Emby vs Plex: Which Media Server is Best for You?

Cutting the cord can be a scary change. Most of us want our entertainment collections and services to be as streamlined as possible, like with a single cable subscription. Getting online doesn’t have to mean a chaotic assortment of apps. Media servers like Emby and Plex can help you keep everything in one place. So, which one to choose between Emby and Plex?

Below, we describe how these two services work, how they compare, and which one might be better for you.

Related: The best live TV streaming services

Emby vs Plex: Media Servers Explained

Emby and Plex do a lot, and it’s frankly hard to sum them up. They are both media servers, which means they allow you to stream different types of content from one place. If you’ve ever had enough of switching between apps or remembering passwords for different services and cloud storage solutions, you’ll immediately understand the appeal of these services.

Despite all their flaws, cable bundles are pretty handy. You pay a fee and get access to all your channels in one place. Media servers aren’t exactly as streamlined as this, but they make the transition to cord cutting much easier.

What are Emby and Plex?

The two media servers bring together a user’s various home media – such as video, audio and photos – centralizing online collections and services. From there, users can view and stream their content players to their various devices.

To verify: The best streaming services

You can use the servers to organize your third-party media services without signing up for anything. For example, if you already subscribe to Netflix or Tidal, you can simply add those services to your Plex or Emby account and use them through their respective interfaces.

You can also use them to organize your own media files. And the services also include access to huge libraries of on-demand movies, all free and ad-supported. You can watch classic titles and new releases without a subscription.

Emby vs. Plex: Price

Emby vs Plex showing Emby TV shows

Emby and Plex are both free, but they also have paid tiers.

If you just want the bare-bones service, just download either one and get started for free.

If you want some of the bells and whistles that really make these services shine, there are a few differences to keep in mind, mentioned in the next section. Broadly speaking, both services offer similar paid tiers, which give you access to features like cloud sync and DVR storage.

If you want to pay for an entire year, Emby is $54, while Plex offers the discounted rate of $39.99.

Both also offer users the option of a lifetime subscription with a one-time payment of $119.

Emby vs Plex: some special features

One of Emby’s most notable exclusive features is Cinema Mode, which comes with a paid subscription. It gives you custom trailers and intros before movies and makes you feel like you are at the cinema at home. It’s nothing huge in terms of general functionality, but it’s definitely a fun bonus for those who want it. Likewise, you get more customization with the UI on Emby.

Read: The best original streaming shows

Plex, on the other hand, offers more add-ons, like the popular “Unsupported App Store”, where you can access additional unofficial channels with even more content. It’s also generally easier to use and configure than Emby. This means you have less control over features, but a generally smoother experience overall.

Are Emby and Plex legal?

Emby vs Plex showing Emby's home screen with TV shows, movies, music, and more.

Both Emby and Plex are completely legal.

How you use them, however, is up to you. If you have a huge library of movies and TV shows that you downloaded illegally using torrent sites, you can certainly use those services to organize and distribute your legally dodgy stuff, but neither Emby nor Plex will change like magically how you acquired your media collection.

The legally preferred use of these services is as content aggregators that allow you to aggregate the media and streaming services you already have legal access to and make them easier to access.

Read: The best original streaming movies

If you’re using Emby or Plex for less than legal streaming, well, the next section might be of particular interest to you.

Emby vs. Plex: Privacy

Kidding aside, there are plenty of very valid reasons for wanting digital privacy that have nothing to do with breaking the law. Even if you use Emby and Plex to do things that are completely legal, you’ll want to know if you’re protected.

Emby is an open source platform. Everything you do on Emby is stored on your own server and Emby will not track it. You don’t even need to be connected to the internet when using it. (Remote streaming via Emby Connect requires internet access, as does all web streaming use, of course.)

There are many reasons for wanting privacy beyond illegal downloading.

Plex, on the other hand, collects user information. The stated goal is to improve the Services, but if you’re at all nervous about how your personal streaming data (legal or otherwise) might be used, it’s important to know that.

Emby vs. Plex: Final Verdict

Plex Emby vs. Plex UI

There’s so much overlap with these two services that we have to dig into the details to really pick a winner.

Both services offer parental controls, are available on all major platforms, offer add-ons and VOD titles, and more. And they come at similar prices.

But where’s the fun in calling it a tie? In the Emby vs Plex battle, who wins gold?

Plex’s streamlined user experience, lower annual price, and slightly better add-ons put it ahead of Emby overall. Plex takes it.

Obviously, your specific preferences and needs may differ, so if you want to personalize your experience or ensure you have top-notch privacy, Emby is still a solid option and probably the way to go for you.

Both services hit all the major bases you want, so there’s really no wrong choice down the line.

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