If you have lots of locally saved media on your computer, Plex is a must-have piece of software. Unlike Kodi, it’s easy for beginners to set up and has apps available for every major operating system and media streaming device.
The other significant difference between Plex and Kodi is pricing. While Kodi is entirely free, Plex offers a paid tier. Called the Plex Pass, this paid tier introduces several additional features.
But do you actually need a Plex Pass? Is a Plex Pass worth it? Arguably, many people could do without a Plex subscription.
What Is a Plex Pass?
The basic Plex app is free on every platform, whereas the Plex Pass has three price tiers. You can pay $4.99/month, $39.99/year, or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription.
As you’d expect, there are numerous Plex Pass benefits that are unavailable on the free version of the app.
The most useful additions are arguably the Plex live TV and DVR offerings. If you add an antenna and tuner to your setup, you can watch and record any over-the-air channels in your area through the Plex app.
The Plex Pass also includes mobile syncing for offline viewing, support for multiple users, parental controls, movie trailers, and music features such as “mood mixes” and lyrics.
Clearly, these are all great features. However, for most users, they’re totally unnecessary. In fact, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Many people believe you need a Plex Pass to perform certain tasks when the reality is different.
Do You Need a Plex Pass Subscription?
Here are five complex tasks you can perform without a Plex Pass.
1. Remote Streaming
One of Plex’s best attributes is its remote streaming function. It allows you to view all your media from anywhere in the world as long as you have the Plex app installed on the device you want to watch on.
This is especially useful for keeping the kids entertained when you’re away from home or if you spend a lot of time bouncing around hotels as part of your job. After all, there’s only so long you can watch MTV and international news channels before you start pulling your hair out.
However, the perception is that you need a Plex Pass to watch remotely. It’s not true. All users can stream remotely providing you’ve configured your Plex Server correctly. Head to Settings > Remote Access > Enable Remote Access to set it up.
In this regard, the Plex Pass is only useful if you’re going to be in a place with no internet—it lets you save content directly onto your device.
2. Use Plex on Mobile
If you want to access remote streaming on mobile rather than on a laptop, you’ll need to install the appropriate Plex app.
The app is free but has some restrictions. Each video and music file is limited to one minute of playback, and your photos will have a watermark added.
To remove the restrictions, you’ll be asked to pay a one-time fee of $4.99. It’s a fraction of the cost of a full Plex Pass. Of course, you don’t get access to any Plex Pass features, but if you just want to watch content on a tablet a few times per year, it’s more than adequate.
You can also access your Plex server using your mobile device’s web browser if you don’t want to pay the fee for the app.
3. Share Media Libraries
Are you the tech guru in your household? If you are, there’s a good chance you’ll want to share the benefits of Plex with the rest of your family.
But setting up Plex on lots of different devices is time-consuming. And, unless you’re willing to continually add new media to other people’s computers, it’s almost impossible to keep everyone updated.
Luckily, Plex lets you share your library with anyone. They don’t even have to be on the same network as you. Best of all, the feature doesn’t require a Plex Pass—all the other person needs is a free Plex account.
To share your library with friends and family, open your Plex Server app and make sure you are signed in, then go to Settings > Family and Friends> Sharing > Invite Friend. Fill in the person’s Plex credentials, and they will receive an invite in their email inbox.
4. Sync Content on Mobile
There’s an ongoing misconception about how mobile syncing works. As mentioned earlier, you need a Plex Pass if you want to download content onto your mobile device for offline viewing. That’s clear.
However, if you have a Plex Pass, anyone who you have shared your server with does not need a Plex Pass. As long as the server is registered against your account, they can download content for offline viewing. The upshot is that you probably only need a single Plex Pass per household (or even per family).
There’s just one catch. The other user will need to pay the aforementioned one-time fee of $4.99.
To allow other users to sync your content onto their device, open the Plex Server and navigate to Settings > Users > My Home > [Username] > Restrictions > Allow Sync.
5. Non-Mobile Plex Apps
All non-mobile Plex apps are entirely free to download and use. That includes the native apps for Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, and where applicable, smart TVs.
If you’re using the app on your local network or if you want to use a streaming dongle while you’re traveling, you don’t need a Plex Pass to access the benefits.
You can also access your Plex server from any Plex media player app without charge.
A Plex Pass Supports the Developers
You don’t need a Plex Pass to access any of the five features discussed above. However, if you love Plex, use it every day, and share your library with lots of other people, you should consider buying a Plex Pass anyway.
In addition to the extra functionality we discussed at the start of the article, you’re also helping to support the developers and fund the app’s long-term future. Remember, even the free version of Plex doesn’t include any ads; the Plex Pass is the company’s only form of income.
If you would like to learn more about Plex, check out our articles detailing how to record live TV with Plex DVR, our list of the Plex channels you should install right now, and several hidden Plex settings you should be using.