Which NAS should you buy for your Plex Media Server  

Plex Media Server and your NAS

 What NAS for plex

   Have you ever heard of Plex? Of course you have, why else would you have come here! So, you have made the big decision and want to put all your media (Pictures, music and video alike) in a network enabled device so you can access anywhere in the home, anywhere in the country and indeed, anywhere in the WORLD. However the entire task can appear quite daunting to those who are less versed in the wonderful world of data storage and the learning curve quite steep.

To assist in this arena, many companies have delved into the service of helping you share your data. Chief among them is Plex. Giving you the ability to not only share all of your data to more devices than any other service, they will also fill in the blanks in your catalogue. Providing Thumbnails, filling in descriptions and sorting your digital media files in a far more pleasing user interface. Think of the likes of Amazon Instant, Netflix and over Video on Demand (VOD) services and they are just a small bite of what Plex Media Server can give you.
  The first step to building a Plex Media Server on a NAS, is choosing the right NAS. Not all Network attached Storage devices are suitable for a Plex Media Server. A few of the key brands to look for are:

Plex, 1080p Output and Trancoding

So, you’ve decided to buy a NAS for your Plex Media Server. But how do you know which one is the most suitable? The prices for Network-Attached Storage have really tumbled down in recent years and for as little as £100, you can really pick up a bargain. However before you get your wallet out, it’s worth remembering that those these lower end, home NAS devices will support Plex, they will not have sufficient hardware power to display a 1080p (HD) video file to your other Plex enabled devices. This is all down to something called ‘Transcoding’. Transcoding is the ability to take a large/small file and then change/convert it to a more suitable/optimised version for your destination device. For example. Your 4GB 1080p MKV file may look incredible on your Smart TV… but once you start streaming it your iPad, you will have a file that is too big, too laggy and less suitable for your device. This also works the other way around for larger devices and inevitably is the main reason many will spend the extra £100 and get a superior NAS. When you access a file via plex, the following will occur:

  • Once clicked, Plex will request information on the media from the Server (your NAS)
  • When it has media information, alongside with the available settings settings (such as Direct Play, Stream Quality, Direct Stream settings), Plex will determine whether it can play the media directly from the NAS as it is (Direct Play) or whether it will need help from the Server to adapt the file.
  • If Plex requires hardware assistance, the NAS will automatically attempt to transcode the media file to a format that the Plex software on the destination device can use.
  • The Plex software on the destination device will continue to play the file in the new format and will continue to do so as long as the NAS can continue to trancode the media quicker than the file is played. Otherwise the NAS will automatically downscale the file more to ease transit (lowing it to 480p for example).

Plex Transcoding and the correct file formats 
Different Media types use different media extensions (eg, Mp3 is a music file format that many are familiar with). Different formats are generally used for higher resolution files. So, typical formats you will encounter are:

Video codec (H.264, divx, xvid, etc.)
File container (mkv, mp4, avi, etc.)
Audio codec (DTS, AC-3, AAC, MP3, etc.)

As well as the Subtitle format(SRT, VOBSUB and PGS.

Be sure to check the media formats on the bulk of your collection to ensure that the media output you require is possible with the NAS you have in mind.

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 NAS is expensive, doesn’t mean it is suitable for your perfect, 1080p Plex NAS server. A number of factors effect 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 Synology 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 home and small business units (Synology 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.

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 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

  Synology DS3617xs



      Synology DiskStation NAS DS3617xs 12-Bay, 4x 1GbE, PCIe (16GB ECC RAM)                Qnap Desktop NAS TVS-1282-i7-32G 12-Bay (8x 3.5", 4x 2.5") RAID (32GB RAM, Core i7)
       £1,966.00                0.0p








      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 TS-877-1700-16G 8-Bay (6x 3.5", 2x 2.5") RAID (16GB RAM, Ryzen 7 1700)        
       £3,011.00        0.0p        0.0p

plex transcoding NAS table.png

plex not transcoding nas.png

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

  Synology 418play

      Synology DiskStation NAS DS418play 4-Bay (2GB RAM)                


  Synology DS718+
      Synology DS918+
      Synology DiskStation NAS DS718+ 2-Bay (2GB RAM)                Synology DiskStation NAS DS918+ 4-Bay (4GB RAM)
       £342.00                £423.00

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

      Synology DS416play

      Qnap HS251+

      QNAP TS-251+

                     Qnap Desktop NAS TS-251+-2G 2-Bay RAID (2GB RAM)
       0.0p        0.0p        £260.00


              Synology DS1515+

      Synology DS1815+

               0.0p        0.0p



How and where do I sign up for Plex? How much does Plex Cost?

The Plex Application for your NAS, Mac, PC, Android device is free and available in the NAS App store, iTunes and Google Playstore at no additional cost. Though the free apps, serving as an excellent introduction, will soon feel limited and we advise that if you upgrade to the Plex Pass subscription service for vastly improved options and add-ons. To begin setting up your Plex Media Server, you will need to head over to Plex and set up your account (use the below link) so you can have all your movie, TV show, music, and photo collections at your fingertips. Anywhere you go, on the devices you love.


If however you wish to skip straight to the good stuff and set up your Plex Pass Membership immediately so you can get your Plex Media Server at 100%, use the link below to take walk you through setting up your Plex Pass today!

PLex Pass for your NAS Mac PC Android Roku Chromecast Amazon fire Media 2

For more information of Plex and Plex Media Servers, take a moment to listen to Robbie at SPANTV explain it a little more...

Synology 2 BAY comparison synology 2 bay comparison

Qnap 2 BAY comparison qnap 2 bay comparison


Patryk.J 2017-07-23 15:23:03

person icon I am thinking about buying this product Qnap TVS-871 So, my question is can I mix Seagate IronWolf 4TB 3.5 "NAS Hard Drive [3 item] + WD Red 4TB 3.5" SATA NAS Hard Drive [2 item] Will it work properly? Thank you for your answer

SPAN.COM 2018-01-04 10:45:21

person iconIt will work. I would recommend making two volumes and two RAID

Harsh 2017-07-06 19:45:42

person iconI just bought the Synology 1517+ , would you say it is a good buy for HD1080p or should I have got the 916+?

SPAN.COM 2018-01-04 10:46:59

person iconYes it is good for 1080p

Darren Mutimer 2017-01-20 20:32:48

person iconHi, I am looking to purchase a rack mounted NAS unit for use with Plex, I mainly watch 1080p mkv's Could you please advise on best current options available? I had been looking at the Synology RS815+ Thanks in advance

BiPolarBear 2017-01-02 03:25:44

person iconGreat intro to an otherwise confusing topic, thank you. Could you please comment on the situation with the increasingly prevalent HEVC/x265 file type? Is the processing power required to transcode this beyond any current NAS models? Could a PC with a plex media server on the same network as the NAS simply be used to play these files? Cheers.

SPAN.COM 2017-01-20 11:11:46

person iconTranscoding 4K in Plex is going to be tough for any CPU below an Intel i7 and Xeon – though you will be able to trancode natively (via the NAS branded apps etc) via 4K. I would recommend the QNAP x82 series for this sort of thing, but the higher end CPU’s -https://www.span.com/search/82-/10-Qnap Failing that you can look into the Xeon powered units are are slowly becoming available https://www.span.com/search/xeon/10-

duncan 2016-12-09 07:44:54

person iconcan you run plex on the wd ex4

SPAN.COM 2017-05-08 14:51:37

person iconYou should

SPAN.COM 2017-01-20 11:13:29

person iconYes, you can install the PLEX application , but transcoding will not really be possible.

Scott E. 2016-11-19 00:55:28

person iconI have a Thecus N5550 and am condidering Plex. Will the Intel® Atom™ Processor D2550 (1.86GHz Dual Core) be enough? Also it has 2GB ram but can be upgraded to 4 should I?

SPAN.COM 2016-11-25 15:41:28

person iconYou will struggle with that CPU, I would recommend a later series Intel x86 CPU such as you would fin in a Synology DS716+II or DS916+ NAS

Panda 2016-03-19 15:44:12

person iconCan you please comment on the noise levels of synology ds2415+, ds1815+, and qnap tvs-871 both in idle and when seeking? I am interested in buying a nas exclusively for the purpose of being a Plex server. My requirements are 1) silence as it will be in my bedroom less than 1 metre away from my bed, 2) ability to transcode at least 2 and up to 4 streams simultaneously (1080 preferred but 720 minimum), 3) ease of use/ setup. Ideally the 12 bay would be perfect for my storage needs but I am aware it is not on plex's list of compatible models,and additionally I am adverse to using 7200 rpm drives because of the noise issue. To that end, could you also please also comment on noise levels of the various 6-8 TB drives suitable for nas, and how risky it may be to use WD red drives in the ds2415+ if infact you believe it also suits my requirements for quietness and transcoding capabilities. If not,then I'd very much appreciate any insights you may have for the 8 bay units, with the noise component being the priority. Thank you very much

SPAN.COM 2016-03-31 12:05:55

person iconFan Speed Mode: (Cool Mode Quiet Mode) . Noise Level 27.1 dB(A) .

SPAN.COM 2016-03-31 12:05:08

person iconFan Speed Mode: (Cool Mode Quiet Mode) . Noise Level 27.1 dB(A) .

Richard 2016-01-04 16:01:52

person iconAny reason you would recommend the QNAP TS-253-PRO over the new HS-251+ or the TS-251+? I need to transcode 1080p using Plex and like the idea of the HS-251+ fanless design (should be quieter).

Kim Sauermilch 2015-12-06 22:11:13

person iconWill plex mediaserver run on a ds216play ?

SPAN.COM 2016-11-25 15:44:23

person iconIt will run a plex media server, yes. But it will not transcode HD Quality media


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