We were avid Kodi users/supporters but slowly transitioned to Plex in 2018. The biggest benefits of Kodi were addons and customizability. But Plex is easier to maintain on client devices, remotely available during travel, sharable with friends, and easier library sync. [Read: Plex vs Emby vs Jellyfin vs Kodi: In-depth Comparison]
Our move to Plex was a bit bumpy but these Kodi to Plex migration tips helped. The biggest hurdle was finding a media server for Plex that could support the growing streaming needs: multiple streams, multiple transcodes, 4K support, etc. Based on research and the last four years of personal experiences, here are some awesome options for NAS with Plex Server support. [Read: 10 Best Media Server for Plex + one SURPRISING bonus]
But first, some basics for the beginners.
Table of Contents
- How does Plex Media Server Work?
- Best NAS with Plex Server Support 2022
- What devices can Plex media server run on?
- What is Plex hardware transcoding?
- Best NAS for Plex Server: What to look for?
- 1. Synology DiskStation DS920 - Best User-Friendly NAS for Plex
- 2. QNAP Turbo NAS TS-453Be - Best Multi-purpose NAS for Plex
- 3. Netgear ReadyNAS RN3166
- 4. Drobo 5N2 - Best NAS with Plex Server for simplicity
- 5. TerraMaster F5-422 - Best NAS with Plex Server for the Price
- 6. ASUSTOR AS3304T - Best Value NAS for Plex
- 7. Western Digital My Passport - Best NAS with Plex Server for portable WiFi
- 8. Thecus N5810PRO - Best Silent NAS with Plex Server
- Concluding Remarks on Choosing Best NAS for Plex Server
How does Plex Media Server Work?
Plex media server allows streaming your locally owned digital media content to various devices inside or outside your home. Simply put, it is a DIY Netflix. Plex allows streaming media content to devices on your network. The Plex media server software runs in the background on a computer with qualified hardware components.
You can stream content locally or remotely across the Internet with a Plex Pass premium subscription. Some of the key features of Plex Pass are:
- Free movies and TV shows officially from Plex
- Advanced User Controls
- HDR Tone Mapping
- Plex Dash
- Plex Arcade
- Trailers and Extras
With supported TV tuners, you can watch OTA channels. You can even hack it watch IPTV channels on Plex, even though Plex discontinued channels/addons support few years back.
Is Plex media server free?
Plex media server itself is free for use with the web app for viewing. Buying or building a media server for Plex incurs costs. Viewing media content on Plex TV client apps requires an in-app purchase of $5 per device. A lifetime Plex Pass is highly recommended. One device license includes:
- Unlimited Plex client apps
- Live TV and DVR for multiple users
- Parental controls
- Hardware acceleration
Jellyfin is a great open-source and completely free alternative to Plex with support for several clients. [Read: Plex vs Jellyfin: In-depth Comparison]
Requirements to Setup a NAS for Plex Server
Plex Media Server catalogs your media and makes content available to the Plex app on client devices. Successfully using Plex requires at least 2 components:
- Plex server - A NAS with Plex Server running constantly and ready to serve media at the request of Plex clients. [Read: 10 Best Media Server for Plex + one SURPRISING bonus]
- Plex client - A client device (eg. Amazon Fire TV, Roku devices, etc.) with Plex client app to play files from a Plex media server. [Read: 10 Best Plex Client Devices  – STUTTER-free Streaming]
You will also need content stored or accessible locally for Plex to catalog. There are several different ways to store local media for streaming from a NAS with Plex server (or Emby, Kodi, and Jellyfin).
Reducing Buffering on Plex
Usually, some of the biggest reasons for buffering on Plex are: 1) low-powered server hardware, 2) low-powered client hardware, 3) incompatible media formats, and 4) slow internet or lack of bandwidth. [Read: Troubleshooting Plex buffering – Solutions for when Plex keeps pausing]
If you are using high-end Plex TV client devices, you need a server or NAS that matches the capability of the client device. When multiple devices are connected, you need better hardware to serve more clients. High-end clients, however, can make better use of even a low-end server device such as a Raspberry Pi.
If you are using lower-end client devices such as older Roku or Fire TV sticks, a more robust server may be required. Other situations, such as having several TVs in a house that are always on, need a better server. Remotely streaming content from a NAS with Plex also requires hardware to make efficient use of Internet bandwidth. [Read: 10 Best Plex Client Devices  – STUTTER-free Streaming]
Best NAS with Plex Server Support 2022
Now that you know all about the software you may need, it is time to look at some of the best Plex NAS you might buy.
Transcoding capability is one of the top requirements for a NAS devices with Plex. Skimping on NAS hardware for Plex can result in buffering issues and an unsatisfactory media streaming experience.
What devices can Plex media server run on?
Most devices can run a media server with Plex. However, simultaneous streams and transcoding may be limited by the CPU and GPU of the NAS for Plex Server. Here is a rough guideline for CPU requirements for Plex:
- CPU PassMark >1500: One 720p (4Mbps, H.264) video transcode
- CPU PassMark >2000: One 1080p (10Mbps, H.264) video transcode
- CPU PassMark >12000: One 4k SDR (40Mbps, 8-bit HEVC) video transcoded to 1080p
- CPU PassMark >17000: One 4k HDR (50Mbps, 10-bit HEVC) video transcoded to 1080p
A hardware transcoding capable GPU/CPU can reduce PassMark requirements and having media files in one of the Plex supported formats and a capable client can minimize transcoding by direct-playing content.
What is Plex hardware transcoding?
A NAS device capable of hardware transcoding is necessary for playing multiple and high-quality streams. Plex hardware transcoding is available for NVIDIA graphics cards and QuickSync integrated Intel graphics acceleration. Hardware transcoding is when the GPU transcodes a video instead of a CPU.
Because transcoding usurps most of a standard CPU's processing power, hardware transcoding is more efficient and allows a NAS or server running Plex to do more other things. Before hardware transcoding was available for Plex, transcoding even one stream required a higher-end device than many users need.
Best NAS for Plex Server: What to look for?
Recently, NAS devices have made significant progress in this area and many newer ones come with hardware transcoding capability. The best NAS for Plex Server should have certain key features.
- 1080p resolution or higher
- 1 LAN incoming/1 outgoing LAN port
- 1 Gbps Ethernet port speed
- Fast USB 3.0 ports
- Multiple internal (made for NAS) HDD storage drives
Other features may make or break your decision for choosing a particular NAS, but many of these features are certainly good to have as well.
- 4K support
- Multiple HDMI, USB, Ethernet ports
- 2.5 Gbps or higher Ethernet port speeds
- Thunderbolt 3.0
- Multiple internal (made for NAS) SSD storage drives
Without further ado, let's look at a few best NAS with Plex server support.
1. Synology DiskStation DS920 - Best User-Friendly NAS for Plex
The Synology DS920+ is a worthy successor to the famous DS918+ model, which we recommended as the best NAS for Plex server in the previous edition of this post.
With plenty of storage and processing power, the DS920+ model is the latest addition to the famous lineage of the 900 series. This is a popular series that fulfills the needs for most home use of a typical size family sharing one NAS device.
The first awesome thing about the Synology DiskStation DS920+ is it has two built-in M.2 2280 NVMe SSD slots with cache acceleration. With an upgraded Intel Celeron J4125 Intel quad-core processor with AES-NI hardware encryption engine.
It ships with Synology RAM DDR4-2666 Non-ECC that is expandable up to 8 GB with Synology RAM DDR4-2666 ECC UDIMM 8GB (or the cheaper option from Crucial, which has been confirmed to be compatible). Unofficially, it can even go up 16 GB of RAM.
The DS920+ is also scalable up to 9 drives. Get a few of the shuckable and cheaper shuckable Western Digital external hardrives and you are set.
Other Synology NAS Options for Plex
Tight on budget or have more to spare? Here are a few other Synology NAS models that support Plex server (price not listed due volatitlity in price and availability during pandemic):
|Model||Drive Bays||4K Support|
|Synology DiskStation DS720+ (or the previous DS718+)||2-Bay (expandable to 7)||Yes|
|Synology DS920+ (or the previous DS918+)||4-Bay (expandable to 9)||Yes|
Synology develops a wide variety of applications, develops its operating systems, and develops for every platform. If you like choosing one platform and sticking with it, Synology provides top choices for hardware and software. Plex is one of many great apps you can install on Synology.
2. QNAP Turbo NAS TS-453Be - Best Multi-purpose NAS for Plex
QNAP is another major player in the NAS business with several capable models and software support as good as Synology's. QNAP's offerings can be overwhelming. They have numerous models. In addition, they also released the high-performance TVS series that pack very powerful but efficient Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor with up to 32 GB of RAM.
Some of the models even include 10 Gbps networking interface, which is 10 times the bandwidth available in most commonly available consumer NASes at this point.
The QNAP Turbo NAS TS-453Be Mini Tower NAS Server makes a robust Plex server hardware sporting many great features running on quality hardware. With an Intel Celeron J3455 Quad-Core 1.5GHz 2MB and up to 2.3GHz Turbo it runs smoothly. It comes with 8GB DDR3L Memory and a fast 16TB 3.5-inch HDD capable of 6Gb/s SATA data transfer speeds.
The QNAP Turbo NAS TS-453Be also supports multiple RAID levels.
- RAID 0
- RAID 1
- RAID 10
- RAID 5
- RAID 6
The TS-453Be uses the QNAP QTS 4.3.4 operating system. If the TS-453Be is too expensive, then there are other affordable models (e.g. QNAP TS-253D) to consider.
Other QNAP NAS Options for Plex
QNAP also offers a few "high-end" models (TVS models). The Quad-core Intel Core i5-8400T 1.7 GHz processor of the QNAP TVS-672X ships with 8GB DDR4 RAM, upgradable to 64GB. This makes QNAP TVS-672X one of the best 4K Plex server build, capable of high-quality 4K media playback, real-time transcoding and displaying multimedia content through HDMI 2.0 (4K @60Hz) output.
Here are a few other high-performance QNAP NASes to consider for a Plex server.
|Model||Drive Bays||4K Support||Price|
One benefit of QNAP (over Synology) is the availability of HDMI port for video out. Synology NAS is only available through the web interface.
The QNAP QTS 4.3.4 operating system is just like a real operating system with real applications, and quite a bit more operating system than Synology's DSM. Synology apps are browser add-ons or available in the app store on client devices like your tablet or phone. QNAP lets you boot to QTS and begin doing and using while streaming video or listening to music.
We still prefer the Synology NASes for Plex, and with excellent support for Docker Compose on Synology, the possibilities are endless.
3. Netgear ReadyNAS RN3166
The Netgear ReadyNAS RN3166 edition is a great option for network attached storage with Plex server. With a 2.1Ghz dual-core processor and 2GB on-board memory the 6-Bay RN3166 ships with 5 levels of RAID protection and ReadyCLOUD for secure sharing.
The Netgear ReadyNAS uses a plain web interface and is not nearly as glamorous as Plex, Emby, or Jellyfin, but you can install Plex and only look at the ReadyNAS interface is all you have to do. Netgear ReadyNAS not only makes content available across the Internet.
4. Drobo 5N2 - Best NAS with Plex Server for simplicity
Drobo is the best NAS for RAID. The Drobo 5N2 is the latest NAS device released. Using BeyondRAID™ technology, the 5N2 is the fastest, NAS available for data sharing and remote access on the home network and across the Internet.
Drobo also provides DroboDR for disaster recovery backup. The best thing about Drobo devices is the plug-and-play style simplicity that makes the brand famous. The 5N2 is the easiest to use NAS device available on the market today.
5. TerraMaster F5-422 - Best NAS with Plex Server for the Price
TerraMaster has gained popularity as a budget NAS for Plex as well as a general-purpose NAS. Like Synology and QNAP, it is simple to setup, and supports Plex hardware transcoding for 4k videos.
The TerraMaster F5-422 uses an Apollo Quad-core 1.5GHz CPU and 4GB of RAM (expandable up to 8GB). It has 1 10GbE RJ45 port that is capable of extremely fast speeds up to 670MB/s reading and 650MB/s writing. In addition to the 10GbE port, the F5-422 also has dual 1GbE LAN ports with failover and link aggregation support.
The F5-422 also has AES hardware encryption and an advanced Btrfs file system. The TerraMaster F5-422 is also capable of playing two concurrent 4K video streams.
TerraMaster provides a few models with variations of quad-core vs dual-core CPUs, 2 GB or more RAM, 2xGbE or better network, and more. Here are some models that can be great media servers with Plex hardware transcoding support. I recommend at least 4 GB of RAM and therefore only the 4GB or better models are listed below.
|Model||Drive Bays||4K Support||Price|
Like QNAP, TerraMaster NASes also include HDMI port, so you can connect the NAS to a TV and use it as a media player.
6. ASUSTOR AS3304T - Best Value NAS for Plex
The Asustor Drivestor 4 Pro AS3304T supports 72TB. With a 1.4 GHz quad-Core CPU and a 2.5GbE port, the Asustor is an excellent minimalistic NAS for Plex streaming. The Asustor Drivestor 4 Pro AS3304T also ships with 4K support and can transcode H.265 media with Plex hardware decoding. Most user needs are more than satisfied by this model of the Asustor brand.
If you are not going to use many apps, the Asustor is the best for value. Many people do not need QNAP apps or Synology add-ons and mobile apps for their everyday use. If you do not expect or plan to use an operating system or apps with your NAS, Asustor is will satisfy your needs without breaking your budget.
7. Western Digital My Passport - Best NAS with Plex Server for portable WiFi
What is more accessible than a WiFi device you can pick up and plug in anywhere for stronger data transfers than a wireless NAS SSD or HDD drive.
Western Digital is the leader in NAS HDD and SSD internal and external wireless drives and the best NAS for Plex Server with WiFi. You can install Plex Media Server on a WD NAS drive for portability, which is unlike any other NAS devices listed on this page.
These are so popular it is hard buying the one you want on Amazon.
You can also buy a WD Elements or Personal Cloud NAS device, but not all the best options have built-in WiFi.
8. Thecus N5810PRO - Best Silent NAS with Plex Server
If your NAS is always on or resides in a home office, the Thecus N5810PRO. The Intel® Celeron processor Quad Core 2.0 GHz CPU uses Intel Security and Acronis True Image. Self-acclaimed as the "zero-crash NAS", the Thecus N5810PRO also has a built-in mini-UPS to guard against power outages. This makes it perfect for storing data vital to your work.
Thecus brand is dead silent! That is what you will hear first and last about Thecus NAS. This is a great choice for a small room or office where every sound is heard and potential noise. Other options make less noise, such as wireless HDD and SSD drives, but only using lower-end hardware.
Which NAS works best with Plex?
Though I would not want to have to say, I would have to say Synology is the best for Plex simply because the apps are made for client devices. QNAP has many great apps and would be my personal first choice, but it is not the best for Plex Server compared to Synology.
Which QNAP is best for Plex?
The QNAP TS-453D is simply the best NAS for Plex Server. The TS-453D is a quad-core 2.5GbE NAS PCIe expansion for 10 Gbps or M.2 SSDs for using QNAP apps. There is the QNAP TS-453D-8G and the QNAP TS-453D-4G with 4GB of RAM if that is all you need.
What is best Synology NAS for Plex Server?
The 922+ naturally will be released in 2022, 920+ was released in September of 2020. The 918+ was released in September 2017 just before 2018. Based on history it is most likely coming out just in time for the holidays, if not before the annual event Synology 2022 and Beyond begins streaming globally on December 2nd.
What is the best NAS for PLex 4K Streaming?
The best NAS for for 4K is the TerraMaster F5-422 for all the right reasons. Because it uses the Btrfs file system, it can take as many snapshots as you can store. With real-time hardware transcoding for two 4K video streams over 10GbE, this NAS device could play one 4K stream while recording another 4K stream from a client device with a TV tuner.
Concluding Remarks on Choosing Best NAS for Plex Server
Plex Server NAS devices should support hardware transcoding and either 1080p or 4K. Another priority is what type of media connection you will make. If it will be USB technology such as Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet or HDMI, or WiFi only, your needs will vary.
The best way to shop is to decide what you don't need and focus on what you must have the most first. There will always be secondary concerns, but another approach is to know what client devices the NAS will support. Some clients devices need no support from the NAS devices and can do all the work alone, while others may need all the help they can get from a NAS.
Another good thing to consider is if your client devices are low-end, your NAS device for Plex Server should be high-end. Conversely, if your client devices are all high-end (if you are Apple people), you do not need to worry as much about the work the NAS must do. You still need enough NAS power to stream to high-end devices.
This list obviously is subjective and based on personal experieces. Go ahead, share your thoughts and experiences on whati s the best NAS for Plex server.