Are you also joining the expanding list of cord-cutters and ready to set up a home media server? Which media server software do you prefer, Emby or Plex? Haven’t made up your mind yet? No problem. We’ve got you covered. On this page, you’ll get to know what Emby and Plex are and see their differences in the Emby vs. Plex comparison. Hope this article could help you make the decision.
In the world of home media, two media server giants, Plex and Emby, are vying for the first place. What is Plex? What is Emby? Is Emby better than Plex? Find your answer through the following Emby vs. Plex details.
Many people tend to consider Plex and Emby as Kodi alternatives for the software shares some similar functions like media streaming. Yet, in effect, they serve for quite different purposes. Kodi is a media player to play your local media files primarily (the Internet is not needed). Plex and Emby, on the other hand, are client-server media players to stream videos, music, photos to your client devices both locally and remotely (the Internet is required). BTW, Emby was developed from Plex when Plex decided to go closed-source.
The two software is now commonly used to build one’s personal media library. You might argue what’s the point of creating a media library when the likes of Netflix, HBO, and Hulu are available for convenient media streaming. Well, put emphasis on the word “personal”. That means you can curate any content you like, say, the rare old songs, 4K movies, family photos, and anything you cannot get from the online streaming services, to your media database. And you own them forever with free access to the content anytime, anywhere. It’s a bit like DIY your own version of Netflix. With media server software like Emby and Plex, one can have a much more colorful audiovisual experience.
Plex and Emby follow a server-client model. By installing the Plex and Emby media servers on the computer, NAS, or Xbox game console, the server will organize video, audio, and photos from your media collections and online services. And you, with the corresponding media players on the client devices such as mobile phones and TV, can access and stream that content locally and remotely. Look at the picture that shows the process below.
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After acquiring the basic knowledge of Plex and Emby, let’s delve deeper into their differences in the following Emby vs. Plex comparison:
Both Plex and Emby are cross-platform supported and can be installed on computers running all the major operating systems as well as a quantity of NAS devices. But Plex has a relatively wider choice than Emby. See the detail below:
Plex and Emby Media Servers Supported Devices
Computers: Windows, Mac, Linux, and FreeBSD
Gaming Consoles: NVIDIA SHIELD
Network-Attached Storage (NAS): Netgear ReadyNAS, WD My Cloud & My Passport, QNAP, Synology, Thecus, Asustor, TerraMaster, unRAID
Service Platform: Docker
Plex Only: Drobo, Seagate, My Passport Wireless Pro (Mobile Storage), NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 (Router)
Emby Only: FreeNAS, Open Media Vault, Cloudron
Plex and Emby Media Players Supported Devices
Streaming Devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Kodi, Roku, Smart TVs (LG/Samsung/Vizio)
Mobile: Android, Android Auto, iOS
Computers: Windows, macOS, Web App, Media Media Center
Gaming Consoles: NVIDIA SHIELD, PlayStation, Xbox
Home Accessories: Amazon Alexa, Sonos
Plex Only: Caavo, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, Lenovo Mirage Solo VR
Installing client media players is easy for both. But setting up the server software requires a little more effort. Yet comparing the whole installation process of the two, Plex is much easier to set up while Emby has a higher learning curve. Where Plex simplifies for the users, Emby cares for the delicates. For example, Emby offers a laundry list of control options, like whether and how to enable thumbnails, when building a library.
In short, Plex is more user-friendly to new beginners, and Emby suits more seasoned users.
Emby outstrips Plex in the field of customization as Emby provides more control over home screen design as well as more flexibility to apply plugins. Plex, however, became lagged since the shut-down of the plugin service two years ago (such a pity).
Today, Plex allows you to modify your home screen, edit the navigation sidebar, and other basic customization. And that’s pretty much it. Some might find it in a way simpler and considerate if they have less interest in the personalizing stuff.
Emby, on the other hand, can help you create a more characterized media software cater to your own taste, such as improving Web App via CSS, importing IPTV playlists, and enhancing features through various plugins.
In a word, Plex focuses on simplicity, whereas Emby centers on all-roundness.
Emby and Plex have their own free and premium products. The premium versions are offered as Plex Pass and Emby Premium. And the features provided by the two software are alike in both free and paid versions. But there are still some differences.
In free versions (the server and app themself are free), Plex and Emby give you the privilege to organize your media collections as you like. You are also granted access to media full playback on non-mobile, public apps like PC or mobile browser, Roku, Apple TV, Smart TVs (LG and Samsung). Mobile apps on Android and iOS are, however, limited to one-minute playback only. Unlike Emby, Plex also supports full playback on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and game consoles, the platforms that Emby offers with only limited playback. Besides the playback feature, Plex also gives ad-supported “Movies & TV” streaming service free to all users. Plex “News”, “Podcasts”, and “Web Shows” are also made free to the general public.
The paid services of both software are very similar, even with the pricing. Plex Pass charges $4.99/month, $39.99/year, $119.99/lifetime and Emby Premium costs $4.99/month, $54/month, $119/lifetime. The premium features included are: full playback on all devices; Live TV & DVR; download/sync media files; hardware-accelerated transcoding; 4K support, and more. Plex now also has a dash control to keep tabs on your server from your desktop and Plexamp to upgrade your audio listening.
In a nutshell, Emby offers fewer features on its freeware than Plex does. If you are an Apple user and don’t want to pay for advanced features, go with Plex. But if you like to experience full features, both Plex and Emby are good options.
As it has been stated in the last section, both Plex and Emby support streaming media files locally and remotely so long as there is an Internet connection. The only thing merits attention is that not all client devices support full playback for free. Plex acts more generously than Emby on this matter by giving free full playback support to more client devices. Yet this advantage lost its strength when you choose to go premium.
Live TV & DVR are premium features in Plex and Emby. Here are the differences between Plex and Emby Live TV & DVR:
Plex supports more tuners and antennas than Emby does. Plex support VBox, Antennas Direct, HDHomeRun, DVBLogic, AVerMedia, Hauppauge, HD Frequency, and Mohu. Emby only supports HDHomeRun and Hauppauge.
However, Emby could compensate for this defect by importing IPTV playlists, which is more convenient.
Also, Plex can only present about 450 channels while Emby has no such limits.
One of the greatest things about building a home media server is that you can share the media library with your family and friends. Emby offers this feature for free. As for Plex, the users need a Plex Pass to unlock this feature.
Both Plex and Emby are well-received by many people. But recent years have seen a tendency moving towards Emby. Some Plex old users are abandoning Plex for Emby because of the removal of the Plex plugin service. They are also choosing Emby for its rapid development, though Emby still has a long way to go. But according to the go-Emby users, Emby has outperformed Plex in quite some respects, like scrapping information for the movies and more efficient database management.
Complaints about Emby still exist, like its inaccuracy in identifying TV series. It also has a lame photo library scanning feature. Plex, however, excels in that fields.
Nevertheless, Plex still keeps robust in the media server arena, and Emby is catching on very quickly. And for now, either one works just fine.
Both Emby Plex has its merits and demerits. I’m personally more in favor of Emby for its flexible control over the database and its support for plugins. But it is in all a subjective matter. And for you, it really depends on your own preferences, like which device you prefer to use, is the free or premium plan that you are going with, and stuff like that.
If you are a Kodi user, you can even get an integrated experience by installing Kodi Plex/Emby addon. But you are only entitled to browse and play the media, but not to manage the database in the plugin version of Plex and Emby. I'm currently using Kodi Emby addon on my PC, and it works perfectly, especially when I want to view the disk image formatted videos (the type of video supported by Kodi, but not by Plex and Emby)
First of all, I want to say thank you for your patience reading this article, and hope you already have an answer in mind as to which media server to choose after this Emby vs. Plex debate.
Second, a piece of side information for you, apart from the most known Plex and Emby, there is still other media server software available out there. The most promising one is Jellyfin, an open-source server developed from Emby when it became proprietary. All the Plex and Emby features we mentioned above are completely free in Jellyfin. But the performance fell short of expectations and is not as stable as the former two. Jellyfin is also less-device supported. The Jellyfin media server can only run on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Docker. The media player client is limited to Kodi, Android TV, Fire TV, Roku, Android, iOS, and Mopidy. But it is still developing, and I have the feeling that it can make it big in the foreseeable future.
Finally, welcome to the world of home media and enjoy yourself!
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