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Plex has cemented itself as the best software for managing your media library, streaming content to the various screens in your home, and watching your videos remotely when you’re on-the-go.
To run Plex, you need two things—a server and a client. The server is responsible for hosting your content and sending it to other screens; the client is the app that allows you to access and watch your media on those screens.
So, which devices are the best Plex clients for streaming media? Let’s take a closer look.
The Nvidia Shield is the best Plex client that money can buy. It’s blazingly fast, packed with best-in-class hardware, and can handle any task you throw at it.
The device is a set-top box. You need to connect it to your TV using an HDMI cable. The box runs Android TV, supports 4K video at 60 frames per second (FPS), and offers Dolby Atmos audio. Under the hood, the Nvidia Shield has an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, 16GB of storage, 3GB of RAM, and a 256-core GPU.
It also comes with Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility. And if the 16GB isn’t enough for your needs, you can use USB storage or an external hard drive by connecting the extra memory to one of the two USB ports.
2. Apple TV 4K
The other premium device you can use as a Plex client is the Apple TV 4K box. Even though it’s more expensive, we recommend the newer 4K version to make sure that you future proof your purchase.
The Apple TV 4K supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 video, and has Dolby Digital surround sound. Inside the device, there’s an A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture. The box is available in 32GB and 64GB versions.
However, an Apple TV box has a few drawbacks compared to Nvidia’s product. Firstly, because it’s made by Apple, it is far less customizable. Secondly, there are no USB ports; you cannot expand the memory with external devices. Finally, it only offers Siri—there’s no Google Assistant or Alexa.
If the Nvidia Shield and Apple TV 4K are out of your price range, you should consider the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s the best Plex client for people who are on a budget. Despite the lower price point, however, the Fire TV Stick 4K is still a highly capable streaming device. It supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 video, along with Dolby Atmos audio. The stick comes with 8GB of storage and a quad-core processor.
When setting up a Plex client, it is always preferable to connect your set-top box or streaming stick directly to your modem; you’ll enjoy a faster and more reliable experience. Sadly, unlike the Nvidia and Apple devices, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K does not have a built-in ethernet port. You will need to purchase the official Amazon Ethernet Adapter separately. This will add around 30 percent to the overall cost.
Another cheap device that can be deployed as a Plex client is the Raspberry Pi 4. Unlike the other three Plex clients we’ve looked at, however, it does not work straight out of the box. It’s a DIY solution that you’ll need to program yourself. If that’s not your cup of tea, you should give it a wide berth.
Although the Raspberry Pi 4 is the latest model, a Raspberry Pi 2 or Raspberry Pi 3 will work just as well. The Pi 4 comes with 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB of RAM, two micro HDMI ports that support 4K, four USB ports, and an ethernet port. It has a 1.5GHz quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU.
Keep in mind that the price you see above only covers the cost of the board. You’ll also need to buy a case and a power cable.
5. Roku Ultra
The Roku Ultra is a solid mid-range Plex streaming client. It’s more expensive than a Fire TV Stick or Raspberry Pi, but considerably cheaper than the Nvidia Shield and Apple TV.
Roku manufacturers several different set-top boxes. In truth, they are all capable Plex clients. But the Ultra is the company’s best device. It has a quad-core processor and includes both USB and microSD ports for expanded memory. There’s also a voice-controlled remote control (with support for Google Assistant and Alexa) and an ethernet port for faster connections. The Ultra offers 4K playback at 60FPS and supports HDR10 video.
Importantly, Roku has also developed a reputation as being one of the agnostic streaming devices on the market. If you plan to use your device for more than watching Plex, it is a great choice.
6. Xbox One X
If you own an Xbox One X, you don’t really need to buy any of the other devices on our list—you already have one of the best Plex clients.
Unlike the basic Xbox One, it supports native 4K video (rather than using upscaling). There’s also voice support and an ethernet connection. Inside the console, you’ll find a 2.3GHz x86 AMD Jaguar eight-core CPU, 12GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and three USB ports.
Similarly, the PlayStation 4 also doubles as a solid Plex client. Remember, though; only the PS4 Pro supports 4K video. If you have an extensive collection of 4K content and only own a regular PS4, you might still want to buy one of the other devices we’ve recommended.
The PS4 has a 1.6GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, a 1.84 TFLOP AMD Radeon GPU, 8GB of RAM, 500GB or 1TB of storage, and two USB ports. The console is also Bluetooth-compatible. If you go for the Pro instead, you’ll get a 2.1GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, three USB ports, and 1TB of storage.
8. Your Smart TV
Finally, keep in mind that your smart TV might be able to run Plex. If it has an Android TV or Roku OS, it definitely will. But Plex is also available on some proprietary smart TV operating systems. Check with your manufacturer or in the appropriate app store before you hit the shops and buy one of the other devices with have discussed.
The Best Plex Clients for Your Home
Once you’ve made your decision and bought the best Plex client to suit your needs, there’s still lots more to consider before you’re ready to start streaming.
For example, make sure you’ve also bought one of the best devices to use as a Plex server. It will help you maximize your Plex experience.