We currently have many options to enjoy streaming movies and series, platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+ offer us a wide variety. However, to be able to access all the content we have to contract each and every one of them, which makes the annual cost skyrocket. Many users are resorting to setting up a NAS server at home, and using some program to comfortably view all the multimedia content of the server, today we are going to explain the main characteristics and differences of the three most popular: Plex, JellyFin and Emby.
What are these programs for?
These programs allow us to set up our own Netflix at home with the multimedia content that we have in one or several folders. We are going to be able to place the movies or series in a folder, and the program will automatically detect the content and offer us a very friendly graphical interface similar to that of platforms like Netflix, since we can see the cover of the movie or series, a small summary, the protagonists of the film or series and much more relevant information.
What we like the most about these programs is that they are multiplatform, we can install the server on a NAS that will be the center of everything, and then install the different applications on smartphones, tablets and also on our Smart TV. Thanks to the compatibility with different TVs and operating systems, we will be able to play multimedia content from anywhere, whether on the local network or through the Internet when we are traveling.
Next, we are going to explain what are the strengths and weaknesses of each of the options that we have today.
Plex Media Server was one of the first programs to appear, it is currently one of the best and most complete, since it incorporates compatibility with a large number of devices. The strengths of this option are as follows:
Completely free, we can watch movies and series without any limits. There is a paid subscription with additional features that we will explain later.
- It is compatible with the vast majority of devices, such as Android, Apple, Chromecast, PlayStation, Xbox, Samsung and LG TVs and much more.
- It allows to install the server on a large number of NAS, such as QNAP, Synology, ASUSTOR, and also on non-commercial servers, such as those with TrueNAS.
- Graphic user interface very easy to use, it is very fast and agile in all the menus.
However, not all are advantages when using Plex Media Server, and in recent years it has become a bit more commercial and now we have a paid subscription that allows us to “unlock” the following features:
- Possibility to have hardware accelerated transcoding, if the NAS supports it.
- See extras and trailers of movies and series.
- We can download the movie on the smartphone or tablet to play it without an Internet connection.
Reproduction through the Internet of our Plex to share it with friends or family.
As you can see, if we want to get the most out of it, we will have to pay the monthly, annual or lifetime subscription (the latter is worth €120 forever).
JellyFin offers us the same options as Plex, we can set up our own Netflix very easily and quickly, in addition, everything is free software and there is no type of subscription. All available options are for all users. The strengths of this solution are:
- All options are completely free.
- Compatible with many devices such as Android, iOS and Android TV devices as well as Chromecast, and also LG with webOS 6+.
- The server is compatible with any Linux system based on Debian, Arch Linux, Gentoo, Fedora/CentOS and even with any NAS thanks to its official Docker support.
Some weaknesses of JellyFin is that it is not compatible with Samsung TVs, hardware transcoding does not always work and we have to do some advanced configuration, especially if you install it in a Docker container.
JellyFin was born because Emby started to close the source code and be private, in addition, we also have a monthly, annual or lifetime subscription if we want to get the most out of the multimedia content. For example, if we pay we will have access to content without an Internet connection, we can have full access to applications, we have hardware-accelerated transcoding, trailers and many other options.
If you don’t mind paying, Emby is a great option and has great compatibility with different operating systems for commercial NAS, DIY builds and even PC systems. This option is very similar to Plex.