Plex is a free, ad-supported streaming TV app that has more than 50,000 on-demand movies and TV shows as well as over 250 live streaming channels. But the functionality goes beyond free streaming, too.
Sounds great, but how does it stand up against well-established free streaming services such as Pluto TV, The Roku Channel and Tubi? I decided to review this service for Team Clark to help you decide whether Plex is worth your time.
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ABOUT THIS REVIEW: Team Clark loves the word “free,” especially when it involves legally streaming TV shows and movies. We decided to check out the Plex service to see if it’s something Clark.com users might enjoy.
I signed up for the service and downloaded the necessary components to watch it on my phone, tablet, television, streaming devices and computer. I then took a “test drive” of the service on all of those devices. I came away with some interesting notes to share.
This review is one of many we conducted as a part of our free streaming TV series. You can learn more about our strategies for getting free streaming TV below.
What Is Plex?
Plex is a free app available for download on several platforms that, in addition to other streaming features, offers free on-demand TV shows, movies and live channels.
In total, Plex boasts more than 50,000 on-demand TV shows and movies as well as more than 250 live streaming channels.
But what separates this freebie service from some of the other free streaming TV services is the ability to integrate your paid subscription services into the Plex ecosystem to create a “one-stop shop” for your personal streaming.
“With Plex you can customize your preferences to include the subscription services you use most and we’ll keep your home screen updated with the freshest finds across the streaming universe, recommended just for you.”Plex.TV
Plugging your existing paid streaming options into the service could make for easy content searching, but I found that many of the functions available through Plex are the same as you get with a streaming device such as Chromecast with Google TV or a Roku stick.
Some of the more advanced features of Plex are available as part of a service called Plex Pass, which has a $4.99 monthly subscription fee.
For the purposes of this review, I’ll focus primarily on the free streaming TV functionality.
How To Watch Plex
To access the free content available on Plex, you’ll either need to download the app on an approved device or access Plex’s website on an internet browser.
Devices and Apps
You’ll be able to watch Plex’s content from your phone, tablet, television, computer or most any other streaming device.
Here are some of the devices that should have Plex available for free download:
- Android phones and tablets
- Apple (iOS) phones and tablets
- Amazon Fire TV
- Chromecast with Google TV
- Play Station gaming devices
- Xbox gaming devices
- Samsung smart TVs
- LG smart TVs
- Vizio smart TVs
Content Available on Plex
I found a pretty broad variety of free content on Plex including on-demand movies, on-demand TV shows and live streaming channels.
The content library is not as deep or as impressive as what you might find on a paid service such as Netflix or Hulu, but there are most likely some actors, series and movies that you’ve heard of on this service. They may not be the latest releases, but that’s a trade-off for not paying a monthly subscription.
Like many other free services, the content menu changes often. So if you see something you like, you would be best served to watch it quickly.
Popular TV Shows
Popular television series available to stream in March 2023 include:
- The Dick Van Dyke Show
- Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
- Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen
- Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels
- Just Shoot Me
- Grounded for Life
- Are We There Yet?
- The Ellen Show
Popular movies that were available to stream at the time of this review include:
- The Legend of Zorro
- A Royal Affair
- The Road
- Whale Rider
- Wind River
- Fish Tank
In addition to the movies, TV shows and original series available to stream on demand, Plex also features livestreaming channels.
These are not networks that you might find on a live TV streaming service such as TNT or CNN. They’re a combination of internet-only streaming channels and themed channels that feature certain types of programming with intermittent commercial breaks; they might remind you of watching a traditional cable service.
Here are a few examples of the themed channels you can find:
- Hallmark Movies & More
- NBC News Now
- Cheddar News
- Stories by AMC
- Game Show Central
- Bloomberg Television
- Reuters TV
- True Crime Now
- IFC Film Picks
User Experience on Plex
Now that you know what content you can find on the service, I want to give you a better idea of what the user experience is like. Let’s talk about the advertisements you’ll endure, the user interface and some tips for using Plex.
How Bad Are the Ads?
The commercial breaks on Plex’s free content are tolerable and interactive, but they’re also sometimes unpredictable.
I watched a few TV shows and movies on the service to get a feel for what the commercials might be like for a regular consumer of the free content on Plex.
First, the good. When there was an ad on the screen, it was really easy to know how much time was left. And in many cases, it was an interactive commercial that allowed for you to click to “learn more” about the product it featured.
For example, this Old Navy commercial (which seemed to run quite often, by the way) gave me the option to click to shop for the clothing that was being advertised. I wasn’t in the market, but I could see that being useful for the consumer and probably more lucrative for Plex, as it likely gets referral income from this type of marketing.
Next, the not-so-good. I have two major gripes about the commercial experience with free content on Plex:
- The commercial breaks were sometimes really lengthy.
- I couldn’t tell when the ads were coming.
When watching Plex content, I usually encountered a 30-second commercial before the beginning of a movie or episode. Compared to competitors like Amazon’s Freevee, that was a good 20 seconds too long.
And when it came to movies, I found myself with “commercial breaks” of around 150 seconds. That 2.5-minute break is more akin to a traditional linear TV commercial than a streaming ad.
Perhaps the more annoying part about the lengthy ad breaks was that I never really knew when they would pop up. Many of Plex’s competitors make a “dot” on the progress bar of the content to signify an upcoming commercial, but as you’ll see in the screenshot below, there’s nothing to notify you here.
Tips for Enjoying Plex
Have some of the content options caught your attention? Here are some tips for enjoying it on Plex.
- Sign up for an account for a more immersive experience: Signing up for a Plex account is optional. But if you do, you’ll be able to customize your experience by tagging favorites, rating shows and movies, saving your progress and receiving recommendations for new shows based on your streaming history. You’ll also be able to integrate your paid streaming subscriptions.
- Take advantage of the “remote-friendly” functionality: If you’re a subscription streamer, you’re likely already used to user-friendly functionalities like pause, rewind, fast-forward and skip ahead/go-back 30 seconds. But, believe it or not, this type of functionality isn’t always a given in the free streaming TV world. Credit goes to Plex for developing an interface that works really well with both the remote and on your computer, phone or tablet.
Final Thoughts on Plex
Are you still trying to decide whether or not you should add Plex to your streaming portfolio? Here are some pros and cons to think over.
Plex: Pros and Cons
|FREE!||Movie selection was pretty weak, even for a free service.|
|Integration with paid streaming services is nice.||Ads are lengthy and unpredictable.|
|Live streaming menu was easy to sort and navigate.||No original content|
But it’s probably just one piece of the puzzle when looking to replace your premium products. It doesn’t have a library of content deep enough to be a stand-alone solution for most cord cutters.
If you use it in conjunction with other free streaming options, such as Pluto TV, Tubi TV and The Roku Channel, you may be able to create a content menu that satisfies your entertainment needs without paying a bill each month.
Do you have experience watching the Plex streaming service? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Clark.com Community!