Plex requires a solid server to get the most out of the service, though a capable network attached storage (NAS) solution will suffice. It’s possible to build your own, which is the desired method for those with the know-how, but what if you simply wish to purchase a product, plug everything in and get going? There are some solutions available from various companies, but not all are suitable for Plex, which can be fairly resource-intensive.
The company recommends a number of NAS devices, including the following brands (find an example product linked with each listing):
One thing worth noting before you part with hard-earned cash is that the lower you go in cost for a NAS the more likely the system will not be able to effectively transcode and stream content to other devices. This depends on the device you wish to enjoy content on. Should a tablet or phone require some assistance from your server for playback, and it’s not quite up to the task of handling the intensive request, things may not go smoothly.
So how does one guarantee great performance for transcoding with Plex? Take a good look at the CPU deployed by companies in the NAS devices you’re considering. There’s a fantastic NAS guide for Plex, which shows just how well each supported NAS system will perform. Does it support 720p or 1080p? You’ll be able to easily check using the following link:
Generally speaking, you’ll want to go with an Intel-powered NAS for optimal performance, but a high-end ARM processor can do well if you don’t have the spare funds to part with for a more expensive solution. For storage and other features, you’ll want to make sure the NAS has everything you require and this will differ on a case by case basis.
We’ll now highlight a few examples that will be able to handle the transcoding of 1080p content to get you started on the right path.
Best overall: QNAP TVS-471-i3
This is an expensive option ($1,099), but well worth the investment for those who are serious about setting up a capable NAS machine that will be able to handle various applications without issue. There’s a ton of functionality, with support for 4K playback, 1080p transcoding and even on-the-fly editing.
There’s also 10Gb Ethernet for faster speeds (backed by a supported network), with full support for VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization platforms. When it comes to security, QNAP hasn’t cut corners and offers full NAS encryption, as well as an antivirus.
An Intel Core-i3 (3.5GHz dual-core) processor is joined by 4GB DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 16GB), and HDMI out with XBMC. Overall, this unit is not only good at being a Plex server but is also a killer NAS unit with up to 64TB of space thanks to four bays. The i3 model is selling fairly well, but if it’s out of stock when you check, the TVS-473 is a solid alternative with an AMD processor (and a little cheaper at $699).
Best value: QNAP TS-253A
You don’t have to fork out countless hundreds for a 4K-capable NAS. The TS-253A (around $450) is a solid option, sporting a powerful Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core CPU (1.6GHz), 4GB DDR3 RAM (supports up to 8GB) and two Gb Ethernet connections.
When it comes to Plex and enjoying some content, the TS-253A is capable of handling up to 4K H.264, as well as outputting it to a capable display, though we’d recommend only keeping 1080p in mind for transcoding.
The TS-253B is also available, which comes with a more expensive price tag ($520) but new features like a faster CPU and OLED panel, as well.
Best for beginners: Synology DS218play
Powered by a 64-bit quad-core processor, the Synology DS218play may be an affordable listing ($229.99) for NAS solutions, but don’t let that awesome price tag fool you into thinking it’s not a capable unit. We’re talking 4K Ultra HD video playback (30 frames per second) and H.265 (HEVC) support. This allows for quality content to be pumped out to an accompanying TV set.
What really sets the DS218Ppay aside is just how easy it is to setup and configure. If you need to install Plex, copy movies across, connect to an Xbox One console and other in-home devices, it takes no time at all. Whether you want to throw music, video or photos at the Synology unit, it’ll handle everything without issue.
Updated May 15, 2018: We updated this guide with some more information to help you select the best NAS for Plex.