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Emby

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In the 21st century, one of the most important amenities for many people is access to all of the numerous forms of media that we have at our disposal. Today, unlike any time in history before now, thanks to an inundation of streaming services and digital content, media has become all but engrained into our cultural DNA. And as technology continues to increase in its role of importance in our lives (and do not get it twisted, it certainly will), it will continue to grow until it becomes a literal extension of humankind.

I don’t know about you, but most of the people that I know (myself included), even if we do not take the time out to acknowledge it on a daily basis, are consuming some sort of media almost all of the time – whether it takes the form of movies, music, TV series, the sharing of photos/videos/memes, podcasts, social networking, websites, etc. – and almost all of these various digital media platforms are inconveniently propped up across different devices, apps, domains, and operating systems. Maybe you’ve had this thought before: it would be so nice if I could access all of my digital and streaming media services in one convenient location; one piece of software that would let me access every single one of my services, shows, and movies without having to constantly hop from app to app, site to site, screen to screen. Why is there not a monolithic portal, a one-stop-shop for all of my media content?

If you have thought this before (and even if you have not), I have a bit of great news for you. These sorts of services do, in fact, exist. They are called software suites or sometimes are referred to as media servers. However, much like there is a broad range of streaming services for us to choose from, there are several media servers for us to decide between as well. Choosing the right one is nothing more than a matter of doing our research, figuring out which layout we like best, which lets us view our media precisely the ways in which we would like to, and which one, of course, isn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg.

Some people prefer to access their media on their phones, others on their laptops. Others still swear by streaming and viewing their favorite content on computers, tablets, or smart TV. No matter what your preferences, you need to find a media server that can cater to your unique needs. Firstly, it should be dependable and effective in terms of functionality. That’s a given. But you also want a media server that works well no matter what device you happen to be using at a given time. Thanks to media servers like Emby, now any of your devices can become a smart TV.

History

Emby, formerly known simply as Media Browser, is a media server suite that has been specially designed to stream video and audio across any device. The majority of Emby’s code was historically open-sourced; however, some of it has been made private in recent years (since August of 2017). The whole of the software itself, though, published directly on the Emby website, is proprietary. It, therefore, cannot be replicated from the source because the build scripts are left private.

Emby has continued heading down the road to proprietary code. As of version 3.5 of the software, Emby relicensed itself and is now entirely close-sourced; the open-source elements that many tech-heads have always loved about Emby, however, are still available in the form of plugins, and a free open-sourced fork of the server has also been developed, known as Jelly Fin. So, if you like to experiment with coding and building your own customizations, Jelly Fin will definitely be worth your time to check out.

Emby has been developed for nearly every operating system on the market: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Free BSD. Users are also able to connect to the Emby client through any of Emby’s long list of compatible platforms – such as HTML 5, Android, iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chrome Cast, Apple TV, LG and Samsung smart TVs, and Xbox 360 / Xbox One.

Design

Emby’s design differs ever so slightly depending on what device you use it on. But that is only because it is optimized for the ultimate user experience regardless of where you use it. Generally speaking, though, I would say that Emby’s design and layout is similar to that of Netflix and Hulu.

Depending on your device, you’ll find an extremely easy to navigate menu that allows you to toggle by content type, either at the top of the screen or the left-hand side. From here, quickly switch between Channels, Live TV, Camera Uploads, Games, Playlists, Collections, Movies, Music, or TV. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Once you have made a selection from that main server portal, the appropriate content will appear, laid out not entirely unlike Hulu or Netflix lays out content. Browse by genre, watch lists, suggestions, or latest releases. The aesthetic is very minimal – just a black background and all of your media conveniently at your fingertips. Nothing flashy here. Emby definitely has a professional feel to it for its minimalist approach.

Content

Perhaps I have already touched on the content that Emby enables you to view thoroughly. But for convenience’s sake (and just in case I’ve missed anything), let’s review with a list …

-Your media synced across all your devices

-Live TV and DVR

-Parental Controls

-Cloud sync

-Chrome Cast

-Movies, music, pictures, TV, personal video, etc.

Desktop and Mobile Experience

As I have already touched upon earlier, one of my favorite aspects of Emby is the fact that it looks and functions just as great no matter what device you use it on. The in-browser version is pristine, as is the Roku and Smart TV version. And, what’s more, all the versions of Emby are streamlined and synched to one another, resulting in a flawlessly seamless user-experience across all platforms.

Pricing and Plans

Emby is a freemium service. So, if you want to use a limited, restricted version of the service for free, by all means, you can do so. However, if you want to get the most out of everything that Emby offers, you might want to consider signing up for the paid subscription service, Emby Premiere. The Premiere version of the server offers full DVR capabilities, the ability to access content offline, free exclusive apps, extended cover art, cinema mode, folder sync, cloud sync, a content converter, smart home capabilities, backups and restore points and access to tons of podcasts. Purchase Emby Premiere for …

-$4.99/month

-$54/year

-$119/lifetime access

Suggestions that I have for Emby

My main gripe with Emby is that the server does not offer any original content. It also does not seem to be compatible with the top streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. So, Emby, unfortunately, is going to be the most useful for those of us who already have a robust digital library of purchased content. However, it is also compatible with cable subscriptions. My main suggestion for Emby, though, would be to either offer some built-in content of their own or to try and hatch a deal with at least one of the streaming services, as that is where the majority of us access our media these days anyway.

Conclusion

All in all, if you are the kind of person who finds that they are more likely to buy content outright than to rely heavily on streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, or Netflix, then Emby is probably the perfect piece of software for you. Extremely convenient and available on just about any and every device, you can take your media with you no matter where you go. Emby is a well-designed, dependably functional way to keep in touch with your media files, no matter the type, all from one simple media suite.

This might not be the way to go for the original content streaming fanatics, or those of you looking to access new shows or movies via Emby, but if you want an elegant solution to organizing and accessing your media files, Emby will be a surefire win.

Likes & Hates:
Available on any device and OS
Great layout and design
Very convenient way to organize/access media files
Tons of syncing options
Cloud/Chrome Cast compatible
Not compatible with Netflix, Hulu, etc.
No offered content (original or syndicated)