The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server
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Plex rose to prominence as a media center. Originally, it was a sort of do-it-yourself (DIY) Netflix and Spotify allowing for remote access of videos, music, and pictures.

However, since its inception, Plex added plugins for streaming content, podcast support, and connectivity with antennas for live TV and DVR. As such, Plex is a cord cutter’s dream.

Ready to build your own Plex server? Check out the top Plex servers on the market, from pre-built and DIY options to Plex NAS hardware.

What Is Plex?

Like Emby, Plex is a media center software option which boasts loads of features some native, some added via Plex plugins. Where Plex differs from Kodi is its onus on streaming media from the server rather than local media playback.

Since Plex relies on a media server, you’ll need to determine your needs. Your main considerations when picking out a Plex server:

  • The number of concurrent streams, or simultaneous client devices streaming from your server
  • What type of Plex apps (i.e. Android, iOS, Roku) will be connecting
  • Whether content is accessed locally or remote
  • File resolution
  • Whether you’ll stream many videos with subtitles

For local use, Plex rarely transcodes. Most Plex client apps, however, do necessitate transcoding. While in-home streaming likely won’t require transcoding, remote access probably will. Subtitles burned into the videos you’re streaming also increase CPU use.

Generally, Plex recommends about a 2000 PassMark rating for a single 1080p stream. A 720p stream requires about a 1500 PassMark. 4K SDR requires around a 12000 PassMark, and a solitary 4K HDR stream needs about a 17000 PassMark.

As outlined in its support section, Plex suggests an Intel Core i3 3.0GHz CPU for one 720p transcode. An Intel Core i5 3.0GHz CPU should handle a sole 1080p transcode. For a solitary 4K transcode, you should be able to get by with an Intel Core i7 3.2GHz processor.

But you’ll need to multiply that PassMark by the number of concurrent streams. Streaming three 1080p videos which require transcoding means you’ll need a PassMark of about 6000.

Best Plex Server: Pre-Built and DIY Options

From enterprise workstations to streaming devices and DIY PCs, these are the top Plex servers you can buy.

1. Nvidia Shield TV Pro

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - NVIDIA Shield TV

NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server Buy Now On Amazon

The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is easily the best streaming box on the market, and Android TV device overall. Its hardware is capable of streaming in 4K from a variety of providers including Netflix. Using the optional Samsung SmartThings Link, the Shield transforms into a smart home hub.

Plus, it’s engineered for gaming, running Android games as well retro emulators including PlayStation Portable, Nintendo 64, Gamecube, and Wii titles. You can stream games from your PC to the Shield TV using Nvidia GameStream provided you’ve got a compatible GPU.

The Nvidia Shield TV doubles as a Plex server and client. Its hardware handles around two or three simultaneous transcodes. You can mount USB drives and microSD cards as removable storage, but there’s only one writable file from within which slightly limits storage.

However, you’ll be able to mount network shares.

Several antenna options The Best OTA Antennas and TV Tuners Money Can Buy in 2018 The Best OTA Antennas and TV Tuners Money Can Buy in 2018 Using an OTA antenna and TV tuner, it's simple to make a do-it-yourself DVR. In this article we have found the best antennas and tuners money can buy... Read More connect with the Shield TV for DVR and live TV in Plex. If you’re using your Shield TV as a Plex server, I suggest opting for the 500GB Pro variant. Even that hard drive is likely to fill up quickly though.

Because of its versatility as a Plex server and client, along with gaming, smart home, and media streaming functionality, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is the best overall Plex server you can buy.

It’s my Plex client option of choice, and I use my Nvidia Shield TV as a smart home hub, game console, and streaming set-top box.

Pros:

  • Doubles as a Plex client
  • Capable of 2-3 simultaneous transcodes
  • 500GB hard drive on the Pro model
  • Optional Samsung SmartThings smart home hub
  • Game streaming and retro gaming features

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Better transcoding devices are available
  • 500GB hard drive fills up fast

2. Dell PowerEdge T30 Xeon E3-1225 v5 3.3GHz CPU

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - Dell PowerEdge T30

Dell PowerEdge T30 Tower Server System Dell PowerEdge T30 Tower Server System Buy Now On Amazon $353.21

For my dedicated Plex server, I run a Lenovo ThinkServer TS140 with a Xeon E3-1225 v3 CPU. It easily handles three concurrent 1080p streams. The Dell PowerEdge T30 rocks a similar processor to mine in the Xeon E3-1225 v5. You’ll benefit from a 7833 PassMark which should handle just shy of four simultaneous 1080p transcodes.

As configured, it supports four hard drives, but you can add up to six for tons of storage options. The T130 plays well with Linux too making it the ideal dedicated Plex server. Its 280W PSU means you can run the T30 as an always-on server and it sips power.

Pros:

  • Handles about 4 simultaneous 1080p transcodes
  • Up to 6 hard drive bays
  • Linux-friendly
  • Energy efficient

Cons:

  • Large footprint

3. Raspberry Pi 3 B+

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - Raspberry Pi 3 B+

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (B Plus) with Premium Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (B Plus) with Premium Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply Buy Now On Amazon $54.99

Although it’s certainly not the most powerful device available, a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ makes for an inexpensive Plex server. It’s best for users planning on streaming in-home only, or for a travel Plex server. Try installing Kodi as well for a home theater PC (HTPC) combined with Plex media server functionality.

You might consider an Odroid XU4 as an alternative. I suggest using a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ since its stock speed is about that of an overclocked Raspberry Pi 3.

Pros:

  • Tiny footprint
  • Low power draw
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Not suited to transcoding

4. Intel NUC Mini PC NUC7i5BNH

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - Intel NUC

Intel NUC 7 Mainstream Kit (NUC7i5BNH) - Core i5, Tall, Add't Components Needed Intel NUC 7 Mainstream Kit (NUC7i5BNH) - Core i5, Tall, Add't Components Needed Buy Now On Amazon $365.00

Check out Intel’s NUC lineup for small, capable Plex server hardware. The NUC7i5BNH rocks a space-saving design. But the i5-7260U offers a decent PassMark rating just shy of 6000. With VESA mounting bracket compatibility, you can hook this to the back of a TV or monitor.

Unfortunately, storage options are limited to a single 2.5-inch SATA drive or SSD. If you require a ton of storage space, this isn’t the device for you. Moreover, unlike a modular desktop, you can’t upgrade the CPU, just the hard drive and RAM.

As such, it’s not future proof. Nevertheless, it’s a solid option for those seeking an HTPC Plex server, Intel NUCs are small, powerful, and energy efficient. As an alternative, you might consider the Mac Mini or the System76 Meerkat.

Pros:

  • Small footprint
  • Low power draw
  • HTPC/Plex server form factor
  • Easy to configure

Cons:

  • Limited storage options
  • No upgradeable CPU

Best NAS for Plex Options: Plex NAS Devices

While the best Plex server devices come in pre-built and DIY packages, you might consider a Plex NAS set up instead. A NAS (network attached storage device) differs from a server in that it’s intended as a centralized location for data storage on a network.

Customization and settings are usually more basic than on the average server. Plex NAS options come pre-configured—just add hard drives.

1. QNAP TVS-471-i3

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - QNAP TVS-471-i3

QNAP TS-251+ 2-Bay Next Gen Personal Cloud NAS QNAP TS-251+ 2-Bay Next Gen Personal Cloud NAS Buy Now On Amazon

The QNAP TVS-471-i3 four-bay Plex NAS comes complete with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core i3 3.5GHz CPU. It’s pretty pricey, but masters 1080p transcoding and 4K video playback.

Onboard, you’ll find a 10Gb Ethernet port and support for the likes of VMware and Hyper-V. RAM is upgradeable to 16GB, and you can add up to 64TB of hard drives for tons of storage space. An HDMI output with XBMC makes this the ultimate Plex NAS device.

Unfortunately, all of this awesomeness comes at a major premium. The QNAP TVS-471-i3 is pretty pricey. For the price of this NAS without hard drives, you can snag a far more powerful server with a 10TB drive.

If you’re in the market for a NAS for Plex, this is the best choice hands-down though. As an alternative, check out the AMD-powered QNAP TS-473-4G-US.

Pros:

  • Up to 64TB
  • Upgradeable to 16GB of RAM
  • i3 dual-core processor
  • HDMI output

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Better hardware available for the money

2. Synology DS218play

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - Synology DS218play

Synology 2 bay NAS Disk Station, DS218play (Diskless) Synology 2 bay NAS Disk Station, DS218play (Diskless) Buy Now On Amazon $229.99

Synology’s DS218play delivers excellent value with a tiny footprint. At its core, there’s a quad-core processor capable of handling 4K video playback at 30 frames per second. There’s an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, and 1GB of DDR3 RAM.

It’s a decent entry-level Plex NAS, but you won’t win any benchmarking tests with its processor. However, the Synology DS218play is one of the best NAS options for Plex streaming.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Quad-core CPU
  • 4K video playback
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports

Cons:

  • Only 1GB of RAM
  • No HDMI
  • Not ideal for more than two simultaneous 1080p streams

Check our review of the DS418play Synology DiskStation 418play: The Best 4-Bay NAS For Everyone, with Full Plex Support Synology DiskStation 418play: The Best 4-Bay NAS For Everyone, with Full Plex Support The Synology DS418play is a fantastic choice for a beginner NAS – and even better, it's also the perfect media server, streaming your movies to anywhere in your home. Read More to get a better idea about this NAS.

3. QNAP TS-251+

The Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server - QNAP TS-251

QNAP TS-251+ 2-Bay Next Gen Personal Cloud NAS, Intel 2.0GHz Quad-Core CPU with Media Transcoding QNAP TS-251+ 2-Bay Next Gen Personal Cloud NAS, Intel 2.0GHz Quad-Core CPU with Media Transcoding Buy Now On Amazon

If you need a budget Plex NAS, the QNAP TS-251+ is a two-bay option. It’s powered by a quad-core 2.0GHz CPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and has an HDMI output. This maintains compatibility with software such as Kodi. There’s even a bundled remote control.

Since there’s a video output, you can run your QNAP TS-251+ headless or with operating systems. The HDMI port even maintains 7.1 channel compatibility. Like other NAS devices, it’s not cheap but you’re paying for a quality storage unit that’s simple to set up.

Pros:

  • HDMI output
  • Compatible with multiple operating systems
  • Up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • Two-bay NAS
  • Quad-core 2.0GHz CPU

Cons:

  • Pricey

The Best Server and NAS Options for Plex

Ultimately, there are loads of potential Plex server options. For a while, I ran a Plex server off of an aging HP AMD A10-powered laptop. It certainly wasn’t the most powerful, but it was perfectly fine for even 1080p streams to a single client.

My current Xeon-powered TS140 Plex server is superb for 1080p streaming to almost four clients. Personally, I suggest using server hardware rather than a NAS. You’ll get a more powerful system for less money, and it’s upgradeable.

The PowerEdge T30 is a solid choice with an excellent CPU. As a Plex client and server, the Nvidia Shield TV offers unrivaled value.

Now that you’ve picked out a Plex server, choose the best Plex client device for streaming your media The Best Plex Clients for Streaming Media The Best Plex Clients for Streaming Media What are the best Plex clients for streaming all the latest media? We've rounded up some of the best media-streaming devices around, including the Amazon Fire Stick, Playstation 4, Raspberry Pi, and more! Read More .

Explore more about: Buying Tips, Media Server, Plex.

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  1. Nigel Burrell
    January 9, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    There's plenty of Plex local server options... but I’m trying to find a portable Plex Media Server solution when travelling with my Oculus GO VR Headset as I want to stream 4k movies on the go.

    What I’ve discovered so far is…

    1. The Nvidia Shield is a highly recommended streaming box, and doubles as a Plex Server and Client, but can it be used as a portable Plex Media Server on the road (without an Internet connection)? It seems to be a home network-only solution.

    2. The WD My Passport Wireless with PMS built-in seems like a great portable solution, but I’ve held back getting this as there’s lots of users complaining about the product’s reliability and ease of use.

    3. Connecting to Plex via remote access isn’t fast enough for 4k streaming, nor possible when there’s no Internet connection available on my travels.

    I have Plex Media Server installed on my laptop and I don’t mind taking the laptop with me on my travels. However, I’ve not found a way of connecting my Oculus Go to PMS on my laptop, unless I’m connected to the internet. But I’m not always in a location where Internet is available and/or very slow Internet speeds in a hotel.

    Does anyone know how to connect my Oculus Go to PMS on my laptop without an internet connection?

  2. John Smith
    December 11, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Given how Plex decided to discontinue support for channels/plugins, and how they messed up the Roku client, personally, if I can get my money back that I paid for the lifetime access, I would move away in no time.
    That's a decision that would probably make them lose a lot of their users.
    A lot of not happy, angry and disappointed posts on their forum about that change.

    I am considering building a Kodi server on Raspberry PI and drop Plex from my home network.

  3. Stevan
    January 10, 2018 at 10:42 am

    I've been using Plex recently on my Nettop (Atom cpu mini computer) and it runs awesome. I also have Freenas for over 4 years now and since a couple of years ago it has Plex support via plugins.

    Freenas is excellent because you choose the hardware for it and the price range is between $350 to $425. Since my Freenas has been upgraded with an i5 CPU I will give it a try soon.

    Cheers,

    Stevan

  4. Josh
    May 28, 2017 at 8:36 am

    We've been using Plex for at least a year and love it. To begin, You might want to better distinguish the two core types of users. There are those people which are playing media direct from a device (such as a PC or NUC, or NAS) via hdmi or dvi to an auxiliary channel on a monitor or TV and then those folks who are just wanting to run Plex on a smart TV via an app. The first scenario requires a video GPU, the second does not. The second method, which we exclusively use, has several options available.

    For us, the easiest and quickest way to use Plex was to first download and configure the Plex app on one of our old desktop PC's, a first generation i7 940 on an x58 mobo. Our media is scattered over several drives, but the main is actually an external 1TB SATA II connected to the PC via USB...not even via a SATA cable! (We will soon change that though). When first setting things up we downloaded/installed the Plex app on our PC, then our Living room Vizio 55" TV as well our 32" Samsung bedroom TV. The media data is transferred to the TVs via CAT 5 cable...the bedroom being at least 50ft from our networking switch. So in our case, the TVs and apps are handing the video, NOT the PC video card (unless it somehow helps internally..I don't know).

    Interestingly, both Plex apps (via Vizio or Samsung) are pretty different and we found comment ground in using a Roku with each TV as it too has a Plex app, a very good one. So to wrap up, there are certainly a lot of ways to skin this cat. Our old PC is plugged in direct to our router and then we can feed one or more TVs via the switch. We've never had an issue, aside from learning how to best set-up the library hirearchy. We usually only stream to one TV at a time but there are occasions when we have both going and it seems that our vintage i7 has held up well. Lastly, the only issue regularly experienced is having to wake up the PC. If it goes to sleep the Plex app will say that it cannot find the server.

  5. mongoload
    December 23, 2016 at 5:06 am

    nice article, but how about NVIDIA Shield devices? is it advisable for plex server?

    https://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/221099648-Limitations-When-Running-Plex-Media-Server-on-NVIDIA-SHIELD