Plex's new movie rental service launches with no 4K, HDR or surround sound

Mike Wheatley

The popular video streaming service provider Plex, which made its name for its free, ad-supported content library, said last week it has launched a premium digital movie and TV rental service to take the fight to rivals such as Amazon and Apple. But although it has some decent content on offer, there are a few limitations.


On the positive side, Plex’s new service appears to look the part, at least, in terms of its user interface, which is easy to navigate and looks and feels very slick. It’s nicely laid out, with key artwork and a short synopsis of the movie or show in question that appears when the user hovers over a title. That provides users with a quick idea around what the movie in question is all about, directly on the home page. When the user clicks on a title, it provides a more detailed description, as well as critic and audience review scores from Rotten Tomato. It also provides info on the cast, and an option to add the movie or show to a watchlist for viewing later.

Plex is also offering a fairly decent content selection, with 2023 cinema releases such as Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning and Barbie, plus some very recent releases like The Lost Kingdom and Aquaman. In terms of pricing, Plex’s service is roughly on a par with other services, with the Mission Impossible movie priced at $5.99, exactly the same as on Amazon Prime Video.

However, that’s about as good as it gets, as there are severe limitations in terms of picture and sound quality. Plex didn’t say why, but all of the content in its library maxes out at Full HD resolution, meaning there’s no 4K content at all. Audio is also limited to just 5.1 surround sound. There’s also no HDR available, with SDR being the best available enhancement.

The lack of higher quality pictures and sound is somewhat questionable, as virtually every other movie rental service seems to offer 4K HDR visuals and supports immersive sound formats such as Dolby Atmos. As such, it remains to be seen why anyone would choose Plex over another service. For instance, the aforementioned Mission Impossible title is priced exactly the same on Plex as it is on Amazon Prime, but the latter service allows you to watch it in 4K HDR, making it a much better deal for anyone with a TV to support higher picture and sound quality.

Plex said its new service is available on Android TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation and a selection of other smart TVs. It can also be accessed via a web browser. Once you pay for a movie, you’ll have 30 days to watch it before it becomes inaccessible. And once you actually start watching, bear in mind that you only have a 48 hour window to finish it. There are no downloads supported at this time.