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Plex rose to prominence as a media center. Initially, it was a DIY Netflix and Spotify allowing for remote access of videos, music, and pictures.
However, since then, Plex added plugins for streaming content, podcast support, and connectivity with antennas for live TV and DVR. You can even get a Plex Pass, which offers lots of entertainment options. As such, Plex is a cord cutter’s dream.
Ready to build your own Plex server? Check out our roundup of the top Plex servers on the market, from pre-built and DIY options to Plex NAS hardware.
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.
The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is among the best streaming devices on the market. 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 as 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 Pro 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, and mount network shares. Several antenna options 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.
The Dell PowerEdge T30 features a Xeon E3-1225 v5 processor, which is more than powerful enough for a home Plex machine. 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 a range of storage options. The T30 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 without huge energy costs.
Although it’s certainly not the most powerful device available, the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit is a great entry-level option. You can easily turn the Raspberry Pi into 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.
The Intel NUC 7 Mini PC is compact, but the i5-7260U CPU offers a decent PassMark rating just shy of 6000. With VESA mounting bracket compatibility, you can attach 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 lot 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.
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. Network Attached Storage (NAS) 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 usually come preconfigured—just add hard drives.
The QNAP TS-453Be four-bay Plex NAS comes complete with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Celeron Apollo Lake J3455 Quad-core CPU. It’s pretty pricey but is capable of 4K hardware transcoding, and has an HDMI output.
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 worth of hard drives for more storage space.
Unfortunately, all of this comes at a premium. The QNAP TS-453Be is pretty pricey. For the price of this NAS without hard drives, you can snag a far more powerful server with a 10TB drive.
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.
Check our review of the DS418play, the next model up from the DS218, to get an idea of Synology NAS setups.
If you need a budget Plex NAS, the TerraMaster F4-220 is a great option. It’s powered by a dual-core 2.1GHz CPU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and has an HDMI output. This maintains compatibility with software such as Kodi. The device comes bundled with remote control too.
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. When we reviewed the TerraMaster F2-220 (functionally similar to the F4-220, but with two bays rather than four) we found it to be a rock solid performer and is perfect for Plex and more.
The Best Server and NAS Options for Plex
Ultimately, there are loads of potential Plex server options. 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, it’s time to choose the best Plex client device for streaming your media.