Plex is likely the best media server app available, assuming you own some digital movies and television.
It is well worth at least a few hours of your effort, whether you’re a video hoarder with hundreds of movies crying for a media server or a casual streamer seeking for a different approach.
Continue reading to find out what it is and how you can make it work for you.
What Is Plex?
Plex is a media management platform that consists of two components: media server software (Plex Media Server) and a new playback application (Plex), which replaces its Media Player.
The advantage of this solution is that you only need to worry about keeping your file collection on your server up to date.
The Plex app syncs your media library across all of your devices.
The latest Plex News
- Plex’s Discovery and Watchlist features are now in beta.
- Plex issues on the Nvidia Shield TV have been addressed in a new release.
Plex is accessible as a free service as well as a subscription tier called Plex Pass.
While the free tier does not charge you on a monthly basis, there is a $5 platform activation cost if you wish to use the Plex Android and iOS apps.
Premium membership is $5 per month, $40 per year, or $120 for lifetime access.
If you use it frequently, the lifetime pass will pay for itself in less than two years; otherwise, use your best judgment.
It’s also important mentioning what you can and cannot obtain for free.
You may host a media server, stream content to any non-mobile Plex app (computer, streaming player, game console, and smart TV), and view ad-supported TV and movies with Plex’s free subscription.
As previously noted, the mobile apps aren’t free, but even if you don’t have a Plex Pass Premium subscription, activating one of them costs $5 once.
It’s also possible that the free tier will be sufficient for the vast majority of customers, especially given that Plex doesn’t conceal any of its navigation or auto-sorting functions behind a paywall.
The Premium subscription, on the other hand, includes a number of intriguing features.
New Plex Features
It released two new features as part of a beta upgrade in April 2022.
Discovery helps you locate new material on any streaming provider and displays what’s trending across all of your streaming services.
Then, no matter what device you’re using, the new Watchlist function helps you keep track of what you want to watch.
It also provides direct access to the services where those shows and movies are available.
Plex Live TV
A top Plex Pass feature is live TV and DVR capabilities, which allows you to connect an antenna, tuner, and hard drive at home and then broadcast it remotely to your Plex account.
It will even provide a detailed guide based on your local listings.
It’s quite beneficial – at least if you like network TV and can’t watch episodes live.
A Premium subscription also grants you access to mobile apps (provided you haven’t already paid to activate them), trailers and extras for movies you own, and lyrics for your song library.
It’s also the only way to acquire its parental controls.
Unless you particularly want live TV recording, I believe the benefits of the Premium subscription are quite minimal.
However, the subscription is not prohibitively pricey.
How Much Does Plex Cost?
It provides a free account if you want to sample hosting files4 or don’t require advanced services.
This tier includes all of the basic media organization and streaming features, as well as the ability to cast to other devices and compatibility for a wide range of media types, including 4K.
You may also share your server with others, use its VR app, and control playback using voice controls on supported hardware with this account level.
A premium Plex Pass account, which costs $4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $119.99 for a lifetime subscription, is recommended for more advanced users.
A Plex Pass contains everything in the free account, as well as a slew of added convenience features.
Plex Pass customers, for example, gain Premium Photos and Music features such as auto-tagging and automated lyrics, as well as support for Live TV via an antenna and tuner and offline mobile syncing.
Plex Pass also includes multi – user support, an organizing view called the Timeline, and early access to upcoming Plex features.
To test the service, we used a Plex Pass account.
Because of Plex’s agreement with Tidal, you may subscribe to both services as a bundle for a lower monthly fee.
The Tidal Premium service is combined with proprietary Plex audio features such as artist recommendations, customizable playlists, and universal search tools for $9.99 per month.
Plex will even leverage Tidal’s music catalogue to supplement missing albums for artists in your music library.
Plex also provides a Tidal Hi-Fi + Plex Pass option for $19.99 a month, which unlocks Tidal’s best quality streams (lossless and CD) as well as all of the Plex Pass benefits.
How to Set Up and Use a Plex Server
The first step in getting started with Plex is to download the server application onto the device where you save your media collections.
You can set up and manage several servers under the same account if you have a Plex Pass subscription.
Remember that whichever device you install the server software on must be turned on in order to access the media.
If you are concerned about the expense of electricity (either monetary or environmental), consider employing a NAS device as your server rather than a full-fledged PC, which takes more power.
Plex’s installation procedure is straightforward.
Simply follow all of the directions, and the programme will launch a browser window with a prompt to connect to your web login.
The last step is to give your server a name and add your media directories.
Users can either use pre-selected folders or build their own.
To add a folder, click the Add Library button, choose a content type (Movies, TV Shows, Music, Photos, or Other Videos), and explore your local hard drive for media assets.
Plex provides additional contextual categorization choices based on the type of media.
Plex, for example, offered to automatically detect and categorise things in our test Photos collection.
After you’ve added all of your media libraries and finished the setup, Plex will take you to a web application where you may access and alter the contents of your server.
If you want to give others outside your network access to your server, you must enable Remote Management under the Settings > Server > Remote Access section.
Plex’s web application is clean and modern, with a plethora of user options.
We especially like the dark default theme.
In terms of themes and personalization, Plex now offers a selection of Color Themes, including bright, dark, and moonlight.
However, Kodi still provides more powerful interface customisation.
A search bar appears at the top, followed by navigation tools on the left.
The right-hand side of the screen houses account settings and interface choices.
Plex organises media library categories and other content sections, such as news videos and plug-ins, along the left sidebar.
The middle of the interface is where you may browse and play the most recent files on your server.
You can also filter by file type and edit individual file details.
The settings panel’s breadth of options will appeal to power users.
The first thing you should do in the Web and Server sections is enable the advanced settings.
The Web area allows users to customize the streaming quality and player settings to your liking.
Because the server is the most important component of any Plex setup, the Server section is unsurprisingly considerably more detailed.
At the top level, you can check for server software updates, allow remote access, and configure network encryption.
Plex also offers a variety of media-related choices for your library, as well as the ability to configure Plex’s DVR capabilities.
The next tab over, Users, allows you to provide others access to your Plex server.
Plex allows you to add two sorts of accounts under the My Home tab: existing Plex users and managed users.
If you add someone who already has a Plex account, each of their accounts will have equal access to your server.
Managed users are a subset of Plex accounts; this setting is important for controlling content access limits. You can also invite friends to your Plex Server.
You have complete control over which libraries your Friends can access. Plex Pass customers will also receive a new dashboard for monitoring server usage and user activity.
These visualisations and infographics are handy for delving into data about how various users consumed server content over time.
Aside from being cool to have, these numbers could assist you select what content to delete from your server if you’re running low on space.
Movies, Live TV, and News
Plex provides all users with a free assortment of movies and TV series to stream.
It recently acquired Crackle’s entire collection, greatly expanding the size and quality of the Plex repertoire.
Plex categorises movies in horizontally scrolling categories such as Most Popular, Top Movies on Crackle, Plex Picks, Only on Plex For A Limited Time, TV Shows, and others.
Plex’s filmography includes 10 Cloverfield Lane, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Capote, Cube, El Mariachi, Friday the 13th (1980), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Ghost in the Shell 2.0, I Am Not Your Negro, Keanu, Lord of War, Night of the Living Dead, Patriot Games, Silent Hill, St. Vincent, The Founder, and The Glass Castle at the time of writing.
Because of the relationship with Crackle, both the movie and TV show areas have enhanced.
Plex’s on-demand collection is large enough that it should be considered by everyone seeking for a free video streaming service.
Please keep in mind that you cannot claim any titles for your personal server, and that this library is temporary.
Having said that, several of the movies we looked at are available to stream in 1080p.
The service now includes a variety of preprogrammed live TV channels similar to those seen on Pluto TV or Xumo (though those offer far more channels).
Plex has 86 channels in total, with 57 of them available in HD.
Docurama, Fubo Sports Network, RetroCrush, Reuters, Revry, Tastemade, The Film Detective, The Pet Collective, Toon Goggles, Yahoo Finance, and various music-focused channels are among those available.
This live content is available to all Plex users.
Both these channels and the on-demand library have parental restrictions.
Another new feature is News, which is a compilation of recent and newsworthy video content.
Plex arranges information in a number of focused categories on the main screen, but you may browse all categories at once via the left-hand menu.
Business, Lifestyle, Politics & Government, Science & Technology, Sports, and World News are among them.
You can also search by channel, such as Associated Press, The Guardian, and Reuters.
You can pick your location and select the topics that most interest you in the Personalize area.
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to host any of those movies, TV series, or news videos yourself; they’re all accessible through the Plex app.
Web Shows devoted to certain categories, such as Entertainment and Electronics, no longer have their own section, but they remain available within the app.
If you like a show, you can save it to your My Shows list.
Plex has also included additional features to assist you in finding what you want to watch.
With Discovery, you can search for movies and TV shows across all of your subscription services. Add them to the Universal Watchlist to keep track of what you want to watch later.
Plex on Android
We tested Plex on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10.
We had no issue checking in to our account, and all of our media appeared promptly. The left-hand menu has the majority of the same settings as the web application.
You can choose between media kinds on the bottom bar, which includes News, Photos, and Music.
A Cast icon appears in the upper right corner of the screen, as it does in most modern streaming programmes.
Unfortunately, deactivating personal data gathering is not simple, nor does it appear to be feasible to totally opt out.
You can scroll down to the Privacy > Privacy Preferences page from your main account page, however this just gives you the option to prevent playback data gathering.
Plex has to do a far better job of providing choices for consumers, particularly Plex Pass subscribers, to easily prevent data collecting.
If you install Plex on a system that has a VPN, you may experience connection problems.
Plex suggests that you disconnect the VPN during the connection phase and then re-enable it immediately after.
Antivirus software might sometimes cause connectivity problems.
Common sense might also help to defend your media server.
If you want to share your Plex server with another user, for example, be sure you have the necessary account details before sending out the invite.
Otherwise, someone with adequate access to your server could remove material or modify server settings without your knowledge.
In any event, you might use an online backup service to back up your Plex server data or your whole media collection.
- Capable free version
- Intuitive apps on multiple platforms
- Simple setup
- HTPC support only via forums
- Limited UI styles
- Removed functionality such as gaming and podcasts
How to watch Plex Offline
One thing to keep in mind regarding this feature is that it will only save the content to the device you are now using, rather than the cloud. That means you can’t use it offline on another device unless you manually download it there as well. However, keep in mind that the offline download capability for mobile devices will require the Plex Pass update.
How to download Plex shows
1. Find the content you want to download
Select the content that you want to download. This could range from movies and television series to music and podcasts. Plex allows you to download complete shows and seasons, as well as individual episodes, for offline viewing of TV shows.
2. Initiate the download
To begin the download, choose “Download” from the context menu of each item you want to save for offline viewing.
This menu appears when you hover over a poster or in the upper right-hand corner of pre-play screens.
This menu appears on the right side of each row for individual items in list view, such as a music track from an album.
If you intend to download a full TV series or podcast, Plex will allow you to limit the amount of unplayed episodes that will be downloaded.
You can even select whether to remove the episode from your “Downloads” library once you’ve finished watching/listening to it.
If you wish to cancel a download that isn’t yet finished, you can do so using the same context menu.
Alternatively, you can click the red “X” next to an item in your “Downloads” collection.
How to access and manage Plex downloads
The Plex Downloads library will contain all of the stuff you’ve downloaded. To watch a downloaded video offline or listen to podcasts and music tracks, simply go to this library. The same library will also show you downloads that are currently in progress, and you can cancel the task from here.
Here’s how to access and manage your Plex Downloads library, as well as play the stuff you’ve downloaded:
1. Go to your Downloads library
To access your Downloads library, select “Downloads” from the left sidebar of your Plex home screen.
This will display all of the content that is now or has recently been downloaded.
2. Sort your downloaded titles
Plex allows you to sort these downloaded titles so you can locate what you’re looking for faster.
Click the second button on your screen, next to “All Downloads,” to bring up a drop-down menu of sorting options.
You’ll be able to arrange these downloaded files by date of download, disc size, and title.
Sorting your downloads by title will put them in alphabetical order.
If you know the title of the show you want to watch, this makes it easy to find it.
Sorting them by date of download allows you to quickly identify your most recent or oldest downloads and view or delete them to free up space.
And if you sort them on disc by size, you should be able to quickly locate the larger files in case you wish to delete them to make room for fresh downloads.
3. Select the content you want to watch offline
Click on the poster or artwork of any title you want to watch to begin playing your downloaded content.
This will immediately start playback, allowing you to sit back and relax while watching your favourite movies and shows or listening to an engrossing podcast. Click on the download title to view additional information about the content or to access more items under it, such as episodes, seasons, and tracks.
Assume you’ve downloaded the first season of Fear the Walking Dead.
Plex will automatically begin playing the season from the first episode if you click on the show artwork.
However, if you click on the name of the show, for example, Fear the Walking Dead, it will open up a list of episodes from which you may choose one to begin watching.
4. Delete watched titles from your library
If you wish to erase the content you’ve viewed to make room in your Downloads library, click the red “X” button on the right side of each title. The downloaded files will be removed from your Plex Downloads library. This step will halt the process of any unfinished downloads.
Is Plex Free?
Plex Media Server is free to use and comes with the Plex Web App.
Our ‘Movies & Shows’ streaming service is ad-supported and free for all users.
Connect a compatible tuner and antenna to your server to view live over-the-air broadcasts available in your area.
How do I log into Plex Server?
In the address bar, type http://server.local.ip.address:32400/web (for example, “http://192.168.1.5:32400/web”).
The browser will establish a connection to the server and load the Plex Web App.
Is Plex Legal?
Plex is absolutely legal when streaming from their server or uploading personal media that was lawfully bought and reproduced.
The user, on the other hand, can save unlawfully obtained content on their personal media server.
Is Plex a safe app?
It provides all-around protection to protect your media library, Plex account/server details, and Plex-connected streaming devices from data leaks, privacy violations, and hacker attempts.
Is Plex worth paying for?
Is the Plex Pass worthwhile?
Here are a few reasons why you might not require the subscription.
Plex is a must-have piece of software if you have a large amount of locally saved media on your PC.
Unlike Kodi, it is simple to start up and offers apps for every major operating system and video streaming device.
Can you get Plex TV channels on?
With a Plex app, you can stream these local channels to any device, including your phone, tablet, streaming stick, or smart TV.
Any Plex user can add free local TV to their server.
Plex Pass users, on the other hand, gain access to additional, incredibly valuable features.
Plex’s biggest features are all free, so there’s no reason not to try it out for yourself.
If you’re looking for content for your media server, try downloading some public domain movies and giving it a shot.
Getting a Plex server up and running normally takes less than half an hour, and installing an app takes even less time.
Over the last few years, Plex has been one of my favourite streaming services, but I’ve also been able to purchase a lot of my own stuff.
If you don’t have your own media library, you might wonder what all the excitement is about – but if you do, you might wonder what you did before Plex.