Which NAS should you buy for your Plex Media Server  

Plex Media Server and your QNAP NAS

What is a Plex Media Server and which QNAP NAS do I need?



  The digital movie age in NOW. Whether you own gigabytes and terabytes of  home movies, big-budget blockbusters or boxsets of the latest sitcoms, chances are that a large portion of it is in a digital form. The decline of the popularity of optical and film media is a stark contrast to the ever-growing preference of this media arriving in .AVI .mp4 and .WMV. However unlike your old DVD’s and CDs, space and storage is no longer needed by the square metre! There days with external drives getting smaller, you can store literally thousands of movies and millions of songs on an external Hard Drive that fits in the palm of your hand. But what use is it there? You still need to be able to watch, listen and enjoy it! Moreover with our increasing thirst for contents anywhere and everywhere in the world, carrying around all that data is both awkward and unsafe. Hence the rise of Network Attached Storage, or NAS. 

 
A network drive that gives you the ability to access your data worldwide and via any PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android smart phone or Smart TV. But is that enough? Popular network streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Instant have risen to combat this but as a subscription payment service as well as only given you access to their limited library, these options soon seem shallow. No, if you want to access YOUR media collection worldwide, then you need something a little more stable and affordable. Which brings us, of course, to PLEX – the world’s number 1 media server-client software and today we want to tell you to have to choose the right QNAP NAS for your Plex Media Server!  
 


Plex, 1080p Output and Trancoding

Choosing the best QNAP NAS for your Plex Media Server (PMS) is actually surprisingly straight forward. Once you have decided to buy a standalone NAS server for your Media to be accessible via Plex, then you really only have 3 concerns.

  • Your Budget
  • The Amount of Storage you need
  • What scale your media is going to be in (eg 720p, 1080p, high bitrate, etc)

Once you have an answer for these, SPAN.COM can help you choose the perfect QNAP Plex Media Server for your needs. So let’s focus first on Budget. Due to the popularity of NAS and the diverse range of tasks that a NAS can perform, you can pick up some QNAP NAS devices for less than £99 (without TAX and your storage media of course). However, do remember than the strength of the hardware inside a NAS is almost always indicated by the price. A QNAP NAS (without Hard Drives or VAT) at less than 160-200 pound will rarely be able to handle 1080p media distribution (that require changing video formats between devices etc) are more geared towards Plex Media severs for standard-definition media. Once you go into the £250-400 territory you will be looking at  PMS for upto 720p and finally, most QNAP NAS above £400 will handle 1080p, but do check with us at SPAN.COM first – remember you will still need Hard Drives and we recommend WD Red NAS drives and and Seagate Ironwolf NAS drives.

   

Plex Transcoding and the correct file formats 
       
Next is storage. You will need to consider just how much space you need for your existing media, as well as extra space so you have time to expand later. We at SPAN.COM recommend a minimum of 4TB (terabytes) of storage, but in reality, urge you toward 8-12TB if you want a Plex NAS solution that will see you are fine for a few years. Regarding your media formats, we need to discuss transcoding. If all you want to do is access your media at home on your local network, you will mostly be ok with simple DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) connectivity. However, most users find DLNA media streaming very limited and with little or no external access to your media without extra plug-ins or 3rd party apps, you will find that a Plex Media Server on your NAS will provide excellent access to your data both inside and outside the home. That said, there are many, many different file types out there and some devices will not play the formats of others (such as .mkv .mp4a or .MTS) and in order for the destination device to play the file, it will need to be re-encoded (or Transcoded) into a format that the device can play (such as .avi .wmv or .mp3). The NAS will perform this task within the Plex Application, but this can require mid to high-end hardware once you wish to transcode 720p and 1080p. So when thinking about the right QNAP NAS for your QNAP Plex Media Server NAS, make sure you select one with the right hardware to play the level of media you want.    



How to choose the right NAS for a Plex Media Server - Which CPU?

 
Plex Playback HD Resolution
    

So now you know about Plex Media Server and Transcoding. Now the most important bit… the Hardware. Just because a QNAP NAS is expensive, doesn’t mean it is suitable for your perfect, 1080p Plex QNAP NAS server. A number of factors affect a Network Attached Storage unit’s ability to comfortably run a Plex Server, from Memory and Manufacturer to software and Plugins. However, the most important factory of all is the CPU. The processor of the NAS device is important because, within its coding, it will have its own strength and weaknesses in the field of transcoding.


Typically NAS units use one of three kinds of CPU. 

 
       
 

An x86 Processor – A high-end chip that (if more than 2.0Ghz in frequency and dual/quad cores) will be able to handle transcoding with relative ease across all your Plex enabled devices all the way upto 1080p High Definition and is even popping up in 4K UHD Devices. These are typically found in the majority of QNAP and higher-end QNAP devices.

An ARM Processor – These are less proficient than the x86 chip and will struggle transcoding at 1080p and may even have difficulty at 720p High Definition. These are typically found in the home and small business units (QNAP 2 BAY units, as well as WD My Cloud and Seagate NAS). However, they are still a very prominent CPU and an excellent NAS processor in general. It is HIGHLY recommended though that you look at Realtek 64bit ARM newer generation ARM processors, as these can support Plex Media Server, but without transcoding.

A PPC (Power PC) Processor – Very much the lower end of the spectrum. These Processors are not particularly capable of any kind of real-time transcoding and will struggle to give you the optimal output via your Plex Media Server to your Network Enabled Device. We generally do not recommend them for in a Plex Media Server environment and are found in the low end, budget NAS devices.

 



 
I'm confused, can you recommend a NAS for my Plex Media Server?

Plex Playing 4k    
 
        Here is what we recommend for those seeking 4K Transcoding from their Plex Media Server

 
 

TVS-872XT

 

TVS-1282T3

 

TVS-672N

      Qnap Desktop NAS 10GbE+TB3 TVS-872XT-i5-16G 8-Bay RAID (16GB RAM, Core i5) + 10GbE + Thunderbolt 3        Qnap Desktop NAS 10GbE+TB3 TVS-1282T3-i7-32G 12-Bay (8x 3.5", 4x 2.5") RAID (32GB RAM, Core i7) + 10GbE + Thunderbolt 3        Qnap Desktop NAS TVS-672N-i3-4G 6-Bay RAID (4GB RAM, Core i3) + 5G
       £1,653.00        £2,979.00        £1,192.00
                     


4K TRANSCODING TESTS

plex transcoding NAS table.png

FAILED 4K PLEX TESTS
plex not transcoding nas.png



 Plex Playing 1080p    
 
        Here is what we recommend for those seeking upto 1080p output from their QNAP Plex Media Server

 
  TS-453Be NAS

  HS-453DX NAS

  TS-451+ NAS

      Qnap Desktop NAS TS-453Be-2G 4-Bay RAID (2GB RAM)        Qnap Silent NAS HS-453DX-4G 4-Bay RAID (2x 3.5", 2x M.2 SATA) RAID (4GB RAM) +10GbE        Qnap Desktop NAS TS-451+-2G 4-Bay RAID (2GB RAM)
       £399.00        £516.00        £374.00
                     

 

  Plex 720p Playback  
          Here is what we recommend for those seeking up to 720p output from their QNAP Plex Media Server

 
      TS-251D NAS

  TS-253Be NAS
 
                        
      Qnap Desktop NAS TS-251D-2G 2-Bay RAID (2GB RAM) + PCIe    Qnap Desktop NAS TS-253Be-2G 2-Bay RAID (2GB RAM)  
       £257.00    £345.00 
          

If you want to buy a Plex media server NAS on a low budget, then you may well have encountered the difficulties of getting the right device for the job. For their first NAS drive for a Plex media server, most users when want to spend somewhere between £500 and £1000 on the entire purchase... that includes hard drives, software, cables and tax (VAT, etc). The problem is that most NAS drives that people recommend will end up costing you much more than this figure and if you are on a tight budget of just £500, then you would be forgiven for thinking that you are bang out of luck. However, do not fear as in fact there are several very, VERY good NAS drives that can be purchased with hard drives installed, that will give you great performance, transcoding options and smooth playback, while still keeping within this budget. So today, I want to talk about three of the very best budget NAS drives for Plex that you can buy for under £500.


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