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Plex has a little bit of everything packed into one free streaming service.
If you combined Tubi, Pluto TV, and your own content library, you would have Plex. Tubi is a free, commercial-supported version of Netflix. Pluto TV is a cable imitator with live TV.
Plex is a free TV streaming service that offers live TV, on-demand movies and shows, and a library of your own media content.
Your media library
So how do you use Plex? Let's go ahead and take a tour of the interface. We’ll start by explaining how to add your own movies, music, and photos to Plex.
You’ll need to set up a drive on your PC with the movies, shows, and music you want to add. You’ll then connect Plex to that specific folder. Then Plex will scan that folder and pull the files into your library.
When you go into your Plex app, you'll be able to pull those assets and watch them on-demand just like you would on any other streaming service. We think it’s pretty cool that you can also upload your own photos and music.
I love this feature not only because I can upload my Blu-rays, but I don’t have to worry about the constant overturn of content that we experience with streaming services like Netflix. I always know what’s in my library.
You can also share your media folders across other users as well. Your PC will need to be turned on for others to access it, but they can do it.
Now you do run into some legal issues here, so be careful that you don't upload content you didn’t buy. But if you have photos, home videos, or stuff that you want to share from one person to another, Plex is a good way to do that.
Live TV and on-demand streaming
Plex’s Live TV has 162 channels that you can scroll through. We’re not saying that these are all channels that you're going to want to watch. We really liked the live TV guide because it helped us find several shows I was interested in. That's a great sign that it does have stuff on here that's worth watching.
You’ll also be able to stream on-demand movies and TV shows. This is a bit like a commercial-supported Netflix.
There are tons of titles to choose from, and I do like that it is sorted in a few different ways. You can go to the browse page and look at stuff that Plex recommends for you. You can also browse by studio/provider or by genre.
Web shows, podcasts, and music
Plex has a web shows feature that pulls online content for you. There’s a lot of YouTube-style content here. Add this to your personal queue and you’ll get a list of web shows if you want.
The podcast section is pretty self explanatory. You may or may not be able to find the podcast that you prefer, but it does seem to have a lot of the bigger stuff on here.
Now, the music tab is a little bit frustrating for somebody like me simply because I don't use TIDAL. I use Spotify, and I wasn’t interested in signing up for TIDAL, so the music tab wasn't very effective for me. But if you are a TIDAL user, then you will find it very attractive.
What we like about Plex
One of the things I love is that Plex puts your content front and center on the home page. Even though it carries some good titles itself, it puts your stuff first, which is exactly what you would want.
Additionally, when you go to the home page, the first thing you're greeted with is the Continue Watching tab. Some services tend to bury that under their own suggestions sometimes, which gets really frustrating. Plex doesn't do that.
I also mentioned how many live TV channels there are and how much good on-demand content there is. This is not the same as going to Netflix or HBO Max with their sweet, sweet $15-per-month library, but this is good for something that you're not paying for.
And honestly, the only thing that might steer me away from Plex is that you won’t find premium content here, unless you're loading it into your own server.
This is not a replacement for Netflix, Disney+, or HBO Max. It's not going to have some of those super compelling titles, but other than that, there's not really a ton to complain about, especially because it's free.
That brings me to another thing that we should talk about. There is a premium version of Plex. Should you get it? Is it worth it? The Plex Pass gets you offline downloads on mobile, so you can watch your stuff on the go when you're not connected to Wi-Fi.
It also gets you data-usage statistics. If you have a lot of people using your server, then you can see who is using the most data and what they’re doing.
You get a live TV DVR. So if you have an antenna that you have up in your window and you're getting live TV stations through that, you can actually DVR that on your Plex server. That's not a bad deal.
Data effective 06/08/21. Prices and availability subject to change.
Next, the Plex Pass has something called Webhooks. This is an automation system. You can use Webhooks to integrate with your Amazon Alexa device or your Google device.
You can set up some cool automations between Plex and your smart devices. For example, when I start playback on Plex, it'll dim the lights in my room. You'd have to have a pretty advanced setup to do that, but if you have that, it's pretty sweet.
The last thing that Plex Pass lists here is some extra music improvements such as sound leveling and cross fading. Again, if you're a TIDAL user, that's going to be attractive. If you're not, then maybe not so much.
So when it comes to the premium stuff, I'd say go give Plex a shot first. If you find yourself using it a ton after a few months, then go for the premium version. Five bucks a month for all those features is pretty good, but the free version is already pretty sweet.
Recap: Is Plex good?
The final word here is, yeah, I kind of love Plex. The only word of caution that I would provide here is that it does come with a bit of a learning curve if you want to use the advanced features, like the personal library. If you are very technologically savvy, you probably won't have any problems with it.
Once you do have it set up and you get the hang of it, it is awesome. So, I fully recommend it. I really really like Plex and I think you will too.