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We are avid Kodi users/supporters but slowly switched to Plex in 2018. The biggest advantages of Kodi are the addons and customization. But Plex is easy to maintain on client devices, available remotely on the go, sharing with friends, and library syncing is easy. [Read: Plex vs Emby vs Jellyfin vs Kodi: An In-Depth Comparison]
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Our migration to Plex was a bit difficult, but these Kodi to Plex migration tips helped. The biggest hurdle is finding a media server for Plex that can support the growing streaming needs: multiple streams, multiple transcodes, 4k support, etc. Based on research and the last four years of physical experiences, here are some amazing options for a medium. server with Plex support.
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Be sure to read to the end for an amazing option that the average Plex user hasn’t thought of.
The Plex Media Server allows you to stream your local digital media content to multiple devices inside or outside your home. In short, it’s a DIY Netflix. Plex enables streaming of media content to devices on your network. The Plex media server software runs in the background on a computer with the appropriate hardware components.
You can stream content locally or remotely over the internet with a Plex Pass Premium subscription. Some of the key features of Plex Pass are:
With compatible TV tuners, you can watch OTA channels. You can even stream your IPTV channels on Plex, although Plex stopped supporting channels/addons a few years ago.
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Is Plex media server free? The Plex media server itself is free to use with the web app to watch. Buying or building a media server for Plex incurs costs. Viewing media on Plex TV client devices requires a $5 in-app purchase 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 multiple clients. [Read: 15 Best Plex Alternatives  – Free and GOOD Options] Requirements for Setting Up a Media Server with Plex
Plex Media Server catalogs your media and makes the content available to the Plex app on client devices. Successful use of Plex requires at least 2 components:
You’ll also need stored content or local access for Plex to catalog. There are different ways to store local media for streaming from a media server, including Plex (or Emby, Kodi, and Jellyfin).
Typically, some of the biggest reasons to give up on Plex are: 1) low power server hardware, 2) low power client hardware, 3) supported media formats, and 4) slow or lack of bandwidth. Internet. [Read: Troubleshooting Plex buffering: solutions for when Plex freezes]
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If you are using high-end Plex TV client devices, you need a server or NAS that matches the capacity of the client device. When multiple devices are connected, you need better hardware to serve more clients. However, high-end clients can make better use of even a low-end server device like the Raspberry Pi.
If you’re using low-end client devices, like older Roku devices or Fire TVs, you may need a more powerful server. Other situations, like having multiple TVs in the house that are always on, require a better server. Remote streaming of content from a media server with Plex also requires hardware to make efficient use of Internet bandwidth. [Read: 10 Best Plex Clients  – Stutter-Free Streaming]
Now that you know all about the software you might need, it’s time to look at some of the best software you can buy.
Conversion capability is one of the main requirements for a Plex-powered media server. Skimping on the Plex server app can lead to buffering issues and a subpar media streaming experience.
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Note: COVID-19 has caused a shortage of wood chips. This has resulted in limited availability and increased cost of many consumer electronics, including many listed in this article. In some cases, we have chosen to list a previous generation model that is currently available for purchase.
What devices can the Plex media server work on? Most devices can run a media server with Plex. However, simultaneous streaming and transcoding may be limited by the CPU and GPU of the media server with Plex. Here is a rough guide to the CPU requirements for Plex: CPU PassMark > 1500: A 720p transcodeCPU (4 Mbps, H.264) PassMark > 2000: A 1080p transcodeCPU (10 Mbps, H.264) Video PassMark > 12000 : A 4k SDR 40Mbps, HEVC 8-bit) transcoded to 1080pCPU PassMark > 17000: A 4k HDR (50Mbps, HEVC 10-bit) video transcoded to 1080p A powerful GPU/CPU transcoding hardware can reduce PassMark requirements and have Media files in one of Plex’s supported formats and The powerful client can reduce transcoding by playing content directly.
Recently, NAS devices have improved significantly in this area, and there are many new ones with hardware transcoding capabilities.
Please note that most NAS do not have CPUs capable of converting 4K video by software. Not a good price to pay for those who do. So, models that offer good value for money with 1080p and 4k (H.264) hardware transcoding capability are listed below. Transcoding is only supported by all NAS for HEVC 4k videos, at this time.
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Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best Plex-compatible DIY, NAS, and pre-built media servers.
When it comes to NAS, one brand is completely in the game. Synology has all kinds of devices, from routers to NAS. Everything is supported by their mobile applications. You can download the appropriate software version of Synology apps from your phone’s default app store. You can also view them in your browser on Google Play. [Read: 5 Most Common Home NAS or Servers in Use]
Below is our pick for the best Synology NAS for Plex. However, we also provide some recommended models for those who are on a tight budget or have a little more to spare.
The Synology DS920+ is a worthy successor to the popular DS918+ model, which is recommended as the best NAS for Plex servers.
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The first thing that strikes you about the Synology DiskStation DS920+ is that it has two built-in M.2 2280 NVMe SSD slots with cache acceleration. Includes an upgraded Intel Celeron J4125 Intel Quad-core processor with AES-NI hardware encryption engine.
It ships with Synology DDR4-2666 Non-ECC RAM that can be expanded up to 8GB with Synology RAM DDR4-2666 ECC UDIMM 8GB (or a cheaper option from Crucial, which has been confirmed to be compatible). Unofficially, you can even go up to 16GB of RAM.
The DS920+ also supports up to 9 drives. Get some cheap Western Digital undoable external hard drives and you’re good to go.
Are you on a budget or have more to spare? Here are some other Synology NAS models compatible with Plex server (the number is not included due to the change in price and availability during the pandemic):
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QNAP is another major player in the NAS business with many powerful models and software support as good as Synology’s. QNAP’s offerings can be overwhelming. They have many models. In addition, they also released the high-performance TVS series with a very powerful yet efficient Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor with up to 32 GB of RAM.
Some models even include a 10 Gbps network interface, which is 10 times the bandwidth available on the most common consumer NAS in this field.
The QNAP TS-453Be Turbo NAS Mini Tower NAS Server from QNAP is a powerful Plex server with many great features running on quality hardware. With 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 hard drive capable of SATA 6Gb/s data transfer speeds.
TS-453Be uses QNAP QTS 4.3.4 operating system. If the TS-453Be is too expensive, there are other affordable models (eg, QNAP TS-253D) to consider.
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One advantage of QNAP (over Synology) is the availability of an HDMI port for video output. Synology NAS is only available through the web interface.
We also like the Synology NAS for Plex, and with better Docker Compose support on Synology, the possibilities are endless.
QNAP also offers some “high-end” models (TVS models). The QNAP TVS-672X’s 1.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-8400T processor comes with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, expandable to 64GB. This makes the QNAP TVS-672X one of the best 4K Plex server builds, capable of playing high-quality 4K media, real-time transcode, and displaying media via HDMI 2.0 (4K@60Hz).
TerraMaster has gained popularity as a budget NAS for Plex, as well as a general purpose NAS. Like Synology and QNAP, it’s easy to set up and supports Plex hardware transcoding for 4k video.
Getting Started With Plex By Choosing The Right Server And Storage
The TerraMaster F5-422 uses a 1.5GHz Quad-core Apollo CPU and 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB). It has 1 10GbE RJ45 port that is capable of extremely fast speeds of up to 670MB/s read and 650MB/s write. In addition to the 10GbE port, the F5-422 also has two 1GbE LAN ports with support for failover and link aggregation.
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