PlayOn vs. Plex Media Server

A comparison of two ways to stream media from your PC to your Wii U

There are two good options for streaming media from your computer to your Wii U: PlayOn and Plex Media Server. We've tested both to see which one offers superior video game streaming.

PlayOn vs Plex

Overall Findings

PlayOn
  • Quick and easy setup.

  • Available for most computers and mobile devices.

  • Choose between desktop or cloud versions.

Plex Media Server
  • Available for smart TVs and game consoles (but not Wii U).

  • Collects data from users.

  • No cloud support.

Both services support streaming and recording access to various platforms. Plex Media Server boasts more bells and whistles overall, but it lacks some of the features of PlayOn, most notably the option to store recordings in the cloud.

Cost: Free With Paid Options

PlayOn
  • Free trial available.

  • Paid subscription required to stream to Wii U.

  • Pay per recording.

Plex Media Server
  • Free streaming to game systems.

  • Flexible premium plans.

  • Stream live TV with Plex Pass.

If cost is your top criteria, then Plex Media Server is the clear winner. Plex and PlayOn are both free to download, but you must subscribe to PlayOn if you want to stream to video game consoles. Plex Media Server also has premium options, and they are less expensive than PlayOn's.

Interface: Simple or Fancy

PlayOn
  • Bare bones menus.

  • Works well with the Wii U interface.

  • No advanced options for categorizing recordings.

Plex Media Server
  • Organize and customize your recordings.

  • Sometimes conflicts with the Wii U interface.

Plex Media Server has a much more elaborate interface than PlayOn. Plex downloads detailed information on your movies categorizes TV shows into a library system and offers various sorting capabilities. You can add tags, choose subtitles, and change the resolution, which is useful if the file is streaming more information than your connection can carry.

This fanciness has some drawbacks on the Wii U, like difficult-to-grab scrollbars, and some things don't work well; for example, if you change the default settings on your Wii U, they will revert back the next time you start it up. PlayOn, on the other hand, just gives you an alphabetical list of files and folders.

Streaming and Playback Quality: PlayOn Wins Out

PlayOn
  • Consistent quality with few sputters.

  • Record your streams and save them to the cloud.

Plex Media Server
  • Occasional technical hiccups.

  • Streaming problems typically resolve themselves.

In terms of the steadiness of the stream, PlayOn seems to be more consistent. Plex struggles with some video formats, and it is more prone to pauses and stuttering. These effects usually lessen after a couple of minutes, but they are still annoying.

Final Verdict

Plex Media Server is a complex, feature-laden application that suffers from some technical issues and interface quirks on the Wii U. For the most part, though, it does what it's supposed to do. PlayOn, on the other hand, is simple and lightweight, but its bare-bones approach isn't nearly as engaging. Plex is the more popular option for power users, but it’s worth having both installed in case one gives you problems that the other can resolve.