, and CNN video.
The cool thing about Plex is that you start by building up your media library on centralized server or pc. This media library can then be accessed by any Plex enabled device or DLNA over your LAN.
Plex works with apps that you install on the iPhone, Android, LG TV’s and many other devices. Since the beginning of 2012 the Plex team has integrated DLNA support in their server version which allows you to play all files in your library directly to any DLNA device in your home.
Plex Media Server seamlessly connects your Plex clients with all of your local and online media. The combination of centralized library management, streaming of online content, and powerful transcoding functionality provides an unrivaled level of flexibility and ease of use. Plex Media Server runs on your Mac, PC, or compatible NAS device and serves your media to all of your Plex clients and DLNA devices.
With Plex Channels, you bring online media to all your Plex clients, from over one hundred popular sites. New channels are developed continually, so there’s always something to watch. Want to watch YouTube videos on your TV? You can do it through Plex.
Now onto the pros and cons:
– Amazing looking GUI that just works
– Works across many devices both apps and DLNA
– Ability to install plugins/channels for extra functionality
– Ability to resume videos on another device
– One central location for all your media
– Right now DLNA is in beta stage and not all devices are supported yet
– With a huge library especially on Music files, it can take while to scan through everything
– No support yet for transcoding in subtitles to all devices (only some supported devices that can play subtitles itself)
You can get Plex over here.