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Top 7 Plex Alternatives for Media Streaming in 2024

February 12, 2024

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Are you looking to replace Plex? With over 20 million users, Plex enjoys broad support across devices. But it may not meet everyone’s needs or preferences.

Fortunately, compelling Plex alternatives exist without the constraints of its increasingly closed ecosystem. This definitive guide explores the best options to meet your media serving needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Jellyfin and Emby closely rival Plex in media server capabilities. As open source options, they enable greater control.
  • Kodi excels as a local media center thanks to limitless customization via its thriving plugin ecosystem.
  • Specialized solutions like Stremio rethink media aggregation in the age of fragmented streaming.
  • Simpler DLNA servers like Universal Media Server provide no-frills local streaming.
  • Factors like open source code, privacy policies, and customization should drive your choice.

Why Consider Plex Alternatives?

There are many reasons to look beyond Plex:

  • Some users prefer open source software for transparency and control, which Plex lacks.
  • Important functionality like advanced parental controls requires expensive Plex Pass upgrades.
  • There are also privacy and data collection concerns with Plex’s policies.

Fortunately, Plex alternatives can deliver customizable and private media serving options. This guide compares the top contenders across key decision factors to match you to the best software for your needs.

How We Evaluated Plex Replacements

We assessed over 12 leading options on:

  • Open Source Code: Enables community enhancement and transparency.
  • Cost: One-time or recurring fees required?
  • Customization: First and third party plugins expand functionality.
  • Hardware Support: Video acceleration, live transcoding, direct playback.
  • Privacy Policy: Control of user data and transparency.
  • Cross Platform Support: Server and client app availability across devices.
  • Ease of Use: Simplified setup and management.

Based on hands-on testing and consulting expert reviews, we recommend the following as the best Plex alternatives available.

The 7 Best Plex Alternatives

1. Jellyfin

Jellyfin is arguably the top open source Plex alternative, delivering extensive personal configuration courtesy of its GPLv2 codebase.

Jellyfin

Cost: 100% free and open source

Customization: Highly flexible with plugin and theme support

Hardware Support: GPU acceleration and live transcoding via FFmpeg

Key Features:

  • Community driven development and new features
  • Cross platform server and client support
  • DLNA, Chromecast, Airplay, Bluetooth protocols
  • SyncPlay for remote shared watching

For those wanting customization and transparency beyond Plex’s walled garden, Jellyfin brings open source innovation.

2. Emby: Robust Media Management

Emby competes closely with Plex in capabilities while excelling at remote access. See our Emby vs Plex comparison.

Emby

Cost: Free membership with $4.99 monthly Premier unlocking DVR, offline viewing etc.

Customization: Robust plugin and app development support

Hardware Support: Live transcoding and hardware accelerated video encoding

Key Features:

  • Granular parental controls and access restrictions
  • Strong live TV support with free guide data
  • 160+ apps across major platforms and devices
  • Automated “watch together” invites for remote shared viewing

For those needing expanded restrictions for kids viewing beyond Plex’s tools, Emby hits the mark.

3. Kodi: Limitless Extensibility

Kodi shines thanks to its highly engaged open source community expanding functionality via 1000s of plugins.

Kodi

Cost: 100% free and open source

Customization: Extremely high

Hardware Support: Expert configuration possible for hardware optimization

Key Features:

  • Fully customizable via official and third party add-ons
  • Stream virtually any online and local media
  • “Skins” customize look and layout
  • Community driven roadmap, new features launch weekly
  • Game emulator and PVR integration

Don’t like Plex’s restricted environment? Kodi offers near endless customization thanks to 20 years of community development.

4. Stremio: Effortless Entertainment Aggregation

Stremio makes consuming media from all your subscriptions a breeze thanks to its unified catalog.

Stremio

Cost: 100% free

Customization: Moderate add-on extensions

Hardware Support: Hardware decoding, casting protocols

Key Features:

  • Single dashboard for multiple services like Netflix and YouTube
  • Community built add-ons expand functionality
  • Intelligent recommendations for new media
  • Track what you’re watching
  • Social features like shared movie collections

Stremio isn’t a full Plex replacement but offers outstanding ways to get more from existing streaming investments.

5. Universal Media Server: Simple Streaming

Sometimes a barebones media server gets the job done. That’s where lightweight DLNA/UPnP options like Universal Media Server (UMS) shine.

Universal Media Server

Cost: 100% free and open source

Customization: Plugin support, limited compared to Kodi

Hardware Support: Device sync, transcoding, direct playback

Key Features:

  • Hassle-free DLNA/UPnP streaming
  • Support for 100s of media formats
  • Automatic organization
  • On-the-fly conversion for playback issues

If you want Plex-style access without the proprietary platform, UMS delivers.

6. MediaPortal: Windows Home Theater Hub

MediaPortal brings the beloved Windows Media Center ecosystem to home theater PCs.

Mediaportal

Cost: 100% free and open source

Customization: Highly customizable with skins and plugins

Hardware Support: Hardware accelerated decoding, flexible back-end

Key Features:

  • PVR and live TV recording support
  • Extensive plugin catalog expands functionality
  • Skins enable deep aesthetic personalization
  • Specialized for Home Theater PCs (HTPCs)
  • Consume any media Windows supports!

For Windows households seeking to supercharge media functionality, MediaPortal delivers.

7. Serviio: Mature Media Streaming

Serviio offers robust, no-frills media streaming that’s been refined for over a decade.

Serviio

Cost: Free with $25 Pro upgrade for added functionality

Customization: Plugin support

Hardware Support: Direct streaming, transcoding, subtitle support

Key Features:

  • Stream media anywhere with MediaBrowser integration
  • Alexa voice control
  • Premium transcoding for media format support
  • Simple setup takes minutes

When you just need something that works, Serviio delivers.

Key Buying Considerations

When evaluating Plex alternatives, keep these decisive factors in mind:

  • Open Source Code: Enables transparency, security audits and custom enhancements.
  • Cost: One-time or recurring fees required for full access.
  • Hardware Compatibility: Video acceleration support, direct playback etc.
  • Plugins: Expand functionality via 1st/3rd party plugins and add-ons.
  • Privacy Controls: Review policies to understand data practices.
  • Cross Platform Availability: Server and client access across devices.

Direct Playback on TV: A Simple Streaming Solution

Attaching a USB drive with your media directly to your TV or streaming box can enable playback without running a server.

Support varies across devices, but this plug-and-play approach can provide the simplest way to get media streaming. Just ensure you have backups in case of drive failure.

Choosing the Best Free Media Server

With many free options available, consider factors like:

  • Devices To Support: More devices may need a robust server like Plex/Emby.
  • Media Types To Stream: Certain servers excel with audio, images etc.
  • Special Features Needed: Parental controls, music libraries etc.
  • Hardware Utilized: Low power devices like a Pi may need simpler servers.

Evaluate your needs to pick the best free media server software for you.

Our Criteria for Rating Plex Alternatives

We rated Plex replacements on:

  • OS Support: Windows, Linux, Android TV etc.
  • Hardware Compatibility: Transcoding, casting etc.
  • Media Format Support: Video, audio, photos etc.
  • Ease of Use: Automated organization, streaming.
  • Customization: Plugins, skins etc.

By considering these criteria, users can determine the best fit alternative to meet their requirements.

Plex Alternatives: A Comparison Chart

To make your choice even easier, here’s a handy comparison chart summarizing the key features of each Plex alternative.

Plex AlternativeOpen-SourceLive TV SupportAdd-Ons/PluginsCustomizationTranscoding
JellyfinYesYesLimitedHighYes
EmbyNoYesYesHighYes
KodiYesYesExtensiveVery HighYes
StremioNoYesYesMediumYes
MediaPortalYesYesYesHighYes
ServiioNoNoLimitedLowYes
Universal Media ServerNoNoNoLowYes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Plex Still the Best Media Server?

Plex enjoys broad device support and remains a compelling option. But alternative media servers rival and sometimes surpass Plex’s offerings.

Platforms like Emby Premier and Kodi integrate external sources like live TV that Plex lacks. Jellyfin matches Plex’s slick interface while avoiding its commercial model.

So while Plex still leads in usability, the alternatives provide their own standout benefits.

Plex vs Emby: Which is the Better Media Server?

Both Plex and Emby offer robust media management and streaming. However, Emby Premier unlocks additional capabilities like live TV for a monthly subscription.

Meanwhile, Plex still holds an edge for usability and polish. But Emby provides more granular parental controls, broader device support, and greater library customization.

So Plex excels on user experience while Emby offers more features. Choose the priority that best meets your needs.

Conclusion

While beloved by many, Plex comes with a constrained ecosystem. Compelling alternatives avoid these limitations while matching and even exceeding Plex’s capabilities in areas.

Open source options like Jellyfin and Kodi enable transparency and community-driven innovation lacking in closed source projects.

And specialized solutions like Stremio rethink media aggregation for the streaming era.

Considering your priorities around functionality, freedom, and privacy will illuminate which Plex alternative best replaces or even improves upon it.