The NETGEAR R9000 Nighthawk is the very first consumer router to have a Plex Media Server built in -- and fortunately, it's not only easy to get started with it, but it's a performer as well. The onboard Annapurna Labs 1.7 GHz quad core processor does the heavy lifting not only for networking performance, but the Plex server as well.
Here's how to get started.
Note: Third party firmware for the R9000 such as OpenWRT does not, at this time, support the onboard Plex server to our knowledge. The below steps were performed with the factory NETGEAR firmware.
Enabling Plex on the R9000
First, Plex needs to be enabled on the router in order for it to begin working. The first step is to attach USB storage, preferably a device that has enough space for the media you want to store (photos, videos, music, etc.) and also supports the faster USB 3.0 standard. Once the USB device is connected, head to NETGEAR Genie (http://192.168.1.1) and click on the Plex Media Server tab.
After clicking the "Enable Plex Media Server" checkbox, Plex may begin to download and install on the router. Also, ensure that the "Enable Automatic Plex New Version Update" box is checked; this will tell the router to update the Plex server to the latest available version for the R9000.
Create a Plex Account
To get the most from Plex, an account can be created that will allow you to unlock its full potential. Plex is both a free and premium service, and the premium subscription (Plex Pass) makes many additional features available. Fortunately, NETGEAR includes a 3 month Plex Pass subscription for free, to make it easier to evaluate what's right for you and to take it for a test drive. So, the first step is to sign up. Once an account is created, the link in the R9000's interface will provide you with a code for the 3 month Plex Pass, which can be redeemed on Plex's site. Here's details on what comes with the Plex Pass.
Logging In to the Plex Server
Once the Plex Server finishes installing and updating on the R9000, I'd recommend performing a reboot. After reboot and logging back in to NETGEAR Genie, head to the same Plex Media Server tab and click "Open Plex." Note that the Plex Server is running directly on the router, and that the routeracts as a fully fledged host for the server. Meaning that when you connect via your mobile app, through the web interface, etc. the Plex system is communicating with the media hosted on the R9000. (This is easy to spot as the URL is routerlogin.net; the internal address of the router)
Plex will detect that the R9000 is running as an available server and guide you through the setup of your first library. The server can have multiple Plex libraries, and it's easy to create a library for each media type, e.g. music, movies, and so on. This guide assumes that media has been added to the attached USB drive and that it might be organized into folders, such as /music and so on. In the example above, we've selected the Movies folder on the USB drive that is attached to the router. The mount point may be unusual looking (ours was /tmp/mnt/sda1/Movies in this case) but should be simple to locate. Then, the media type is selected.
After this procedure is complete, the terms of service will need to be accepted as a matter of course, then the Plex playground is open!
Very shortly after, we were able to access the music located on the USB drive in the appropriate Plex library that was created in the initial steps. Depending on the settings, Plex will automatically download images, album covers, and metadata -- and this process starts with the default settings right away. The moment libraries are added and the terms accepted, the Plex server inside the router begins "doing its thing."
What the server is actually doing can be seen in the Event Log, as shown above.
Here's a shot of our small test movie library -- Plex can be seen downloading the appropriate metadata. Encoding and other tasks are also handled by Plex, and even though the movies on tap were of several different formats, all streamed right away with no difficulties.
At this point, the Plex server is now ready to go -- happy Plexing with your NETGEAR router!