Plex isn’t the best method to file stay broadcast TV, however it’s the most versatile.
As a whole-home DVR for cord-cutters, Plex’s software program and subscription service ticks nearly all of the requisite bins, together with full broadcast TV high quality, numerous methods to handle recordings, and broad machine assist. It additionally permits you to stack a number of tuners to file many applications concurrently, and even features a highly effective ad-skipping characteristic—in beta, however nonetheless useful—that the majority different DVRs lack.
However in comparison with different options like Tablo and TiVo, you’ll have to assemble and handle extra by yourself, and the outcomes aren’t all the time as seamless. For these causes, Plex DVR nonetheless looks like an answer for energy customers, fairly than one of the best DVR for everybody.
Select your DVR journey…
Plex DVR requires a subscription to Plex Move, which prices $5 per 30 days, $40 per yr, or $120 for lifetime service. To set it up, you’ll be able to take a spread of approaches, from easy to intimidating.
The trail of least resistance is to pair an Nvidia Shield TV streaming field ($200) with a compatible USB antenna tuner such because the Hauppauge WinTV-Twin-HD. Plug an antenna into the tuner, then join an exterior exhausting drive to the field’s different USB slot, and Plex’s Media Server software program for Protect will deal with the recordings. You possibly can then watch stay and recorded TV on the Protect itself, or stream it over Wi-Fi to the Plex app on different units, together with Amazon Hearth TV, Android TV units, Apple Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and the net.
In the event you don’t have nice antenna reception close to your Protect, you’ll be able to skip the USB tuner and as a substitute join an HDHomeRun networked tuner (the dual-tuner mannequin pricesabout $80 on Amazon) to your wi-fi router, which feeds over-the-air broadcasts to the Protect through Wi-Fi. (You needn’t splurge on HDHomeRun’s pricier Lengthen tuners, both, since Plex performs its personal transcoding to scale back bandwidth necessities and file sizes.)
The Protect isn’t even essential if in case you have a desktop pc or NAS field on which to run Plex Media Server. Simply plug a USB tuner into your PC, or join an HDHomeRun to your router to get began, and you’ll stream broadcast TV to another machine working the Plex app.
The good factor about Plex’s strategy is how extensible it’s. Wish to file extra reveals at a time? Simply plug in a second tuner. Run out of cupboard space? Simply plug in second exhausting drive or transfer your recordings to a bigger one. You possibly can even retailer recordings on a tough drive related to your router’s USB port, in order that anybody at dwelling can use the drive’s spare storage for different functions.
The inherent trade-off is that this isn’t fairly a plug-and-play resolution. You could collect all of the elements by yourself, then set up Plex’s Media Server software program on the machine that’s doing the recording, then head to an internet browser to stroll by the guided setup course of.
The necessity to join third-party additionally introduces extra room for hard-to-explain errors. Whereas testing Plex, for example, I encountered a difficulty the place Android TV’s Live Channels app was quietly utilizing up tuners for no obvious cause. It took me weeks to diagnose the issue, and I in the end needed to disable the app to forestall additional points. Whereas Plex isn’t technically at fault, this isn’t one thing that may occur with a managed DVR system reminiscent of Tablo or TiVo.
…However select correctly
The opposite concern with Plex is that your expertise can fluctuate relying in your alternative of .
On the server facet, the Protect has solely a few USB ports, limiting your capability so as to add extra storage, tuners, or different equipment reminiscent of sport controllers. (I couldn’t get the machine to acknowledge my USB tuner when it was related to an exterior USB hub.) Plex additionally notes that typically, the Protect can solely transcode two or three movies concurrently. For max flexibility, a desktop PC or NAS field are nonetheless your greatest choices.
The machine you employ to stream from Plex additionally makes a distinction. In the event you’re a stickler for easy video, for example, you’ll need an Nvidia Protect TV, since its video participant has a double de-interlacer that performs 480i and 1080i channels at 60 frames per second. On different units I’ve examined, interlaced channels get choked again to 30 frames per second. (In idea, Plex may repair this by constructing a customized video participant for different units, just like the Channels app has done on Apple TV.)
Among the many Protect’s different benefits: It’s the one machine with a picture-in-picture mode that allows you to play video games or browse different apps whereas watching broadcast TV, and it’s the one one whose recordings seem in system-wide voice search (on this case, from Google Assistant). Android-based units such because the Protect are additionally the one ones that assist watching and recording a channel on a single tuner, so that you needn’t burn a second tuner slot simply to view a recording in progress.
However, Plex’s Android TV app, which the Protect makes use of, is tougher to navigate than Plex’s apps on Roku and Apple TV. The stay TV menu is buried a half-dozen rows into the interface, and it doesn’t show community names or allow you to click on right into a separate “Watch Now” menu. And in contrast to Plex’s different apps, the Android TV model doesn’t listing channel numbers.
What makes Plex worthwhile—other than its extensibility—is the quantity of management it offers you over recordings.
For any given TV present, you’ll be able to filter out reruns, add begin and cease buffer occasions, filter out normal definition channels, robotically exchange SD recordings with high-definition ones, restrict recordings to a selected channel, robotically delete previous episodes (both by date or variety of newer recordings), and delete previous episodes after watching them. It’s simple to search out issues to file as properly, with separate menus for motion pictures, reveals, information, and sports activities, and a number of filtering choices inside every.
Plex additionally helps out-of-home streaming for stay and recorded TV, and you’ll sync any recording to your units for offline viewing. Your recordings aren’t perpetually locked into Plex’s system both. Recordings are unprotected in .TS format, so you should use them with different media server applications or switch them onto different units manually.
The most effective characteristic of all, although, is automated advert elimination, which makes use of some post-processing to delete business breaks from the precise video file. Whereas Plex’s ad-stripper generally leaves bits of commercials intact, I’ve but to come across a cutoff of any precise present content material, and it’s all the time satisfying to see an hour-long recording trimmed down by about 15 minutes. (In the event you’re nervous about shedding materials, you’ll be able to set advert elimination on or off by default, and allow or disable it on a per-program foundation.)
Nonetheless, Plex does have some limitations. Most notably, none of its apps supply a grid-based channel information like TiVo, Tablo, Emby, and Channels do. As a substitute, Plex tries to supply some guide-line menu rows, reminiscent of “On proper now,” “Beginning quickly,” and “New Episodes tonight.” This simply doesn’t really feel as easy as a conventional grid. Plex’s capability to file stay sports activities can be missing, with no method to file particular groups.
Due to these limitations, the considerably daunting setup course of, and the inconsistencies between its varied apps, Plex isn’t an answer I’d recommend to everybody. (That honor nonetheless goes to Tablo.) However for energy customers who don’t thoughts fidgeting with their cord-cutting setups, Plex’s mixture of video and audio high quality, granular recording controls, and extensibility is pretty much as good because it will get.