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Emby: a media server alternative to Plex and Kodi

written by Alejandro June 19, 2015

An open source alternative to the well-known media center software applications Plex and Kodi, Emby (which used to be called Media Browser 3) offers several options and capabilities that might come in handy for setting up your HTPC. This software application promises to enable you to bring all your media together into one place, by offering on-the-fly conversion and streaming of media and letting you play it on any device you own. [Read: Plex vs Emby: A Comprehensive Comparison]

Let’s take a closer look at the features Emby media center offers, and the reasons why it might be on its way to become a third major alternative to handle your media in your HTPC setup.

Recommended HTPC / Home Server Builds 2017:

Emby media server can run virtually anywhere

If your media server uses Windows, Mac, Linux or even NAS or FreeBSD, Emby can offer you all its features just by using their installer. There are also TV and mobile apps offered, and these can run virtually anywhere, from a web browser to Amazon Fire TV. This great number of supported platforms make it easier to give a try to the features of this media server application, no matter what system you own or what setup you have.

Emby media server has applications to suit almost every device.

Emby media server has applications to suit almost every device.

Emby, an HTPC media server application to easily manage your media

Let’s be clear from the start. The more options you have within an application to access the content you want, and manage that content, the better it turns out for you. In this regard, Emby offers quite a solid experience because it allows you to bring together your videos, music, photos and even live TV, and access your content from a variety of devices, enabling you to even watch movies or listen to music remotely if you are not home. Emby media server also allows to create independent profiles and parental controls, to ensure the content is only accessible by the people you intend to make it accessible to. Each user created actually can have their own library, which is a great convenience.

No remote? Emby has no problem with it

If you, for any reason, don’t own yet a remote control or a wireless keyboard and mouse, you might find it a bit difficult to make use of the bunch of features Emby has to offer you. Luckily, this problem becomes void when you take into consideration that there’s an amazing web interface that you can use from any device and allows you to take control of your Emby powered HTPC. The Emby Server Dashboard, as it is known, is specifically designed for smartphones, and tablets, but it also does look good on the big screen. So you can actually use any option you like to interact with it.

You can manage Emby through its web interface, from any device

You can manage Emby through its web interface, from any device

Emby is backed by an enthusiast open-source development community

With active forums, in which knowledgeable users of Emby and its developers can offer help when you need it, and with new updates being developed in a regular basis, this application is only set to get even better, which might add even more features in the future and improve the existent ones. Bear in mind however, that there are still issues with it that, albeit minor, might make it worth for you to test this application before adopting it fully in your HTPC setup. Some of these issues include slow scanning of your media, and a perhaps more difficult way to set it up initially than that offered by its counterparts, like Plex. However, these issues might get resolved in the near future, making Emby media server an alternative to consider.

If you like to keep your media library organized and at the same time you are an enthusiast of new applications that enable you to get more functionality out of your HTPC, perhaps Emby media server should be on your “next to try” software list. After all, it is free and you surely will be able to find a compatible device without much struggle.

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Jeremy June 19, 2015 - 8:55 am

I made the switch from Plex to Emby a while back, and I couldn’t be happier. Their parental controls are leaps and bounds better than Plex. The best part, though, is the community and responsiveness of the devs. That alone was worth the switch and if you’ve ever been frustrated with Plex in this regard I urge you to give Emby a try.

Anand June 19, 2015 - 10:14 am

Jeremy, good to know and thanks for sharing.

User August 12, 2015 - 5:58 pm

Sorry to be pedantic, but as awesome as Kodi is, it’s not server software as the title implies. For clarity, it should be specified that Kodi is only a client-side multimedia player and it does not host or transcode content like Plex or Emby. There are actually Kodi plugins for both software packages, but they are really different categories of software with different purposes.

Alejandro August 12, 2015 - 10:06 pm

Hello, and thanks for commenting!

Unfortunately, there’s not enough space in the title to make that distinction. The title really does not try to imply that Kodi is a server software; rather, Emby is, but Emby is also an alternative to Plex and Kodi in the sense that you can use it to facilitate the viewing of content, which in a way, all three apps do, in different ways.

Sorry for the misunderstanding and I hope you find the post useful despite of the slightly confusing title!

Lane October 4, 2015 - 8:39 am

Installed emby on Ubuntu 14.04. Setup went fine, but now choosing library locations isn’t working. It seems when I try to specify the path it will only go so far as locating my user (e.g. media/user). If I try to go further (/media/lane/MediaLibrary) it just blanks out the path selection space. Has anyone else ever seen this behavior?

VM January 5, 2016 - 11:02 pm

Check permissions for those dir .

Jeremy Jones January 18, 2016 - 2:55 pm

I dumped Plex a loooooong time ago. I’m pretty iOS-centric, so for me, younity was the best solution for my home media server, and it’s free. There’s no complicated setup or file re-arranging, it does all the hard work for you. I can’t wait for them to come out with more platforms so they can really give Plex a run for its money.



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