Both of the latest consoles from Microsoft and Sony started off with nonexistent media center capabilities, which was a big disappointment to people with massive digital movie and TV show collections. But thankfully Xbox One is already starting to turn things around. There's Microsoft's own media player app (which will soon support high-quality MKV files) and tomorrow Plex is coming to Xbox One. In recent years, much like XBMC, Plex has emerged as a go-to app for home theater diehards. If we're being honest, it's also used by people who download their fair share of Blu-ray rips, DVD screeners, and so on. Obviously plenty of Plex customers are using it legitimately — many have a catalog of self-made movie backups — but the other side can't be ignored.
When setting up Plex Media Server on a PC or Mac, you just point it to wherever your media is stored, and it'll automatically pull in high-res artwork, descriptions, cast information, and ratings. It's basically effortless; Plex organizes all your stuff and puts a beautiful user interface on top of everything. Once it's set up, you can watch your content using Plex apps across smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, and now video game consoles. Plex was already compatible with Xbox 360 over DLNA, but this marks the first time the company has brought a native experience to gaming devices.
On Xbox, the Plex experience will be immediately familiar to users. It's easy to navigate, with your recently added movies placed front and center. (Music and photo playback is set to arrive by year's end if all goes according to plan.) With the "On Deck" feature, Plex keeps track of where you've left off in a movie or show, and will offer recommendations on what to watch next from your vault of digital content — not unlike Netflix. The Xbox launch also marks the debut of new discovery features, led by custom categories that are based on your viewing habits. (Yes, that's also borrowed from Netflix and other streaming services.) Plex has worked with Microsoft to make take full advantage of Kinect's gestures and voice-based control. When you're sitting back on the couch, that's obviously a huge convenience.
Plex Media Server is a free download for PC and Mac, but the best aspects are reserved for Plex Pass subscribers. You can either pay $4.99 monthly, $39.99 each year, or plop down $149.99 for a lifetime subscription. Benefits include Plex Sync, which lets you download content to your phone or tablet to bring with you on long flights or the daily work commute. There's also Cloud Sync, which uploads media files less than 2GB to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive so they can be watched anywhere you've got Wi-Fi. Other throw-ins include easy access to HD movie trailers and free downloads of the Android and Roku apps. For now, being a Plex Pass subscriber is the only way you'll be able to use the company's new Xbox One app. It's free to subscribers at launch, and will be made available for a one-time fee to everyone else at a later date. Expect that price to be around $4.99, and that's after a free 30-day trial. The Xbox 360 version of Plex isn't ready quite yet, but should arrive within the next couple weeks.