Plex introduces Hardware-Accelerated Streaming and makes Auto Quality available for free

Plex, the popular media player for streaming your own media collection to all of your devices including the Fire TV, has made a couple of announcements that should make for a better experience. First off, all customers can now use the “Automatically Adjust Quality” setting for their streams without needing to be a Plex Pass subscriber. If you are a subscriber, then you now get access to a new hardware-accelerated streaming option that uses dedicated hardware, that your server probably already has, to more efficiently transcode your media.

The auto quality setting in Plex has been around for a while, but was previously limited to only those who pay for a Plex Pass subscription. It lets Plex’s software automatically select the best video quality to stream, based on the available bandwidth and system specs. Users without a Plex Pass had to manually select the stream quality, but now all free users can use the automatic option. The feature may not be available in the Fire TV app just yet, but will hopefully arrive soon.

The other new announcement is hardware-accelerated streaming for Plex Pass subscribers. If the hardware running your Plex server has dedicated hardware for decoding media, like many modern CPUs and GPUs do these days, Plex can now use that hardware when transcoding your media. This should greatly improve your server’s ability to efficiently transcode media without maxing out your CPU. The feature is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers acting as Plex servers that are running Intel processors that support Intel Quick Sync. It is also available for some Windows and Mac computers with select AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.

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13 comments
  1. ThePodhalan says:

    The new Plex UI on Fire TV is horrible. It is like reverting to Internet Explorer 3.0 in 2017.

  2. Michael says:

    Still not sure why they are one of the only media servers that need an actual separate server running. I’ll stick with MrMc or Kodi for awhile longer

    • John says:

      Um, all media servers are servers. By definition. Kodi is a media player/client. It is decidedly not a server, although it does have some media-server-like functionality baked in. The ability to manage your media library in one place with an excellent interface is Plex’s strength. It’s precisely what makes it unique. Your question is kind of like saying, “I don’t understand why this truck has to be a truck. Just stick with a car.”

      • Michael says:

        I must have been unclear in my post. What I meant to say is that with Plex, I have to run a separate server, and then the Plex app on my Fire TV and then also my NAS. With Kodi or MRMC I simply run my Fire TV and turn the NAS on when needed. There is no need for me to run a 3rd box with their server. sorry about that.

        • Paul says:

          Your use case isn’t the only use case.

          With your set up, each client has to install Kodi and manually set up direct access to NAS. With Plex, you can have limitless clients or even browser access and don’t need to set up “server” each time. You can access the content from home or from outside your network. You can even share your content with your friend’s. The server holds all the metadata, a second client wouldn’t have to search the internet for metadata, it just pulls it from the server. It’s your own netflix.

          • Michael says:

            Re: “Your use case isn’t the only use case.”
            Of course you are correct. Typically people are posting comments here based upon their own “use case”.
            Plex does seem useful, but running an additional server “my use case” isn’t rational. MrMc and Kodi work fine with their libraries.
            Maybe one day Plex will offer something with that option.

  3. Steve Kline says:

    Where exactly do we find the auto-quality setting in Plex?

  4. Jared says:

    I don’t mind the new interface at all. I think it’s plenty functional. There are things I’d like to see different with the live tv stuff though.

  5. Reflex says:

    Interesting note: The hardware acceleration works on QNAP NAS boxes with QuickSync compat CPU’s. I did a test last night with it and found the following –

    Ranma 1/2 Blu-Ray (h.264) rip went from 77% CPU consumption down to a stable 10%
    The Matrix HD-DVD (VC1) went from 45% down to 15% (it could only hw accelerate the encode, not the decode)

    VERY nice gains, and should permit multiple simultaneous streams with ease so long as the HDD and network can keep up. Given that they do not explicitly support NAS units at this time, I was pleasantly surprised.

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