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Plex on Apple TV Alternative - Kodi with Plex addon

ersanersan Posts: 57Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
edited January 9 in Apple TV

I'm a long-time Plex user and up until a couple months ago I had been using mostly Roku clients. I decided to switch to Apple TV's because of the Apple ecosystem features (airplay, photos, apple music, airpods, apple watch/iphone as remote, etc, etc). The only thing I miss about Roku is the Plex app (and the interface). I've been disappointed with the Plex Apple TV app for some time, it falls short in a lot of ways.

I'd been putting up with it for a few months now, and none of the alternatives really did it for me (MrMC/Infuse), but I've found a solution that works for me.

I decided to try sideloading Kodi and downloading the official Plex addon for Kodi - boy it was a world of difference, it solves nearly all of the issues I and many others on this forum have with the native app.

  • YOU CAN PLAY 4K/HEVC MOVIES IN ANY CONTAINER WITHOUT TRANSCODING (there isn't even any remuxing, it's all direct play)
  • The old interface is (mostly) back.
  • No more reloading the library on the home screen constantly (and waiting every time you go back to the home screen) - the Kodi addon actually seems to open up a streaming connection to the Plex server for library updates (I believe?).
  • Playlists work properly, and I can view what's coming up in a playlist via the OSD (This is a huge feature for me as I like to shuffle a playlist of random reruns when I watch TV and skipping through until I find an episode I haven't seen recently takes ages). In the same vein, the OSD in Kodi will also briefly show what is about to play, unlike Apple TV where I have to drag down from the top once it starts playing.
  • There are onscreen controls and more scrubbing options.
  • Real, actual FILTERING and SORTING options.
  • No longer does pressing back repeatedly take you to the tvOS home screen for no reason.
  • The skip buttons on the IR remote (and Siri skip) work again.
  • DTS passthrough works (with some effort).
  • Forced subtitles and subtitles for non-native audio work automatically again.
  • There's a 'repeat' toggle.
  • You can delete movies/episodes/etc from the UI.
  • No more whatever this search UI bug is - https://i.imgur.com/lPbN3tu.jpg
  • No more obnoxious left side menu, and you don't have to drill back through 20 different pages to get back home - the workflow for the Kodi addon makes a lot more sense.
  • It has Photo slideshows (literally the post right above this one).
  • Videos start much faster and seek instantly, no more staring at the dumb loading icon.
  • As a bonus, both Kodi and the Plex addon for Kodi are open source - so if there's something I don't like about either one I'm able to change or fix it on my own.

There are some cons (for me, perhaps others have different use cases):

  • The biggest con is that obviously Kodi isn't available on the App Store and sideloading it for more than 7 days at a time requires a paid developer account, HOWEVER @davilla - the developer of MrMC - said that they intend to get the official Plex addon working on MrMC at some point.
  • The frame rate of the interface is a bit low for some reason (seems like 20fps or so), and thus is a bit less smooth - may not be an issue on ATV 4K - I don't think this happens on MrMC.
  • Channels and News (oh no, the horror) aren't available. Kodi itself has hundreds more addons than Plex does Channels, but you have to leave the Plex interface to access them.
  • You cannot 'fling' from the iOS/Android apps or Plex/Web (though that required a convoluted relay server anyway). As a result there is also no Alexa support yet (planned feature).
  • You lose rotten tomatoes reviews (but not ratings).
  • When typing something, the native Apple TV onscreen keyboard doesn't work for some reason - it allows you to type in the box but whatever you type isn't passed along to Kodi. You have to use the keyboard in Kodi (by extension, typing on your iPhone does not work).
  • I found the 'known issues' thread that lists the rest of the limitations https://forums.plex.tv/discussion/246916/planned-features-and-known-issues

Personally, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks to the point that I'm going to just pay the $99/year for an Apple developer account until MrMC supports the addon. There are a handful of other very good apps that they won't allow on the App Store (emulators, for instance) that make the price bearable.

Answers

  • Essam01Essam01 Posts: 29Members ✭✭
    edited January 9

    A good write-up; few remarks, however:

    • MrMC supports Plex and Emby natively; infuse does not (yet)
    • Plex for Kodi add-on is still in beta, so, improvements are to be expected until the final release
    • the proper solution would be that Plex updates its tvOS client!
  • ersanersan Posts: 57Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    edited January 9

    @Essam01 said:
    A good write-up; few remarks, however:

    • MrMC supports Plex and Emby natively; infuse does not (yet)
    • Plex for Kodi add-on is still in beta, so, improvements are to be expected until the final release
    • the proper solution would be that Plex updates its tvOS client!

    Right, you can use Plex on Infuse via DLNA, which I've tried before and hated for obvious reasons. I don't expect to like the built-in Plex support either out of the gate when it is released (hopefully they'll prove me wrong)

    The only real problem with MrMC for me is the UI, its Plex integration leaves much to be desired (no On Deck is a dealbreaker for me, for example).

    I would love for Plex to update their Apple TV client, but it's been a long time and not much has changed even since it was first released. I still remember buying SimpleX before the official Plex client came out, and I often wish whoever made that would have continued developing it independently (I believe he works for Plex now).

    Even though Plex for Kodi is still in beta, it is much further along than the ATV app in terms of polish and lack of bugs.

  • mschlotzmschlotz Posts: 225Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Unfortunately, Plex's idea of updating its client revolves around adding new functionality while ignoring the on-going bugs many of which have been reported and well documented by users in this forum. Some of these nagging issues have been in existence since they first introduced their atv client. Here is a link to a 12 page thread that is the shinning example of Plex's lack of customer service which @elan decided to lock the other day vs actually address and resolve. It's sad to see a business stubbornly ignore its customers especially when some go out of their way to serve up details of what they are experiencing. The disappointing aspect is that while the PMServer side is quite good, the client app however is giving them a black eye and it appears to stem from their initial and continued position to stick with the default apple player vs roll their own which so many other's have done due to the significant limitations of that player. Infuse has recognized this and is currently developing a plex client indicating its availability should be forth coming. My plan is to end my grief in dealing with Plex's client and my plexpass account when it is rolled out.

  • nass600nass600 Posts: 1Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    For me it doesn't work that well.

    When playing any MKV movie on Kodi for my Apple TV 4K the video starts to stutter (but keeps going on... somehow) after a bunch of seconds and the audio disappear. Tried every single audio/video/subs codec combination on my mkv's but I am still getting the same result.

    However it works pretty well on my Samsung SmartTV Plex app developed by Orca.

    Any clue someone?

  • ersanersan Posts: 57Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    edited January 10

    @nass600 said:
    For me it doesn't work that well.

    When playing any MKV movie on Kodi for my Apple TV 4K the video starts to stutter (but keeps going on... somehow) after a bunch of seconds and the audio disappear. Tried every single audio/video/subs codec combination on my mkv's but I am still getting the same result.

    However it works pretty well on my Samsung SmartTV Plex app developed by Orca.

    Any clue someone?

    I haven't got an Apple TV 4K actually but I was able to play a HEVC/4K movie on my Apple TV 4 and it was only a bit choppy, I assumed the 4K would do a better job.

    MrMC seems to be able to play them without issue using the Kodi player so once davilla gets it to work with the Plex plugin I don't think there will be an issue any more. Sideloading Kodi itself won't be very common because of the 7 day profile expiration, but if MrMC works with the plugin I think it will easily be the best Plex client on Apple TV.

  • mrmctvmrmctv Posts: 21Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    While the AppleTV4/4K Kodi version does use back ported code from MrMC, our player core changes and tweaks have not been migrated into Kodi. This includes SDR/HDR/Dolby Vision display switching.

    Currently, we are testing (TestFlight v3.4.1) new tvOS focus engine handling, to bring the tvOS feel using the Siri remote for taps, pans and swipes. Once we complete this stage, then we move into bringing back python for skin and selected addon support.

  • ersanersan Posts: 57Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    @mrmctv said:
    While the AppleTV4/4K Kodi version does use back ported code from MrMC, our player core changes and tweaks have not been migrated into Kodi. This includes SDR/HDR/Dolby Vision display switching.

    Currently, we are testing (TestFlight v3.4.1) new tvOS focus engine handling, to bring the tvOS feel using the Siri remote for taps, pans and swipes. Once we complete this stage, then we move into bringing back python for skin and selected addon support.

    Sounds great, just keep in mind a lot of people (including me) do use IR remotes so don’t completely re-do everything without testing with IR remotes.

  • mrmctvmrmctv Posts: 21Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    Of course, we test under all, Siri, IR, iOS AppleTV remote app and the kodi remote iOS apps.

  • Essam01Essam01 Posts: 29Members ✭✭

    Still waiting for PMS 1.11.0 to test the (new) functionality of of Plex 1.22 for tvOS; when is the server update coming?

  • gdiongdion Posts: 72Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass

    MrMC works great and it is very fast with Plex on Apple TV 4K using wifi 5G @ ~500mbps TX speed. Even 4K 10bit HEVC videos encoded @ ~crf:17 play flawlessly. I even use MrMC on Nvidia Shield TV with Plex due its speed and better audio passthrough capabilities.

  • Essam01Essam01 Posts: 29Members ✭✭

    The fact is that the Plex-to-Kodi add-on performs better than the native Plex app; e.g. it can direct play HEVC while the native app still can’t, which is really strange because one should not need Kodi to locally play Plex media!

  • ersanersan Posts: 57Members, Plex Pass Plex Pass
    edited January 21

    @nass600 said:
    For me it doesn't work that well.

    When playing any MKV movie on Kodi for my Apple TV 4K the video starts to stutter (but keeps going on... somehow) after a bunch of seconds and the audio disappear. Tried every single audio/video/subs codec combination on my mkv's but I am still getting the same result.

    However it works pretty well on my Samsung SmartTV Plex app developed by Orca.

    Any clue someone?

    I just recently picked up an Apple TV 4K and I’m having no problem playing 4K/H.265 videos in any container - make sure you use the latest build of Kodi from here: http://mirrors.kodi.tv/test-builds/darwin/tvos/

    Also make sure to enable "Allow 4K" and "Allow HEVC (h265)" in the settings for the Plex addon.

    They added hardware h.265 decoding in the 17.5 build from October and there are a lot of old builds floating around on the internet.

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