Over the past few years Plex has largely become a media streaming company, offering thousands of ad-supported movies and TV shows that you can stream to a smart TV, mobile device, or a computer. But Plex began its life as a fork of XBMC, a home theater PC solution.

Now the company is getting back to its roots a bit with the official release of a Plex HTPC, a new desktop app for Windows Mac and Linux that provides a TV-friendly user interface for watching movies and TV shows, listening to music, viewing photos, or running third-party apps and services.

Plex has actually been releasing test builds of its HTPC app for a little over a year, but the software now appears to be out of beta. The new Plex HTPC app is also now available for Linux (previous builds had been Mac and Windows only), and the Plex desktop app (which doesn’t have a TV-sized interface) is also now available for Linux. Right now the Linux apps are only available as Snap packages, but Plex is also working on Flatpak builds which should allow them to be installed on more GNU/Linux distributions.

The new Plex HTPC app comes a few years after Plex had announced plans to end support for its legacy HTPC software, only to received feedback from folks who were still using the software on home theater PCs. While HTPC users make up a small portion of Plex’s active user base these days, it’s a vocal crowd that likely includes some of the folks who’ve been using Plex the longest.

Anyway, Plex eventually did an about face, returning to the HTPC space with its new app that includes a 10-foot user interface (meaning the text and graphics are designed to be easily visible from a couch while you’re sitting in front of a TV), and many of the same features you’d get while using Plex’s smart TV, mobile, or web apps including support for:

  • Watching live and on-demand TV shows and movies from Plex’s ad-supported streaming service
  • Stream music from TIDAL (subscription required)
  • Search and build a watchlist across most major streaming services
  • Connect to a Plex server to access your personal media collection (streaming from a NAS, another PC, etc)
  • Use a remote control, game controller, or mouse and keyboard for controls with support for input mapping

Plex HTPC, like other Plex apps, is available as a free download, although some features, like DVR functionality, may require a Plex Pass subscription.

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7 replies on “Plex HTPC turns your TV-connected PC into a media center (again)”

  1. Jellyfin is infinitely better and is completely FREE. I’ll never go back to Plex after a pretty lengthy and rude discussion with one of the devs about why some of the features require payment when there are free alternatives they could have added instead. Donation > paid for features that should be free.

    I used to love Kodi but in recent years the scraper tool has been absolutely terrible at grabbing metadata for my media, half of the time missing episodes, often displaying media incorrectly and sometimes even grabbing the wrong metadata.

    After switching to Jellyfin, I don’t need an HTPC, there’s literally a jellyfin app for everything, I host my media on my old desktop from Jellyfin, put the info into the apps, and boom, I’m watching my content on any device I want. (And if you’re really smart you can set up a vpn to access it remotely, or forward the ports and access it from the web.)

  2. I prefer kodi over plex because it will actually play your queue and loop forever. If I queue up the Lord of the Rings trilogy in Plex, it’ll only play one or two of them then just stop, then I wake up, because now I can hear everything that I don’t want to hear.

  3. If you value your privacy like I do, try Kodi (if you don’t need a unified interface across multiple devices, it’s great for single-TV use), or Emby if you want something more similar to Plex. They’re both open-source software, and best of all – they don’t require connecting to a central server that mines data about your computer and shared files.

    Plex’s privacy practices are concerning, and I’m not in the habit of sharing my library of media files with private companies, especially ones that are in the business of selling media, and even more especially with companies that have strong ties with media companies like Warner Bros.

    1. Agreed, I was a Plex Pass subscriber for a few years, then one day our Internet connection went down (local network was fine). We tried to watch something on our locally hosted Plex server (literally one room away) and the Plex software wouldn’t play it because it couldn’t phone home to the mothership for permission. As soon as our Internet was back up I canceled my Plex Pass sub, and switched our library over to Emby. I’ve had zero issues with Emby for many years now.

      1. If you are happy with Emby already thats fine.
        I just wanted to post this here for people that might think views on local playback without the internet is correct. Its not.

        There has been a work around for just about as long as “internet access is required” started in Plex. The way they have it setup is a bit silly, and I can understand their excuse, even if it is just an excuse. This is supposed to be due to authentication, and you can list out ip’s or whole networks that can connect to the server without authentication.

        1. Sorry clicked post to quickly.
          I was saying their method is silly as it requires you to manually fill in the IP addresses or range.
          But up above this setting there is something similar, which to me shows this is a concious decision. There is a setting above for setting LAN networks for enforcing WAN vs LAN bandwidth restrictions. If you leave this option blank, the system will use the same local network that your servers subnet is attached to.
          So the server is more than capable of determining the local and providing the local only playback right out of the box, but PLEX makes you turn this on manually.

          I cant post images or anything here, so here is a walk through.

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