If you have a lot of locally-stored media and want to stream it to various connected devices in your home, you'll need a local streaming client like Plex. All you need to do is install Plex Media Server on the device where your media collection is housed. Ideally, that should be a home server like a NAS — I've rounded up the best NAS for Plex, so if you don't already have a storage enclosure, you can look through the list to get started.
Plex itself is free to use and straightforward to set up, but there's a paid tier called Plex Pass that unlocks a host of added features. Plex Pass costs $4.99 a month, $39.99 yearly, or you can pick up a lifetime subscription by shelling out $120. So let's take a look at what Plex Pass has to offer, and whether it makes sense for you to switch to the paid tier.
Plex Pass is worth it just for mobile sync
This single feature alone is enough to justify picking up Plex Pass. The paid tier gives you free access to the Android and iOS apps (they cost $4.99 on each platform), and the best part is that it lets you download content from your home server to your phone for offline playback.
International travel feels like such an outlandish idea in these trying times, but the mobile sync feature is a great way to load a few seasons' worth of TV shows or a few movies onto your phone or tablet. You get to easily choose what items to sync, and the content is stored locally on your phone or tablet. You can then stream the content even when you're offline.
Plex Pass has live TV and DVR
Another standout feature with Plex Pass is live TV and DVR. The feature gives you access to live TV stations, and you can also hook up an HD antenna and start recording over-the-air broadcasts. The recorded content will show up in your media library, and Plex automatically adds the metadata, including relevant thumbnails and show notes.
Plex Pass lets you easily upload photos and videos from your phone
One of the best features of Plex Pass is the ability to upload photos and videos from your phone's camera to your Plex Media Server. You can do so on both Android and iOS, and the service automatically sync photos from your device to your home server.
Think of it as an offline Google Photos alternative; with Google getting rid of unlimited high-quality photo uploads from June 2021, Plex's camera sync is a great solution if you want to store your photos locally.
Plex Pass lets you share your media library
With Plex Pass, you can easily share your media library with your family and friends. Doing so lets you create dedicated profiles for your kids or other family members, and they can then set up their own playlists within the service.
Plex Pass enables parental controls
Another interesting feature in Plex Pass is content restrictions. You can easily add parental controls so that your kids' accounts won't see any R-rated content in your Plex media server. Plex does a great job automatically sorting all the content in your media collection, and you get gradual control over what content is visible to other users.
Plex Pass turbocharges your music collection
Plex Pass uses LyricFind to automatically get lyrics for songs in your music collection, and you also get gorgeous artwork, detailed artist bios, and more.
Plex Pass brings hardware acceleration
With Plex Pass, you can use hardware acceleration when transcoding content to a client device. So if you're using a streaming box like the NVIDIA Shield TV, you can enable hardware acceleration for the device with Plex Pass.
Honestly, Plex Pass pays for itself after a few years. There are a lot of exciting features on offer with the service, and even if you don't end up subscribing to the paid tier, the free media server is one of the best local streaming clients around.
But if you need mobile sync or the ability to record live TV broadcasts, Plex Pass starts off at just $5 a month. The lifetime subscription is 20% off with promo code SEEYA2020, so if you like what you see, you don't want to miss out on this incredible offer.
Definitely worth it
Plex Pass takes an already-great service and unlocks a host of exciting features that make it even better. With mobile sync, automatic camera uploads, live TV and DVR, and shared libraries, Plex Pass has a lot to offer, and you can start off for just $5 a month.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.