Forget Plex and Kodi, Try Emby Instead
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We have previously spent a lot of time discussing Plex and Kodi, and will continue to do so in the future. After all, these two apps dominate the home theater sector: they let you watch, cast, and manage all of your media.

The apps deserve plenty of attention. Kodi and Plex are easy to use Your Guide To Plex - The Awesome Media Center Your Guide To Plex - The Awesome Media Center If you have a lot of locally-saved movies and TV shows, you need to install Plex. And this is the only guide to getting started with Plex you'll ever need to read. Read More and packed with cool tricks 8 Plex Tricks and Tips You Really Need to Know 8 Plex Tricks and Tips You Really Need to Know Plex is a stunning piece of software. Put simply, it lets you stream your media anywhere in the world, on any device, whenever you want. But there is so much more to it than that... Read More . However, there is a third option in the form of Emby.

Emby doesn’t boast the same level of recognition as its two big brothers, which is unfair. The app’s developers have spent the last couple of years consistently improving the software. Today, it can rival both Plex and Kodi. In some respects, it’s superior to the offering from the two powerhouses.

So, what exactly is Emby? What are its headline features? And what are its pros and cons when compared to Plex and Kodi? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Emby?

Emby is a media center app. As you’d expect, it lets you play music and videos, as well as view photographs.

You can download the desktop version of the app on Windows, macOS, Linux, and on NAS devices. The mobile version is available for Android and iOS. There is also a web app.

Emby can also work as a streaming app. You can grab IPTV feeds and cast them around your home, sign in to some on-demand video services Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? It has been years since we've compared heavy-hitting streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And with changes in pricing, content, quality, and interface, we thought it was time to revisit the topic. Read More , and even cast via Chromecast to other screens in your house.

Finally, the Emby app is open source. Aside from being an important philosophical point for some users, the availability of the source code means that, like Kodi, Emby has a thriving an active community that develops plugins and other exciting tweaks.

Download: Emby

The Pros of Using Emby

Emby has some advantages over Plex and Kodi. Let’s take a closer look at some of the app’s upsides.

Emby on Kodi

If you’re a Plex user, you probably know that there’s a Plex add-on for Kodi Plex for Kodi: What Is It and Why Do I Need It? Plex for Kodi: What Is It and Why Do I Need It? Did you know that there's an official Plex addon available for Kodi? In many ways, it provides the best of both worlds, so here's everything you need to get started. Read More . It lets you enjoy the best of both worlds; Plex’s library management with Kodi’s customizability.

Emby also offers a Kodi add-on. And because Emby is open-source, it arguably works even better than the Plex offering; the integration between the two is more substantial.

emby as alternative to kodi and plex

For example, the add-on lets Kodi scrape the Emby database. When the scrape is complete, your Emby content will be visible in Kodi’s libraries.

On the other hand, content on Plex is only accessible in Kodi via the Plex add-on. No content is scraped, and none of your Plex content will show up alongside your Kodi content.

Server/Client Model

Emby takes a leaf out of Plex’s book and uses a server/client model. In practice, it means you install the server app on the machine or hard drive where all your content is saved, then access it using the client apps on other devices.

emby as alternative to kodi and plex

All you need to access your content is a username and password. This implementation is identical to Plex but very different to Kodi.

The Kodi app is primarily a client app. It is possible to set Kodi up as a server, but it’s a much more technical process and not suitable for beginners. And even if you get Kodi operating as a server, the integration is not as smooth.

Open Source

As mentioned earlier, Emby is open source. For reference, Kodi is open source, but Plex is not.

Open-source software has a number of advantages over closed-source. For example, because anyone can inspect open-source code, you can be confident there are no nasty security issues or privacy nightmares looming.

It also lends itself to creating a community. Even though Plex recently launched Plex Labs What Is Plexamp and Why Do You Need It? What Is Plexamp and Why Do You Need It? In this article, we're going to quickly explain what Plex Labs is, then move onto an in-depth look at its first standout app, a music player called Plexamp. Read More , the size of the third-party developer communities in Kodi and Emby is vast in comparison.

Plugins

Many members of the Emby open-source community have developed plugins for the app. When you’re running the Emby app, you can browse to Plugins in the left-hand panel to search the catalog.

emby as alternative to kodi and plex

You will be able to find a plugin for everything from cinema trailers to TuneIn radio and metadata finders to Slack notifications.

Parental Controls

Parental controls on Plex are hidden behind a Plex Pass subscription. On Kodi, parental controls can be hit-and-miss. They work well for locally-saved content, but are less reliable for streamed content.

On Emby, parental controls are a native part of the free app. They’re easy to set up, and work across all the media on your device.

The Cons of Using Emby

No app is perfect, and Emby is no different. There are two downsides you need to be aware of.

Emby Premiere

Emby offers a premium tier. Subscribing unlocks additional features. A monthly plan costs $4.99, an annual plan costs $54, and a lifetime subscription costs $119.

Premium plans are not uncommon in the world of home theater apps. Plex also offers a paid subscription Plex Pass: What Do You Get for Your Money? Plex Pass: What Do You Get for Your Money? In order to know whether or not you need a Plex Pass, you first need to know exactly what you get for your money. Read More , called Plex Pass. However, if you’re not interested in live TV, most people won’t need Plex Pass 5 Reasons Why You Don't Actually Need a Plex Pass 5 Reasons Why You Don't Actually Need a Plex Pass If you have lots of locally-saved media on your computer, Plex is a must-have piece of software. But do you actually need to pay for a Plex Pass? Let's find out... Read More .

emby as alternative to kodi and plex

Emby is a different story. Without paying for the Premiere plan, you won’t be able to sync content with your devices for offline viewing, browse the podcast channel, use the DVR features, download and use the free mobile apps, or use the Emby app on your TV.

Other features offered with Premiere include Amazon Alexa integration, folder backup, and cinema mode.

Smaller Userbase

In terms of user numbers, Emby is a considerable distance behind both Plex and Kodi. While lower user numbers are in no way representative of the quality of the app, a smaller userbase does affect the extended community.

For example, anyone who’s spent any time using Kodi will know there are thousands of add-ons for the app. The number of plugins on Emby is an order of magnitude lower. If the app could attract more users, the community would grow, and the number of plugins would blossom.

Are You Keen to Try Emby?

Emby is a long way behind Plex and Kodi, and for an important reason: it’s a younger app that’s still finding its feet.

But the development in the last couple of years has been encouraging. And it feels like the groundwork is in place for an app that could genuinely rival its two most prominent competitors within the next few years.

Have you tried Emby? If not, will you be trying it?

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  1. aa
    April 24, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    This article has some inaccuracies and not necessarily correct information so
    A) Emby server is open source but my clients are not or to be more accurate no longer are open source.
    B) MB clients Maybe free but they keep harassing you about joining MB premiers on some client like on Samsung TVs for example you have to wait for 10 seconds before you able to continue playing your own media unless you join Emby Premier near $5 a month just to play your own media.
    C) Plex is totally free if you are playing your own media it determines that based on the IP address if you are using local IP addresses then it works for free.
    D) emby clients are totally unreliable they keep getting stuck with this waiting Circle all the time. On the other hand and be server has proved to be quite powerful and reliable even on low-bandwidth connection
    E) I found out that the best combination is using Kodi as a client with emby server.

  2. Rob Gammon
    February 1, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    I wanted to use Plex but have found that it doesn't play well with Rasbian. So now looking at Emby. Is there an equivalent to Plex's unofficial app store for Emby?

  3. CG
    February 1, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Plex is not without its faults (and believe me, it has many) but I have a lifetime subscription that I'm not ready to give up quite yet! Even though Emby does look promising...

  4. Toner
    January 29, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I use all three (Plex, Emby, & Kodi) and here are my general thoughts.

    Plex is, for the most part, the easiest to use option for most people. It has a large community to pull from and offers a ton of great features. It is my daily user and what i share with friends and family without any issues. The big down sides are that some clients tend to be forgotten (PS4 and smart TV apps) compared to the continuous updates for more popular clients, the lack of customization of the interface bothers some people, and the DVR/TV Listings are the biggest issues for me.

    Kodi offers great customization, tons of add-ins, a large user base, and offers a better media center feel than the others. I do tend to use Kodi the least though since it is less user friendly compared to Plex. The lack of supported Apple TV and Roku apps adds to my lack of use.

    Emby is a great Plex alternative. In my opinion, it is less polished but does other things better. The DVR is much better than the Plex option. The transcoders operate just about equally for me as well. The user interface is not as friendly as Plex but is easier to navigate than Kodi.

    I recommend Plex for most people. If you don't need the server or only want it on one device, use Kodi if you are up for the extra work to put into it. If you want the best of both, try Emby but set up Plex along side it. Setting your media up in Plex's format will ensure that all three can read the files.

  5. snorkel
    January 29, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Emby is really good, especially the DVR implementation.
    Emby also has all the clients that really count, like Android TV (shield,mibox etc) ,Fire TV, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Web browser,ROKU and more.
    I really recommend Emby and real competition to Plex is a good thing.

  6. likefunbutnot
    January 29, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    As a counterpoint, almost every internet enabled set top box or TV made in the last six or seven years has a Plex client, even if you have something as weird as a WebOS or Firefox OS device. Moreover, that client is probably built in to the default options on the device. Knowing that Plex interoperates with pretty much anything I want to connect to it is one of the biggest reasons I continue to support Plex. Emby is functionally just about the same thing, but with a smaller community and fewer supported devices. Choosing Emby over Plex right now seems almost deliberately obtuse.

    • snorkel
      January 29, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      Emby has way better DVR support. It also has really good device support.
      I tried Plex and it was super buggy and the DVR implementation failed many times to record stuff I had scheduled. Saw emby and it's been solid.
      Many of the plex clients on those add devices have not been updated and don't match the other newer clients, so take the broad client support with a grain of salt.

    • Kassandra Box
      January 29, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Likewise, having to pay to use TV app is ridiculous.
      PLEX can be aPITA sometimes but,
      9 times out of 10 it just works.
      To compete a challenger needs to be better not "sort of but..."

      • snorkel
        January 29, 2018 at 8:17 pm

        I don't think it's ridiculous as the lifetime pass/premier price is pretty fair .
        It's not wrong to charge for software, especially if it helps make the software better.

        • Kassandra Box
          January 30, 2018 at 5:31 pm

          That's as maybe but,
          'Plex' has free apps for most TV's and boxes.
          If one wishes to compete don't tie one hand behind your back.

          Exposure, exposure, exposure!

      • ike301
        April 16, 2018 at 4:21 pm

        You can use Emby TV for free. This article is wrong on that point. You need to pay if you want to use the DVR function. If you know what ServerWMC is, one can use that for free DVR service within Emby.