Plex has had Live TV and DVR capabilities for some time now, but a recent update has added the familiar Grid View to its program guide.
Being a Sky Q household we already have a great DVR, but with some limitations, so with the new EPG view it was time to add the Plex recorder to the Automated Home’s networked media setup.
What Do You Need
To setup the live TV and recording features you’ll need a Plex Pass. I recommend grabbing the lifetime version (currently under £100).
Next you’ll need to add one of the supported tuners to your setup. If you’re in the UK then the best bet is to go with one of the SiliconDust HDHomeRun models, which play nice with which ever of the platforms your Plex Server is running on, be it Windows, macOS, Linux, NAS or the Nvidia Shield.
The Silicondust HDHR5-2DT HDHomeRun Connect Duo is around £100 and has 2 on-board tuners. For another £50 you can upgrade to the Silicondust HDHR5-4DT HDHomeRun Connect Quatro with, you guessed it, 4 tuners. That’s the one we went with and it’s installed in our Node Zero where the antenna distribution amp and network switch live.
These Free-to-air HDTV receivers (DVB-T and DVB-T2) are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and have just 3 sockets, power, Ethernet and antenna (remember you’ll need a proper antenna to receive UK Freeview broadcasts). I believe you can also stack multiple units for even more tuners, although I haven’t tried this.
What Can It Do?
After the hardware is installed it takes just a couple of minutes to get up and running with the software (check out the Plex DVR setup guide).
Now you have 2 new entries on the left hand side of your Plex web player, Recordings and Guide. The new EPG grid layout will be familiar to all and works great. Just click on the show you want to record then chose from the comprehensive options.
For example when setting up an event you can chose to record a single episode or all episodes of that show (including repeats) or only new episodes.
In addition you can specify the channel, quality (SD or HD) and how many episodes to keep. This is a feature I really loved back in my TiVo days. You can record say the evening News and set Plex to only keep a single episode. Now you always have the latest news recorded without the hassle of having to delete the show every day (like I have to do with Sky Q).
There’s a beta feature to automatically strip out ads from your recordings that can be enabled globally or by individual recording. This is a destructive process that happens after the recording has finished, but it’s not working for me yet.
Our Plex Media Server is still running on this Mac mini with recordings being sent straight to our Synology NAS. Files are recorded in the .TS (Transport Stream) format and you’re free to move them, copy them, or re-encode them with something like Handbrake to a codec of your choice.
Remember this setup will also allow you to watch TV remotely and with a couple of advantages over traditional services too.
First of all you’ll have access to all the Freeview Channels, not just the subset that Sky Go or TVCatchup provides. And live TV doesn’t have any of those annoying geographical barriers either.
You’ll also have access to playback all your recordings remotely from your laptop etc too – checkout this screenshot for the iPhone.
Sky Q still doesn’t have a PC or Mac app, forcing you to watch your recordings on a phone or tablet.
You’ll need good upstream bandwidth from your house to allow all this streaming too of course.
The Plex DVR is a great addition to your home media setup. Check out the link below for more info.