What’s great about having digital copies of songs, movies and TV shows is that, with the right tools, you can transfer the file between devices. Want to catch up on a movie you own on the go? Put the file on your mobile. However, something you’ll notice after buying tons of media: where do you put it all?
Yes, it can hang out on your computer or mobile device, but that’ll fill your phone or tablet up fast and it can be a tedious task to organize the dozens or hundreds of media files you have. You need something that can serve as a hub for your content. And it just so happens that here, two media center applications are going head-to-head to see which is better.
So, which is better: Emby or Plex?
What is Emby?
Emby, like Plex, is an open source media center application that acts as a platform for your music, movies, videos, pictures and TV shows. By using Emby as the central hub, you have the ability to stream your content to other devices like you would with today’s cable services like Xfinity.
With Emby’s open source nature, one can create plugins that bolster the features that Emby can be used for. Of course, the legitimacy of some plugins is an area of contention, a conversation best saved for another time and not one being discussed here. Suffice it to say that Emby has the capacity to access content that may not have been obtained through legal means (Emby doesn’t condone those kinds of plugins; it’s just the nature of open source programs).
With that being said, Emby doesn’t stream content, you do. The media that’s being viewed comes from your hands.
What is Plex?
Plex, like Emby, is a digital media player that provides a place to store your movies, pictures, videos, TV shows and music. While that is its main goal, it does have the power to view live television with the use of plugins. If you want to watch a channel like, say, Comedy Central, you could.
Imagine being able to place your media on a single device and rather than copy those files to another device for your viewing pleasure, that single device can act as a media server, a library for your media, like your computer. Then, when you feel like getting off your computer, pick up your tablet or mobile device and stream your media library to your phone without ever having to copy the files to the device.
Getting Everything Ready
As far as getting Emby or Plex running, this can be chalked up as another tie. The installation process of both is really similar. You download and install the program and let the program itself do the work for you. And if you plan on using a device to watch your content on, you’ll need to install the app to each device you want to stream your library to.
While Plex does have a slight uphand with its server setup, with it being a little more user friendly, Emby doesn’t fall far behind and the most you’ll have to do is “Google” a term or two.
Navigating the interface in both Emby and Plex are very similar. However, the point has to go to Plex for having an interface that feels more professional and less heavy on sensory overload.
The interfaces themselves are similar in nature by organizing the media in different categories, like you would see on Netflix. The reason Plex gets the point is because Emby tends to cram together as many movies and videos together on the menu; Plex, on the other hand, spaces out your content more, providing a menu that doesn’t have you darting around the screen too much.
Live TV and DVR
When it comes to Live TV and DVR, both Emby and Plex offer it as a feature, but both can also take a swing at each and still stand back up. For example, Emby will let you watch Live TV through the web app, but if you want to watch it on your phone, then you’ll have to be a subscriber of Premiere. Plex, on the other hand, only offers Live TV through its Plex Pass, but the number of devices that Plex supports for tuners and such can’t be matched by Emby.
Plex is going to have to take the point home on this one, just for the sheer number of support equipment. You can everything they support on their Accessories page.
Local and Remote Streaming
If you want to stream any of your content to any devices in your home, you’ll have to pay for it, whether it’s the Plex Pass or Emby Premiere. Plex limits the length of time you can view streamed content (a minute) and enjoy the watermarks that are on any photos you view.
Emby has the same deal. You want to stream on other devices, you’ll have to pay. Of course, the app itself is free to download.
Until you pay for either of the premium packages, you’ll be stuck using the device that houses your server as your media device. Remote streaming for both Emby and Plex is the same song and dance as their local streaming feature: pay for it.
Customization Options and Add-Ons
Emby swings back with its level of customization and it’s all thanks to its open source nature, of which Plex is not; Plex is closed. In fact, you can tweak the UI to something that works better for you, thereby making Emby the better to navigate within, however, it’s something you have to seek out yourself and it may or may not require the use of CSS.
Plex just doesn’t have the level of customization Emby brings to the table. Ten points will be awarded to House Emby. With that being said, Emby and Plex are closer in match when it comes to add-ons and extensions.
Both Plex and Emby have great communities that can make Emby and Plex shine like they’ve never shone before. For example, if you want access to a number of channels that officially supported by Plex, you can look into the extension called “Unsupported App Store,” an extension that mirrors “Channels,” an official add-on for Plex.
It’s hard to place a number on this one, but the point should go to Emby. While Plex does have the bigger library of extensions, it’s due solely on the fact that Plex has been around longer. But the open source nature Emby has leaves room for extensions and add-ons that Plex may have trouble competing against.
This is another aspect that has to go to Plex. To be fair, Emby and Plex have supported devices that crisscross with one another, but Plex just has a higher number of compatible devices.
Let’s take support Smart TVs, for example. Emby supports: Apple TVs, Android TV, LG Smart TVs and Samsung Smart TVs. Not a bad lineup, since that knocks out the bigger names. Plex, on the other hand, supports: LG Smart TVs, Panasonic Smart TVs, Samsung Smart TVs, Sony Smart TVs, TiVo Smart TVs, Toshiba Smart TVs, Vizio Smart TVs.
What’s the Cost?
First, let’s talk about free vs. premium. For starters, Plex does offer its platform for free, however, there are some serious limitations that can count as a potential strike against it and Emby is in the same boat.
Both offer their platform, the media server, and their app as free downloads, but limit the app to the point that buying Plex Pass or Emby Premiere, their respective subscriptions, is a must.
For example, both Plex and Emby allows its users to use a device as a media server, the central hub from which all your content is housed in. But if you wanted to watch a movie, say, on your smartphone, you may have a minute or two before you’re cut off.
What’s the subscription looking like? They’re almost identical, with Plex having a slightly better deal with its yearly subscription, however, Emby has a ton of different options, more than just monthly, yearly and lifetime.
The Cost of Plex
The Cost of Emby
All in all, it seems fairly even. Plex may have a cheaper yearly subscription fee, but Emby has a lot of different premiere options. This is a toss up.
Which is Better?
Let’s face it: Plex is, arguably, better. Plex appeals to more devices, while Emby lags behind–not by much, to be fair–but that could change in the near future.
Not only the compatibility, but the friendliness. Plex is just easier to handle for new users. Perhaps when Emby opens up more support for more devices, then come back and see how Emby is doing.
But until then, Plex reigns supreme.