One of the main reasons I build a computer was for the purposes of hosting my video content on my system and serve it to other machines. I had heard about having something like Netflix or Hulu in the form of Plex. I have known others that have done this and have always been impressed by it. My first stop in exploring media servers in Linux was Emby. I chose it largely because I heard of Plex and wanted to try something that was open source based, more on that later. At the very beginning of this exercise, I decided I want to try out three different server products, Plex, Emby and Jellyfin.
This is my review, with no real expectations, other than to easily have access to my movies and TV shows from any device in the house. This is a review of only the free services, not the paid features. Bottom line up front. I like it and it has few issues.
The installation was surprisingly easy to do with Emby on openSUSE. Instructions for openSUSE were right there, ready and waiting for me to utilize them. Navigate to:
There is a nice little drop down where you can select “OpenSuse” very sadly cased incorrectly but that is a small detail, nothing terrible, I’ve made mistakes too in casing the project name.
There are 6 options from which to choose. Two are for the x86_64 architecture, the other four are ARM options. Since I am installing on 64bit x86 architecture, and I am not interested in beta testing Emby, I chose the first option.
The command uses zypper to install an RPM from a GitHub repository. This doesn’t install a repository or anything so at this point, I am unsure about how updates are handled. From what I can tell, I will have to install updates manually. I’m sure there is a better way.
After the installation, open a web browser to http://localhost:8096 to perform the setup of the service. Things like your user information.
The next step will be to set up your media library. You select your content type a display name for it, the location and other bits you and flags you find important, like language settings and metadata downloaders.
There are more library settings here than I really know what to do with. I filled out what made sense, set the language preferences to English and moved on with the process.
I added my movies, TV shows and Documentaries folders.
Then moved onto the next section where I again set the metadata language, configured to allow remote access. I haven’t actually set my firewall to allow remote access to test the performance of this remotely.
Lastly, you will have to agree to the terms of service and your done!
First Run and Impressions
Running this media server is as easy as navigating to http://localhost:8096 and signing into the service, not much different than you would a Netflix but each user has their own unique login.
The login is nice and you can add an avatar to customize your account appearance, because, why not?
The home screen is very handy, it is the starting point to go into your different media repositories and to continue watching what you have started or to search for a movie or show in which you are interested.
A nice touch, when you launch a movie, there is a still in the background and in the upper left corner of the player, is a logo representing the movie title. Super nice touch. This is certainly a nicely polished product. Other playback features include changing the resolution and bitrate. Probably more important when streaming outside of your home. All these are really nice features that demonstrate an extra set of care and polish.
What I Like
Emby is super easy to set up. It is nothing more than copying one line into a terminal and executing it. It is super simple and the script also seems to, at least on the version I installed, start and enable the emby-server service.
It’s super easy to add media libraries to Emby. The wizard walks you through it in the beginning and if you want to add additional libraries, that is very easy to do through the configuration tool.
Streams to just about everything in the house. Essentially, if it has a browser, you have access to the Emby server. I haven’t had any issues with the system in the approximately five weeks I have been using it. I have yet to have an issue.
Updating the metadata and identity of any movies is as easy as a click and search. You can change the cover images and so forth. Some of the movies I have ripped haven’t always been detected completely correctly. For example, there are three different Grinch movies and I had to manually define which decade they came from. It was super easy.
The Android application works quite nicely. I am actually impressed with the ease of use of the application. It has a surprisingly fine polish to it as well.
What I Don’t Like
This was an open source project that went closed source. I sort of have an issue with that and I am not alone with that assessment. It was at that point that Jellyfin was forked from Emby which is what makes me incredibly interested in Jellyfin.
I can’t stream to my Wii, though I don’t really blame the project for not supporting a 14 year old game console. There isn’t an app on the Homebrew channel though at the time of writing, I realized that there is a browser on the Wii so perhaps more investigation is needed. I will update this paragraph with any new information I learn as I investigate that possibility.
Updates will have to be done manually. The server does say it needs to be updated and to do so requires the same step as installation. That is really the only clunky part about this whole setup.
Emby is pretty great. Regardless of what I do not like about it. It is a great experience. If you are undecided on your media server and have a desire to try the different options, this is a good one. If this was my only option, I could easily get along fine with it. Since I have two others, I will check those out too.
I highly recommend you try out Emby as the shortcomings are nitpick issues. I don’t like that it went closed source but the project, closed or open, is sound. It is a great, well polished, experience.
This is my first media server review. I will have follow up articles to this in the near future. If there are any inaccuracies or areas I need to revisit, please let me know and I will take the time to make updates.