I have been moving my DVD collection to a 2 TB external hard drive, and I was wondering what my options are for viewing the media. I am not particularly interested in streaming the content since my internet is not great, but I would like to be able to view the shows and movies on my main TV. One of the most important things is that I want the media to be organized nicely. So, thumbnails, descriptions (and other meta data), and TV shows ordered my season and episode. A remote would also be nice, but if it can be controlled from an android phone that would be okay too. For the ports HDMI and USB 3.0 are optimal. Is there something that is rather inexpensive ($100 or less) that can do this?
Like BigElittles, I'm a Plex fan, and my current preferred method for viewing my own videos and photos is Plex-through-Amazon-Firestick. If I had a smart TV (w/web browser), I may have accessed Plex via the web interface - I have Plex running as a service on my home server.
I also use Kodi; it's possibly more expandable than Plex, but certainly I think Plex is the more polished of the two.
Prior to this, I used a Western Digital WDTV box and an AC Ryan Playon HD Mini - both essentially the same thing: a little box that connects to your network, and/or local storage and plugs directly into your TV. Out of the two, I preferred the WDTV box. Most of these devices have a fully functional remote, rather than the simplified remotes that come with the Firestick/Chromecast. Roku 3 is the current offering from the supposed 'market leader'; I don't have any experience of these, but they are well liked and respected.
Given the rise of Plex/Kodi & Firesticks/Chromecast, these Media Players are falling out of favour, so should be fairly cheap to pick up. In fact, I still have both of mine, because the resale value of them is so little.
Furthermore, unlike Firesticks\Chromecasts and the like, they don't require a computer/server/NAS to provide access to your external hard drive. You connect your TV to the media player and your external disk to the media player and you are up and running.
I would recommend a piece of software called plex media server. With a piece of hardware to attach to your TV. Plex is very responsive on gen 1 amazon firesticks, so 35$ and you are off to the races.
Plex will sort and organize your videos. Along with downloading all of the metadata you'd like. Subtitles, links to trailers, poster art.. you name it.. With the firestick attached to your TV, you use the provided remote and just watch what you want. It won't use your internet, but will use your network to stream the content.
Plex.tv is their website. They will try to upsell you a 5$ per month plan, you don't need it so don't bother signing up for it.
Side note, I'm a plex user and I also HATE how kodi looks. Welcome to plex my friend, welcome to plex.
For $100 or less, I'd honestly suggest you to get a used PlayStation 3 since it can do the stuff you described you're looking for. It displays playing clips instead of icons for the files, has many sorting options, and supports h264 and can output the content at 1080p. Best part of all? It can upscale DVDs to 1080p as well, even the file stored on your hard drive. PS3 can also be configured to use a BD Remote but the joystick which comes with the system will do just fine as well. In addition to all of this, you will also be getting one of the best blu-ray players, should you get back to collecting movies and tv shows the physical way. The only downside is that it uses USB 2.0 and has one HDMI output.