Plex DVR review: Still the best option for power users


Plex isn’t the easiest way to record live broadcast TV, but it is the most versatile.

As a whole-home DVR for cord-cutters, Plex’s software and subscription service ticks almost all the requisite boxes, including full broadcast TV quality, lots of ways to manage recordings, and broad device support. It also lets you stack multiple tuners to record many programs simultaneously, and even includes a powerful ad-skipping feature—in beta, but still functional—that most other DVRs lack.

But compared to other solutions like Tablo and TiVo, you’ll need to assemble and manage more hardware on your own, and the results aren’t always as seamless. For those reasons, Plex DVR still feels like a solution for power users, rather than the best DVR for everyone.

Choose your DVR adventure… 

Plex DVR requires a subscription to Plex Pass, which costs $5 per month, $40 per year, or $120 for lifetime service. To set it up, you can take a range of approaches, from simple to intimidating.

The path of least resistance is to pair an Nvidia Shield TV streaming box ($200) with a compatible USB antenna tuner such as the Hauppauge WinTV-Dual-HD. Plug an antenna into the tuner, then connect an external hard drive to the box’s other USB slot, and Plex’s Media Server software for Shield will handle the recordings. You can then watch live and recorded TV on the Shield itself, or stream it over Wi-Fi to the Plex app on other devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Android TV devices, Apple Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and the web.

shieldtunerhdd Jared Newman / TechHive

An Nvidia Shield TV ($200), Hauppauge tuner ($65) and external USB drive are the basic tools you need for Plex DVR.

If you don’t have great antenna reception near your Shield, you can skip the USB tuner and instead connect an HDHomeRun networked tuner (the dual-tuner model costsabout $80 on Amazon) to your wireless router, which feeds over-the-air broadcasts to the Shield via Wi-Fi. (You needn’t splurge on HDHomeRun’s pricier Extend tuners, either, since Plex performs its own transcoding to reduce bandwidth requirements and file sizes.)

The Shield isn’t even necessary if you have a desktop computer or NAS box on which to run Plex Media Server. Just plug a USB tuner into your PC, or connect an HDHomeRun to your router to get started, and you can stream broadcast TV to any other device running the Plex app.

The nice thing about Plex’s approach is how extensible it is. Want to record more shows at a time? Just plug in a second tuner. Run out of storage space? Just plug in second hard drive or move your recordings to a larger one. You can even store recordings on a hard drive connected to your router’s USB port, so that anyone at home can use the drive’s spare storage for other purposes.



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