It turns out that work on a fully functional myPlex client was not the only thing the Plex for Android team has been up to these days. We’re happy to say that we were one of the 50 companies that Google invited to prepare an app in time for the initial release of Google TV. In fact, some of you noticed us on google.com in their recent promotion for apps on Google TV.
Needless to say we’ve requested a re-categorization of Plex for Google TV as an entertainment app and replaced that ridiculously out of place graphic with something more appropriate:
Now – we’ve heard Google TV maligned many times over the past couple weeks. We’ve heard it said that the new Google TV is not newsworthy. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first – but I’m here to tell you that we’ve been impressed with how Plex performs on our demo unit. Now honestly I’ve not played with other apps on the Google TV, BUT if nothing else Google TV is worthy because it makes for a great and very responsive Plex client. Overall we think Google TV offers up one of the best Plex client platforms out there in terms of functionality, speed and cost. It’s an excellent choice for hooking up to that ridiculously large flatscreen in the living room, or the more modest one in the bedroom… But hey – Google TV is inexpensive enough – just get one device for each room!
Just a little teaser… A Lens photo Album on Google TV.
We’ve arranged for a quick Q&A session to answer some questions you may have about Plex for Google TV:
Q: Can I get to my local media?
A: Yep – via wifi or ethernet of course.
Q: Does it have support for plex channels?
A: Yep – all the same ones you’ve been able to use from Plex for Android.
Q: So can I resume playback on the Google TV.
A: Yes of course!
Q: Aha! I bet you don’t support myPlex yet – right!?
A: It absolutely comes with myPlex support!
Q: So I can get to remote servers?
A: Yep – you can get to those too. In fact with myPlex support that’s easier than ever since you don’t need to configure port forwarding and deal with all that networking black magic.
Q: Wait – so does that include sections my friends shared with me?
A: Yes – you can play sections that your friends share with you via myPlex.
Get to your sections, myPlex shared sections, recently used channels and more from the Home page.
Q: Including the Queues?
A: Why of course! We know that there’s a very responsible segment of Plex users who would never EVER consider watching amusing videos at work. So of course you’d queue up those not entirely work appropriate videos so that you can plop down on your couch when you get home and watch them there. It’d be irresponsible if we left that out. Queues are an absolute MUST!
You can get to your myPlex Queue from Google TV.
Q: So Plex for Google TV pretty much supports everything that the Plex for Android client supports today?
A: Yes. Well – okay – I admit that we’ve deactivated the remote control. There’s just something odd about trying to control the client on your laptop from a big screen TV. But pretty much everything else is there yes! And of course we have some updates to the UI for non-touch based devices and to ensure that you keyboard wielding folks out there can get around Plex easily.
The Lens displayed with a summary view on Google TV.
Okay – so what’s the catch?
A: The only real catch is that the first release of GTV has very limited HLS support. As you know from my last post (because you were paying careful attention) HLS is what Plex requires to support transcoding.
Q: Uh-oh but Plex has been telling us for years that transcoding is a great thing! What does this mean for us!? What are we going to do!?
A: First relax and take deep breaths. We’re going to make it through this. I admit – I was skeptical about this at first but here’s why this isn’t as bad as it sounds. Plex uses transcoding for two reasons: 1) to reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed by transmitting media across a network and 2) to convert media from a form you cannot play on your device into a form that you CAN play on your device.
Reduction of bandwidth becomes much less important when your media is on your local network. Going over wifi or ethernet you won’t have trouble streaming even 1080p content locally. So we don’t really need transcoding for this. Now – admittedly if you’re sharing your media – you may have some difficulty streaming 1080p video across the network unless you have some monster bandwidth going on (and we know that some of you really do).
Now, converting media is certainly important but it turns out that Google TV has support for a wide array of media containers and codecs. In our testing it played the vast majority of media that we threw at it. We were impressed.
Now – if media isn’t supported there’s one of 4 behaviors you might see:
1. An Error Message – saying that you’re trying to play unsupported media – this is what we HOPE you’ll see.
2. Always Buffering – if you’re buffering for more than 20s or so there’s a good chance that you’ve fallen victim to this. Cancel out of the screen and try another video.
3. Video Only – can happen in the event that you try to play something that Google TV cannot natively support… unfortunately for Plex we don’t always get an indication from the device that there is no video so for now you’ll have to manually back out if this does in fact happen to you.
4. Audio Only – can happen in the event that you try to play something that Google TV cannot natively support. A common one is RAW DTS. For now – if you want to play these onto your GTV you’ll have to convert these to AC3 (or another supported codec) manually.
We of course will be working to eliminate these issues in the near future.
The Movie section on Google TV.
What else is in this release?
Of course we did just release 2.0 but we were able to get a couple important fixes into this (188.8.131.52) release – including:
FIXED: A number of rare crash conditions submitted by users in the field – THANK YOU!
FIXED: An issue where cached objects were reloaded more than necessary. Pages – in particular the Home page should now load faster and there should be less – flicker.
FIXED: An issue where you could get into a perpetual “Loading” state if you didn’t select a server and had a brand new and empty myPlex account.
FIXED: Corrected and clarified a ‘connecting’ message if we’re loading myPlex without an active server selected.
Now – we’ve not released 184.108.40.206 for the mobile client yet but it too will come to the market very soon – these fixes apply to mobile clients only:
FIXED: For Sony Ericsson devices that were force crashing upon startup or during navigation. A big thanks goes out to a kindly Sony Ericsson employee who identified and helped us resolve the issue.
FIXED: Thanks to “Madness” from the Plex forums – we’ve got a fix for the Samsung Galaxy S II / SGH-i777 – which will now play video properly without manual configuration.
A quick note on the last fix mentioned here: It turns out that many of the high end Samsung devices in particular fool Plex. We have no better solution at this time than to track them down one at a time and specifically look for those models to tweak Plex’s settings. If you have a Samsung or other high end device and cannot play video – go into Settings / Advanced Settings and try toggling the setting for ‘Devices Supports HLS’ either on or off to see if that makes a difference. If it does – please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can update Plex to better support your platform!
To keep informed on the latest Plex news follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Or tune in to one of our blogs elan.plexapp.com for a wide array of Plex information or darrin.plexapp.com for mostly Android updates.