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If you've spent some time researching your media center app options, you've probably come across Emby. Like several other programs, Emby promises users a better entertainment experience. But what exactly does it do, and what makes it different from other programs that promise similar things? We're here to explain.

What Is Emby?

Emby is a media center application, which means that it's designed to organize your various types of media. Emby's goal is to give you a pleasant interface and make it easy to navigate to all of the movies, TV shows, and other digital media files that you already own.

Like most modern media centers, though, Emby doesn't stop there. The program also offers streaming options, allowing you to integrate existing subscriptions to your media center experience. Throw in Chromecast and DVR support, and you've got a pretty solid all-in-one solution. In these respects, Emby is similar to a lot of existing media center applications and operating systems. The experience could remind you of anything from Kodi to Roku.

Managing plugins on Emby's web app
Managing plugins on Emby's web app

On top of this familiar media center functionality, Emby offers multi-device support. Emby isn't just a skin-deep media center for your desktop or laptop – it will also help you play your media on multiple devices, including mobile devices. Emby's server-client setup means that you can organize your media files on one device and view that media anywhere. The organization part takes place through Emby's web app (pictured above). That server-client functionality is one of the things that sets Emby apart from its competitors – which it has plenty of.

Emby's Place in the Crowded Media Center Market

Of course, Emby is far from the only program that promises to streamline your entertainment experience. Emby has a laundry list of competitors. Streaming boxes compete with Emby indirectly: like Emby, they organize content and streaming subscriptions. But they do so through a standalone device, which is a little different.

But Emby's most direct competitors are the other multi-platform media center applications, most notably Plex and Kodi. We've covered the differences between Plex and Kodi before, but the short version is that Kodi is an open-source program that is at its best when its turning one device into a media center, while Plex is a user-friendly app that lets you set up your media on one device so that you can view it on multiple devices.

Into this fray steps Emby. Emby's core appeal is most similar to Plex's – like Plex, Emby is designed to let you turn local content on one device into streaming content for your other devices. But Emby is definitely occupying a certain space between Plex and Kodi. Emby offers some high-level features and customization options that Plex's simple interface avoids. And Emby holds particular appeal to Kodi's tech-savvy fan base, because you can integrate Emby with Kodi and get the best of both worlds. At the same time, some users might find Emby's setup and interface less easy to use than Plex's.

That right there probably best decscribes Emby's niche: if Kodi is for power-users who focus on one device and Plex is for casual users on lots of devices, Emby is for the people in between.

Emby's Philosophy

We've talked so far about what Emby does, but it's also worth touching on some things about Emby's pay structure and philosophy. Emby is open source, which means that the source code is available. That's an important philosophical stance for some users, and it also means that lots of people can work on making Emby plugins – which may be why Emby plays more nicely with Kodi than Plex does.


Emby is also free, something it has in common with most of its competitors. But users have the option to upgrade to a paid tier called Emby Premiere, which adds some interesting features. Among other things, Emby Premiere subscribers gain access to a mobile sync feature (which allows you to watch your server's content even without mobile service) and a bunch of user-facing plugins like cover art, Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and things like that. A monthly subscription to Emby Premiere will set you back $4.99/month, but you can also choose a monthly or lifetime subscription.

One thought on “What Is Emby?

  1. Rick says:

    I have a Terramaster NAS server and Emby wont approve the updated software to allow us to instLl it on our NAS.

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