Plex Live TV and OTA DVR: A Cord Cutter’s Guide

Unlock your home entertainment potential with Plex on Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and NVIDIA Shield. Our guide details OTA DVR setups for a seamless experience.

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Plex Live TV and DVR is a versatile option that caters to a specific demographic of cord cutters. Ideal for those who enjoy customizing their TV setup and possess a collection of burned DVDs or music, Plex offers a unique solution.

Table of Contents

What Is Plex? Understanding the Software Hub

Plex is a software hub designed to consolidate your DVDs, burned movies, and digital collections into a single, Netflix-like interface. It also enables users to watch live over-the-air TV and record shows via a TV antenna, though summarizing Plex’s full capabilities is a challenging task. Here are some of its standout features:

  • Watch and Record Live Over-the-Air TV
  • Remove commercials from recordings
  • Hub for Music CDs and DVD collection
  • Organize digital photo collections
  • Streaming for Tidal
  • Search/Listen to Podcasts
  • Regional and National News
  • Discover web shows

By integrating Plex with streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, or NVIDIA Shield, you transform a hard drive or home server into a customizable entertainment center. Plex also offers apps for iOS and Android, with a subscription to Plex Pass unlocking all features.

My Experience with Plex

As a long-time user of Plex in my cord-cutting setup, I’ve explored various ways to utilize it for watching and recording live TV, and managing my music, photos, and DVDs.

Pricing: How Much Does Plex Live TV and DVR Cost?

Plex offers both free and paid options. The Plex Pass, providing channel guide and DVR functionality for live TV, is priced at $4.99 per month, with a lifetime pass available for $120. Plex’s free features include News and Podcast sections.

Organizing Your Media Collection with Plex

Plex excels in helping users organize their collections of CDs and DVDs under one virtual roof, without any charge for using its software. I use a WD MyBook 4TB hard drive for storing most of my movies and music.

Setting Up a Plex Media Server

Understanding servers and clients is crucial for setting up Plex. Your Plex Media Server can be an external hard drive or a section of your desktop, serving as the storage location for your media files. Clients can be any device used for viewing or listening, like Apple TV, Fire TV, or smartphones. I have multiple servers in my home, including a NVIDIA Shield Pro and a Predator Helios 300 laptop connected to a WD MyBook.

Other Plex Media Server Setups

There are various options for setting up a Plex Media Server. Some prefer used PCs with robust processors, while mini-PCs like Intel NUCs offer energy efficiency and reduced wear on daily-use PCs. The choice of processor in a mini PC impacts its performance as a Plex Media Server.

Plex Live TV and DVR Features

Once your media server is established, adding Plex live TV and DVR is possible with a Plex Pass. This feature offers a channel guide and DVR capabilities for over-the-air channels. Essential equipment includes a TV tuner, hard drive space, and an antenna.

Choosing the Best TV Tuners for Plex Live TV and DVR

After testing various TV tuners, my favorites include the HDHomeRun and Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD. HDHomeRun is particularly impressive, allowing recording of multiple programs simultaneously.

How to Set Up Plex Server with HDHomeRun

HDHomeRun tuners connect to a WiFi router and work with a range of devices. Plex software operates as a web-app, allowing easy access to DVR settings and channel scanning.

Plex on the Web: Maximizing Your Experience

Using Plex on a PC or laptop enhances control over settings, scheduling, and content management. Tidal integration on Plex blends your personal music collection with Tidal’s offerings for a seamless experience.

Podcasts, News, and Web Shows on Plex

Plex’s Podcasts, News, and Web Shows sections are accessible without a Plex Pass. These features provide a convenient way to access regional news, national outlets, and curated content, though the Web Shows section may have room for improvement.

Is Plex Pass Worth It? Making the Decision

Plex is a worthy cable alternative, even with its free features. For those considering a DVR setup for OTA channels, the Plex Pass is a valuable investment. When selecting equipment, consider reallocating your cable TV budget towards durable, long-lasting hardware.

Conclusion and User Interaction

I hope this guide has been informative. Are you a Plex user? What’s your preferred setup? Share your experiences in the comments below.

This article was originally published on May 25, 2017, and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

Why you can trust The Cord Cutting Report: I do hands-on testing with TV-related hardware and services throughout the year. Find out more about the review policy.

12 thoughts on “Plex Live TV and OTA DVR: A Cord Cutter’s Guide”

  1. I have a Plex server and apps running in parallel with Dish satellite TV – I really want to drop the satellite subscription, but don’t think I can, yet. Plex is on an i5 laptop hardwired to my network and the storage medium is SSD interfaced to the laptop by USB. My wife prefers Dish for three reasons: first, b/c it provides access to several basic cable channels that are not currently in the set of our streaming services (we’ll figure that out soon). Second, b/c Plex, until just this week did not integrate streaming channels into their service (would be great if the Guide was integrated, too). And third, b/c the DVR function seems to buffer, has long latency to Roku control button presses, and seems to buffer a lot. We have excellent Wi-Fi bandwidth, the Roku is a pretty recent 4K version and we still have these issues. My wife *is* demanding of DVR responsiveness (she’ll push forward, rewind, and play buttons in rapid succession to get to just the right spot in a show to start viewing) and the Plex/Roku combo just does not seem to be able to keep up and “position” at the right moment in the TV show. Any thoughts about how to improve the situation so that I can dump the costly the satellite service?

  2. I use an older PC with i5 cpu as my Plex server. It works great for direct play to other Plex clients in my household. It’s transcode abilities aren’t great but it can handle one at a time. My search now is for the best client. Roku Ultra works well except for its poor ability to fast forward through recorded programs. It buffers a LOT when I attempt this. Otherwise its very capable. My 2018 Sony TV (Android) is a little better in this regard. I have tried the Nvidia Shield Pro (Android) and it works really well in this regard but I haven’t been able to get it paired with my Harmony Elite remote. I haven’t tried Apple TV 4K or Amazon Fire yet.

  3. Wow, I’ve read all the various articles and since I’m not a techie, I’m somewhat lost. Here’s my situation: I have cable and paying around $93.85 a month, after subtracting internet cost.

    I need DVR capabilities to record shows, so how do I replace cable to accomplish this? Do you have a step by step recommendation with equipment that you would use?

    • Mike, Check out the cord cutting guide on the top menu bar. That’s a good starting point that covers free over-the-air channels, streaming options and hardware.

  4. I’ve been running Plex DVR for a few months now, after many happy years with Windows Media Center and I have to say it’s painful. So many bugs and missing features. I may just give up and get a Tivo.

  5. So our router is in one room downstairs and the indoor antennae we have to get all the locals works great only upstairs. Is there a dual tuner out there that I can connect to our antennae upstairs that thus can connect to my home router wirelessly (i.e. it doesn’t have to be plugged into the router Ethernet port) that then works with Plex?

    • Well, you could try to a Hauppauge tuner like the WinTV dualHD, but that’s me taking a stab in the dark and not knowing your Plex Media Server set up. But let’s say you have a PC or laptop as your server, you could plug in Hauppauge tuner into a USB on the PC/laptop, and use Plex to access your local channels on other streaming devices in the house (assuming you have a Plex Pass). Hope that answers your question.

    • It’s a good question. I have a Pioneer BDR-XD05B 6X Slim Blu-ray Burner. I use MKV for file format, which works well with Plex.

  6. Great article, I’ve done similar research and you are spot on. I currently have a Tivo Roamio OTA, which is awesome, but I’m planning on setting up a Plex server in the future just to explore it’s DVR features.


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