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Emby vs Plex: Which media server is right for you?

Find the best home media management system to suit your cord-cutting needs.

Published onJune 15, 2023

Emby vs Plex showing four people sat around a table using tablets, phones, and laptops

Cord-cutting can be a scary change. Most of us want to keep our entertainment collections and services as streamlined as possible — like with one cable subscription. Moving online doesn’t have to mean a chaotic assortment of apps though. You can organize Netflix and its many competitors into a more manageable library. Media servers like Emby and Plex can help you keep everything in one place. So, which should you choose between Emby vs Plex?

Below, we break down how these two services work, how they compare to each other, and which one might be best for you.

Emby vs Plex: Media servers explained

Emby vs Plex on a smartphone in hand

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

For all their faults, cable packages are pretty convenient. You pay a fee and get access to all your channels in one place. Media servers aren’t exactly as streamlined as that, but they make the transition to cord-cutting a lot easier.

What are Emby and Plex?

Both media servers bring together a user’s various home media — like video, audio, and photos — centralizing collections and online services. From there, users can view and stream their content players on their various devices.

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 just 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, though. And the services also include access to huge libraries of on-demand films, all free and ad-supported. You can watch classic titles and new releases without a subscription.

Emby vs Plex: Pricing

Emby vs Plex showing Emby TV shows

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

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

If you want some of the bells and whistles that really make these services shine, then 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 syncing and DVR storage.

The two services both come in at $4.99 per month.

If you want to pay for a whole year, though, 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 standout exclusive features is Cinema Mode, which comes with a paid subscription. That gives you trailers and custom intros before films and gives you a sense that you’re at the movies in your home. It’s nothing huge in terms of general functionality, but it’s definitely a fun bonus for those who want it. Similarly, you get more customizability with the user interface on Emby.

Plex, on the other hand, offers more add-ons, like the popular “Unsupported App Store,” where you can access unofficial extra channels with even more content. Its newest feature also allows you to jump right into the content you want to watch from a centralized search function. Can’t remember where Seinfeld is streaming? Type into Plex and it’ll take you right to the show, provided you subscribe to the appropriate service. It’s also generally easier to use and set up than Emby.

Are Emby and Plex legal?

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

Emby and Plex are both entirely legal.

How you use them, on the other hand, is up to you. If you have a massive library of movies and TV shows that you downloaded illegally using torrent sites, you can certainly use these services to organize and stream your legally dubious stuff, but neither Emby nor Plex will magically change how you acquired your media collection.

The legally preferred use for these services is as content aggregators that let you bring together media and streaming services you already have legal access to and make them easier to access.

If you are using Emby or Plex for less than legal streaming, well, the next section might be especially interesting for you.

Emby vs Plex: Privacy

All jokes aside, there are plenty of very valid reasons to want digital privacy that have nothing to do with breaking the law. Even if you’re using Emby and Plex to do entirely legal stuff, 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 won’t track it. You don’t even need to be connected to the internet while using it. (Remote streaming via Emby Connect requires internet access, as do all web-based streaming uses, of course.)

There are plenty of reasons to want privacy beyond illegal downloading.

Plex, on the other hand, does collect user information. The stated purpose of this is to improve services, but if you’re at all skittish about how your personal streaming data (legal or otherwise) might be used, it’s important to know that.

Emby vs Plex: Final verdict

Plex user interface Emby vs Plex

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

Both services offer parental controls, are available on every major platform, 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 takes the gold?

Plex’s streamlined user experience, lower yearly price point, and slightly better add-ons make it inch ahead of Emby overall. Plex takes it.

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

Both services hit all the major bases you’d want, so there’s really no wrong choice at the end of the day.

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