Home » Home Media » Plex vs Emby vs Jellyfin vs Kodi: In-depth Comparison [2020]

Plex vs Emby vs Jellyfin vs Kodi: In-depth Comparison [2020]

Plex vs Emby vs Kodi vs Jellyfin

written by Anand March 13, 2020

Plex vs Emby, which one to pick? Or, is Kodi better? What about the newcomer Jellyfin? This updated guide presents the differences between Plex and Emby as well as compares them to Kodi to help you make the decision.

There are several media server software options available to pick from. Plex and Emby are probably the two most common ones.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about and weighing the different considerations of Plex vs Emby (formerly Media Browser) when deciding which to use as your media server.

What are Plex and Emby?

Plex and Emby are two of the most common media server options available for streaming media to various devices locally and remotely through the internet. In addition, Plex provides free ad-supported Movies, News, etc. Think about them as your own Netflix that you can take wherever you go or even share with family and friends. Both require a paid subscription for certain features.

You may have asked yourself the question, is Emby better than Plex?

There is so much information out there that the Emby vs Plex comparison quickly becomes a challenge to keep all of the different considerations in mind when making this decision! In addition, Plex has seen a lot of changes since 2019 in its strategy, which now becomes a key consideration.

So, this post will attempt to summarize the similarities and differences between Plex and Emby. I will also present you with some key points to consider while thinking about Emby vs Plex. We’re even going to take a crack at rating them too!

How do Plex and Emby work?

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Kodi is a Standalone app. What this means is that it can be installed on any system and the capabilities of the system will influence the performance. The client has to be strong enough to decode play the videos that may be present locally or remotely. The remote server, in this case, does nothing other than serving the file using one of the folder sharing protocols (Samba or NFS).

Starting with Kodi? Read these Kodi Beginner guides!
  1. Kodi Beginners Guide Series: Part 1 (What is Kodi?), Part 2 (Kodi Usage), Part 3 (Adding Media), Part 4 (Changing Appearance), and Part 5 (Folder Structure).
  2. Understanding Kodi Settings: Audio and Video
  3. Beginner Blueprint: Complete Kodi Setup Guide.
  4. Beginner Blueprint: Complete Amazon Fire TV Kodi Guide.

Plex, Emby, and Jellyfin, on the other hand, follow a server-client model. There is a server that runs the server version of the app. It catalogs all media and shares them to you or the people who you have shared the media with. The client app connects to the server and plays the media. Although a strong client is preferred, a powerful server can compensate for weaker clients. Library management is central and so all clients stay in sync. [Read: 10 Media Server Software Options for Multi-device Streaming Needs]

Plex vs Emby Comparison Table (with a bonus Kodi comparison!)

We’ve put together a Plex vs Emby comparison chart which details the differences and similarities; pros and cons of Plex vs Emby. We’ve taken some of the most popular considerations and commented and rated each for the different media centers.

This is building upon the Kodi vs Plex comparison we completed earlier and as a bonus, we’ve also compared Plex and Emby vs Kodi! There are a couple of notes regarding this comparison table:

  1. For Kodi, we’ve done the comparison based on a standalone version of Kodi (that is without the advantage of using a Kodi Plex plugin or Kodi Emby plugin and being integrated with a Plex or Emby server)
  2. Some rows aren't scored because it didn't make sense to do so
  3. We've tried to keep a beginner's perspective in mind when scoring each application
  4. Ultimately the ratings are somewhat subjective

We would, however, love to hear your thoughts (or your own ratings) in the comments below – remember that these comments also help other users when they are considering which media center software to use.

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Feature Kodi (Stand Alone) Plex Media Server Emby Server Jellyfin
Supported Server Platforms Not applicable
Multiple operating systems, gaming consoles, NASes, Routers, and Docker
Multiple operating systems, gaming consoles, NASes,  and Docker
Multiple operating systems, some NASes, and Docker
Supported Client Platforms
Lots
Lots More (Purchase required for some platforms. Details below.)
Lots (Purchase required for some platforms. Details below.)
Few
Ease of Installation and Use
Moderately Complex
Very Simple
Simple
Simple
Customization
Very Flexible / Customizable
Limited Flexibility
Flexible Options
Flexible Options and Open-source
Local and Remote Streaming
Local streaming is limitless. Remote streaming is very difficult
Easy local and remote streaming (may not be free)
Easy local and remote streaming (may not be free)
Easy local and remote streaming for free
Plex Pass vs Emby Premiere Not applicable
Possible to live without Plex Pass
Emby Premiere provides more value
Not applicable
Live TV, IPTV, and DVR
Great support through add-ons
Good support for OTA tuners and DVR (Plex Pass). No support for IPTV.
Supports OTA and DVR (HDHomeRun and Haupauge only; Emby Premiere). Good support for IPTV.
Supports OTA and DVR (HDHomeRun and Haupauge only). Good support for IPTV.
Metadata Management
Client Interface
Web Interface
Web Interface
Web Interface
Centralized Database for Multiple Clients
Possible through MySQL with Advanced Setup
Yes
Yes
Yes
Free Content
Lots through plugins
Ad-supported Movies, TV, News, and Podcasts
Almost none
Almost none
Plugins / Add-ons / Channels
None
Few
Few
Offline Viewing (no Internet)
Not applicable
Good support
Good support
Web app download only
User Management
Local and more control
Online account required for admin
Local, online (optional), and more control
Local and more control
Library Sharing
Cannot be shared easily
Can be shared with others
Can be shared with others for free
Can be shared with others for free
Kodi Integration Not applicable
Virtual Reality
No support
Plex VR available
No support
No support
Listening to Users/Community
Long-Term Strategy
Expected to be free and open-source
Good chance of being bought out
Slight chance of being bought out
Expected to be free and open-source
Development Model
Open-source
Closed-source (Proprietary)
Mostly closed-source. Some parts of it are open.
Open-source
Support / Maintenance
Active Community.
Developers slow to respond. But active forums.
Developers are responsive. Active Community.
Responsive developers and users
Maturity of Media Centre Platform
Mature
Established
Becoming Established
New

As you can see when comparing Plex, Emby, Jellyfin, and Kodi all four applications, despite their differences all score pretty close! In many cases, one application’s strength is another application’s weakness.

Is there an alternative to Plex and Emby?

Jellyfin is an up and coming media center that is seeing very active development. It is a free and open-source spin-off of Emby. So there are no subscriptions involved. Client app support is quite limited at this point but, the Android client is great.

You really should consider your individual needs when evaluating which program to install and select a program that can most effectively meet them. If you want access to your library via your mobile device, for example, Plex or Emby might be the right application for you rather than a stand-alone Kodi setup.

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Emby or Plex - Detailed Comparison

So, let's delve a bit deeper into some of the comparisons of Plex vs Emby noted in the table above. Generally, most of the differences between Plex and Emby arise from either the open/closed source difference, or from the level of maturity of each program (i.e. the amount of time they've been in development and had to polish their product).

1. Supported Server Platforms

Emby, Plex, and Jellyfin require a dedicated server. Plex and Emby support several platforms, which cover the most common users:

  • Operating Systems: Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD
  • Gaming Consoles/Media Players - Nvidia Shield TV
  • NAS
    • Both: Asustor, FreeNAS/TrueNAS, Netgear ReadyNAS, Open Media Vault, QNAP, Synology, TerraMaster, Thecus, and Western Digital.
    • Plex Only: Drobo, Seagate
  • Routers: Netgear Nighthawk (Plex only)
  • Docker

Except for Drobo NAS, Seagate NAS, and Routers, both Plex and Emby servers can be run on pretty much any platform. [Read: Best Media Server for Plex: 7 Awesome Pre-built, NAS, and DIY options]

Jellyfin, due to being new, has limited server support (servers with one of the common operating systems). It does not support NASes, gaming consoles or routers.

But, Plex, Emby, and Jellyfin can run on Docker. Therefore, any platform that supports Docker can also run Plex or Emby media server.

Recommended HTPC / Home Server Builds:

2. Supported Client Platforms

One of the biggest advantages Plex has over Emby is the fact that it has been maturing for longer than Emby has. This has allowed the advantage of establishing themselves on very wide selection devices including streaming devices:

  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Chromecast
  • Apple TV
  • Gaming consoles (XBox, PlayStation)
  • Mobile Devices (Android, iOS)
  • Smart TVs (Samsung, Vizio, LG, Opera TV, etc.)
  • and more

It is also likely that the proprietary nature of Plex aligns well with the objectives of many of the client devices companies. [Read: 10 Best Plex client devices: Pre-built and DIY options]

Emby has caught up quite fast and supports all of the platforms listed above. The screenshot below shows a list of supported client platforms for Emby.

Supported Emby Client Platforms

Supported Emby Client Platforms

The iOS app seems to be lagging behind a bit. In addition, the client apps appear to be a bit less polished compared to Plex, at this point. [Read: 20 best Emby client devices – Stream from Emby Server]

A full list of supported server and client platforms is available on Plex and Emby websites.

Best Plex Client Devices:
  1. NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server - $199.99 editors pick
  2. Amazon Fire TV Streaming Media Player - $89.99
  3. Roku Premiere+ 4K UHD - $83.99
  4. CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit - $69.99
  5. Xbox One 500 GB Console - $264.99

Jellyfin at this point supports very few clients (Web App and Android), although iOS and Roku apps are in the works.

Update (March 26, 2020): It appears that you can use Emby app to connect to Jellyfin server. I was able to connect to Jellyfin from Emby client app on Roku by supplying host and port number of the server. This may work on other platforms too but I have not tested it yet.

Jellyfin can also support gaming consoles via DLNA protocol.

3. Ease of Installation and Use

The installation procedure is pretty much similar for both Emby and Plex. Post-installation configuration, though, is a different story.

While both Plex and Emby are relatively easy to install and use, Plex really is more geared towards a beginner level user and this is evident in the simplicity and ease of use.

Plex's Step-by-Step Walkthrough to Add Libraries

Plex's Step-by-Step Walkthrough to Add Libraries

After installing Emby, you will notice that the interface looks quite a bit more complicated/overwhelming to a beginner user than Plex, and doesn't offer the step-by-step walkthrough like Plex. However, more seasoned users should be able to find their way around Emby fairly easily.

Emby offers a single long page with numerous options for adding a library

Emby offers a single long page with numerous options for adding a library

Emby is more feature-rich and does allow more customization than Plex - more robust library controls, user support, parental controls, and the comprehensive metadata manager are some examples.

Emby's developers seem more receptive to users. Therefore, customization options may continue to increase over time. [Read: How to install Emby on Ubuntu server the easy way]

In the end, this is a matter of personal preference - more polished (Plex) vs more customization (Emby). Jellyfin is similar to Emby.

4. Customization

Customization, in my opinion, is one of the biggest differences between Plex and Emby. Emby clearly outshines in this area. Depending on the type of user you are you may or may not be a fan of customizations.

Plex is pretty much locked down in this area and is plug-and-play. Emby can also be plug-and-play but Emby also supports several deeper customizations natively and through plugins. Below are some of the customizations that are possible with Emby but not natively with Plex:

  • More control over thumbnails and image creations for libraries
  • Kodi companion plugin for faster Kodi sync
  • Importing IPTV playlists
  • Backup server configuration
  • Smart home hubs supports - SmartThings, Vera, Philips Hue
  • Notifications - Email, Join, Prowl, Pushbullet, Slack, and more
  • Additional subtitle sources - Addic7ed, Podnapisi, SubDB, and more, in addition to OpenSubtitles

Again, this is a matter of whether you prefer the simplicity of Plex or the customizability of Emby (or Jellyfin). Jellyfin even allows you to modify the underlying CSS to make it look to your preference.

5. Local and Remote Streaming

Both local and remote streaming works pretty much the same on both Emby and Plex. There is a lot of confusion around this topic.

Is remote streaming free on Plex / Emby?

YES. Streaming remotely (and locally) is free on both Plex and Emby. However, some streaming clients may require unlocking or an active Plex Pass/Emby Premiere subscription to overcome the playback limitations.

See the Plex Pass vs Emby Premier feature comparison table below find out which clients are free and which ones require paying for full playback. Without unlocking or subscription, some clients only allow limited (eg. 1 minute) playback.

Jellyfin has no limitations.

Best Streaming Apps and Addons:

6. Emby Premiere vs Plex Pass

Plex introduced Plex Pass to provide certain advanced features. Later on, Emby introduced Emby Premiere. Both subscriptions cost pretty much the same. Around holidays you may be able to find really good discounts on lifetime memberships.

Subscription Plex Emby Jellyfin
Monthly $4.99 $4.99 Free
Yearly $39.99 $54 Free
Lifetime $119.99 $119 Free

The features offered for subscription or what is free vs what falls under subscription differs between Emby Premiere and Plex Pass. These differences are not obvious and lead to frustration and confusion. The table below provides a summary of Plex Pass vs Emby Premiere comparison. Note that only some key features and/or key differences are listed below.

Feature Plex Emby Jellyfin
Free Plex Pass Free Premiere Free
Camera Upload X X -
Remote Streaming X (see Full Playback) X (see Full Playback) X
Local Streaming X (see Full Playback) X (see Full Playback) X
Full Playback (Local & Remote) Web App, Non-mobile Android (Fire TV, Android TV), Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs, TiVO, and Game Consoles Mobile Android and iOS Apps - require Unlock fee or Plex Pass Web App, Roku, Apple TV, Smart TVs Android (including Fire TV, Android TV), iOS, Emby Theater, Game Consoles - require unlock fee or Premiere Android (including Fire OS), iOS, tvOS, Web app, Game Consoles (via DLNA). Roku and other platforms - see workaround above.
Media Optimizer X X -
Hardware Transcoding X X X
Live TV X X X
DVR X X X
Mobile/Folder Sync X X X
Multiple Users X X X
Parental Controls X X X
Photo Albums X -
Lyrics X - -
Library Sharing X Adds More Control X X
Trailers and Extras X X -
Cloud Sync Not available (Plex Cloud - discontinued) Google Drive and DropBox (plugin) -
Multiple Users X (All accounts except Managed Users require Plex online account.) X (All accounts are local. Emby connect account is optional) X (All accounts are local)
Smart Home Unofficially (FlexTV) Alexa and Google Assistant -
Other Content Movies, TV, Web Shows, Podcasts, and News Podcasts Via Plugin
Backup and Restore Manually X (Using Plugin) -

For latest information on features use the following links: Plex Pass and Emby Premiere.

April 17, 2020: Plex just announced two new apps for Plex Pass subscribers: Plex Dash for server administration from a mobile phone and Plexamp for a whole new music stream experience. Both of these apps have been received very positively.

Here are some key highlights of Plex Pass vs Emby Premier comparison:

  • Plex streaming is free on most of the clients (Roku, Fire TV, Game Consoles, etc.), while Emby appears to require unlocking or Emby Premiere for many platforms. Mobile platforms (Android and iOS) require unlocking/subscription for both Plex and Emby.
  • Basic library sharing is free on Plex but for advanced controls, you will need Plex Pass. Library sharing is fully free on Emby.
  • Adding multiple users on Plex requires Plex Pass while Emby offers complete private and advanced user management for free.
  • Plex offers free content (Movies, TV, Web Shows, Podcasts, and News) but Emby only offers Podcasts with a Premiere subscription.
  • Plex has discontinued Plex Cloud. Emby still offers Google Drive (or DropBox with plugin) media syncing for Premiere subscribers.
  • Do not ignore the free awesomeness of Jellyfin if what is offered fits your needs.

So whether you subscribe to Plex Pass or Emby Premiere depends on what clients you use and what features are important to you. Like Kodi, Jellyfin has some channels that can provide free content (eg. LazyMan). Be sure to protect yourself with a VPN.

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7. Live TV and DVR Support

Live TV and DVR support in Plex vs Emby discussion. Both Plex and Emby offer Live TV and DVR but there are some key similarities and differences.

  • Both Plex and Emby require an active subscription for Live TV and DVR features.
  • Plex supports more tuners (HDHomeRun, DVBLogic, AVerMedia, and Hauppauge) whereas Emby only supports HDHomeRun and Hauppauge (Windows only).
  • Plex can utilize only one physical tuner at a time. Emby can use more than one physical tuner.
  • Plex limits total channel numbers to 480. Emby has no such limits.

If you are using an OTA antenna in the US with one of the supported tuners, both Emby and Plex will work just fine. Rarely will you exceed the 480 channel limit on Plex. However, if you have subscribed to IPTV, which typically offers way more than 480 channels then native Plex won't cut it.

Live TV on Plex using HDHomeRun Tuner

Live TV on Plex using HDHomeRun Tuner

You can use apps such as xTeVe or TellyTv to trim the list down and pass it to Plex. Previously, Plex used to allow Plugins and these enabled watching video streams from IPTV playlists. Presently, you will have to rely on external sources to trim your channels list.

Plex vs Jellyfin - Jellyfin Live TV (Emby is very similar)

Jellyfin Live TV (Emby is very similar)

Emby (and Jellyfin), on the other hand, has no such limitations. Emby and Jellyfin can even import m3u playlists. Additional tuner hardware support is available through plugins. Personally, I prefer the Live TV and DVR options provided by Emby. It seems more evolved and polished than Plex. [Read: Guide: How to install Emby IPTV Plugin]

SmartHomeBeginner brings in-depth tutorials easy enough to understand even for beginners. This takes considerable amount of work. If this post helps you, please consider supporting us as a token of appreciation:

  • Feeling generous? Buy me a coffee (or two).
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8. Database Management - Metadata Manager

Both Plex and Emby offer centralized database management which can be accessed through a web-based management tool. Both are pretty easy for most users to get the hang of, however, I find that Plex seems to be oriented to the less tech-savvy user and offers a way to make changes to your library which is a bit simpler and more straight forward.

Plex Metadata Manager

Plex Metadata Manager

On the other hand, Emby database manager offers a few more features than what you see in Plex. One of the best methods to manage your database in Emby is through the built-in "Metadata Manager" which lets you see a list of all of your movies and shows graphical icons next to the list indicating what metadata (images, trailers, subtitles, etc) might be missing. The image below gives you a peek at what this looks like.

Emby Metadata Manager

Emby Metadata Manager

If simplicity in database management is what you're looking for and you would classify yourself as a beginner, you may want to consider Plex; if a few more features and a lot more control over metadata are what you really need and you're a bit more tech-savvy, then Emby may be what you're looking for.

Jellyfin does not have a dedicated metadata manager at this point but editing through WebUI still possible.

9. Free Content

Both Plex and Emby were originally designed to view and share personal media. But Plex has continued to add free content:

Free ad-supported Movies and TV on Plex

Free ad-supported Movies and TV on Plex

In addition, Plex added support for third-party services such as TIDAL, the high-resolution/lossless music streaming service. Some of the recent moves have suggested (eg. Disabling plugins to fight piracy) have suggested that there could more such moves.

In contrast, Emby supports only podcasts and that too only Emby premiere subscription. Jellyfin has none of the free content options that Plex offers.

So if free content is important to you, then Plex clearly is the winner here.

10. Plugin Support (aka Channels)

Both Plex and Emby used to allow Plugins (or Channels as Plex called them). Plugins expanded the capabilities of the media server either by adding new features (eg. automatic subtitle downloaders.) or streaming options (eg. streaming channels). For Plex several plugins where also available through Unofficial App Store on PlexWebTools.

But Plex has since discontinued support for Plugins. Therefore, what you get with vanilla Plex is what you will have. No more adding new features or streaming unofficial content from the internet.

Top Emby Plugins (there are about 75 total plugins at this time)

Top Emby Plugins (there are about 75 total plugins at this time)

One the other hand, both Emby and Jellyfin still allow plugins. Emby has several plugins (about 75 at the time of writing this article) and Jellyfin has about half of that. Check the discussion on Customization for some example plugins. All plugins can be installed from the GUI.

So for plugin support, Emby is definitely the best, followed by Jellyfin and Plex.

Best Kodi Addons:

11. Offline Viewing (Synching)

Offline viewing requires a Plex Pass or Emby Premiere subscription. Offline viewing allows you to download content to the client device and watch it while there is internet/data connection.

Offline viewing/downloading on Plex Android Client

Offline viewing/downloading on Plex Android Client

While both Plex and Emby allow offline viewing, I have read that offline viewing on Emby, especially on iOS devices is not as good as on Plex. For this reason, I am giving Plex a slight edge over Emby.

Jellyfin allows download from the web app but the client apps do not seem to have offline viewing options (confirmed on Android).

12. User Management

User management is quite dissimilar between Plex and Emby. First, adding multiple users to Plex requires an active Plex Pass subscription. Emby, on the other hand, offers this feature for free. There is more, user-level control is better on Emby and it is more private. You can create "Managed Users" (a local account) for your household members.

All Plex users must have a Plex online account to have access to your server, although you do not need a Plex online account to stream locally. The admin account by default must have a Plex online account.

Add Managed User in Plex (must be in same home)

Add Managed User in Plex (must be in same home)

Requiring a Plex online account for admins and the users you share your library with can be a dealbreaker for some privacy-conscious folks. On Emby, all accounts can be local (even Premiere accounts).

Adding Users in Emby - Simple, flexible, and private

Adding Users in Emby - Simple, flexible, and private

In addition, Emby allows more user-level control for free. Jellyfin is similar to Emby in terms of control and not requiring an online account. This gives Emby and Jellyfin an edge over Plex.

13. Kodi Skin Availability and Integration

One of the key differences between Plex and Emby used to be their Kodi integration support. Emby really outshined in the beginning but Plex has really caught up with the Official Plex Kodi add-on and PlexKodiConnect addon. Even though Plex has caught up in recent times, many still prefer Emby for Kodi integration. [Read: Combine Plex and Kodi – Get the Features of Both Using PlexKodiConnect]

Emby library on Kodi using Emby for Kodi

Emby library on Kodi using Emby for Kodi Addon

There are a couple of different approaches in integrating with Kodi:

  1. Integrating Plex/Emby as separate Video Addon: Plex and Emby can be integrated with Kodi as a standalone video addon - similar to installing an app on a smartphone or Roku. When integrated this way, Kodi and Plex/Emby function separately without each talking to one another. To accomplish this, there is EmbyCon Kodi addon for Emby and Plex for Kodi addon for Plex.
  2. Merging Plex/Emby with Kodi: Another way is to merge Plex/Emby library with Kodi. This setup is a bit more complex than the one above but it provides all the awesome features of Kodi plus Plex/Emby's library through Kodi's native interface. Plex/Emby and Kodi sync periodically to keep the libraries synched. You can even choose which libraries get synched. This can be accomplished with Emby for Kodi addon for Emby and PlexKodiConnect Addon (forked from Emby for Kodi) for Plex.
Plex Library on Kodi using PlexKodiConnect

Plex Library on Kodi using PlexKodiConnect

Both Emby for Kodi and PlexKodiConnect essentially work with any Kodi Skin.

So today, there is minimal difference between Emby and Plex for Kodi support.

14. Virtual Reality

We are not stretching this Plex vs Emby comparison into nice-to-have features. One such feature is Virtual Reality. If VR is important to you then the answer to Which is better, Plex or Emby? is quite simple.

Unlike Emby, Plex offers Plex VR, which allows you to watch your library as if you are in a theater environment.

Plex Virtual Reality

Plex Virtual Reality

In addition, you can watch your content in sync with your friends and family who are located remotely and even interact with each other while watching.

15. Listening to Users/Community

Plex has grown into a business and a company. As a business, when you try to make money it becomes tougher and tougher to be connected to the users and the community on day-to-day issues. Plex has a forum and then there is r/Plex, which is quite helpful. Other than these there is not much. It is nearly impossible to interact directly with the developers. Your feedback may or may not be taken.

Emby also has a forum and r/emby. Sometimes, you can even find developers lurking around and answering questions, which is quite nice. In addition, you can raise issues or and provide feedback on Emby's development on its GitHub page (although it hasn't been active for quite sometime at the time of writing this article).

Jellyfin, on the other hand, is a lot more user-focused at this point and I personally see this being the case for a very long time. Here are some of the ways you can contribute and interact with the Jellyfin community:

Emby's support is also great (the only thing missing is the chat). So in terms of staying connected with the community and users, I would rank them as follows Jellyfin > Emby > Plex.

16. Long-term Strategy

There are clear indications that Plex is changing its business model. Plex has been partnering with media companies to bring free ad-supported and subscription services under one umbrella. This directly conflicts with:

  1. Plugins - Plugins are also called Channels and there were numerous free and illegal streaming channels (similar to Kodi addons). So Plex removed the plugins support since late 2018.
  2. Library sharing - Plex users share their library with family and friends. Some of them even run their own (legally questionable) "Netflix" like business where they share their libary with numerous users for a fee. Because of this the copyright lobby has been calling out Plex for not doing enough to stop piracy.

So we do not know what the long-term strategy for Plex and Emby is going to be. If some big media corporation wants to buy them out, I see Plex as a bigger target and Emby at this point.

Some of the recent moves made by Plex are causing an uncertain feeling. So at least for the near long-term, I would be more comfortable building my media server around Emby (or even Jellyfin) than Plex.

17. Development Model

Last but not least, the nature of the code. Being free and open-source is quite important for many folks. If you are one of you then Plex may not be the choice.

Even though it originated from XBMC (the previous name for Kodi), Plex is completely closed-source and proprietary.

Emby is partially closed. The Emby server code is open and available on GitHub. However, all most of its client apps are closed source.

Jellyfin is fully free and open-source, including both the server and client apps. Keep in mind that at this point, the number of supported clients is quite limited for Jellyfin.

Example Scenarios

Making a decision on which platform to build your media server ecosystem around can be quite challenging. So here are some example scenarios that can help you choose between Plex, Emby, and Jelly fin.

Kodi is best if

Plex is best if

  • You want legal free content in addition to your own library
  • You prefer easy setup and polished look over more control
  • You do not mind pay for Plex pass to get some advanced features (Live TV, DVR, and more)

Emby is best if

  • You prefer more control and customizability
  • You prefer more user privacy
  • You do not mind paying for some advanced features (Smart Home features, Live TV, DVR, and more
  • You prefer the Kode interface. You can run Emby server as backend and use the Emby for Kodi add-on on Kodi to serve the media via Kodi's interface. This is also possible with Plex with PlexKodiConnect but many users seem to prefer the Emby's Kodi integration over Plex's.

Jellyfin is best if

  • You prefer more control and customizability
  • You prefer free and open-source software
  • You have a server to run Jellyfin (or a NAS with Docker) and all your clients are Android

Which is better, Plex or Emby?

The answer obviously is, it depends on your preference. I like the control that Emby/Jellyfin offers. My household members, on the other hand, prefer the polished UI of Plex.

When comparing Plex vs Emby, they are more similar than they are different - both are low cost and offer a simple method to centralize your media database between multiple clients, including Kodi integration.

A plus for Emby is that there is a business model (Emby Premiere) that brings in some revenue. This, in turn, helps it have some dedicated developers to continually improve it while also listening to the community.

Jellyfin is the new kid on the block and appears to be a bit rough around the edges at this point. In addition, it has absolutely no costs involved. On the flip side, its free nature also means developers are hobbyists contributing to the project when they can. But there appears to have some passionate developers actively working on it. I truly believe that Jellyfin has the potential to grow and challenge Plex and Emby.

Personally, I run all three (Plex, Emby, and Jellyfin). And with Docker it is so easy to get up and running. The family uses Plex, I use Emby at this point (AirSonic for Music), and Jellyfin is my backup. All three of them complement my Smart Home Setup.

Ultimately the decision on Plex vs Emby should come down to your personal needs and hopefully, this article helps you decide which is best for you.

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