After years of demanding a full-blown PC to act as the brains of the operation, the popular Plex media player software is finally branching out to embrace other devices. Mere weeks after bringing its Media Server software to Nvidia’s Shield TV, the company’s teamed with Western Digital to create a solution for media-slinging on the go: The new WD My Passport Wireless Pro portable drive is “the first fully self-contained, battery-powered, portable Plex Media Server device.”
That’s pretty exciting, actually. Plex’s Media Server software lets you beam your locally stored media to any nearby devices that have a Plex client app installed—it’s essentially like a little self-contained Netflix for your own stuff. And the WD My Passport Wireless Pro isn’t just battery-powered, it can also create an impromptu Wi-Fi hotspot for connectivity to other devices. So once you’ve loaded the device up with Plex and some music, movies, or photos, you’ve got everything you need to bring your media library with you around the world.
Freedom doesn’t come cheap, though. The My Passport Wireless Pro costs $360 for a 2TB version, or if you want to store a lot of media, $420 for a 3TB model. Plex, on the other hand, is free unless you opt for a premium Plex Pass to unlock some handy secondary features.
The story behind the story: Stuffing Plex’s Media Server onto a portable hard drive demands one notable compromise. Unlike the Media Server software for PCs and Nvidia’s Shield TV, the My Passport Wireless Pro cannot transcode media on-the-fly to ensure it’ll play on the Plex client device. That means you’ll need to make sure any video or music you plan on streaming from the portable drive to a Plex client—which can be installed on tablets, phones, PCs, et cetera—needs to be stored in a format that the client can already read.