Ultimate Cord Cutting Guide – Part 2: Installation & Configuration

We take our cord-cutting project from words to action.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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