This site grew out of a passion for building custom computers that could handle all of the technology needs and desires of the home entertainment center. It started during the glory years of Windows Media Center and fed a desire to bring a simple user interface to the vast media needs that the average home theater might have. Unfortunately, Windows Media Center is all but dead, and many have been on a long journey to find the best replacement that could provide a full-featured media library and an elegant television DVR. For many of us at the DMZ, Plex has already filled that hole, but for many, the lack of a traditional television interface has made it a non-starter. The good news is that starting now, the lack of a grid guide for browsing TV channels is no longer an impediment to using Plex. We’ve spent some time with the Plex grid guide and we think it might be the final piece to win over the long-standing hold-outs.
While at CES in January, a representative from Plex told us that they heard their users loud and clear. Everyone wanted a traditional grid guide, and the company was determined to find a way to make it happen. From a technology perspective, there are far more difficult problems that have already been solved. Our belief is that Plex’s biggest hurdle was a legal one. Grid guides are great, and like many great ideas, it is one that has been patented by Rovi. Regardless of what challenges they’ve overcome, the first version offers a nice user experience.
When you select the Guide option, located under Live TV & DVR, you’re immediately presented with the new grid guide interface. The channel listings don’t merely have the numbers, but they also include the logo. If you hover over the channel number you get the option to start watching that channel. If you hover your mouse over a show that is currently airing you’ll get two buttons. One to watch it live, and one to record what’s remaining. Hovering over anything that isn’t on yet will give you a record button. Clicking any show will give you all the details you’d want including the episode name, description, duration, rating, and a small thumbnail view of the poster.
The grid guide from Plex can be filtered in multiple ways. The first option is for the date and time frame. They offer the next seven days of data, and after picking a day it allows you to jump straight to midnight, early morning, morning, afternoon, primetime, or late night. You can also limit the visible channels to only those with HD broadcasts.
The Plex grid guide works really well in a web browser. Unfortunately, that’s also its biggest downside. Currently, the grid guide is only available through Plex’s web interface. You won’t find it on your Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, or smartphone. While Plex says they are planning to release it across all of their supported platforms, they aren’t announcing planned release dates for any of them yet.
Now that the live TV and DVR interface in Plex has one of the most requested and well-loved features of traditional DVR systems, we anticipate many more people will be willing to give it a try. You’ll need to be a Plex Pass subscriber to access the live TV and DVR functionality. If you’re not already subscribing, you can try it out for $4.99 per month. A one-year subscription goes for $39.99, and a lifetime subscription is $119.99. Will you be adding Plex Pass to check out the new functionality? Let us know what you think of Plex’s DVR service in the comments below.