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Plex review summary
- Plex TV is a platform for managing and storing your music, photos, videos and other media
- Plex’s free subscription gives you substantial access to most of the perks that you’d get with its premium Plex Pass service
- Plex functions as a personal server for you and your local and online content
- The Plex app works with most streaming devices like Android and iOS devices
- Plex supports high-quality streaming with 4K videos and lossless audio files
Keeping track of all your content is never an easy task. But as an application to store and organize all your media, Plex lets you create your own personal server. With it, you can store all of your personal music and videos, as well as plugins for streaming apps like Netflix. Plex is available with an impressive free subscription. The only other free service with a comparable quality that comes to mind is Kodi.
There’s also a premium version of Plex tagged as “Plex Pass.” You can choose to pay for the premium version by the month, year or lifetime. But more on that, and how to use Plex, below.
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Out of the 80+ channels that are included with Plex, none of them are actually live. Much like Pluto TV, the channels listed are preprogrammed. So, technically there’s no Plex Live TV in the traditional sense. At least, not without an over-the-top (OTT) antenna or TV provider. Most of the preprogrammed channels are comprised of old and classic marathons, videogame streams and lifestyle-related commentary.
For live national channels you’ll recognize, consider subscribing to a cable alternative service like fuboTV to use together with Plex. Otherwise, you’ll need an OTT antenna in order to pick up local channels.
|Local||Requires HD antenna|
What channels are missing from Plex?
Unless you’re pairing Plex with an OTT antenna device or cable-alternative service, don’t expect the same type of experience you’d get with a traditional TV provider. It’s like that old adage — you get what you pay for. Of the 86 channels that are currently hosted on Plex, about 56 of them support high-definition (HD) streaming. Although, that could mean anything between 720p standard HD or 1080p Full HD.
Channels that are missing from Plex’s preprogrammed live TV include pretty much every national network. There are a few sports channels like fubo Sports Network, but don’t expect the same kind of broadcasts you’d get with ESPN. News channels are limited, too, but Plex does carry Reuters.
Here are some channels you won’t find on Plex.
- Comedy Central
- Discovery Channel
- Food Network
With an OTT antenna, you could tap into the local channels in your market, like ABC, CBS and FOX. However, the exact channels you receive depends on your coverage area.
Plex bolstered its catalog of content in recent months. Some titles are beloved classics, while others should’ve been lost to the sands of time. For more on free movies and shows available on Plex, take a look at our initial thoughts from when it first launched.
Plex offers plugins rather than add-ons. These plugins are typically for content channels, like for Twitch and Vimeo. The beauty of Plex is that there really doesn’t seem to be a limit to what types of content you can reach.
With the Crunchyroll plugin, you’ll gain a direct line to 30,000 anime episodes, straight from Japan. You’ll just need a premium account to get the full experience. Crunchyroll plans include Fan ($7.99/mo.), Mega Fan ($9.99/mo.) and Ultimate Fan ($14.99/mo.).
Take hold of your Facebook account with the unofficial Facebook plugin. It’s optimized for Plex, bringing your photos and newsfeed right to your big screen. And just like Facebook, it’s free!
WebTools is one of the most-used plugins on Plex. Not only is it free, but it serves as a pipeline to first-party plugins, such as CBS, History Channel, iTunes, YouTube TV and more.
Plex vs. other streaming services
Plex tends to align much closer to other media management platforms like Embly and Kodi. However, for the sake of comparing Plex to other free services with TV channels, we’ve decided to put it up against Peacock, Pluto TV and Tubi. As free services, the concept of simultaneous streams almost seems irrelevant since anyone can create an account. And as you can see below, where Plex and Pluto TV offer a channel guide similar to traditional TV, Peacock and Tubi function on an on-demand basis.
|Service||Number of channels||Price||Simultaneous Streams|
|Plex||80+||Free, $4.99/mo., $39.99/yr., $119.99/lifetime||No limit|
Plex user experience
You have a few ways to set up your Plex Media Server. Just note that there’s no set Plex media player. The device you employ as your server needs to be powered on while in use with your other devices. Compatible computers include FreeBSD, Linux, macOS and Windows. But keeping your computer powered on at all times is bad for both your energy bill and the environment. So, you may want to also consider a network-attached storage (NAS) drive from a brand like Seagate or Western Digital.
With Plex, DVR features can be used to record and save local channels or broadcasts from any of your live TV apps.
One of the ways Plex really stands out is in quality. Plex has the ability to stream your content in 4K. And with TIDAL Hi-Fi, you’ll have access to solid audio with lossless and CD-quality streaming.
The Plex app is supported by a number of devices such as Android and iOS devices, along with Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku media players. Plex is also a good option for console gamers as it’s compatible with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Enjoy your content offline with Plex, too. The platform once used an offline syncing feature, but now you simply need to tap Download for content you want to use offline.
How much is Plex?
It’s no secret that you can experience some of the best Plex has to offer with its free subscription. Like a free Spotify subscription, the free version works best for personal use rather than sharing with multiple users. There are other free cable-alternative services out there like Peacock and Pluto TV, but unlike Plex, they don’t serve as a platform for all of your media.
For additional features like expanded offline capabilities and sharing features, you’ll probably want Plex Pass. There’s only one premium Plex service, but three ways to pay for it. You can opt to pay $4.99/mo., $39.99/yr. or a one-time payment of $119.99 for life.
There are other platforms out there that are comparable to Plex. For instance, Kodi is entirely free and is more customizable than Plex. But Plex is a better option for you if you’re not interested in working with complicated coding. Another service is Emby, which mostly matches the Plex price points — offering a free tier and a premium that costs $4.99/mo., $54/yr. and $119 for a lifetime.
No, Plex isn’t illegal. In recent years, brands like Kodi and Plex have developed somewhat of a reputation for using software to pirate content. However, that’s only because these platforms are highly customizable and allow you to code and use plugins to manipulate them. They don’t supply the content directly but work as pipelines to navigate to them. But, by using Plex as it was originally intended, you’ll be fine.
Plex is as good as you make it. If you’re someone who would prefer to part ways from more corporatized means of streaming, while housing all your media in one place, then Plex is a decent option. For a more authentic TV experience, you’ll still need to hook up devices like an OTT antenna and receiver. Or, you could consider pairing it with a cable-alternative service like Sling TV. For the most optimal results, you’ll want Plex Pass.
Plex Pass isn’t currently offering any free trials. But with its free version, you can still get a feel for how Plex Pass will work. And for only $4.99/mo., about the same price as a venti mocha latte from Starbucks, you can give Plex Pass a try. And if it’s not for you, simply cancel it for the next month.
Yes, the Plex app is available on a number of your devices — of which we’ve covered above. You can stream or download your apps, music, photos and videos from your Plex Media Server.
Plex Pass is the premium version of Plex. With a subscription to Plex Pass, you’ll get a variety of useful additional features. Some of our favorites are its capability to support multiple users and offline mobile syncing. But there are a few other benefits like the detailing of bandwidth, media-centric and other user stats. In addition to enhanced audio, Plex Pass also presents lyrics for your music. Another standout feature comes in the form of its photo timeline. With its organized timeline view, you’ll be able to automatically upload, categorize and tag photos from your mobile device to your server.
By Zack Kulm
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