Why Jellyfin Is the Plex Alternative You’ve Been Waiting For

Closeup of a computer monitor with the Jellyfin logo in focus.

Jellyfin is like Plex in that it’s installed as a server and accessed via client apps and via streaming devices, but it’s completely free to use and open-source.

Move over Plex, there’s a new media streaming powerhouse in town. Not only does Jellyfin pack in many of the same features as Plex, but it also doesn’t put any of its features behind a premium upgrade either (and it’s open-source to boot).

What Is Jellyfin?

Jellyfin is an open source media streaming solution. Like Plex, the app is installed as a server with separate client applications for consuming media. You can consume content using purpose-built Jellyfin apps, extensions for other streaming platforms, a web interface, or via DLNA uPnP streaming to a huge number of compatible devices.

Watching Night of the Living Dead in Jellyfin

With a Jellyfin server installed, you can make all sorts of media files available for streaming locally and remotely. This includes movies and TV shows, music, books, and photos, as well as live and recorded TV. Jellyfin scans your media library and downloads metadata (artwork, genre, cast, etc.) from sources like TheMovieDb and The Open Movie Database.

The server is available for a huge range of devices including Windows, macOS, Linux (with binaries available for a range of distributions), and the Docker containerized app platform. With the server installed all you need to do is follow a basic setup and point Jellyfish to the folders where your media files are stored.

Jellyfin admin interface

Access is easy with the Jellyfin Media Player desktop app for Windows, macOS, and Linux; the JellyCon Kodi plugin, Android and iPhone apps, an Android TV (including Fire TV) app, Roku app, WebOS app for LG TVs and the Infuse app for Apple devices (including the Apple TV).

Why Jellyfin Makes a Great Plex Alternative

What makes Jellyfin such a compelling alternative to Plex is the fact that Jellyfin is completely free and open-source. The project is a fork of the popular Emby media center which switched to a closed source model in 2018. Unlike Plex, none of Jellyfin’s features are gated behind a paywall.

Plex requires users to buy the Plex Pass to unlock features like TV (DVR) recording, music streaming via Plexamp, and hardware transcoding. That last one’s a big deal since it means that Plex can’t take full advantage of your server’s hardware without a paid upgrade—but Jellyfin can.

Enable hardware transcoding in Jellyfin preferences

Beyond this, the two platforms share a huge amount of functionality. Jellyfin’s strengths are in its media streaming abilities. Plex has the edge in terms of the sheer number of features on offer, particularly when it comes to bundled free live TV channels and a database of ready-to-stream Movies and TV shows. There are also more server and client packages available for Plex since the application is more mature.

But there are still plenty of reasons to give Jellyfin a shot if you’re looking for a free media streaming solution. The project has ample documentation that will run you through the setup process on all supported platforms, and there’s even a plugin store within Jellyfin that you can use to expand its functionality.

Try the Jellyfin Demo

The best way to get a taste of what Jellyfin is like is to try the Jellyfin Demo, simply log in with the username “demo” (leave the password field blank) to see what the web interface is like. You won’t be able to get a taste of the backend settings and preferences from this demo.

Testing out the Jellyfin demo

Jellyfin is also lightweight and easy to set up on most platforms using the supplied server installers. Installing Jellyfin takes only a few minutes, and the setup process is largely self-explanatory. The hardest setup process is arguably using a Docker container, where knowledge of running containerized will come in handy.

Consider Kodi, Too

Kodi (formerly known as XBMC) is a similar solution for media streaming, except instead of a server app Kodi runs as a media center application. The app is frequently updated with new features, expandable with a rich library of plugins, and can even keep series and movie progress in sync between different instances.

Original Article