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Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide - Part 2: Installation & Configuration

Subject: Editorial

Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide - Part 2: Installation & Configuration

We're back with Part 2 of our cord cutting series, documenting our experience with dumping traditional cable and satellite providers in exchange for cheaper and more flexible online and over-the-air content. In Part 1 we looked at the devices that could serve as our cord-cutting hub, the types of subscription content that would be available, and the options for free OTA and online media.

In the end, we selected the NVIDIA SHIELD as our central media device due to its power, capabilities, and flexibility. Now in Part 2 we'll walk through setting up the SHIELD, adding our channels and services, configuring Plex, and more!

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Read on for Part 2 of our cord cutting experience!

Installing and Configuring Your Cord Cutting Setup

While everyone will have different wants and needs when it comes to a home media player, our scenario called for three major requirements: (1) access to our local channels, (2) the ability to use an on-demand personal media server like Plex, and (3) the ability to watch media at 4K resolution with HDR support. The SHIELD, thanks to some apps and add-ons, can easily handle our requirements.

There are a couple of ways to receive local channels via the SHIELD, most of which we covered in Part 1. For a subscription solution, an option like YouTube TV works well. For better quality without a monthly fee, however, a digital tuner and over-the-air antenna is a good alternative.

To satisfy the SAP ("spousal acceptance factor"), we wanted to keep as much functionality confined to a single app as possible, thus eliminating the need to switch apps for different types of content. Thankfully, Plex now supports live TV (including DVR) directly in the app. To use this feature, you'll need an HD antenna, TV tuner device, and, currently, a Plex Pass. Here's how to set it up.

Setting Up Plex

We've previously discussed setting up Plex both as a server and a client, and the Plex team also has excellent documentation for getting started on the service's website, so we won't go into too much detail here. In short, if you already have a Plex server running on another PC or NAS device, you're all set; the Plex app is included out of the box with the SHIELD.

One of the big features that sets SHIELD apart from its competitors, however, is that in addition to being a great Plex client, it can also act as a Plex server. The first time you launch the Plex app on your SHIELD, it will ask you if you'd like to enable the server functionality. If you decline, you can later enable the server feature in the Plex app's settings.

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When using SHIELD as a Plex server, you'll need to first add or mount your storage in the SHIELD settings (Settings > Storage & Reset). There are a number of storage options for your Plex media:

  • The SHIELD's built-in storage (on the 500GB HDD model)
  • microSD card
  • USB-attached external drive
  • Mounted network share

The key is to first add or setup your storage in the SHIELD settings, and then complete the Plex Media Server setup. Just make sure that whatever storage locations you choose are fully read/write accessible and using a compatible filesystem (exFAT, HFS+, NTFS). Check out this Plex support article for all of the details.

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After the Server is up and running, you can access its management interface via any browser. You can either log into your Plex account and see your list of servers there, or navigate directly to https://[SHIELD IP]:32400.

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Follow the getting started guides linked earlier to add content types to your library, and navigate to the storage locations you set up previously when prompted. One piece of advice: Plex by default will offer to "generate thumbnails" of your video content to aid in things like chapter selection, scrubbing, and playback status. If you have a large media library, these thumbnails can add up to a huge total file size, so those using the built-in storage or smaller external devices will want to uncheck this option when creating their media libraries.

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Once you've added your libraries, give Plex some time to download all of the relevant metadata. When it's done, you'll have a rich on-demand media library ready to enjoy.

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But we're not done yet. Next, we'll discuss setting up over-the-air live TV in Plex.

Video News

November 20, 2017 | 10:32 AM - Posted by Droid126

You can't run it on a Shield, but if your PLEX DVR is on a windows box, you have to get MCEbuddy, and comskip. It picks up the recordings and strips out the commercials. It works so much better than I ever thought possible.

November 20, 2017 | 02:10 PM - Posted by Scoz (not verified)

don't they both do the same thing? both mcebuddy and comskip? which would you set up first - i would love to know as im running a simliar setup and would like to avoid manually fast forwarding!

November 20, 2017 | 10:41 AM - Posted by OverAndDoneShortly (not verified)

When net neutrality goes the internet providers will be mostly the cable provider and content providers not owned directly by the internet provider/cable company will have to pay or their content will take forever streaming out the internet customer at the end of the deal. So look for all that free streaming content to become paid content. And digital over the air TV is a joke as they have so reduced the channel width and sold off the best signal propagating bands for over the air TV over for data usage. I can barely get good and stable TV reception and most of the over the air content is the bottom of the barrel total crap content and the signal drops every time a bus or truck comes down the street.

November 20, 2017 | 03:54 PM - Posted by Lunar

Um, actually the FCC just approved the ATSC 3.0 standard that will allow for even more channels to be available over the air in the future. The spectrum being sold off that you are referring to was actually do to improper planning from affiliates who chose to stick with VHF without taking into account the transmit power restrictions in place for VHF. And, the quality of content is purely subjective. I personally find that the cable networks have nothing but terrible reality TV garbage, with a few exceptions of course, whereas most of the shows we watch are on ABC, FOX, etc. Take for instance The Orville, The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, Blacklist, etc. Some of the best TV shows available are available over the air, in my SUBJECTIVE opinion. Don't conflate opinion with fact.

It's unfortunate that you get bad reception where you live, but for me I pull in TV stations from over 50 miles away using a roof mount antenna. I actually have to disable some of the channels because I get multiple ABC stations so I disable the one that isn't intended for my area. In total, after a channel scan, I'm pulling in 71 channels.

November 22, 2017 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Rocky123 (not verified)

Yea I cut the cord like 7 years ago no more cable TV or Sat TV. Get all of my TV and movie watching off of the internet. BUt if you want to stay all legal you are basically replacing one cable with another. Once you start doing subscriptions for things like Netflix or HULU etc etc it all adds up.

It is a lot nicer being able to pick your own content which is more important to me oh and no advertising every 2.5 minutes. I know if I go over to someones place and try to watch cable TV now I find myself getting very annoyed very fast because of the constant station breaks for advertising.

December 2, 2017 | 02:20 AM - Posted by Brad (not verified)

I am looking at doing this and I would like to get a NAS to store the content. What one would recommend? I have heard good things about WD, QNAP and Synology. I see that some say they have "plex support" but I am unsure how much power I would need the NAS to have. I would only need it to be able to do 1 maybe 2 streams at a time. Thanks.

December 5, 2017 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Lunar

If you plan on using the NAS as a Plex server, then I'd honestly recommend rolling your own. I've had very little success with transcoding on NAS devices. My recommendation is to build your own NAS box with a decent CPU and install FreeNAS or unRAID and go from there. You'll have plenty of power to handle transcodes, and if you play your cards right it could actually end up being cheaper than any of the dedicated NAS boxes. If you do decide to go with a NAS box though, you need to get one that specifically states it supports hardware transcoding. Usually you will pay a premium for that feature however. Synology has the DS418 and DS418Play NAS boxes which should have enough power to do what you want.

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