How to Install & Use Plex on Roku

This guide has everything you need to set up Plex on Roku. We strongly advise going through the entire process so that you get the most out of your Plex setup.

You might have heard of Kodi or even used it before, an open-source media player that lets users to playback content from local storage or remote server, as well as install add-ons. However, it isn’t the only app that offers such functionality.

Plex is a popular client-server media player that allows you to stream videos and music from a local computer running the Plex Media Server software to your favorite devices. On top of that, it has an ad-supported streaming library with free movies and TV shows. You can even configure over-the-top live TV on Plex.

If you have been planning to use Plex on Roku, you are in luck. After all, Plex is officially available on the Channel Store, unlike Kodi. You can easily play and access your collection of ripped movies and shows from your computer to your Roku streaming player or TV.

What can you do with Plex on Roku?

The Plex channel on Roku lets you access your personal media library, alongside an ad-supported VOD library full of movies, shows, and documentaries.

At the time of writing, Warner Bros., MGM, Lionsgate, Crackle, and several others have teamed up with Plex to provide free on-demand content to the users. You also get to watch curated web series, news, and podcasts sourced from 190+ global partners.

On top of that, Plex offers a free live TV service with over 80+ channels, similar to Pluto TV, XUMO, and The Roku Channel. Additionally, you can tune into your local over-the-air channels and record programs as long as you have a home tuner and antenna set up with your Plex Media Server. It does also require Plex Pass, but more on that later.

While you can use the Plex Roku channel as it is for online content consumption, you miss out on Plex’s remote server streaming capabilities. To take full advantage of it, you will need to set up Plex Media Server software on your Windows, macOS, or Linux computer.

What does Plex Media Server do?

The Plex Media Server software allows your computer to act as a remote server for the Plex client app, transmitting stored media to all your supported devices.

In this case, the Plex channel on Roku is the client “hub’ connecting to your configured Plex Media Server. It also automatically organizes your media files and pulls thumbnail, cover art, trailer, ratings, description, and cast information to give you an authentic streaming experience.

One of the advantages of using Plex over Kodi is that it’s straightforward to configure. You don’t need to go through a command-line interface to set the client/server software on your devices. The intuitive UI makes Plex one of the most intuitive media management software for home streaming enthusiasts.

All it takes is a few minutes to install the Media Server and link it with the Plex channel on Roku. Plex intelligently handles the complicated side of things, including media transcoding.

Which Roku Models Support Plex?

The Plex channel is compatible with a variety of Roku devices, even the older ones. Here’s a list of the Roku models recommended for Plex usage:

Roku 2 (4210) Roku 3 (4200)
Roku 4 (4400) Roku Premiere (4620 or later)
Roku Premiere+ (4630 or later) Roku Streaming Stick (3600 or later)
Roku Streaming Stick+ (3810) Roku Ultra (4640 or later)
Roku TV (all models)

Plex also supports a handful of discontinued Roku models, but you may run into performance issues when navigating through the UI and playing back non-transcoded content from a Media Server. Here are the following devices:

  • Roku 1 (2710)
  • Roku 2 (2720)
  • Roku Express (3700)
  • Roku Express+ (3710)
  • Roku Streaming Stick (3500)

How to Get Plex on Roku?

As we mentioned before, the Plex client software is officially available for Roku devices in the form of a channel. You can add it to your compatible Roku streaming player or TV by following the steps below.

  • First, scroll down the Roku home screen and click Streaming Channels.
  • Navigate to the Search Channels screen from the following Channel Store page.

Search Channels

  • Enter “Plex” in the search field using the on-screen keyboard layout. You should immediately see relevant results on the right side.
  • Hover over and click Plex – Stream Free Movies & TV at the top of the results.
  • Now click Add channel to get the Plex channel to your Roku device. (In case you have enabled Roku PIN, you need to confirm it to add the Plex channel.)
  • Once you see the Channel added dialog box, click OK to dismiss it
  • Finally, press the Home button on your Roku remote to return to the home screen.

If you wish to move the Plex channel to the top of the home screen’s channel list, click the Options (✱) button on the remote and select Move channel.

Before you launch Plex on Roku, consider checking out the below instructions to configure your Plex Media Server first.

How to Set Up Plex Media Server?

As we mentioned earlier, you will need Plex Media Server to get the most out of Plex on Roku. It usually requires a desktop computer with a somewhat capable processor and a lot of storage space. Here’s why.

One of Plex’s highlights is its ability to transcode your media on the go and convert them to a playable format for the client device. For instance, the Plex Media Server software will automatically downscale a ripped 4K Blu-ray movie in your library to make it play smoothly on a Roku device that only supports up to 1080p@60Hz video playback.

Note that you can play non-transcoded content on a higher-end Roku model, such as the Roku Ultra. Instead of utilizing your computer’s processing power, you can configure the Media Server to continuously stream chunks of data to your Roku device, where the video/audio decoding and playback occur.

However, you may run into frame drops and constant freezes when directly playing back high-resolution, high-bitrate content, such as remuxed Blu-ray movies.

Now back to the topic. If you plan to set up Plex Media Server on your Windows, Linux, or Mac computer for streaming your media to your Roku device, follow the instructions in this section. Before that, check out the requirements below.

Requirements

1) Your computer must have a CPU capable of high-resolution content transcoding. This is what Plex recommends:

  • Single 720p transcode: Intel Core i3 (3 GHz) or AMD equivalent with a PassMark baseline score of 1500
  • Single 1080p transcode: Intel Core i5 (3 GHz) or AMD equivalent with PassMark baseline score of 2000
  • Single 4K SDR transcode: Intel Core i7 (3.2 GHz) or AMD equivalent with a PassMark baseline score of 12000
  • Single 4K HDR transcode: PassMark baseline score of at least 17000

Suppose you plan to playback transcoded content on two or more Roku devices in your house from the same Plex Media Server. In that case, you will need a relatively powerful processor that can handle more than one simultaneous transcoding.

You can install the PassMark (www.passmark.com) benchmark software on your PC and run it to get a rough idea of whether the hardware is capable enough to meet the requirements for your potential usage.

2) You must organize your media collection into a single folder, with everything sorted into individual categories. For example, you should move your movie and TV show files into two separate folders and rename them appropriately if required.

This helps the process to configure Plex Media Server. It also allows the server software to fetch correct information for the content from movie and TV show database websites.

3) Make sure that your computer runs the most recent version of the installed operating system.

Set up Plex Media Server – Guide

Provided that you meet the above requirements, perform the following steps to set up Plex Media Server.

Step 1: Sign up for Plex

Plex requires users to sign up for an account. All you have to do is visit plex.tv from a new browser tab and click the ‘Sign Up’ button on the top-right corner.

Sign up for Plex

You can either use your email address and password to create an account or simply log in with Google, Facebook, or Apple. Ignore this step if you already have created a Plex account.

Step 2: Install Plex Media Server

After you successfully register for your Plex account, you can proceed to install the Plex Media Server. Here’s how to do it on Windows:

  • Click My Account on the plex.tv website and select Downloads from the drop-down bar.

Install Plex Media Server

  • Next, click the Download button under the “Plex Media Server” software suite.

Download plex media server

  • Launch the installer when the download finishes, and then click Install. Make sure to click Yes in case the UAC prompt appears on the screen.
  • Once Plex Media Server completes installation on your computer, click Restart in the installer.

When the PC reboots into the OS, the first-time Plex server setup wizard should automatically open up in your default web browser. In case it doesn’t appear, click the desktop shortcut or launch Plex Media Server from the Start menu.

Step 3: Configure Plex Media Server

  • First, sign in to your Plex account when the setup wizard asks you to. It would log you in automatically if your browser saved the credentials before.
  • Read through the How Plex Works section and click Got It!
  • Now assign a name to your Plex Media Server and click Next.

Configure Plex Media Server

  • If you wish to access the server from outside your local network, make sure to tick the box next to the “Allow me to access my media outside my home” option before you hit Next.
  • Click the Add Library button on the “Server Setup” page. A new window should appear on the screen.

Media Server setup

  • After that, select your library type (e.g., Movies, TV Shows, Music, Photos) and click Next. (Note that you can rename the folder and change the language for the selected library type.)
  • Click the Browse For Media Folder option, select the particular folder you wish to assign to the library, and then click Add.
    (For example, choose your organized movies folder if you select the Movies)
  • Repeat the steps if you wish to add a TV show or photo library. Click Next once you are done.
  • Finally, click Done to complete the first-time setup. It will lead you to the web-based Plex interface.

If you forget to add something else to your Plex library, click the tool icon on the upper-right side of the web interface to open the Settings menu, then select Libraries under the “Manage” section in the left sidebar.

How to Access your Plex Media Server on Roku?

Now that your Plex Media Server is up and running, you should be able to access your personal media library from your Roku device. The whole process goes as follows:

  • Begin with launching the Plex channel from the Roku home screen.
  • Click Sign In on the welcome page, then note down the activation code.
  • Visit plex.tv/link from a new browser tab, enter the activation code, and click the Link button.
    Once you see the “Account Linked” message in the browser, close the tab and go back to the Plex Roku channel.

activate plex on roku

  • After that, choose the Plex server you set up earlier and click the Continue.
  • Now select or deselect the content you want to pin to your Plex navigation sidebar and click Finish.

That’s it! You can now use Plex on Roku to browse through and play your media, including movies, TV shows, and music collections hosted on the Plex Media Server.

Bear in mind that you have to keep your computer turned on while you stream from your Media Server. Otherwise, you won’t be able to browse your local video, music, and photo collections.

A Quick Overview of Plex on Roku

Based on how you customized the navigation layout during the Plex channel setup process, you should see the following options in the sidebar: Home, Movies, Music, Movies & TV On Plex, Web Shows, News, Podcasts, TIDAL, etc.

Overview of Plex on Roku

The Movies section gives you access to your movies and shows you added to your local Plex Media Server. Plex automatically sorts the content into different categories and collections based on your preferences.

You can also choose to browse through your entire library and search for movies/shows manually. The Music section is somewhat similar to the Movies section, with everything neatly sorted by personalized categories and genres.

The Movies & TV section lets you stream free movies and shows Plex’s integrated AVOD library. You can use it even when you don’t have a Plex Media Server. Plus, it allows you to tune into 80+ free live TV channels as well.

Similarly, you can browse the Web Shows, News, and Podcasts pages without connecting to a Media Server. Plex also integrates TIDAL, the HiFi music streaming service. However, you will need to link your TIDAL subscription to the Plex channel with your account details.

To access the Settings for the Plex Roku channel, click the user profile at the top of the navigation sidebar.

How to Get Subtitles on Plex Roku Channel?

If you want subtitles for your local movies and shows, consider linking OpenSubtitles to the Plex Roku channel. Obviously, you must have an OpenSubtitles (www.opensubtitles.org/en/newuser) account, and it’s a matter of a few steps.

  • Open Plex Media Server on your computer and wait for the web interface to open up.
  • Click the tool icon on the top-right corner of the page to open the Settings menu.
  • Select Agents from the left sidebar and choose Plex Movie among the tabs.

Get Subtitles on Plex

  • After that, click the cog icon next to org to open the configuration window.
  • Type in your OpenSubtitles account credentials and select your subtitle language. Click Save once you are done.
  • Tick the box next to org, then return to the Home page of the Plex web interface.
  • Now, click the three horizontal dots icon next to your added library and select Refresh All Metadata.
  • Finally, click the Refresh button and wait until the metadata refreshes for the movies and shows in your local library.

When you select a movie or TV show episode from the Plex Roku channel, you can enable subtitles for the particular content within the playback options.

Troubleshooting Plex on Roku

You shouldn’t face any problems when streaming videos, music, and channels from Plex’s online library. However, you might encounter playback errors, buffering, and other issues when streaming from your local Plex Media Server. Below are a few common troubleshooting steps you should perform to resolve the problems:

1) If the Plex channel on Roku can’t find your Plex Media Server, ensure that your Roku player and PC are on the same network. Otherwise, restarting both your devices may fix it.

2) Adjusting the transcoder quality might resolve the playback errors, frame skips, and frequent buffering. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to the Plex Settings panel from the web interface on your computer.
  • Visit the Transcoder settings menu to change the Transcoder quality. There should be three following options.

Troubleshooting Plex on Roku

Prefer higher speed encoding: Speeds up the transcoding process but impacts the quality.

Prefer higher quality encoding: Slows down the transcoding process for better quality.

Make my CPU hurt: Allows Plex Media Server to use most of the CPU resources to deliver better quality at a higher speed.

While it’s recommended for users to keep the Transcoder quality setting to Automatic, changing it to Prefer higher speed encoding may improve performance at the cost of stream quality.

Transcoder settings

3) Limiting the video quality from the Plex Roku channel settings may also help. Simply follow the steps.

  • Go to the Plex channel Settings menu from the user menu, then scroll down to the Video.
  • Change the Local Quality from Original to a lower resolution.
  • Do the same for Remote Quality if you have a remote Plex Media Server on a different network.

4) In case you are trying to playback content from a remote server, note that the quality is limited by either your download bandwidth or the upload bandwidth from the source Plex Media Server.

Thus, you must need a high-speed internet connection to improve the playback performance and quality.

Should you Purchase Plex Pass for Roku?

Throughout the guide, we have mentioned Plex Pass multiple times. Now it’s time to address it.

While you can use most of Plex’s features for free, some of its exclusive perks are locked behind the $4.99 monthly Plex Pass paywall, such as:

  • Advanced Settings: This allows you to set additional sharing restrictions for Plex Media Server and cap upload bandwidth per stream.
  • Hardware Transcoding: It lets the server software run the transcoding process on the dedicated video encoder/decoder built into your PC’s processor and graphics card. It makes 4K HDR playback smoother on 4K Roku streaming players and other supported devices.
  • Skip Intro: This makes binge-watching much more convenient, similar to how Netflix gives you the option to skip through the recap and intro.
  • Live TV and DVR: You get to set up a compatible antenna and tuner with Plex Media Server and stream your local SD/HD aerial television channels on your Roku device. It also enables DVR functionality.
  • High-quality streams: You can watch free movies and shows from Plex’s ad-supported VOD library in 1080p Full HD resolution with 5.1 audio. In contrast, the free tier is locked to 720p HD video quality and stereo audio channel.
  • Better music listening experience: Plex Pass unlocks timed lyrics, visualizers, loudness leveling, etc. It also gives you a discount on a TIDAL subscription.

If you find the following perks useful, consider paying for the Plex Pass subscription. Visit plex.tv/plex-pass to learn more about its features and upgrade your Plex experience on Roku.

Related

Finishing Up

Plex is an excellent media hub software for novice users, and it works with a wide range of Roku devices. This guide contains every bit of information you need to set up and use Plex on Roku.

If you own local collections of movies, shows, and music that you wish to enjoy on Roku, Plex is all you need. You can also use Plex as a standalone streaming service on your Roku thanks to its integrated ad-supported library of on-demand content and the addition of free linear live TV channels.

Bear in mind that Plex on Roku is free to use, but the Plex Pass subscription for $4.99 a month does give you access to some useful perks, overall improving the video and audio streaming experience on the following platform.

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