With media devices becoming ever more versatile, it seems silly to own an AppleTV box and Amazon's Fire TV. Why subscribe to cable when you can get most of your shows on Hulu? Then there is your game console. The PS4 now does a lot more than just play games. You can browse the web, use social media and even watch movies.
At first, we wondered if there were streaming sites that would be a good pairing with the PS4's web browser. Unfortunately, that rabbit hole leads to some sketchy sites with NSFW popups and misleading links. What we did find was an excellent media server called Plex.
Like to get all your media in one place? Want to watch movies on your PS4 one day and your tablet the next? How about those digital photos you have stored up or movies you downloaded forever ago? Plex.tv may be the answer.
Plex is an all-in-one media hub for those who like to have all their content in one place. It seamlessly coordinates your personal media collection, subscription services and apps (such as Netflix) and allows you to play the content on almost any device. After installing the free Plex software on the PS4 you set up your media, add any subscription services (like Amazon Prime) and then you're good to go.
Plex also has a subscription version ($4.99/month) that adds a few useful features such as parental controls. The free version will work for almost anyone as it has just about everything you could want in a media server without the hassle of setting up your own.
After downloading the software adding your personal media collection can be tedious but it is worth it to have everything in one place and available on any device. The streaming quality will depend greatly on your own network connection. Some users have experienced slight delays when streaming one content type to a device that normally does not support it, but it is reportedly not enough of a problem to cause major frustration.
The interface is slick and easy to use. Once you get past the hurdle of adding your media, you won't remember living without it.
Plex got us to wondering what other apps are available for movie viewing on the PS4. Here is a list of the highest rated:
Starting with the obvious, Netflix is still one of the best places to go for movies. The subscription service is affordable (starting at $7.99/month), the platform steady and their original content is among the best. Navigation is easy and their recommendations tend to be good if you take the time to rate your favorite movies.
The upfront cost ($99/year) for Prime seems a little steep at first until you remember that over the course of the year it's just over $8 per month, and you get other benefits like upgraded shipping on amazon.com orders. Prime comes with a decent selection of movies although first run and new releases generally cost extra to rent or own. Some television is included but most of it is not free. The biggest frustration is trying to find a movie and only to find the one you want is $20 to own with no rental option. The menu is fairly intuitive but it is easy to get lost so remember that the circle is your "back" button.
While Hulu is better known as a TV service it does offer a decent range of movies, many in the documentary and art-house categories. Hulu has recently ventured into the original content arena but has yet to score a major hit, although that may change with the release of the 10 episode series The Handmaid's Tale, coming in April 2017. The interface is a little strange and at times content will just start playing whether you want it to or not. If TV is not your thing there is probably not enough on offer to interest you in the paid version, Hulu Plus. Plans start at $7.99/month.
Lest we forget, Playstation has its own app that comes with your PS4. Unlike any of the others on this list, Vue is a direct cable competitor. It live streams a variety of channels including some ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. It has a lot of the same features you would expect from a cable provider such as the ability to pause live TV, a DVR, and on-demand programming. With the ability to stream over multiple types of devices (FireTV for example) and no long-term contracts, Vue is giving cable a run for its money. That said, the price tag is comparable to most cable starting at $29 for a 50-channel bundle and upwards of $80 for larger packages.
Cable free Game of Thrones fans would be lost without it HBO Now. The HBO subscription app features an excellent selection of first-run movies along with original content and weekly shows such as John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. The $14.99 price tag is a little steep, but HBO original series and a nice back catalog of films will make it worthwhile for many viewers. The interface is clunky and confusing at times but some improvements have already rolled out over the last year, so hopefully more are on the way.
Naruto? Sword Art Online? Bleach? Anime addicts will fall in love with this free app filled with all their favorites. If you can stomach a few ads, the content is free. For $6.95/month you can enjoy all the ad-free anime goodness you can consume.