Plex is a well-known software solution that allows you to build your own home library of videos, images, and music for playback on any multimedia device sharing the network. Think of it as your own personal Netflix that you host right in your own bedroom or living room. Although there’s always the option of hosting the Plex server off your PC, the changing usage conditions and on-off states of a PC make this less than ideal. For this purpose, you’ll need a network-attached storage (NAS) solution that works as a consistent, always-ready server for any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop PC on the network to access stored media for consumption.
However, choosing or building a NAS of your own can be complicated without a touch of insight into what each hardware component does and why it’s important to emphasize CPU and HDD arrays on your server whether it’s for home or business media purposes.
The good news is that assuming you’ve invested in a solid NAS to start with, any modular components after that can often be upgraded to improve performance, so if you wind up with an underwhelming load-out, it’s not the end of the world. On the other hand, a slow Plex experience on your NAS will result from a mismatching of components that will ultimately choke out the fluidity of your media-streaming experience.
In this review, we’re going to investigate a handful of the best NAS for Plex servers and help you decide which one is the best under what conditions.
Best NAS for Plex Servers Comparison Table
|Product||Photo||Transcoding||Acceleration||CPU||Ram (Gb)||Check Price|
|1080p||4K||Celeron Dual-Core 2.0-2.5 Ghz||2-6||Check Price|
|1080p||4K||Celeron Quad-Core 2-2.7 GHz||4-8||Check Price|
Best for 4K Transcoding
|1080p||4K||Celeron Quad-Core 2-2.7 GHz||4-8||Check Price|
|WD PR4100||1080p||1080p||Pentium Quad-Core 1.6GHz||4||Check Price|
|QNAP TS-251D-4G||1080p||4K||Celeron Dual-Core 2 GHz||4-8||Check Price|
|QNAP TS-251+||1080p||No||Celeron Quad-Core 2.0 GHz||8||Check Price|
|QNAP TS-451+||1080p||No||Celeron Quad-Core 2.0 GHz||2-8||Check Price|
|QNAP TVS-471||1080p||1080p||Celeron Dual-Core 3.5 GHz||4-16||Check Price|
|ASUSTOR AS3202T||720p||1080p||Celeron Quad-Core 1.6-2.24 GHz||2||Check Price|
|TerraMaster F2-221||1080p||1080p||Celeron Dual-Core 2GHz||2-4||Check Price|
Might be Interesting: Best Hard Drives for NAS
Best NAS for Plex in Different Nominations
Synology DiskStation DS218+ — Best Synology NAS for Plex
This wasn’t the most powerful or costly Synology NAS on our list, but the reviews cited that it was the most reliable, and that’s why the DS218+ made the spot.
It supports 4K at 30FPS with the usual host of codecs to boot, and while the specs are pretty standard on RAM and CPU fronts, it’s a well-assembled device that can handle Plex hosting in your home at comfortable speeds without breaking the bank.
Synology DiskStation DS218+ — Best Two-Bay NAS for Plex
A second-time winner here, this is the most efficient solution for home Plex entertainment with two bays for holding your favorite media.
The DS218+ is a testament to the fact that you don’t need enterprise-level equipment for a quality streaming experience, and this machine handles everything from 1080p all the way up to 4K in truly effective style.
QNAP TS-253D-4G — Best QNAP NAS for Plex
A high-power solution from QNAP, the TS-253D packs a lot of punch in a formidably well-assembled package that doesn’t express any glaring flaws.
Its support for 4K transcoding is shown effective and worth pursuing unlike other QNAP offerings on this list where the 4K was found to stutter badly despite similar specifications. There’s nothing particularly special about this NAS; it’s just that it covers middle- to high-ground territory and simply works.
Synology DiskStation DS920+ — Best Four-Bay NAS for Plex
Synology wins the middle ground with their solid offerings that are cited for their overall value.
The four-bay edition of their DiskStation is, in our opinion, the most efficient balance between cost and results in a practical Plex scenario of running a home theater, and it owes to the modest hardware in tandem with the fact that Synology’s offerings just work.
ASUSTOR AS3202T — Best Cheap NAS for Plex
This isn’t just the most affordable NAS on the list; it’s also the most price-efficient for simple home entertainment with Plex.
The reviews cite that the support for 4K transcoding is largely wasted on the Celeron’s lack of horsepower, but if you have time to wait out the buffer, it’s workable. Otherwise, 1080p should stream just fine.
Might be Interesting: Synology VS QNAP
Reviews of the Best NAS for Plex Servers in 2022
Synology DiskStation DS218+
If the over-two-grand QNAP solution is a little overkill for your taste, don’t worry — home-worthy solutions abound with comfy price tags and easy-to-setup configurations that support just about everything your sanctuary could need.
Synology is a prime competitor in the NAS development game, and QNAP users constantly cite comparisons between the two brands. We’re not here to say which brand is better. What we will confer upon you is the understanding that 2GB of DDR3L-1866 RAM and the dual-core Celeron J3355 clocked in tight at 2GHz are worthy contenders on the NAS market.
The transcoding supports 4K with H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) at 30FPS, which is ample for high-quality home entertainment under the condition that you have a little time to wait out the buffer. We say this because in all honesty, it’s fully expected that you won’t have a Celeron knocking 4K media out cold.
User experience varies by individual, and there are many great reviews, but keep in mind that 4K — especially at high bit rates — may be problematic for the CPU, and that’s before we discuss the hit that cheaper drives on this level can take to the I/O threshold.
- Well-rounded hardware solution
Now we’re talking serious business here. QNAP’s offering comes with utile-looking HDD bay grilles in a tactical black chassis and simplified frontal interface.
It’s not much different than the last two products, but it definitely says “power” with a certain sternness. Sold up as “professional-grade“, it brings a quad-core Celeron J4125 with Quick Sync at 2GHz and 4GB of DDR4 distributed across two SoDIMM interfaces that support up to 8GB. Once again, the promise of 4K H.264 is seen in the device specifications; the difference is that it appears to actually work on this model.
- Supports 4K transcoding effectively
- Internal components can be swapped
- It simply works
- Should play nice with Apple products
Synology DiskStation DS920+
Synology returns with another compelling contender in the Plex NAS department, tolling the mid-range bell with 4GB of DDR4 RAM, scalability for up to nine storage drives and a quad-core Celeron — pretty standard stuff that we’ve all seen and heard before up to this point.
If you add the DX517 expansion unit, you can achieve the nine-drive setup from the original four HDD bays that come standard with the unit, and that’s exactly what you wanted to hear because Synology’s server solution complements its price tag with codec transcoding at 4K, 30FPS.
There aren’t any drawbacks to point out aside from the occasional criticism that the Celeron doesn’t handle transcoding as sweetly as you’d expect from a machine of this price, and that’s unfortunately understandable.
- Starts with four bays and can scale that up to nine with an expansion unit
- Is generally cited as a well-rounded, reliable server solution
- Supports 4K
Western Digital My Cloud PR4100
Another mid-ranger slides in on its knees Drew Carry-style like “yeah”: Enter Western Digital (WD).
This is the first, final and only WD option that we’re reviewing here, and it has some interesting tricks that set it apart from Synology and QNAP.
Aside from the obvious LCD screen and four bays on the front, you have the ostentatious “My Cloud” tag that means exactly what you think: This sucker supports cloud operations.
It’s also the first on here to use a quad-core Intel Pentium CPU, which is nothing special but interesting to note. That comes with 4GB of DDR3L RAM, support for every standard RAID configuration plus JBOD, and a cloud-based backup solution in case you want to save your drive array for maximum striping.
The majority of users never mention these issues, so we’re not discouraging you from trying out the PR4100.
- Integrated cloud support makes an excellent alternative to RAID mirroring
- Wide support spectrum for RAID options and drive expansion
- Software may not play so nice with Plex
Delivered in a sterile-looking, almost offensively bright chassis, this NAS borrows from near-identical design language as its other QNAP siblings.
While the CPU doesn’t look stellar at first, the Quick Sync feature should make up for the dual-core 2GHz, and in typical server fashion, it appears to be designed with ’round-the-clock efficiency on that note. Packing 2GB of DDR3L RAM out of the box, the device can be upgraded to support up to 8GB.
One of the issues that some people are finding with QNAP’s machine here is the lack of processing power despite Quick Sync’s transcoding acceleration. A simple truth about CPUs is that hardware acceleration only goes so far before the inherent bottlenecks of general processing become apparent, and Celerons are definitely not high-end processors by any means.
The idea with a server architecture is that processing efficiency is as important as the effectiveness because servers are left on constantly. It seems that QNAP may have undercut the CPU effectiveness here not just with a Celeron but an unreasonably underpowered one at that. We’re not asking for a 12-core Xeon, folks; we just want the 4K promise lived up.
- Great general-purpose centralized sharing device
- Comes with a bevy of software features to boost performance in specific cases
- Should work nicely with Apple products in particular
- The CPU is more than a little underwhelming with high bit-rate transcoding, especially at higher resolutions, but not everyone experiences this
Now this feels a little more like home entertainment. With a remote control included right out of the box, you already know there’s some serious business involved on the comfort level.
The chassis is a funky mix of stylish and functional, bearing a USB 3.1 port on the front alongside the hardware keys and colorful status lights in a carbon color-schemed shell.
Running on hardware transcoding, supporting up to 6Gbps (bits, not bytes) SATA drives and capable of handling gigabit LAN, this is a formidable NAS. The TS-251+ comes in two types that combine two- or four-bay HDD parking with 8GB of RAM. This is clearly designed to be straddled across home- and business-level applications.
QNAP packed a quad-core 2GHz Celeron with Quick Sync under the hood, and the memory bays support classic DDR3 or DDR3L SoDIMMs for up to 8GB total as restricted by the logic board. The 8GB is an acceptable ceiling if a little low for industrial use, and pushing low-voltage RAM out of the box — as many servers tend to — suggests that the machine is initialized for low-end users.
Downsides to note are that the TS-251+ tends to cut out every so often, dropping the Plex server and axing surveillance footage. It also tends to lose its IP address on the network, forcing you to replug the Ethernet line to gain its footing once more. You’ll also want to ensure that this little machine has plenty of breathing room; the Celeron makes it a little hot inside the chassis.
- Flexible hardware options and starting model provisions
- Comes with a plethora of software solutions out of the box that maximizes Plex among other server uses
- Synergizes with Apple products
- Tends to drop out of the network every so often for no apparent reason
With yet another QNAP to review, we’re now looking at a four-bay offering with the usual rigmarole: quad-core Celeron, 2GB DDR3L RAM at a maximum of 8GB, Virtualization Station for VM instances and Surveillance Station to use the NAS as a storage solution for on-premises feeds.
There’s no mention of 4K codecs here, so it looks like this NAS will be sticking to good ol’ 1080p, which is still sufficient for most people. Also worth noting is the inclusion of AirPlay support for Apple devices in addition to Chromecast and Bluetooth, making this a mighty fine wireless option for your home server needs.
- Flexible hardware that can be upgraded as seen fit
- Several on-board software solutions to assist with surveillance and running virtual machines
- Plays extra-nice with Apple products
- Again, tends to drop out of network environments, cutting off surveillance feeds and ditching Plex connections in the process
Taking a radical dive in QNAP’s design language, you now have this tiny box with a readout screen and a very utile-looking set of HDD bays — four of them.
The price tag should tell you up-front that this is poised to be an excellent Plex solution on the enterprise level in addition to other features. And QNAP is no slouch when it comes to on-board software features for surveillance, virtual machines and other needs that a server ideally fills.
From the outset, the inclusion of Real-Time Remote Replication (RTRR) already screams “made for businesses“. It’s a feature that allows business-level backups to be performed in real time, and you can manage to share content as needed.
Geared for 10Gbps Ethernet with a uniquely efficient storage environment makes 4K I/O and transmission a breeze provided the correct drives and connection are available. This thing is even promoted for use as a standard PC with QvPC on board to let it run locally for the user in addition to background server support. Of course, it wouldn’t be a great NAS without full-volume AES 256-bit encryption to boot.
- Powerful 4K transcoding
- Efficient drive controller makes I/O operations a breeze
- Four bays
Packing a quad-core Celeron, 2GB of RAM and 112MB/s on read and write speeds, this server is a standard beginning hardware choice for hosting a Plex multimedia environment.
The CPU isn’t exceptional, but this isn’t intended for enterprise-level use. Surprisingly, the AS3202T comes with an onboard DAC for high-quality audio decoding through the USB hub, and it supports the H.265 codec for punching out 4K HDR content through HDMI 1.4b. You have two- and four-port varieties to choose from, which can be complemented with a RAID 0, 1 or 10 setup as you please.
From the surface, this is already sizing up to be a decent recommendation in the multimedia hosting realm that slides in on an acceptable price tag.
A number of users have cited that the machine as a whole tends to lag with music and video in addition to terrible app support to these ends, raising the question of ASUSTOR’s software choices as they pertain to bottlenecks in the system.
- Supports two- and four-bay design schemes with RAID 0, 1 and 10 possible
- Inbuilt DAC for drastically improved audio clarity
- Beautiful chassis
- Some say that the DAC is wasted on this device due to poor software support on audio and video playback
- The Celeron struggles with high bit-rate 1080p video, which only becomes more limiting as you attempt to transcode up to 4K
Well, here’s a new name in the NAS game: TerraMaster. Is it terrifying? Is it the master NAS unit? We’re not entirely convinced, but all accounted, it looks like a reasonable unit for the price. At a relatively conservative price tag, you’re getting an expected hardware bundle with 2 GB of low-power RAM and a Celeron that’s advertised at 2 GHz.
We emphasize the point that it’s advertised because Celerons that are used in NAS units are normally around the 1.2-1.8 GHz range as base frequencies while the mid-2’s are the Turbo Boost results, and you can never really count on the CPU consistently running that high because they’re not rated to run consistently at anything better than their original clock on average. This raises a red flag on Terramaster’s marketing scheme, but we digress.
However, it does have some of the must-have niftiness that you expect of a reasonably contemporary NAS:
- BTRFS file system
- AES hardware encryption
- Compatibility with smart TVs
Oh, you’re confused about that last part? Yeah, we were just speculating that this unit might be particularly outdated, and now it’s all contemporary suddenly. It’s almost like TerraMaster exaggerated on the hardware capabilities twice in one pass. We bet you really want to buy this product now!
Want to hear something else? The customer service for this product is almost nil. It’s a little higher than that — around the zero, nothing and nada marks to be exact. We’re not saying it’s a bad product because all accounted, the ratings are pretty good and the offerings are fairly solid for the price, but we’re putting on our tinfoil hats to call shenanigans on TerraMaster’s attitude toward customers.
- Reasonable hardware at a reasonable price
- Software snapshots allow you to undo unwanted changes to your data
- Suspiciously misleading specifications sheet
- Customer service is forgettable
Synology DiskStation DS916+
This particular NAS from Synology is focused on encryption and intensive tasks.
One would assume that means Plex should run wonderfully on it since “intensive” would accurately describe high-bit 1080p, 1440p or 4K content on a regular basis.
Starting out with four bays isn’t a bad measure on its own, and the added support for DX513 suggests that quite a bit of data will be handled by the system with a full nine drives running at once.
The 2GB base RAM will almost certainly need a boost once you get your hands on this; nobody buys enterprise-level equipment at this price tag to experience memory crashes. You also have quad-core Pentium N3710 with Quick Sync on board to make the transcoding life much easier.
The added wonders of singular H.264 4K or triple-transcoding with 1080p over the network is a strong selling point for heavy-handed media file-sharing through Plex, but the Btrfs file system — while great for text files and PDFs — probably isn’t going to prove as useful for Plex.
- Swell 1080p and 4K transcoding
- Original four HDD bays can be expanded to nine
- Surveillance suite is expensive and inefficient
- 2GB of RAM out of the box is a little weak for what this machine was designed to handle
Taking things yet another notch higher, you have the TVS-682: a beast of a machine with a beast of a price tag.
The first detail you’ll take note of is the incremental design bump from the aforementioned 471, which seems to be a trend leading from one model to the next.
This one, almost as small as the last, now has two dedicated SSD ports in addition to the four inbuilt HDD bays, totaling six drives for high-speed, high-capacity storage and I/O operations. In addition, you have an Intel Core i3-6100 (Skylake) clocked at 3.7GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM right out of the box and three PCIe expansion slots to add a little functionality on the side.
Finally, you have the all-too-cool QvPC feature, which allows you to use the server as you would a standard PC. Any standard operating environment can be used for this purpose whether it’s Windows, Mac, Android or Linux.
This is almost unforgivable in a machine that costs as much as the 682, but with Plex servers, it might be acceptable since overwrites are more prolific with PDFs and text documents — in other words, items that are frequently updated.
- Powerful transcoding CPU with Quick Sync that runs on a recent architecture
- Plenty of fast RAM out of the box, making it great for enterprise-level multitasking
- QvPC and other software features to streamline multi-faceted functionality
- Four HDD bays and two M.2 SSD ports for high-speed and high-capacity I/O
- With files that you plan to overwrite such as text files, be careful with simultaneous user access with intent to edit the file since there’s no file versioning embedded in the system
With eight HDD bays, four SSD ports, a quad-core Skylake Core i7 and expandable memory up to 32GB, you’re already dealing with an absolute monstrosity in terms of capacity and processing power off the bat.
This is before we mention the usual additions by QNAP: QvPC for the desktop PC experience with any operating environment of your choice, triple HDMI outputs with full support for 60-frame 4K to compatible displays, VJBOD to further extend your storage capacity and plenty of RAID support for mirroring, striping and everything in between to secure your data and hasten I/O operations.
Controlling it all is the option to use server apps on the NAS itself, remotely from a device with the necessary software, or with a few clicks of the included remote. It’s a beautiful thing despite the cost.
Now, you’re probably wondering about the downsides, and there’s, unfortunately, one area that the manufacturer Q-napped on: general quality. The system works great, but many users cite that the fans are unacceptably loud. Yes, it’s understood that with a Core i7 under the hood along with so much RAM and up to 12 drives, there’s a lot of thermal to distribute, but for one fan to work so hard at regulating all of this was a terrible mistake in the opinion of some.
For us, we think that it’s frown-worthy but not necessarily a deal-breaker; after all, not everyone plans to keep it in rooms that will be frequented.
What we’re trying to say is that as a Plex server, it’ll do wonderfully with 4K transcoding and delivery, but it could create a problem for any environment where it’s kept because of the sheer whine that’s created by the fan. It’s cited as unbearable and enough that the whole system needs to be quarantined to a separate room entirely to deal with it, but then again, not everyone has this issue.
- Extremely powerful CPU, RAM and storage hardware solution to hold and transcode everything you could want
- Includes a bevy of software features to help it double as a powerful surveillance system and more
- Plenty of room for hardware expansion with three additional PCIe ports and other tricks that improve on the storage capacity and processing efficiency
- A fairly significant number of users report that the fan whine is seriously harsh
Are you looking for an alternative to your QNAP or Synology? Did you really think there were other quality offerings on the market that break the mold of our favored dichotomy?
Well, you might have been right about that one: Thecus brings a solid multifunctional unit to the table that supports 4K transcoding and playback, inbuilt malware protection and superb customer support to boot. Thecus’ product is sold through an authorized reseller, SerenIT, so there’s more comfort to fill your soles with should you feel uncertain about purchasing anything that isn’t “mainstream” enough.
The hardware interface for the memory modules is, of course, a wholesome DDR3; this does also mean that the system is at least a few years old, so despite the N2810’s seemingly cutting-edge appeal, it wears its wrinkles to show for its longevity.
The whole thing is powered by a dual-core Celeron with two bays, each apparently supporting up to 4 TB a pop. The most interesting part of this unit, however, is the negotiable price tag. While the base price listing does touch on the high end some, you can apparently get ahold of SerenIT and argue with an underpaid representative about how equally underpaid you feel and that you’d like a 50 percent discount. We’re actually not sure how that works, but hey, you can always give it a try and see if you can haggle it down.
- Supports 4K playback and transcoding thanks to relatively recent hardware
- Runs a unique OS with an inbuilt anti-malware program to secure your data
- Preinstalled with a plethora of apps to handle pretty much all of your multimedia needs
- You can apparently haggle the price down if you call the provided customer service number
- The starting price, at least before you haggle SerenIT’s service reps, is a little on the high side considering the upper limits of the unit’s hardware modifications and the lack of Android
Netgear ReadyNAS RN212
We’ll bet you didn’t know that Netgear made NASes! Well, okay, it is expected that Netgear would make network-based equipment, and that’s what a NAS is after all.
Say what you like about your past experiences with Netgear equipment, but this looks like a solid offering across the board, and the price cleaves on a cool spot for the out-of-box performance although we question how a RISC processor will handle NAS operations, especially in the long run.
The CPU, which is a Cortex A15, was a solid piece of tech back in the early 2010’s. RISC CPUs aim to leverage efficient coding procedures and lightweight OS requirements to make up for the ultra-low-power throughput, which intuitively leads to less potent processing oomph in the bigger picture. While RISCs aren’t known for failing any more frequently than their CISC brethren, they’re usually placed in units that aren’t cooled by anything but sheer contact with stagnant air, so we’re left to wonder how in the world you’re supposed to transcode media in 2022 with a tablet-level processor from 2012.
Then again, with a little awesomeness behind your software, anything is possible with hardware, and it looks like Netgear’s ReadyNAS is a reliable unit for up to 1080p transcoding. Of course, 4K would be a little much to expect given the power inside.
Other technical points to take note of are the dual gigabit Ethernet ports for double throughput in Link Aggregation mode, the usual and expected BTRFS file system on board and native Plex support to boot. This all comes backed up with Netgear’s cloud service, which uses a portal for secure access on Windows, Mac, Android or iOS. You can set up a private cloud for backing up your data or as an extension to your NAS’ physical storage. We’d say that’s a major benefit for anyone who’s trying to host for their home or office environment.
- Easy to set up
- Power-efficient and very quiet thanks to the RISC CPU
- Good bang for your buck
- Comes with cloud storage included
- The RISC CPU limits the transcoding horsepower to 1080p
- Customer support is lame, but hopefully you won’t need it
QNAP comes in strong with its signature horsepower-driven edge on hardware as shown with 4 GB DDR3L RAM out of the box next to a quad-core Celeron J3455 that’s clocked at 1.5 GHz base with Turbo Boost up to 2.3 GHz when fewer cores are utilized.
This is supposed to support hardware transcoding of up to 4K content, so you’re getting a well-rounded punch on horsepower with this unit. Of course, that means the HDMI port on board is also capable of supporting 4K, but we don’t expect you to be quite as excited about that part.
There’s also a SATA III interface for 3.5-inch drives of up to 6 Gbps, two gigabit Ethernet ports for planet-to-planet teleportation, and an inbuilt speaker just in case you didn’t bring your own. You have access to a single PCIe port for 10 Gb Ethernet compatibility, which means you can effectively download the whole solar system in a flash and host it from your exabyte hard drive in about 100 years. There are also system snapshots to keep the system and its data groomed in case you mistakenly muck up some of your files. Yep — the whole hard- and software package is here, and it’s as good as ever.
You may find that the fan noise with this unit is a little over-the-top, which some cite as a deal-breaker in this model. However, the main problems, few and far between as they may be, are software-related and seem to boil down to some unresolved conflicts within the code. More than likely, it’s all thanks to the 0’s and 1’s leaning toward the outdated side of things, which some users feel is cause for running virtual containers to host your servers. A bigger issue is the little stuff — you know, like updating the metadata on your photos, music, and videos.
- Great hardware out of the box that supports 4K hardware transcoding
- Inbuilt speaker if that matters to you
- By whatever sorcery, this machine does the whole “complete PC experience” nicely with excellent RAM management and CPU utilization, which is also a bonus to actual Plex hosting
- Software screenshots protect your data from mishaps
- The software is a little outdated in this model, which may lead to problems hosting some content unless you containerize it
- The fan noise might be bothersome
Best NAS for Plex Transcoding Buyer’s Guide
This is a term that’s used to describe on-the-spot compatibility alterations to a video file before streaming it to a client. Transcoding a video is like changing the language that it’s communicated in, allowing the client device to receive the information quicker or on terms that it can understand.
This is nothing more or less than having a dedicated piece of hardware to boost processing power in specific situations or with specific tasks. This is normally achieved with co-processors, graphics processing units (GPUs) and specialized RAM that occupies a noncontiguous area of the logic board apart from the normal memory that would be used for general applications.
Network-attached storage (NAS) is storage space that’s accessible through a local internet connection. This is used by enterprises to compartmentalize storage solutions according to user sets, allowing specific profiles and devices to gain access to this storage for reading or writing.
As it pertains to using Plex on a NAS, you’d install Plex to the NAS itself or on interacting client devices so the contents of the NAS can be transcoded and distributed to other devices on the local network. A NAS with a potent CPU is ideal for Plex transcoding, which in turn is essential for distribution to your media devices.
The central processing unit (CPU) is a hardware component that forms the brain of the system, processing all inputs into corresponding outputs. CPUs are never as linear as just clock frequency (gigahertz [GHz]) or the number of cores involved.
There are finer architectural differences such as caches, pipelines, instruction sets and more that define the CPU’s overall ability to function effectively with different types of information. For example, some people excel at math while others excel at spatial recognition, critical thinking, and risk assessment. It is in this way that CPUs are similarly categorized and equipped to systems that require specific processing strengths.
Random access memory (RAM) is temporary storage space for apps, programs or media that have been recently accessed and are being held open so you can pick up where you left off.
HDD, SSD, RPM and Bit Rate
The hard drive disk (HDD) stores data that’s accessed at a rate determined partially by rotations per minute (RPM). There are other determinants involved such as the actual quickness that the drive can read and write data at the given RPM as primely exampled by Western Digital’s Red drives, which are designed specifically for NAS systems.
You’ll want plenty of server space to store your media for transcoding and distribution, and an HDD with a higher RPM will be able to deliver the goods to the CPU more quickly for this purpose. HDDs on Plex servers are usually a minimum of 1TB at 7,200RPM.
Redundant arrays of independent disks (RAID) are a means of combining multiple HDDs or SSDs so they function as a unified or contiguous hardware entity. This is normally done through RAID 0 (“striping”) or RAID 1 (“mirroring”). The former setup evenly distributes data across both drives to double the read and write speeds while the latter simply mirrors the data of the first drive to the second one.
Plex NAS FAQ
What hardware is ideal for a NAS that’s running Plex?
For home use, you’re recommended to have 1GB of RAM for every 1TB of storage and a minimum of 1TB to hold your media for hosting. You should also have a minimum CPU of an Intel Core i3, preferably of the latest generation. When you step into enterprise-level hosting, those specifications take intuitive leaps upstream: Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM and at least 8TB storage depending on the exact purpose of the server and what will be hosted.
However, these are general figures and won’t necessarily account for increased needs in cases where you need an inordinately larger amount of storage, more CPU to handle a larger number of clients and so on. Fortunately, a Plex NAS is capable of running smoothly on as little as a Pentium Celeron, 200GB of storage and 512MB of RAM. These are really small figures in the grand scheme, but if you opt for a Plex server strictly for sharing text files and SHD video, it’ll prove well-enough rounded to handle your needs.
How do I get my NAS hooked up to my other devices?
You’ll need to install Plex Server on a PC and use this to set up the NAS itself remotely on the network. After that, you should install the Plex app on your Apple and Android devices to link up with the NAS on the same local network that it’s on. The media will be received through the Plex app for viewing on your device.
Can I add more media to my NAS to expand what Plex can deliver?
You should be able to forward information to the NAS using the Plex app or the USB connections on the NAS itself. Since you’ll require an interface to authorize transfers, the USB trick normally doesn’t work unless the machine is configured to automatically copy the contents of attached drives or you tether it directly to your PC using an adapter.
Are there any devices or software combinations that won’t work with a Plex-loaded NAS?
Every device should work with a Plex-loaded NAS. Apple, Android, Linux and Windows devices of all operating environments should work just fine, including all versions of all browsers and media players. The idea behind a NAS transcoder is that any file format can be tailored to the requirements of client devices whether the restraints are on resolution, bit rate, file type or codec levels.
Why is my media buffering constantly?
This is normally due to a bottleneck in the network, drive speed or CPU. For most cases, the CPU, in particular, will be the problem, and it’ll owe to transcoding woes while the system works out what you’re viewing the content on and what format it needs to be delivered in as a result. The simplest solution is to upgrade the offending component if you can work out what’s causing the choke. Refer to the first question in this section for clarification on what you should use to ensure a smooth experience.
At the bottom of it all, a NAS is really just a PC that’s designed to support other computer devices rather than be used directly by the user. As such, the hardware under the hood is designed to run constantly, which means low heat, low noise and low power consumption.
This can be difficult to pull off while maintaining a reasonable amount of processing power, which is why hardware acceleration is important to the successful transcoding operations of a Plex NAS. Without the acceleration, transcoding becomes a difficult matter that can make or break the Plex experience, and as you now know, a Plex NAS absolutely depends on transcoding to be worthwhile.
In a similar vein of thinking, colleges and universities might use a Plex server to distribute media to students on their desired multimedia device. This media would, of course, take the form of course recaps and videos. Basically, any application that involves hosting audio or visual media — even text files — can be used in some practical capacity with Plex servers.
Going forward, you can expect to see what we’ve always seen: more improvements to processing power, memory, and storage capacity. These are the same upgrades that you’ll see to your smartphone, tablet, and PC because, well, NAS systems are PCs at the end of the day. You might wonder if there will ever be a day when we’ll see a server solution that can be hosted from a smartphone, and while it conceptually sounds like a logical step at some point, we’re not there yet.
Concerns with battery life, processing power, and data plans are interfering with the concept; at best, it can only be realized with text files and other small media at the moment.
For now, it’s hard to argue with a small box that you keep in the corner of your room on a desk. However, you always have the option of simply running a Plex server straight off your PC or laptop if you so choose. Just keep in mind that the experience likely won’t be as fluid, and if you should ever shut the system off, you’ll lose your server connection.
Hello. I noticed that QNAP TS-253A supports many additional features, for example: karaoke. Do I need to buy user license for it?
Yes, this and other NAS discussed in this article support many additional features. Most of them are free. For example, karaoke you mentioned in QNAP TS-253A is free. But to use some features, you need to buy a license. But at the same time, for basic purposes – and that’s why most people buy NAS to begin with – you don’t need to purchase additional licenses. I also want to point out that any additional programs will consume NAS resources and may slow it down significantly. Therefore, when installing a program, make sure you really need it.
Can I get access to Synology DS218 + from the computers running Windows and Mac or am I only able to choose one option?
Yes, of course, you can. NAS storage is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux users – it is their choice.
Great review. Thank you so much! For someone who doesn’t need a lot of media, what features should I look for in my NAS?
William Hill says
Thank you for that comment. As I mentioned in this review, you should get at least 1TB of storage. While you may think that you won’t need that much memory, it’s better to be prepared. Plus, in the long run, you’ll save yourself the trouble of needing to upgrade by starting with this storage. Since we’re talking about the upgrade, I think a typical user can benefit from Intel Core i3, so remember that for your specs as well.
Hey, I’m not that knowledgeable with terminologies and other techy stuff. However, we use Plex for work, and I’m wondering if I need to upgrade anything. My CPU is “Pentium,” and my memory isn’t 1TB. I think it’s only around 200GB?
William Hill says
Hello Carol. I understand that it can be confusing with so many terminologies. As I have answered a question before, it’s better to go with the latest CPU, preferably an Intel Core i3, at least with 1GB of memory. However, if we are just talking about work, assuming you’ll only be sharing text files with your coworkers in the server, your NAS should perform without any problems.
Hello, can you please enlighten me on why the best NAS for Plex would require a powerful CPU? If there will be many clients using Plex, I should opt for something like Intel Core i7?
William Hill says
Thank you for that question, and to make it simple, a powerful CPU makes the overall experience smoother. If you remember, NAS transcodes your file, so the device, format, or file type wouldn’t matter. However, understand that you will demand more from the CPU if you expect it to handle a lot of transcoding. This is why if there are multiple clients in the server, then there’s no question why you should get a powerful CPU.
I’m looking for the best NAS for Plex server, and this review is perfect! First of all, I love the way you described the pros and cons of every product. I’m looking for something powerful because I know my needs are gonna be demanding. Based on this article, I think QNAP TVS-1282 easily takes home the gold. It outshines the other products, especially for how I want to use my NAS. Besides the noise, do you have other issues with this product? I’m waiting for your green signal, and I might get this ASAP.
William Hill says
Hello, and thank you for this comment! May I know how you’d like to use your NAS? I see that you chose the QNAP TVS-1282 among the list, so I’m assuming you want something that can process even the most demanding media library. Oh, and you mentioned the word demanding as well. Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that the noise is indeed the only thing I don’t like from the QNAP. However, the reason why the fan can be noisy is reasonable, in my opinion. If someday the brand will improve this NAS, perhaps using more fans can quickly solve the issue. Did I help you with this answer? Let me know if you have other queries!
Hello, I’m not that knowledgeable in anything tech-related, but I discovered NAS from a friend. I found this article because I was thinking of getting one. I was wondering how I can choose the best NAS for Plex transcoding if I’m only thinking of using it for my small business? I have few employees, and I think it will be convenient to use NAS. I would appreciate any additional input. Are there things to know first before buying? Thank you so much!
William Hill says
Hi, and I agree that NAS might be helpful for your small business. You and the employees you allowed can easily access through it to communicate with each other better. I recommend reading each factor in our buyer’s guide to understanding what model will suit you best. For example, how are you planning on using the NAS? Please check out the CPU, RAM, and HDD first to not get overwhelmed with the terminologies. Additionally, a safe NAS to get is something that uses the latest generation of Intel Core i3 with 1GB of RAM for every 1TB of storage. You also want it to have 1TB to host your media comfortably. And if you want a personal recommendation, get the best Synology for Plex like the Synology DS218+! I hope this comment helped you. If you have another question, please don’t hesitate to leave it below.