Emby Media Server vs Plex: Which One Is Better?

When you decide Emby or Plex Media Player which one is better for your HTPC experience, you’re likely be hard to keep all of the different considerations in mind when making this decision. For this purpose, this post is a full comparision about Emby or Plex, you can take it as an reference to  make your decision.

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Part One: Introduction of Plex and Emby

Emby is a personal media platform that provides the entertainment lovers to collect all of their digital media content at a centralized platform and carry with them all the time. The media that they can contain all the time includes videos, music, photos, home videos and much more stuff with them all the time. The best about Emby is that it will automatically convert all of their media files in other formats so that its users should be able to easily play it on any media device. Some functions and features of Emby are play media on any device, easy access to anywhere & anytime, Live TV streaming, mobile synchronization, managing of media, Chromecast, cloud sync and much more.

Plex is a personalized media platform to organize their entertaining stuff like music, audios, videos and photos that they can then stream from any digital media devices and screens. Plex allows the entertainment lovers to enjoy all of their digital media from anywhere and anytime. Recently Plex has launched its services for Apple TV. The users are even allowed to share their media files with other users as well. They can stream media to every TV in their house. The setup of Plex is available for mobile, TV, laptop, tablet, smartphones, game consoles and various other desktop and mobile operating systems.

Part Two: Detailed Comparison of Plex and Emby

Centralized Database Management

Both Plex and Emby offer centralized database management which can be accessed through a web based management tool. Both are pretty easy for most users to get the hang of, however I find that Plex seems to be oriented to the less tech savvy user and offers a way to make changes to your library which is a bit simpler and more straight forward. The Emby database manager offers a few more features than what you see in Plex. One of the best methods to manage your database in Emby is through the built in “Metadata Manager” which lets you see a list of all of your movies and shows graphical icons next to the list indicating what metadata (images, trailers, subtitles, etc) might be missing. The image below gives you a peek at what this looks like.

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If simplicity in database management is what you’re looking for and you would classify yourself as a beginner, you may want to consider Plex; if a few more features is what you really need and you’re a bit more tech savvy, then Emby may be what you’re looking for.

Client Device Availability

One of the biggest advantages Plex has over Emby is the fact that it has been maturing for longer than Emby has. This has allowed the the advantage of establishing themselves on a very wide selection devices including streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, etc), gaming consoles (XBox, PlayStation), Mobile Devices (Android, iOS), Smart TVs (Samsung, Vizio, Opera TV) and more. It is also likely that the proprietary nature of Plex aligns well with the objectives of many of the client devices companies.

Emby has been catching up, but just does not have the same level of client device availability. Additionally, I have personally experienced some client instability with Emby client devices, when compared to Plex client devices. There are also something which aren’t as polished (e.g. iOS app is still called “MB Mobile” and has not been updated with the new branding). I suspect this is also a result of just not being quite at the same program maturity level as Plex. A full list of client availability can be obtained at the Plex and Emby websites.

Ease of Installation and Use vs Flexibility and Customization

While both Plex and Emby are relatively easy to install and use, Plex really is more geared towards a beginner level user and this is evident in the simplicity and ease of use. After installing Emby, you will notice that the interface looks quite a bit more complicated to a beginner user than Plex, and doesn’t offer the step by step walk through. However more seasoned users should be able to find their way around Emby fairly easily. Emby is more feature rich and does allow more customization than Plex – more robust parental controls and the comprehensive metadata manager are two examples. As a result of Emby’s open source model, I only see the customization options on the server increasing.

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Add-ons and Live TV/PVR

Both Plex and Emby support channels (as Plex calls them) or plugins (as Emby calls them). These are basically applications which can attach themselves to the Emby or Plex server and extend their function through the server to your client devices. They are great ways to get content to client devices which might not otherwise be able to get there. While there are a some Plex Channels which are very useful, the number of plugins for Emby seems to be a bit more limited. As Emby gains popularity, I expect more and more plugins will become available.

Where Emby is making some progress is with plugins which offer the ability to watch and PVR live TV directly. As far as I know, there has not been any similar progress on LiveTV or PVR services for Plex.

Costs

In general, you can use both Emby and Plex for a relatively low cost (or free depending on your setup). I certainly would encourage you to support your preferred (or both!) application in recognition of the good work being done. The costs of Emby and Plex are relatively comparable. Both offer their server software free of charge and then offer an optional subscription for more advanced features (Plex is currently $5 monthly, $40 annually or $150 lifetime and Emby is currently $5 monthly, $36 annually or $70 lifetime). If you choose not to go with a subscription, both platforms also require some form of payment for many of the client side apps. Plex consistently charges $5 for most of their platform (although some are available for free Plex Home Theatre, PleXMBC, etc), however Emby seems to be a little less consistent. You can use Android based apps with a subscription or with a $5 payment, but the iOS app is free to download and use – payment or subscription not required. The inconsistency in charges with Emby is a bit worrisome to me as there is some uncertainty as to whether subscription payment will always be enough or if other costs might be added as more features are added in the future especially when considering the less centralized models of open source programs.

Mobile Device Apps

Both Plex and Emby offer iOS and Android apps which can do a few cool things:

They allow you to connect to your Plex or Emby server and stream content stored there right to the palm of your hand – you can take your whole media library anywhere with internet access.
They allow you to remotely control client devices – lost your remote control? No problem, just grab your iPhone, launch the app and control your Plex or Emby client!
Finally, you can sync (copy) media to your mobile device to watch it anywhere (including places without internet access – like on a flight) without using up bandwidth – to do this however, you must pay and subscribe to Emby or Plex.

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Which one is better?

When comparing Plex vs Emby, they are more similar than they are different – both are low cost and offer a simple method to centralize your media database between multiple clients, including Kodi integration. However, there are also some differences like Plex has a free plan in addition to paid plan while Emby is offering its services against license options only. Using Emby is easier as compared to the Plex. Emby lets the users stream their media content easily over the Chromecast as compared to the Plex. But in the case of accessing from multiple devices, Plex has the great collection of compatible devices as compared to the Emby. All in all, the ultimate decision on Plex vs Emby should come down to your personal needs.

Part Three: How to stream and watch various videos via Plex/Emby?

Whatever advantages or disadvantages they have respectively, the main purpose of both is to provide a server to the users to enjoy their media from anywhere and from any device. While they both have strict requirements for video formats, that’s to say, not all videos can be imported into them directly. For instance, if you have some movies in VOB, FLV, MKV, DVD, Blu-ray, etc, which are incompatible with Plex/Emby, and want to stream them via Plex/Emby on iPad/iPhone, Roku, Xbox One, PS4 enjoying, then you’d better turn to the help of some professional third-party program like Brorsoft Video Converter Ultimate.

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Its main features as below:

* All-in-one video, DVD and Blu-ray solution
* Easy-to-use, 6X faster conversion speed and zero quality loss
* Convert to more than 250 formats and devices
* Backup any DVD/Blu-ray with 100% original quality
* Edit videos in your way (Crop, trim, volume, subtitle, watermark and effect)
* Support H.265/HEVC Encode & Decode

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