If you use Plex to manage your library of digital media, you’ve probably heard of Plex Pass.
Plex Pass is a subscription service that adds several unique features like the ability to stream to mobile devices, and download media for offline playback. Plex Pass subscribers also gain early access to new premium features as they become available.
To be clear, you don’t need Plex Pass to use Plex or a Plex Media Server. However, being a subscriber certainly has its perks.
Plex Pass enriches the experience by delivering all the free components of Plex, along with a live TV and DVR feature, mobile apps, trailers, cloud syncing, parental controls, premium music features, and early access to new and exciting apps.
Let’s review the features and benefits of Plex Pass. Then we’ll discuss how much a subscription costs, and whether or not it’s worth the additional expense.
Unique Plex Pass Benefits
Plex Pass is a fully-featured premium service that gives access to features that aren’t available with the free subscription.
These features include:
Live TV & DVR
Watch and record over-the-air broadcasts using Plex Pass’s live TV and digital video recorder (DVR) features.
You’ll need a compatible tuner device and antenna in order to receive local television channels. Once you hook your local Plex Media Server to the tuner and digital antenna, you can watch and record live TV for free.
With DVR, users can skip commercials in a manner similar to TiVo. Recording content to your library also provides other key benefits, such as adding metadata and the ability to watch content live, wherever you are, on any device.
If you’ve cut cable but miss live TV and DVR, a subscription to Plex Pass is a great solution.
What if you’re flying on an airplane? Or going camping with the kids? Taking the subway to work?
Even when you’re no longer connected to the internet, Plex Pass lets you download your media to another device and watch it offline later.
Mobile Sync is useful for loading copies of your digital content on your smartphone or tablet so that it’s ready for your next commute.
With a Plex Pass subscription, it’s also simple to use mobile sync for shared users.
Plex Home (Parental Controls)
Plex Pass also makes it easy to control what your children are watching and to block TV shows, films, or music with explicit content.
With Plex Home, users can customize their accounts and restrict content based on ratings. Just install the Plex app on your children’s devices and set the parental controls to meet your safety preferences.
As the name suggests, Plex Home is intended for people that physically live in the same household.
The administrator is able to create up to fourteen managed users within the home. A managed user cannot directly sign into the app, so they’re not able to modify the parental controls.
With Google Photos now starting to limit the amount of storage you have, this might just be one of my favorite Plex Pass features.
Camera Upload allows users to easily sync photos and videos from your smartphone or tablet’s camera roll directly to your Plex Media Server.
From there, you can share those photos and videos on your other Plex Apps. As an added bonus, you get to free up some space on your device too!
Premium Music Features
Plex Pass takes your music experience to the next level by providing a wider selection of premium music features.
The paid subscription provides automatic lyrics to songs from LyricFind, Sweet Fades, Loudness Leveling, and more. This includes both “timed” lyrics that allow you to follow along with the song, as well as standard lyrics.
Subscribers can also enjoy excellent artwork and artist bios.
Users must be running Plex Media Server version 0.9.15.0 or newer, in addition to having a Plex Pass subscription. You can even add your own lyrics if you have external/sidecar lyric files that you’d like to upload to your library.
Premium Photo Libraries
If you have an extensive library of photos, Plex Pass makes it easy to upload and store your snapshots or photography. You can even do this automatically, right from your mobile device.
The premium photo feature includes auto-tagging for your photos. Once tagged, you’ll be able to find your photos quicker through search.
If you’ve enabled location on your photos, Plex Pass also lets you organize your photos based on geographic location. This is a feature called “Places” and is currently available on most Android and Apple devices, as well as the Plex Web App.
In order to play video smoothly on different devices, Plex Media Server may need to convert the video to a different format. This process is called transcoding and it typically happens in real-time, while you’re watching the video.
Plex Pass users can leverage hardware acceleration, resulting in a faster, more satisfying user experience.
When hardware acceleration is turned on, users can stream more videos at the same time, experience less buffering, and stream higher-quality videos, like HEVC and 4K videos, more smoothly.
Bandwidth and Transcoding Limits
Plex Media Servers are limited by the processor power, storage space, and network speed. If you want to geek out and tweak your system, Plex Pass subscribers can have more control over the processer and network usage while streaming.
There are several new settings that impact processor usage, including transcoder quality, background transcoding x264 preset, and maximum simultaneous video transcode.
When streaming content on a local network, speed isn’t usually a major factor. However, managing your network speed is critical to prevent buffering. Starting with Plex Media Server version 1.2.1., new controls have been added to help users get the most out of their Plex Server.
One of my favorite Plex Pass features is early access to new Plex features.
Active Plex Pass users can take advantage of new features and apps before they get rolled out to free users. For example, Plex Home Theater and Chromecast support were available to Plex Pass subscribers prior to being released to all other users.
Subscribers also get access to preview or beta releases of the apps, such as Plex Media Server or Plex Media Player. If you like being on the cutting edge, then that alone might make a Plex Pass subscription worth it for you!
Free Access to Plex Apps
Even without Plex Pass, you can download apps for your devices for free…but there’s a catch.
Each mobile app has to be unlocked through an in-app purchase. Otherwise, video and music streamed from a Plex Media Server has a one-minute limit, and photos will be watermarked.
Plex Pass lets you download any app, completely unlocked, for free. That alone is usually worth the price of a month of Plex Pass. This includes free access to preview apps.
Active Plex Pass subscribers can download the Plex app for Android TV, NVIDIA Shield, or the Chromecast with Google TV right from the Google Play Store, free of charge.
How Much is Plex Pass?
So exactly how much is Plex Pass? This will ultimately depend on how you choose to pay.
If you are interested in just trying out its features, go with the monthly subscription at first. For just $4.99 USD, you can gain access to all the extra features and benefits listed above for an entire month. This is the most popular option but the least cost-effective.
For bigger savings, opt for the Annual subscription. It costs $39.99 USD for a year-long Plex Pass subscription which equates to roughly $20 in savings compared to the Monthly subscription.
In order to get the most bang for your buck, choose the Lifetime subscription. For a one-time fee of $119.99, it gives you permanent access to Plex Pass.
Plex Pass vs. Free
At it’s core, Plex is completely free. That includes playback of anything on your server, in addition to web shows, news, and podcasts.
The ‘Movies & TV’ streaming service is ad-supported and also free. Even the non-mobile, public apps like Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, and game consoles are free.
However, if you want more from Plex, including their premium services, you’re going to need to pay for Plex Pass.
3 Reasons to Get Plex Pass
Still not sure if Plex Pass is worth the extra few bucks a month? Consider these benefits of having a paid subscription.
It’s a Great, Low-Priced Solution for Cord Cutters
If you’re like many people, you probably ditched cable a long time ago in favor of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
With Plex Pass, you can expand your viewing library to ensure there is always something good to watch.
Of course, Plex Pass and streaming services are not the same. While Netflix provides access to their content, Plex is a way to organize your own media library.
Family-Oriented Media Viewing
Plex Pass is great for families, especially those with young children.
In addition to controlling what your kids watch, parents can use Plex’s remote access sharing features to easily share family photos and videos with the extended family. Photos and videos are always sent over an encrypted connection to ensure that only the people you select will be able to access your media.
Deals and Discounts for Plex Fans
As part of their Plex Pass Perks, subscribers may also receive special deals and discounts, as well as early looks and VIP experiences from Plex’s partners.
If you’re a big fan of Plex, a Plex Pass subscription is a great way to show your support. In exchange, you’ll gain access to tons of premium features that tend to make your life a little easier.
Plex Pass Alternatives
If you’re not ready yet to make the leap and pay for a paid subscription, know that there are many free alternatives to Plex. One of the most popular free options is Kodi.
Similar to Plex, Kodi allows users to organize their media library and easily stream their content to their devices. Other great options to try include Mezzmo, MediaPortal, Stremio, Emby, Universal Media Server, and TVersity.
Conclusion: Is Plex Pass Worth It?
Whether or not Plex Pass is worth it ultimately depends on how often you use it.
If you use Plex regularly, but don’t like the limitations on the free subscription, the small monthly fee is probably worth the price. Plex Pass provides a lot of value for a very small fee. Many users get their money’s worth within the first month.
Of course, you’ll need to try it for yourself to find out for sure. Head on over to Plex.tv for more details or to sign up!