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.
Even if you prefer to stream content, it’s still useful. The Unofficial Plex App Store is packed with channels, and since June 2017, you can also use it to watch live over-the-air TV.
The other significant difference between Plex and Kodi is when it comes to pricing. While Kodi is entirely free, Plex offers a paid tier. Called the Plex Pass, this paid tier introduces exciting additional features.
But do you actually need a Plex Pass? Probably not.
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 per month, $39.99 per year, or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription.
As you’d expect, the Plex Pass offers a host features that are unavailable on the free version of the app.
The most useful additions are arguably the new 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 in reality it really is just an optional extra.
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.
It’s 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 > Server > 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.
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 go to Settings > Users > Friends > 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 if registered against your account, they can download content for offline viewing. The upshot is that you probably only need one 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. Live TV Channels
Not to be confused with the new live TV feature, channels have been part of Plex for a long time now.
You can install community-created channels through the Unofficial App Store, but Plex also offers hundreds of channels natively.
Several of the native channels provide a live TV component. These include BBC iPlayer, ABC, CBS, CNN, Comedy Central, FOX, NBC, and the Food Network.
You don’t need a Plex Pass to download or watch any of these channels. You can install as many as you want by opening the Plex Server and going to Channels > Install Channels.
Please Support Plex
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 I 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’re looking for an alternative to Plex, why not take a look at Emby?
Do you have a Plex Pass? If so, what are its best features? Or do you think it’s unnecessary? Are you happy with the the free version of Plex? Please leave your comments below. Or share this article with your Plex-loving friends on social media instead.
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