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Plex/Emby as a Sky Q alternative - testing and thoughts

Discussion in 'Home Cinema & Hi-Fi' started by Armageus, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Armageus

    Don

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 9,181

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire

    Following on from some discussion in here: https://forums.overclockers.co.uk/threads/sky-q-opinions.18832949/ I just wanted to collect some of my experiences of testing Plex/Emby and a few other bits and pieces as a Sky Q style alternative.

    Background:
    Currently have Sky Q and previously have had Sky HD etc for the last 10 years - based on the available content, and ease of use (e.g. Wife Acceptance Factor), I wanted to look into what alternatives were out there, even if only on a cost front.
    Needs include: Access to Sky content e.g. Sky Atlantic (e.g. for Game of Thrones etc), multiple Freeview/Freesat tuners to record multiple programmes at the same time (recording live tv is a must, as our internet connection is relatively poor <30mbps so minimizing use of catch-up streaming is preferred)

    Roku Express:
    I picked up a Roku Express (primarily as my son hadn't got a smart TV and wanted youtube access), but it's also doubled as a test device, for a possible solution.
    Roku offer Amazon Video/Netflix/Now TV, as well as Plex/Emby, and all the various catchup apps e.g. iPlayer etc. so is an ideal starting point for a solution (vs e.g. Freeview PVRs or SmartTV's that offer some but not all apps).

    TV Tuners:
    I've tried a Hauppauge Nova-T 500 PCI dual tuner - this works natively in Plex (with just Windows drivers), and in Emby (requires Hauppauge software to be installed) - this was an old card I had lying around.
    Currently using an Xbox One Digital Tuner (this supports DVB-T2 HD), and a Sony PlayTV (Dual tuner DVB-T), both of which are supported under TVHeadend (that I'm currently running of a Raspberry Pi 3B, using Libreelec).
    After testing with "portable" aerials, I decided to try with my main TV aerial (mounted in the loft) - I couldn't understand why I was getting a worse signal. However after some diagnosis with linux dvb tools (w_scan), turns out the best signal is actually coming from a different transmitter (Waltham vs Belmont), so likely my aerial is pointing the wrong way!

    Plex:
    The Good:
    - Built in TV EPG service, so don't have to rely on over the air EPG or external service, tested with the Hauppauge card and worked decently.
    - Search function works well (like sky hd), finding and listing all showings of a programme
    - Media library is good, could see myself storing DVDs and Blurays, and the Actor/Genre linking is good, suggesting e.g. other movies you have with the same Actor's in.
    The Bad:
    - Traditional TV Guide EPG "Grid", not available on most of the Plex frontends e.g. PS4/Roku/Android - after finding this out, this is also a deal breaker as fails on the Ease of Use front.
    - PS4 Client is terrible, likely due to being updated a lot less (and seems some of the other clients suffer from this)


    Emby:
    The Good:
    - Roku TV has a proper "grid" guide
    - TVHeadend plugin works well
    - Media library seems to refresh better, e.g. to add new content
    The Bad:
    - Roku Express has a bug that means most interlaced streams (and e.g. DVD rips) don't play correctly, unless forcibly transcoded e.g. by turning on subtitles
    - Switching between TV Channels takes "ages" ~5 seconds plus (which coming from Sky or even a freeview box/smart tv) is unacceptable.
    - No Trial of the premium features (although to be fair was only ~£4 for a month subscription)
    - No in built EPG, so you are relying on Over the Air EPG from TVheadend or have to subscribe elsewhere to an XML EPG.



    So currently no further forward, but will update this thread if anything changes when I review this in the future.
     
  2. Kobi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 30, 2010

    Posts: 1,883

    Location: Sunny Scotland

    Hah! Good timing! I was literally gonna set this up either this week or next.

    The aim of my game is to try and have everything in the one place. Even though we have sky, my girlfriend still wont switch the tv to the roku and watch stuff through the on demand apps and through google play. Plus our nets horrible, so streaming quality is almost worth crying about(~4mb). So i'm hoping to ditch sky, i was thinking about keeping freesat, but the lack of Channel 4 HD is really off putting. I've also been ripping everything under the sun to my pc to create our own local network Netflix, so adding freeview to emby/plex would complete the circle.

    From what i've been reading, plex accidentally released the grid guide a few months ago, then took it down - causing much uproar. But! it is available through the Beta app, downside is the whole beta app is supposed to be buggy. So it is coming, just not yet.

    I think Kodi might have a fully working grid guide for live tv, but you're limited to what device you can install it on.

    Definitely keep us posted. I'll hopefully have mine all up and running by the end of november, but i think i'll need to keep at least basic sky till the new year.
     
  3. Kobi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 30, 2010

    Posts: 1,883

    Location: Sunny Scotland

    Well, i got an aerial, hdhomerun ect. got it all set up - even bought the ~£23 Channels app , but was having problems with getting a signal through the aerial. Phoned a mate who installs aerials for a living, funnily enough, the position i had my aerial in was the perfect place and i was getting a full signal on all channels. Strange! Retuned everything in, still loads of pixels and 'weak signal' though Channels and Plex. Everythings hard wired into a switch and im able to stream full bluray rips across the network easily enough. I also plugged the coax straight into the tv, scanned and got all channels with crystal clear quality. So im a bit lost, must be my network? I can only assume its the hdhomerun, id imagine it would work fine if i got a tuner card and plugged the coax straight into that.
     
  4. Kobi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 30, 2010

    Posts: 1,883

    Location: Sunny Scotland

    Update: Ok, so it was actually my router. I had it plugged straight into the router and it was that port that was funny. so i plugged it into the switch and BAM! everything's perfect, least it seems so, not long got it up and running. So i can confirm that plex does take around 5-10 seconds to load channels. ~4 seconds to load the channel, then it buffers again for ~3ish seconds - then it plays fine. Channels app though, ~3 at most to load up a channel, really great, so easy to use. Not tried DVR yet, just testing for now, but i'll most likely be buying DVR for the year. Really cool being able to have live TV, plex, itunes movies, now tv and a host of other apps in the one place.
     
  5. RoyMi6

    Mobster

    Joined: Mar 9, 2010

    Posts: 2,556

    You know, before the EPG Grid option was even available I thought the same thing "how can you even USE TV like this?!".

    However, after being forced to use the "discovery" view I actually got used to it and now rarely use the gridview - if at all.

    I honestly recommend giving it a chance. You'll be surprised how often shows you'd never notice are even on (because they're too far down the list of channels) bubble to the top and you find yourself watching random channels like "KixZTV!!!11"

    People are often snobs to only watching content from the BBC, ITV or Channel 4, but given how much older content from these broadcaster is being fed down to other channels you get some decent content elsewhere.


    I mean, if you think about it really, what does the traditional grid really offer other than letting you know what's on each channel - and if you start ignoring channels then it becomes less of an issue.

    You can still see what's on now and next and given there's now more room to display related shows based on your watch history or other recorded shows you can find some gems.


    Case in point, I set "The One" (with Jet Li) to record a month back because it was showing as a recomended film (spot on recommendation actually). Little did I know it was actually airing 3 weeks later on some random "DAVE +13.5h" channel at 3am.

    That's a film I'd never have known was airing using the usual EPG and now I've got it recorded to watch.
     
  6. jpaul

    Soldato

    Joined: Mar 1, 2010

    Posts: 5,910

    you mean an interface like top one below ?
    ... and you can also set wish-lists for films that are not necessarily scheduled yet ... that's good

     
  7. RoyMi6

    Mobster

    Joined: Mar 9, 2010

    Posts: 2,556

    So in Plex I it's just listed as "discover" and it comes up like this:
    [​IMG]

    Like I say, I totally get people wanting a timeline view - search for me on the Plex forums and I'm pretty sure you could quote me saying "No thanks, I'll wait until you've got timeline view".

    But even taking your own point that you want "to see maximum programmes" - this view routinely show a consistent number of programs (33) and when one show is 2 hours long it doesn't push the rest of it off the screen (what's on after Foyle's War for example?)

    And yeah, ok, scale for 4k correctly - but you've still got channels that go off air at certain times so you can't actually see what's next and when you consider the fact that all you need to do to watch something is click on it and it will record it means you can watch at any time.

    With a timeline EPG how do you view things that are on later in the day? The Premieres Tonight is a really nice list that means you can see all the interesting things without scrolling far into the evening then down a massive list of channels.

    I mean, I suppose a lot of it comes down to how I do my viewing these days. Rarely do I find myself watching any live TV as I just browse the Discover view, click on a couple of shows to record that I'm interest in and if there's nothing "on now" I just fire up a recorded show from the previous evening, earlier in the day or on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
     
  8. MonkeyMan

    Soldato

    Joined: Jul 9, 2003

    Posts: 5,636

    I know you've fixed it but I had the same issue when I first got my hdhomerun with channels breaking up and it being unusable but for me updating the firmware fixed it. No idea why and I haven't updated the firmware since in case they break it again :o It does seem to be quite a picky device though in regards to signal, much more than say a youview box.

    I've been running a Plex DVR setup for about a year now, (HD Homerun Connect Duo - 2 tuner) and tried PS4, Roku, Android (Fire TV Gen 2, Fire Stick Gen 1, Fire Stick Gen 2, Shield) and just playing via pc web browser. The problem we have is that UK freeview is broadcast interlaced (and has an annoying audio codec on the HD channels) and generally no streaming device really likes interlaced content as they aren't designed to play it so depending on the player you will get some banding / lines showing (most noticeable watching sports I've found but generally just annoying). The best devices I've found to cope with it have been the pc and the Shield but Plex have changed the Android app so it now uses a new playback engine to view Live TV. So far the new playback engine seems to handle interlaced content better but its brought with it other issues so hasn't been adopted as the main player yet which means recordings still suffer, its getting there though.

    Originally I was going to use this as a full DVR setup but Live TV wasn't really ready when I got it so I've only really used it for recording and to be fair it hasn't had any real issues apart from occasionally having to force an EPG update when scheduled recordings go missing. I've played around with Live TV and it does work well on the Shield but I got a cheap Youview box second hand and that is just more user friendly for everyone (less headaches for me).

    A tip to make the discovery view cleaner is to disable any channels that you'd never watch (shopping, radio, etc). Plus I tend to only watch HD channels so I've disabled all the +1 SD channels and just kept the few good ones like Dave etc. Once you've done that Discovery view is actually quite helpful for showing you things you might have otherwise missed but I still use the traditional EPG grid or just search for the programme I'm looking for.

    Like most things with Plex you need patience as they add features / break things but overall its pretty easy, never used Emby so would be interesting to hear how it compares.
     
  9. Armageus

    Don

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 9,181

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire

    Less of an issue with me, but comes down to ease of use and reluctance to change for the wife.
    I've only recently tried Netflix, and that seemed like a bit of a shock to me, but for people used to that (and now tv, amazon prime etc), I can see how the "discovery" view etc would be much less of an issue.

    No snobbishness in our household - my wife manages to find quality programs crap to watch on all kinds of channels on Sky :)
     
  10. jpaul

    Soldato

    Joined: Mar 1, 2010

    Posts: 5,910

    I had misunderstood what you said ... but,
    I would like the ability to have a wishlist of stuff that will automatically get recorded if it is broadcast.

    not sure if you meant UK was unusual versus EU/USA.
    For treasured films/content really need to access content via a plex/dnla client on the TV, to use its hardware de-interlacer and (hopefully) mpeg noise reduction ...
    not sure if that option was on Armageus' list ?
    ... with an Android/sony tv can you run plexDVR on it, or cast to the TV ??? (I can cast from PC plex to a roku)
     
  11. Madwelsh

    Hitman

    Joined: Jan 19, 2005

    Posts: 513

    Location: Legoland

    Christ, she's married to you too?
     
  12. Kobi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Oct 30, 2010

    Posts: 1,883

    Location: Sunny Scotland

    I've got to agree with you. It's not quite there yet, too many bugs. After being so impressed with the channels app, i bought the DVR sub. As soon as i done that, everything just broke again haha. It's like it need a mega strong signal(but i literally can't get any stronger haha), most channels were fine, but their was still some that had break ups - yet on my tv tuned one, every channel is perfect. So i'll probably return the hdhomerun. their would be too many headaches like you said from the other half. So i'll be on the lookout for a youview box in the future.
     
  13. Armageus

    Don

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 9,181

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire

    Just a quick update on this, but have revisited Emby again following some recent updates to it-

    Emby now has it's own built in EPG service included with their Premiere subscription (so on par with Plex now, and avoids needing anything 3rd party - e.g. if you have a HDHomerun then you are good to go with nothing else required now)

    Emby hardware acceleration seems to work much better (although I have swapped from a 1366 Xeon + Radeon, to an I3-4130, so can now use quicksync acceleration) - downside is that Premiere subscription is required.

    Roku client seems better - not noticed as many issues

    Have switched to NextPVR as a TV Backend, which worked reasonably well with Emby's plugin, however have now moved to trialling M3U streams from NextPVR to emby - this allows Emby's guide data to be used as simplifies what the backend has to do. Aside from some limitations which hopefully will be removed soon, seems to be quite a big improvement, and potential for faster channel change times is there.
     
  14. jpaul

    Soldato

    Joined: Mar 1, 2010

    Posts: 5,910

    How does hardware acceleration help ? its's not transcoding is it, when saving streams from freeview ... did you get a specific mini pc brand with the new I3-4130, or changed a MB. ?

    so that's plugged into the PC .... seems reasonable at amazon £14
     
  15. Armageus

    Don

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 9,181

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire


    Hardware transcoding is needed as most clients (e.g. Roku stick, or Emby web client) don't natively support mpeg 2 (which is what Freeview uses), so it has to be transcoded to h264.
    The 4130 I picked up cheap, and got a motherboard from the MM on here. Nothing special but the built in intel gpu can transcode multiple streams with no issue.

    The Xbox tuner can be had for <£5 but the downside is there are no windows drivers, so you need to use Linux e.g. libreelec and tvheadend and share the stream to Emby that way.
     
  16. Rensin

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 15, 2008

    Posts: 1,086

    Have you looked at DVBViewer Streaming service? ...I use this as backend using the m3u file and 2x dvb-s cards (1x streaming & 1x recording) ... Full guide using the built in Emby plugin, channels clear quickly on all devices too.

    I jumped to Emby a few months ago and for me is running much better than Plex, My server streams to multiple devices (roku 4k, firestick 4k & shieldtv) and 1 stream remotely on a daily basis and only ran into a couple of stupid issues. Currently running the latest beta which is blooming quick

    As I encode most files myself 90% require no transocding on the fly (direct play) ... The larger 1080p files are synced to my gsuite account for remote playback.
     
  17. Armageus

    Don

    Joined: May 19, 2012

    Posts: 9,181

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire

    @Rensin - Sounds interesting, have you got any more information on this.

    Had a quick look through the manual and forum for DVBViewer but can't see any information regarding m3u export?
    Will download the demo later and have a look, but reluctant to spend the 39 euro or whatever it is for both DVBViewer and the Streaming addon (assume that's probably needed) if it doesn't offer anything more than the other backends that are available (e.g. tvheadend, mediaportal, nextpvr)
     
  18. Rensin

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 15, 2008

    Posts: 1,086

    yeah DVBViewer isn't free but imo is worth the money especially if you record your own shows.

    The Media Server add on I think is needed for what you want to do but this is accessible via web page without needing to open up DVBViewer (I run mine on a headless server) ... Set your favourite channels than you can save this as an m3u file in which you simply load into Emby, using the Emby Tvguide Data I get the below, only just started adding channel logos

    Setting any recordings via Emby is simply just click the show and you have the option of "play" or "record"

    Also with Emby (and like Plex) I don't think you have the option to share livetv with other users? ... all my devices are logged on as main user so is ok.

    Again all devices are wireless (apart from shieldtv which is remote connection) and have no issues with 1080p (using 2x Unifi Pro Access points) streaming of local & live media.

    Setting up is very easy and will probs only take a few minutes but you will spend hours tweaking things to suite yourself.

    To get the m3u file off DVBViewer click 1 of the channels in the Medai Server web page tvguide and you should get the pop up below (pic 2) click "HTTP Channel List" ... save this and load into Emby.

    TVHeadend is probably the best way to go which is free and much more customizable, you can set transcoding bit rates ect but again I don't use these and Emby direct play's them ok.

    I can get more screenshots or try any settings for you if needed.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    ravindra meaning in hindi
     
  19. Housey

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Feb 21, 2006

    Posts: 26,215

    Location: England

    I have just added my Tidal account to my Plex account and this is good news.

    I was all for the sexy front end apps running on a PC/Mac/Nuc etc, but they simply take too much mucking around with and Plex for me is ideal, but then I have no need for a TV/Sky bit.
     
  20. jpaul

    Soldato

    Joined: Mar 1, 2010

    Posts: 5,910

    you mean you encode/re-mux the freeview transport stream dynamically during live recording, or, offload that at some later time ?


    are all your clients(smart tv's ? ) able to play the m3u streams too , or they have media boxes ?