Is Plex Media Server Worth the Time?
Author: MarkPlante
Published: January 6, 2021

Plex Media Server, you may or may not have heard of this application.  Plex is an application that is free for download and use, to a point, on a local computer or Network Storage Device so that you may view personally owned media. And your are also able to view TV and Movies that are offered to be streamed by Plex.

All of Your Media at Your Fingertips

For beginners, Plex is free to download (Plex.tv) and use on network connected computer or server.  Plex will allow you to store DVD’s and other media to be displayed on one screen for you to watch at your convenience.  You will no longer have to search for a DVD or when you find the case find that the DVD was not put back into the case.  Plex has a user interface similar to Netflix that neatly displays the poster or disk images from the media that has been backed up and linked to Plex.  This is automatically done by Plex once you have linked the media to the Plex Server, it will search the Internet and match up your file with the artwork that has been saved in several internet databases such as IMDB.

Create and Audio Server for Your Home

Plex will also allow you to link all of your audio files or CD’s that you have backed up so that they are accessible through your Plex server.  Once your audio files have been backed up to either your computer or network device, Plex will search for CD covers and also information about the artist based on the data that is within the Metadata of the file that you have linked to the Plex Server…  This will allow you to be able to search throughout your audio collection and have the ability to create playlists without having to search through every song and/or artist for the right song for your list.

Plex allows you to also display your audio media by artist, genre, album, release date and more.  Plex makes it so much easier for a song that cannot remember the name of, but know the name of the CD/Album, again saving so much time over scroll though lists that quite possible have thousands and thousands of songs in them.

More Features

What I have already mentioned in this post is part of the free services that Plex allows you to use.  Plex is one of the strongest Media Servers on the market today and, at a cost, can fulfill all of your media streaming needs.

Premium Services (Fee)

If you sign up for Plex’s “Premium Pass” you will be able to unlock quite a few features that will allow you to create a media library for your whole family.  Plex Premium Pass is a subscription based membership in which you will need to pay a fee.  At the point of this post, Plex offers three plans, all allow you to access the same benefits.  Currently they offer a monthly subscription for $4.99US per month, and annual subscription for $39.99US or a one-time payment of $119.99 for a lifetime subscription.

Live Over the Air Television

Plex Server with Premium Pass allows you access to FREE Over the Air (OTA) Television with a cable-tv like scrolling guide.  If you are viewing Plex on a Smart TV, you can connect an antenna to your set and you are able to watch FREE OTA programing from networks like NBC, CBS, FOX and many many more. As you can see in a previous post on this site (Free Television… No, Really) there may be many, many more stations in your area than you may have thought.  In the area that I live in, we have access to 40-45 OTA stations that carry programing not only from the major networks, but also programing from such networks as Stadium, MeTV, This, Comet and many, many more.

Even if you are not able to stream through your TV, but have your Plex Server on a computer or a NAS, it is still possible to view OTA TV through Plex.  If you purchase a TV Transcoder such as HDHomerun you will be able to view live OTA stations through the Plex Server on the same network.

DVR Services

One of the biggest drawbacks of Cutting the Cord is the inability to be able to record shows that you can watch at a later date as is possible using a Cable Company’s DVR service.  Not now for those that have a Plex Media Server with Premium Pass.  Not only does Plex give you the ability to record and saver your favorite shows, you are also able to download entire series with the ability to have the Plex Media Server to prompt you to skip commercials while watching the media or to completely skip commercials so that you do not see them at all when you are watching the playback.

Plex Media Server also creates a library of your saved OTA recordings and organizes them by Series and then also by Season and episodes.  This function allows you to keep track of the shows that you are watching and also pick right back up where you may have left off in a series without the fear of possibly missing an episode due to the recording not being able to be found.  You can even select the option of having the series theme song play in the background when you are on the main page of a series’ archive.

Remote Access via IOS or Android Devices

A Plex Premium Pass also will give you access to apps on both IOS and Android that will allow you to take your media with you, where ever you go in the world that has Internet access.  This aspect of the Plex Media Server is a really nice feature for those that have a very busy lifestyle or may be constantly traveling, you have all of your home media at your finger tips and think about it… You quite possibly would be able to watch your local TV news from Boston, MA while you are sitting in an airport in Tokyo, Japan…  LIVE!!!  This actually blows my mind that this is possible.

Plex Media Server may not be for everyone.  There are some that may not be able to handle the technical aspect of setting up the Media Server on the back-end which can get quite confusing.  Also, if you are setting up the Plex Media Server on your home computer, the computer must remain powered on in order your you to access the Media Server by any other outlet than that computer and some may not want to do this due to the power consumption and wear and tear of leaving the machine on 24 hours a day. You will also need to make sure that the device in which the Plex Media Server is housed is powerful enough to be able to stream and transcode video files at the speed and quality that is needed.  Visit Plex.tv for more information and what the optimal specs are for a device to host a Plex Media Server.

There are also some legality questions on whether backing up DVDs and other media to view at a later date is actually legal, so make sure to research your local laws to make sure what you are doing is within the scope of your local laws.

I know for my household, the Plex Media Server has made cutting the cord so much easier.  The layout of Plex is so clean and easily navigated to find the media that I would like to view.

So download and try Plex Media Server and decide if it is something that would work for you.  Below is a vlog that we did for our sister page MPV Vlogs regarding setting up a Plex Media Server…  Take a peak and let us know what you think.