We expected Plex to get some love in the nominations, but we didn't expect it to be as overwhelming as it was. It's true, Plex is a stellar media server and media center application, with mobile apps that let you take your music and movies with you on virtually any mobile device or operating system without worrying whether that system can play them. Plex transcodes on the fly, automatically adjusts its performance and quality for available bandwidth, and is a snap to set up. It works just as well locally on your home network as it does with your mobile device when you're out and about on 3G or 4G. If you have a supported set-top box, it's even easier. The desktop app is free, the mobile apps are $5, and the MyPlex media center hub gives you control over your files on the go.
Subsonic has been around for a long time, but it's still an excellent option. It's most often used for music, but it also supports video. As long as the video format you have supports streaming over HTTP, Subsonic can show it to you on almost any device. After you get it running on your home network, Subsonic can also be configured to allow remote access to your media, so you can enjoy it on your mobile device or sitting at a laptop far away from your media collection. Subsonic also supports a number of set-top boxes, and can manage podcasts. It even has a handy web UI to manage your server from abroad. All of those features are more setup-intensive than some of the other contenders, but it's free, open source, and even the mobile apps are free to download. Keep in mind though: If you want to use Subsonic's advanced features, and you want to use it in conjunction with the mobile apps for longer than the 14-day free trial, you'll need to cough up at least a $15 donation to the project.
PlayOn is a simpler take on a media server that focuses on two things: the media you already own, and web-based television from streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video On-Demand, ESPN, CNN, NBC, and many others. PlayOn supports streaming from the server app to any DLNA-compliant TV, set-top box, or game console. There are apps for iOS and Android that allow you to enjoy your media on the Wi-Fi or 3G/4G, once paired with your computer. PlayOn doesn't transcode or offer remote management features—as long as the app is running and your computer isn't sleeping, it works. It's biggest benefit is access to web-only programming. You can download and try PlayOn for free, but if you want access to all channels and features, you'll need to pay $90 (currently on sale for $40) for a Lifetime license. If you want PlayOn's new "PlayLater" DVR/recording service, you'll need to cough up $129 (currently $60). It's pricey, but minimal configuration and supported by a company, so you have someone to call if you need help.
Serviio is a contender we weren't terribly familiar with until those of you who nominated raved about it. Not only does Serviio stream across your home network to connected TVs from a variety of manufacturers, it also supports Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and the PS3 and XBox 360. It's also DLNA compliant, so it works seamlessly with supported devices on the same network, but it doesn't stop there. Serviio transcodes video and audio on the fly in both standard and high definition, can stream from online sources, live TV streams, RSS feeds, and more, and can be configured to stream to the internet—assuming you're using the supported web-based media player or the Serviio Android app. There are community-contributed apps for Windows Phone and Android as well, but they're mobile consoles for the Serviio server application running back home. Serviio is free, but if you want to contiue using the web player or access your content when you're off of your home network, you'll need to pony up $25 for a Pro license.
The PS3 Media Server started out as a project to just transcode and stream media from a computer to a PS3 somewhere on your home network, but it's grown to be much more than that. The app is DLNA compliant, so it supports just about any device on your home network that's DLNA or UPNP compatible, and it doesn't take a ton of configuration to do it. You'll need to do some heavy lifting with port forwarding and dynamic addressing to get access to your media outside of your home network with a DLNA-compatible device, but we've shown you how to do that before. While the app is PS3-centric, it also supports a number of Smart TVs natively, can pass media through VLC, so if you're playing internet radio or streaming TV on your computer, you can send it through to the PS3, and even supports browsing FLick