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What Is the Best Video Format for Plex Streaming

By Gabriel Coleman | Last Update:

Plex is a streaming media server which offers you a place to store and enjoy all the personal media that matters to you. In other words, it is a portable library in which you can stream your collections of high-quality movies, TV shows, music, podcasts etc. from your computer to any other device, or also, share them with your friends.

However nifty this server is, there are always real scenarios where the quality of your Plex experience is decreased due to the problem of video file incompatibility. To avoid lousy matters such as choppy playback and regular buffering, you'll find that transcoding your video files to a suitable format is the most efficient way out. Keep reading this article to figure out the best video format for Plex.

Plex for desktop
Plex for desktop

Part 1: What Is the Best Video Format for Plex

Plex is officially claimed that its supported video is typically though not necessarily restricted to MP4 format. Also, it is announced that formats like ASF, MKV, MOV and AVI, etc. can be played if they are uploaded to Plex. However, if you want a smooth playback with minimum buffering, you have to take consideration of both format feature and device compatibility.

MKV and MP4 are both container format. In terms of container format features, MKV is an open-source container format that can hold any video codec and audio codec, while MP4 is limited to the codec specified by the MPEG standard. Moreover, MKV supports storing multiple video and audio tracks, chapter and subtitles.

As far as container format support by other software and device goes, MP4 is a better option. It created by an international organization Motion Pictures Expert Group that is responsible for setting the industry standards regarding digital audio and video. Yet, MKV is a royalty-free open standard for techinical use. That is to say, MP4 is more widely supported for commercial purpose than MKV.

Therfore, It is recommend you to store your videso in the lowest standard provided below to yield the best playback result for Plex streaming.

  1. Container: MP4
  2. Video codec: H.264
  3. Resolution: 720p/1080p @8Mbps
  4. Audio track: Stereo AAC @128Kbps
  5. Aspect ratio: 16:9

Tips: hardware and speed of the internet may also influence streaming across devices.

If your video files that you are going to upload to Plex don't meet the standard mentioned above, you can transcode them with the top video converters.

VideoProc Converter AI is an integrated video processing armed with a huge profile library of over 370 input codecs and more than 420 output format such as MOV, ASF, MP4, MKV, VOB, AAC, M4A and more. Besides, its conversion time is rather fast for the effort made by level-3 GPU acceleration.

Furthermore, VideoProc Converter AI is more than a video converter. It is also capable of editing video clips, recording screen activity with voice-over and webcam, ripping DVD. Anyway, the following is the tutorial of how to convert any video to MP4 for Plex streaming.

Part 2: How to Convert Videos to MP4 Format for Plex

Step 1: Download and install VideoProc Converter AI on your PC.

Free Download For Win 7 or later
Free Download For macOS 10.13 or later

Note: The Windows version now supports AI-powered Super Resolution, Frame Interpolation, and Stabilization to enhance video and image quality. These AI features are not yet available in the Mac version but will be coming soon.

Launch it and check Video Processing at home screen. And click the +Video button at the topbar to import one or more videos for conversion.

Convert videos to MP4 for Plex streaming
Convert videos to MP4 for Plex streaming

Step 2: Tab the Video tab at the bottom of the windows and select MP4 as the output format.

Step 3: Click the Browse button to select the destination folder and click the RUN button to begin transcoding.

Part 3: Plex Supported Formats

Videos in MP4 container with H.264 video encoding and AAC audio is natively supported by Plex. And Plex can also Direct Play video files in the following formats.

  • ASF container
    • Video Encoding: vc1, wmv2
    • Audio Encoding: wmav2
  • AVI container
    • Video Encoding: mpeg4, msmpeg4, msmpeg4v2, msmpeg4v3, vc1, wmv3
    • Audio Encoding: aac, ac3, mp3
  • MOV container
    • Video Encoding: H.264
    • Audio Encoding: aac
  • MP4 container
    • Video Encoding: H.264, hevc (H.265), mpeg4, mpeg2video, vc1, wmv3
    • Audio Encoding: aac, ac3, eac3, mp2, mp3
  • MPEG container
    • Video Encoding: mpeg2video
    • Audio Encoding: mp2
  • MPEGTS, TS containers
    • Video Encoding: H.264, mpeg2video
    • Audio Encoding: aac, ac3, mp2
  • MKV container
    • Video Encoding: H.264, hevc (H.265), mpeg4, msmpeg4v2, msmpeg4v3, vc1, vp9, wmv3
    • Audio Encoding: aac, ac3, alac, e-ac3,flac, mp2, mp3
  • WMV container
    • Video Encoding: wmv2, vc1
    • Audio Encoding: wmav2

Final Words

Plex is an ideal streaming server that will give you free access to movies, DVDs, and TV series on the go. To optimize your experience, the best workaround is to transcode your video files to MP4@H.264@AAC with the easy-to-use video converter - VideoProc Converter AI, which can also serve as DVD ripping software.

Free Download VideoProc Converter AI to Customize the Best Video Format for Plex!

Free Download For Win 7 or later
Free Download For macOS 10.13 or later

Note: The Windows version now supports AI-powered Super Resolution, Frame Interpolation, and Stabilization to enhance video and image quality. These AI features are not yet available in the Mac version but will be coming soon.


Can Plex play MKV?

Yes, Plex can play MKV files. But Plex can only directly play MKV videos when the video encoding format is H.264, HEVC (H.265), mpeg4, msmpeg4v2, msmpeg4v3, vc1, vp9, wmv3, and audio encoding format is aac, ac3, alac, e-ac3, flac, mp2, mp3.

Can Plex handle 4K?

Yes, Plex can handle 8-bit 4K/UHD (3840×2160 or smaller) content in the MP4 container @30fps with HEVC (H.265) coding format. 4K content not matching the above properties will be transcoded to 1080p.

About The Author

Gabriel is a technical editor with several years of writing experience. Gabriel covers video processing, post-production, hardware, Windows, Apple's Macs, iPhones, iPads, and all kinds of technology topics. He loves collecting cool gadgets and trying new things like virtual reality, drones, 8K TVs and the latest 4K games. He also has interests in reading, photography, climbing, scuba diving, and tennis.

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