PLEX is a media mgmt/streaming app, meant for organizing and playing media
collections.  It also has "channels" which are applets you can install
freely to watch specific content like various news channel segments or PBS
or Comedy Central, as many platforms also have.  The channel stuff is often
wonky with either how they work or what content they provide so it is
mostly good for playing local content you have.

I have found that the same application can vary a lot from platform to
platform.  I have messed with streaming apps on PS3, Firestick, QNAP, Roku
and Chromecast (though that isn't really the same thing), and the PLEX app
works a little differently on each.  PLEX still isn't my favorite media
manager but it does better than many and is widely available on many
platforms. As an example, I had a bunch of Looney Tunes cartoons ripped
from DVDs and wanted to play the 100s of them on random for my niece and
nephew.  Playlist isn't that common of a feature, even in music streaming
apps, but PLEX allows you to make playlists AND play them randomly. PLEX
also has a nice presentation and allows you to present sets of media in
differently organized ways. Though holy cow it did bring in posters for
some of the cartoons from really mistakenly matched adult oriented shows.

I had hopes for QNAP as a storage platform and entertainment delivery that
can output HDMI directly to the tv/sound system, but tbh it has pretty crap
apps for playing video, especially if you have a large collection. Plus
with no ZFS it's mostly a backup to a FreeNAS box. It *does* have a very
good remote control phone app though, and it has a PLEX app available.

Haven't heard very good endorsements in general for the "Smart" side of
Samsung TVs, but I noted that Wirecutter gave a nod to their "Best TV" pick
with the mention that its platform is Roku.  The thing I've enjoyed with
Roku is it is agnostic of apps running on it (not pushing one service or
another), and also has a cool feature of searching for content across all
installed streaming apps. I generally use it for streaming services like
Netflix and Prime, and use the PS3 for DLNA streaming local content like
ripped DVDs because the PS3 output quality and responsiveness just seems so
nice compared to most. Universal Media Server is my more favored DLNA
server because it gives a lot of control over which codecs you may want to
use.

Like most things, I've yet to find the perfect all in one solution.

So I guess for the OP, my only comment is that PLEX doesn't play every kind
of file (.mkv is particularly troublesome even though that is a very common
container), although you will see forum posts saying it can.  That is the
main reason I perfer a different DLNA server like UMS.. it can usually
handle any file, and for particularly troublesome files you can, for
example, have half a dozen codecs ready to transcode on the fly and
generally find one that works. Linux provides the faster responsiveness
(over my comparisons with UMS on a Windows box), and the PS3 provides the
nice output and horsepower for live transcoding.

All this stuff still seems very messy and with as much tinkering as I've
done I still feel pretty newbish.



-- 
Ken
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