Okay, so I got pretty excited this morning. Did you know that you can DVR Live TV with Plex? I didn’t until this morning. Even better, I have all the hardware required. Setup is super easy and pretty much painless.
Synology NAS Users
As of DSM 7.0 Synology has discontinued USB support. According to Synology this is due to security concerns with many of the USB drivers. Unfortunately, that means you cannot use a USB dongle (Huappauge and others) to pull in TV guide data for Plex. This guide has been updated accordingly.
Hardware requirements are “fairly” simple. I say fairly because it is a little bit hefty. First, you will need some sort of always-on device. A PC that is always-on is fine, or a NAS will work. Second, you will need a network TV tuner and OTA antenna. A HDHomeRun device is your go-to. Third, you will need to have a Plex Pass subscription and a Plex Media Server online.
On your always-on device make sure the Plex media server is up and running. See this article for information on a media server setup. Likewise, make sure you have got your HomeRun tuner plugged in and on your network. Of note, make sure if using Synology DSM you go into Video Station, options, and enable the DTV function. If you don’t, the tuner will not show up in the Plex devices.
One other note: make sure the device you choose has a decent amount of free space. If you choose to DVR live TV it will record to the device HDD.
Get a Plex Pass
To DVR live TV with Plex you will need a Plex Pass subscription. It only runs $4.99/month currently. However, if you wait you can get a lifetime pass on sale and never pay a subscription fee.
Plex seems to be expanding their media offering, keeping in line with their platform. With Plex Pass you get the option to DVR Live TV channels, a dashboard to monitor your server, intro skipping, full HD movies, and download syncing to devices.
Without a Plex pass you still can take advantage of the Plex Live TV offerings without local channels or DVR and a fairly robust movie library that keeps expanding.
Scan for channels
Once everything is hooked up go to your Plex media server and open Options>Live TV and DVR. Once there, follow the prompts to add the tuner to your Plex account and scan for the channels in your area. You may have to manually specify the IP address of your tuner if it is on a separate subnet. When complete you can watch your local TV from any device with the Plex app.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure your device is able to handle the transcoding required. NAS devices can be a little underpowered and may not be able to create smooth playback. For the most part, the saying “you get what you pay for” goes. If you go with a NAS, see the Plex article about NAS devices and limitations.
- Check the Plex site for information regarding compatible TV tuners. I’m using the HDHomeRun device, but there are others available.
- You may run into bandwidth issues on Roku devices. To solve these, first make sure your network cables and backbone are solid (probably are if you’re reading this article). Second, check the settings in the Plex app on Roku and make sure the video quality is set to “Original”. This solved playback issues on our TVs.
- You will need a decent antenna. I found that Google has quite a few articles on choosing the best OTA antenna. I went with the Antop “Big Boy” and just swapped out my old DirecTV dish for the antenna. While you can use the $10 antennas widely available, a larger antenna will generally provide more OTA channels and better quality picture.
And that’s it! You now have access to your local channels complete with a guide across all devices with the Plex app!
What if I don’t want to use Plex?
I’m throwing this in here for those that don’t want or can’t run a Plex server. With the HDHomeRun box that’s actually not a problem. The network tuner will work out of the box with most streaming players or DLNA TVs. See their landing page for a list of devices and instructions.
I’m not a fan of subscription services, but you can also purchase the DVR activation and use the HDHomeRun itself to DVR live shows. I prefer Plex simply because it is a one-time purchase (for the lifetime package). HDHomeRun is an annual subscription. While nominal (currently $35/year), its still a yearly subscription. That being said, once purchased and activated, you can attach a USB hard drive to the box and DVR live shows without a Plex server.
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