What is Plex?
Entertainment service Plex is a leading all-in-one streaming media service, which provides on-demand movies and TV shows, live broadcasting, and a media storage application.
The all-encompassing Plex service started out as a media center application, which was created by developer Elan Feingold back in 2007. He posted his project in online forums where it was discovered by software executives Cayce Ullman and Scott Olechowski, who teamed up with Feingold to found Plex in December 2009. It soon started launching apps to help people access content services such as Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, before reaching content agreements with publishers Lionsgate, MGM, and Tidal.
In December 2019, Plex launched its own ad-supported video streaming service, which enables users to stream movies and TV shows for free. This includes thousands of content titles from MGM, Legendary Pictures, Lionsgate, and Warner Brothers studios.
Plex plans and pricing
The free version of Plex provides on-demand access to a library of movies and TV shows. Upgrading to Plex Pass enables users to watch and record live TV broadcasts from channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, and Univision. Subscribers can also download material for offline viewing. Plex’s media player system allows users to integrate digital movies and music that they own with content they stream online.
|Plex Basic||Plex Pass||Tidal Hi-Fi + Plex Pass|
|Number of TV shows + films||554 movies, 140 TV shows||554 movies, 140 TV shows||554 movies, 140 TV shows|
|Live TV streaming||No||Yes||Yes|
|Music streaming included||No||No||Yes|
Plex supported devices
The Plex Media Server can be downloaded onto most computers and some network-attached storage (NAS) devices, including:
- Drobo, Netgear, QNAP and Synology NAS devices
- Mac OS X
- Microsoft Windows
- Netgear Nighthawk X10 router
- NVIDIA Shield
Plex’s video streaming service is compatible with any device that enables users to stream via its media player or web app. This includes the following:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android phones and tablets
- Apple iOS phones and tablets
- Apple macOS
- Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Safari web browsers
- Google Chromecast
- LG, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio Smart TVs
- Microsoft Windows
- PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gaming consoles
- Roku and Sonos streaming devices
What to watch on Plex
Plex’s on-demand video library enables viewers to watch thousands of on-demand titles but lacks the big-name movies available on other streaming services.
Popular movies available on the platform include A Street Cat Named Bob, Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer starring in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Samuel L Jackson alongside Dominic Cooper in Reasonable Doubt. There are also plenty of older classics to enjoy, such as Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, Robert De Niro’s portrayal of boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, Tom Cruise in Rain Man, Susan Sarandon leading an all-star cast in road trip movie Thelma & Louise, and epic British war film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. It also includes documentaries such as Adele Homecoming and The Outrageous World of Katie Perry.
Plex also features curated categories of content, such as the service’s Picks of the Week suggestions and the most popular movies trending on the platform. These include choices such Jean Claude Van Damme in Black Eagle and Death Warrant, Danny Trejo starring in Counterpunch, the Kickboxer franchise, and a whole host of Japanese movies.
The service’s curated content also offers plenty of gore and horror in its Zombie Invasion collection, which includes Night of the Living Dead and endless variations on the theme, such as Zombies of Mass Destruction, Zombie Wars, and Zombinator.
The rest of the service’s content is easy to discover through broader categories like Comedy, Drama, and Horror. British drama Merlin — which tells the story of a friendship between the mythical Prince Arthur and his trusty advisor — is just one of the popular series available on Plex. Other choices include lifestyle show Grand Designs, the four-part epic Jesus of Nazareth, cop show Partners, and the Robocop: Prime Directive miniseries. And, for something a little different, check out World’s Craziest Fools, presented by Mr. T.
A Plex account also provides users with discounted access to Tidal’s library of 60 million tracks. Streaming this music content requires an active subscription to Tidal. Free Plex users can only listen to 30 seconds of any track.
Unlike premium live video streaming providers like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, Plex does not provide a Cloud DVR service. Instead, users must have a Plex Media Server if they want to record content from the service’s live TV streams. The amount of content they can store is dependent on their hardware — as is the number of simultaneous streams they can access.
Plex also offers high-quality music streaming thanks to its link-up with Tidal, through which users can choose between premium and high-fidelity quality. The Plex Home service allows users to easily switch between multiple accounts and provides early access to new apps and features.
The final cut
The best way to think about Plex is as a personal media library with live streaming on top of it. The platform is largely focused on helping users store their own photos, music, and videos on its Media Server, and enabling them to stream and integrate that content with their online streams. It also offers a library of on-demand movies and TV shows that is sizeable but lacks the quality of other major providers in the market.
Plex is a great option for anyone who has a large library of digital media and wants to integrate and stream it alongside online content. It is also enticing to people on the lookout for high-quality music streaming experiences thanks to its discounted access to Tidal. People solely looking for a solid video streaming option should look elsewhere, but Plex could be an attractive option to supplement services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, or Netflix.
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