If you have an extensive collection of locally-saved videos and music, Plex is one of the best ways to enjoy the content. It lets you cast that content to any device on your network, helps you manage your files to keep them organized, and even gives you a way to access your media remotely.
The basic Plex app is free to use on your computer and streaming devices like Roku and the Nvidia Shield. But the company also offers a paid tier called Plex Pass.
Some people reading this won’t need a Plex Pass. We’ve previously explained why you don’t need a Plex Pass elsewhere on the site. However, in order to know whether or not you need a Plex Pass, you first need to know exactly what you get for your money.
How Much Does a Plex Pass Cost?
Plex offers three separate subscriptions. A quarterly subscription costs $14.99, an annual subscription costs $39.99, and a lifetime subscription costs $119.99.
Some users might balk at those figures. But if you compare them to other streaming services people use, they’re actually very reasonable.
For example, an entry-level Netflix subscription costs $7.99/month. Most people will want the next tier up for multiple screens and HD content, which costs $9.99/month. Other apps like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are priced similarly.
And what about a cable subscription? Research suggests the average American household pays $103 per month on TV. Given Plex Pass also lets you watch live TV (more on that in a moment), the costs suddenly seem far more reasonable.
Bottom line: The cost of a Plex Pass is not insignificant, but can help slash your monthly bills considerably if you integrate it as part of your wider cord-cutting strategy.
Live TV and DVR
In the middle of 2017, Plex announced Plex Live TV. The caveat? You need a Plex Pass to be able to use the feature. As such, it’s comfortably the most significant reason for upgrading.
From a corporate perspective, Plex’s decision to put live TV behind a paywall is not surprising. Over recent years, more and more of the features that used to be exclusive to subscribers have become available to all users. Given the power of the live TV feature, Plex is presumably hoping it will entice a large number of users to upgrade.
From a user’s perspective, the upgrade also makes sense. We already know that a simple antenna can pick up a vast amount of free over-the-air (OTA) content — many people had forgotten just how much stuff was available. You can enjoy everything from local newscasts and premier sporting events to popular series and documentaries.
Of course, you can receive the channels with an aerial plugged into your television, but the beauty of running an antenna through Plex is the flexibility you can enjoy.
By purchasing a digital tuner (such as HD Homerun), Plex Pass will give you an electronic program guide, recording capabilities, and most importantly, the ability to enjoy the channels on any device without the need for an aerial connected to every TV.
Bottom line: Again, in the context of a comprehensive cordcutting strategy, it’s worth updating for this one feature alone. Unless you’ve got very specific tastes, OTA TV paired with Plex will eliminate the need for apps like PlayStation Vue and Sling TV, saving you a considerable amount of money.
Another oft-overlooked feature of Plex Pass is the Plex Cloud. For people who spend a lot of time using Plex when they’re away from home, it’s a huge benefit.
Let’s take a step back and understand how a free user accesses Plex content remotely. Firstly, you need an appropriate app installed on the device you’re using. If the device is a phone, tablet, or other mobile device, it’ll incur a one-off fee for non-Plex Pass subscribers.
Secondly, your Plex server needs to be running. If you’re using an old computer for the job, that means you need to leave your machine turned on for extended periods while unsupervised. It’s a safety hazard, a money drain, and — in the event your device unexpectedly restarts or crashes — a recipe for failure.
Plex Cloud, and by extension Plex Pass, removes this reliance on an always-on device. It’s a full-featured Plex Media Server that runs in the cloud. It can read any content you have saved in Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
Sure, you could access that content without Plex, but the app brings all the powerful features you’d expect such as beautiful organization, management features, and even on-the-fly transcoding.
Bottom line: If you spend a lot of time away from home, you can load up your cloud provider in advance with content you know you’ll want to watch, then relax safe in the knowledge you won’t encounter any playback problems or unavailable media.
Another Plex Pass perk for frequent travelers is offline media. Clearly, if you spend a lot of time accessing content when you’re on-the-go, you can quickly eat through your mobile data allowance. And if you’re in a foreign country, streaming data when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi is a big no-no.
Plex Pass reduces the strain on your data allowance by allowing you to download media onto your mobile device and enjoy it when offline. You don’t even need to “travel” to see the benefits. If you spend time commuting on a subway, or network coverage is patchy where you live, it’s a valuable feature.
Best of all, you can manage your offline syncing on a per-device basis. For example, if you have a high-end tablet with an HD screen and plenty of storage, you can tell Plex to sync high-definition movie files. On your five-year-old Android that you only use for in-car entertainment, you could just sync a few music albums.
Bottom line: Offline syncing both saves you money on your cell phone bill and ensures you’ve always got the media you want at your fingertips. You’ll never have to wait for buffering to complete or for your server to respond.
Plex has built its reputation as a video player, but it’s also a great way to manage and listen to your music.
It doesn’t have the same raft of features and tools as dedicated desktop applications like MusicBee and MediaMonkey, but it certainly rivals Google Play Music as a way to listen to your songs from anywhere in the world.
Like most Plex features, the ability to add, manage, and listen to songs is included in the free app. But if you’re a music fanatic, the cost of a Plex Pass undoubtedly represents value for money. The subscription adds three features that boost Plex’s music-related capabilities. They almost elevate the app to the same status as the aforementioned dedicated players.
Firstly, audio fingerprinting lets you automatically fix metadata for songs. Plex can grab a small snippet of the track, cross-reference it with an online database, and immediately add data such as the artist, album name, track name, album art, and various bios.
Secondly, Plex Pass automatically downloads a song’s lyrics. These are displayed on the screen when the track song is playing.
Finally, you’ll get access to smart mixes. They come in many forms. For example, you can search for “wake up” or “gym,” and Plex will create a playlist of songs from your library that matches your requirements. There’s also a feature akin to Spotify’s artist radio; you can listen to a never-ending playlist of specific genres or moods based on your criteria.
Bottom line: If you have accumulated thousands of songs on your machine, but you’ve never had the time or inclination to organize them all in a dedicated music app, Plex Pass can take over responsibility and inject new life into your collection.
Since the demise of Picasa, there hasn’t been a widely-accepted “winning app” for managing and viewing your photo library.
The free version of Plex allows you to upload and view your snaps, but that’s where its capabilities end.
A Plex Pass introduces the ability to create albums (which is a no-brainer), but also automatic tagging and camera uploads.
The automatic tagging allows Plex to classify and organize your photos based on location. For example, it might make an album called “Beach Holiday 2016” or “Trip to London 2011.”
The camera upload feature lets you include images from your mobile devices in your library without needing to connect your phone to your computer or use a third-party app. Because Plex makes a copy of your photos on your server, it’s also a great backup tool — you’ll never lose your images if you lose or break your mobile device.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a Picasa replacement, it’s easy to make the argument that a Plex Pass should be top of your list.
To conclude, here’s a quick overview of the other features you can enjoy with a Plex Pass:
- Parental Controls and Multiple Users: If children in your household use Plex, this is a crucial feature. Plex Pass lets you add ratings to your content on a per-video basis, then restrict individual users so they can only watch ratings you permit.
- Movie Trailers: If you’re a movie aficionado, you can replicate a theater experience by playing trailers of upcoming releases before the movie you want to watch begins.
- Early Access: Plex Pass subscribers can enjoy the newest Plex features before they become available to the public.
Bottom line: Taken individually, none of the above are worthy of the Plex Pass’s price tag. However, when taken as a whole and considered in conjunction with the benefits we’ve already discussed, they add a polish to Plex that’s impossible to replicate without a subscription.
Is a Plex Pass Worth the Asking Price?
Without a Plex Pass, Plex is still a highly useful app we would recommend without hesitation. However, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for your entire media collection that can replicate the features of several standalone apps in one place, a Plex Pass could be the answer.
Do you currently pay for a Plex Pass? What do you like most about it? And if you don’t have one, why not? What’s stopping you from investing in one? You can leave all of your thoughts, opinions, and feedback in the comments below!
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