So far, the online platform Plex was mainly known to manage private movie collections of users in the Netflix look. Now the company has expanded its offer and since this week also acts as a streaming platform with its own content. Thousands of films and series promises the launch portal that customers can watch for free.
But how good is the offer really? Can Plex compete with major platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV +? We tested the new streaming service and answered the most important questions.
What are the films and series on offer?
Although advertises the portal with "thousands of free movies and TV series". But in Germany, the offer with a few hundred films is much smaller - and also pretty bad. Especially fans of blockbusters should be disappointed. Although there are films like "Django", "Walking Tall" and "Zorro" on offer. But these are not current remakes, but the up to 50 years old originals. After all, for nostalgics, the video library offers a whole range of such film relics to choose from.
On announced classics such as "Terminator" and "Apocalypse Now" the German viewers unfortunately also have to do without. The films are reserved for viewers in the US. It looks even worse in the series. With "Spike Team" and "Starhyke" are just two series to choose from, which are completely unknown. The only bright spot are the documentaries. With titles such as "Just eat it" and "Strongman", there is a long list of documentaries that make for a successful movie night.
The video quality is okay: Although there are no 4K movies, but most content is streamed in Full HD. However, so far all titles are shown in English. A German soundtrack can not be selected, even subtitles are missing. A Plex spokeswoman told SPIEGEL on request, that they plan in future "as many titles as possible to offer with audio tracks in regional language and with subtitles".
What should the thin offer be?
Plex can not compete with major streaming providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV + and Disney +. But that is probably not the goal. The developers want to make the fans rather the core business tasty with the free film offer: The management of films, photos and songs on the home server.
Plex started as a hobby project more than ten years ago and has become a clear management software for home servers. The idea: Instead of bleak file lists, Plex displays the users' multimedia files in the Netflix look. It allows users to retrieve their videos they have stored at home and share them with friends on the go. Plex creates matching thumbnails and loads information from movie databases.
How can it be that Plex is free?
Registration at Plex is free. The films and series can thus be viewed without hidden fees. However, in contrast to competing platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, Plex repeatedly fills in short commercials. The clips are significantly shorter than commercial breaks in commercial television, but can not be canceled after a few seconds, as in YouTube. In our test, Plex played every three minutes three advertising clips in a row, each lasting 30 seconds.
The ads should be tailored to the interests of the audience. Therefore, users must first agree that Plex may submit the click behavior to ad partners. At present, there are no advertising partners on board in Germany yet. The spots are all in English and appeal to US citizens.
In addition to the advertising revenue Plex also earns money with a premium subscription, which costs about five euros a month. Among other things, the add-on package allows users to save the media offline on their smartphones, set up a parental control, and find out by statistic which of their friends most frequently accesses the home server.
What do critics say about Plex?
Above all, Plex is criticized for the fact that users abuse the platform to illegally share films. Among experts, it is even considered a modern alternative to torrent portals. Because unlike file-sharing platforms, Plex can be easily controlled by app. The films are stored on users' servers, while Plex only provides the playback platform. Thus, a Plex user can illegally deploy Hollywood stripes on his server for others. With some accounts that have access to such a server, according to the news portal "The Verge" even traded.
This is what the video streaming portal Plex looks like
Streaming portal in Netflix look
Plex advertises streaming thousands of movies and TV shows for free. But the reality is different: Even if the offer is clearly presented in Netflix look, the selection in Germany is poor. The films are usually very old, besides, they only have the English soundtrack.
The core business of Plex is the management of files on users' home servers. Songs, TV recordings and pictures should be displayed nicely with the tool and replace sparse file list views.
Who wants to watch movies offline on the smartphone, must complete a subscription. The Premium Pass also allows users to enable parental controls and statistics, such as how often, for example, the family accesses the wedding photos on the home server.
Consoles, Smartphones, and Laptops: Plex has developed an app for almost all devices so friends can access photos, movies, and music. However, critics accuse the portal that private users are abusing the streaming portal to stream copyrighted material for free.