Streaming services for media have taken the world by storm but did you know you can run your own streaming platform right from your home? All you need is a network-attached storage (NAS) server and purchased movies, TVs, and music. I’ve rounded up the best NAS for Plex to help you create a smart home media server.
- Best overall: QNAP TVS-672XT-i3 — Intel Core i3 CPU, 6 bays, 8GB RAM, 10Gb LAN.
- Runner-up: ASUSTOR Lockerstor 4 Gen2 (AS6704T) — Intel CPU, 4 bays, 4GB RAM, 2.5Gb LAN.
- Best budget: TerraMaster F4-421 — Intel Celeron CPU, 4 bays, 4GB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
- Best value: Synology DiskStation DS220+ — Intel Celeron CPU, 2 bays, 2GB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
- Best performance: QNAP TVS-872XT-i5 — Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 bays, 8GB RAM, 10Gb LAN.
- Best capacity: QNAP TVS-H1688X — Intel Xeon CPU, 16 bays, 2GB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
- Best entry-level: Synology DiskStation DS220j — ARM CPU, 2 bays, 512MB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
What is the best NAS for Plex?
Most of the factors used to purchase the best NAS enclosure are still valid for picking the best NAS for Plex. While you can use an affordable enclosure for Plex to stream music and some older content, you’ll have a hard time transcoding any files if they aren’t supported by the recipient device.
If all you plan to do is stream music, you can get away with a NAS rocking an ARM processor with a few drive bays. You only really require more than four bays if you’re going into 4K territory since these files can really take up free space.
Leading NAS enclosure brands like Synology, QNAP, and ASUSTOR all make servers that are more than good enough for Plex. My favorite NAS for Plex is the QNAP TVS-672XT-i3 thanks to the impressive Intel Core i3 processor.
It may be a little too much for most people, but my other recommendations are also some fine picks. The Synology DiskStation DS920+ is more affordable but still comes packing a punch with an Intel Celeron processor, M.2 cache support, and upgradeable RAM.
But if you don’t have much budget to spare on a media server, it may be worthwhile to start off with something small and budget-friendly. The Synology DiskStation DS220j only has an ARM processor and two drive bays, but it will work just fine for some tunes and photos.
For a Plex NAS, you need to consider what media you’ll be streaming and what devices you’ll use to enjoy it. Music is an easy one since the files are small and it doesn’t require much effort on the part of the NAS. It’s when you come to 4K content that you’ll need to consider carefully.
Price comes into it and is vital when you’re looking at enclosures for Plex and multimedia. The processor and other parts of the internals are what really ramp up the price of a NAS. The higher the quality of your content and the more people you want simultaneously streaming it all, the better the components you’ll require.
When it comes to picking the best NAS drives, I’d recommend hard drives from reputable brands such as Seagate or Western Digital. SSDs are brilliant for cutting down on power consumption, noise, and vibrations, but you’ll be paying for the luxury with inflated prices compared to mechanical drives.
I’d recommend getting your enclosure online from reputable sources like Amazon. Fear not if you want to get up and running with your NAS sooner and enjoy other Amazon services, give Amazon Prime a go for free with the 30-day trial.
1. QNAP TVS-672XT-i3: Best overall NAS
My thoughts: The QNAP TVS-672XT-i3 has everything you need for a very powerful Plex media server. It has an Intel Core i3 processor, upgradeable RAM, six drive bays, and even Thunderbolt support.
CPU: Intel Core i3-8100t | Drive bays: 6 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (max 32GB) | Features: 1x 10Gb LAN, 2x USB-C 3.1, upgradable RAM
- Intel Core i3-8100t CPU
- 8GB upgradeable DDR4 RAM
- 6x drive bays (96TB max)
- 1x 10Gb LAN
- Excellent OS
Most NAS servers come with ARM or Intel Celeron processors, but the QNAP TVS-672XT-i3 comes rocking a powerful 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8100t with four cores and a clock speed of 3.1GHz. This is more than enough for 4K transcoding of media thanks to the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics.
As well as the processor, there’s 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be boosted to 32GB should you need additional capacity. The six drive bays allow for a storage pool of up to 96TB before taking into account RAID configurations for data redundancy.
Other handy features that help make this a worthwhile investment for the future are the two Thunderbolt 3 ports for hooking up accessories. Then there’s the 10Gb LAN connection to allow for simultaneous file transfer or streaming of 4K content.
The icing on the cake is the available HDMI 2.0 port on the rear of this NAS. It means you can play content directly to your TV without needing to use the network and this would negate any requirement for transcoding.
My favorite NAS for Plex is the QNAP TVS-672XT-i3. It’s overkill for many new to the world of Plex and NAS, but the Intel Core i3 processor is king for 4K transcoding.
2. ASUSTOR LOCKERSTOR 4 Gen2 (AS6704T): Runner-up
My thoughts: I’m a big fan of the ASUSTOR LOCKERSTOR 4 Gen2 with its impressive specs sheets, capable processor, expandable RAM and drive bay, as well as four M.2 slots. The HDMI port is the icing on a very sweet cake.
CPU: Intel Celeron N5105 | Drive bays: 4 | RAM: 4GB DDR4 (max 32GB) | Features: 2x 2.5Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.0, upgradable RAM
- Intel Celeron N5105 CPU
- 4GB upgradable DDR4 RAM
- 4x drive bays (80TB max)
- 2x 2.5Gb LAN (with aggregation)
- Excellent OS
ASUSTOR NAS has come a long way to better take on Synology and the second generation of LOCKERSTOR enclosures are a testament to the company’s efforts. The ASUSTOR LOCKERSTOR 4 Gen2 (AS6704T), in particular, is amazing for running Plex Media Server.
Firstly, we’ve got the almighty Intel Celeron N5105 processor. It’s not quite as good as the Intel Core i3 processor in my top recommendation, but it’ll be able to handle some 4K transcoding. Not that you’d require it, thanks to the included HDMI port, allowing direct connection to a TV.
The 4GB of DDR4 RAM should be more than enough, even for multiple people streaming their favorite shows, but ASUSTOR has made it so you can upgrade this capacity to a whopping 32GB. The four drive bays can take 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives and four additional M.2 slots can be utilized for caching or storage.
There are two 2.5Gb LAN ports that should be more than enough for transferring big data, but again ASUSOTR went one step further and added support for installing an optional 10Gb LAN card. There’s not really anything negative to say about this NAS other than it’s a little pricey.
ASUSTOR LOCKERSTOR 4 Gen2 (AS6704T)
This four-bay NAS has everything you need to set up a very powerful Plex Media Server. It even has four M.2 slots for plenty of solid-state expansion.
3. TerraMaster F4-421: Best budget
My thoughts: The TerraMaster F4-421 is a mixed bag in terms of specifications, but it makes up for all this with the low price. For a four-bay NAS, this is a great entry point for someone looking to set up their own Plex media server.
CPU: Intel Celeron J3455 | Drive bays: 4 | RAM: 4GB DDR4 (max 8GB) | Features: 2x 1Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.0, upgradable RAM
- Intel Celeron J3455 CPU
- 4GB upgradeable DDR4 RAM
- 4x drive bays (64TB max)
- Decent OS
- No M.2 slots
- OS isn’t as refined
- Slightly slower Intel CPU
TerraMaster makes some great value NAS enclosures. The TerraMaster F4-421 is an Intel-powered NAS enclosure with four drive bays. The CPU in question is the slightly older and less capable Intel Celeron J3455 (compared to other Intel Celeron NAS in this collection), but it’s still good enough for 4K transcoding.
This is how TerraMaster is able to keep the price down of its NAS enclosures compared to the competition. There’s still 4GB of RAM out of the box and you can increase this to 8GB. The four drive bays will allow for a storage capacity of up to 64TB.
There are a few minor drawbacks with the F4-421, the first being the TerraMaster OS (TOS). It’s simply not as refined as the operating systems from the likes of Synology, ASUSTOR, and QNAP. It’s not awful, but you will notice the difference if you’re used to other vendor enclosures.
Then there’s the lack of any 2.5Gb networking or M.2 slots for SSD cache. These are more advanced features, but you can find them on other NAS that don’t cost too much more than the F4-421. Still, if you’re on a tight budget and want a four-bay enclosure, this is a great choice.
While the OS could be improved (and surely will be with future updates), the TerraMaster F4-421 is a brilliant value offering with an Intel CPU, four bays, and upgradeable RAM.
4. Synology DiskStation DS220+: Best value
My thoughts: We’re moving onto my all-time favourite NAS enclosure for most homeowners. The Synology DiskStation DS220+ is simply brilliant, though some may find the two drive bays a little restricting with storing media.
CPU: Intel Celeron J4025 | Drive bays: 2 | RAM: 2GB DDR4 (max 6GB) | Features: 2x 1Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.0, upgradable RAM
- Intel Celeron J4025 CPU
- 2GB upgradable DDR4 RAM
- 2x drive bays (32TB max)
- 2x 1Gb LAN (with aggregation)
- Excellent OS
- No M.2 SSD slots
- No 2.5Gb LAN ports
- Limited RAID support
The best NAS for home and office also makes for quite a compelling enclosure for installing and using Plex. If you don’t plan on storing too many media files or want to simply get started to see how running your own streaming service fares against Netflix, give the Synology DiskStation DS220+ a try.
This is the best value NAS, balancing price and performance. Inside, you’ll find the powerful Intel Celeron J4025 processor with 2GB of DDR4 RAM. The memory can be upgraded to 6GB, in case you run into scenarios where more RAM is needed. The CPU will easily handle some 4K transcoding through Plex.
I say this NAS is a great option for those who don’t have hundreds of movies purchased and downloaded since we’re limited to just two drive bays, making it easy to fill up the few drives with just 32TB of storage capacity. And that’s without factoring in RAID, which will reduce this to about 16TB.
It’s not all bad as there are two 1Gb LAN ports and you can connect both to your router or switch that will allow the connection to be doubled up for enhanced bandwidth. This is one of the best two-bay NAS out there.
Synology DiskStation DS220+
If you want to save money but need a NAS enclosure that will do much more than run a media server, I’d recommend looking at the DiskStation DS220+.
5. QNAP TVS-872XT-i5: Best performance
My thoughts: There’s only one part of the QNAP TVS-872XT-i5 that I don’t like and that’s the price. The reason it’s so expensive is due to the internal components, including an Intel Core i5 processor, 10Gb LAN ports, and more.
CPU: Intel Core i5-8400T | Drive bays: 8 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (max 32GB) | Features: 1x 10Gb LAN, 2x 1Gb LAN, 2x Thunderbolt 3, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2x M.2 slots
- Intel Core i5-8400T CPU
- 16GB upgradable DDR4 RAM
- 8x drive bays (128TB+ max)
- 1x 10Gb LAN
- Excellent OS
- High power draw
If you want to get a little more serious with Plex and other media streaming services, you’ll want the QNAP TVS-872XT-i5. While it’s a little old now, the Intel Core i5-8400T processor is vastly more powerful than Celeron and other processors you’d usually find inside NAS servers.
It’s also got two additional bays compared to our top Core i3 pick for Plex. This level of performance is perfect for services like Plex Media Server. It’ll easily handle multiple 4K transcodes simultaneously, making this NAS a better fit for multiple accounts streaming media. To ensure you have enough throughput for networking, there are two Gigabit ports and a single 10Gb port.
But wait, there’s more! The preinstalled 16GB of DDR4 RAM can be upgraded to 32GB if you really need that much memory. The eight drive bays with secondary expansion slots ensure you can install more drives that you’ll require. It’s a powerful enclosure with a solid collection of I/O, allowing you to hook up plenty of hardware and accessories.
If you can somehow afford this NAS, it’s one of the best and most powerful enclosures for running a media server. You’ll only beat this by building your own NAS.
This is the same NAS as our top Plex NAS pick but has two additional drive bays and an upgraded Core i5 processor. This makes it even better for media streaming.
6. QNAP TVS-H1688X: Best capacity
My thoughts: The QNAP TVS-H1688X is a monstrous NA enclosure. It has everything you require to set up and run a Plex media server capable of transcoding 4K movies and more. It has 12 bays for 3.5-inch drives and a further four SSD bays, as well as two M.2 cache SSD slots.
CPU: Intel Xeon W-1250 | Drive bays: 16 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (UDIMM max 64GB, RDIMM max 128GB) | Features: 4x 2.5Gb LAN, 2x 10Gb LAN, 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 2x M.2 slots
- Intel Xeon W-1250 CPU
- 8GB upgradable DDR4 RAM
- 16x drive bays (192TB+ max)
- 2x 10Gb, 4x 2.5Gb LAN
- Excellent OS
- High power draw
When only the highest capacity will suffice, you’ll want to consider the excellent QNAP TVS-H1688X. It’s a monstrous NAS enclosure that can hold an insane amount of data. There are 12 drive bays to start with, followed by four SSD bays and a further two M.2 SSD slots.
To ensure the NAS can keep up with all this data, QNAP decided to install an Intel Xeon W-1250 CPU. This processor is also a monster, much like other server-grade Xeon processors enthusiasts love to use. It’s vastly superior to Celeron and Pentium offerings found in NAS enclosures. It’ll handle 4K movie transcoding and then some.
This NAS is best suited for file storage in a busy household or bustling office. The massive capacity is joined by four 2.5Gb LAN ports and two 10Gb LAN ports. For USB, QNAP has you covered with a total of two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports and four USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports. The price is a little high for most NAS owners, and the power draw will make anyone looking to save on their energy bills look the other way.
If you have some serious data to store and want to enjoy large 4K movies, you’re going to need a NAS with countless bays. This is where the QNAP TVS-H1688X comes into play.
7. Synology DiskStation DS220j: Best entry level
My thoughts: The DS220j should only really be used for streaming music as the two drive bays will limit just what you can store on the NAS. The CPU also isn’t particularly good with no transcoding support.
CPU: Realtek RTD1296 | Drive bays: 2 | RAM: 512MB DDR3L (max 512MB) | Features: 1x 1Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.2
- Almost silent
- 64-bit ARM CPU
- Low power draw
- Excellent OS
- No M.2 SSD slots
- No 2.5Gb LAN ports
- Sluggish CPU performance
For those seeking the absolute most affordable NAS to run a media server, look no further than the Synology DiskStation DS220j. The DS120j is cheaper, but it doesn’t have two drive bays, which is a must-have for media servers.
Instead of an Intel CPU, we’re looking at the Realtek RTD1296. It’s an ARM processor, which is perfectly fine for efficient NAS operation but may struggle when you want to do more demanding tasks. For Ple and other media services, you’ll get by with some music streaming and possibly a 1080p stream of your favorite movie or TV show, but any transcoding is out of reach.
This NAS is built for file storage rather than media, showcased by the 512MB of DDR3L RAM. This NAS should only be considered if you want to test the waters and don’t plan on spending too much on your first server.
Synology DiskStation DS220j
The DiskStation DS220j is incredibly affordable. It’s the most affordable NAS on our list here, rocking an ARM processor and non-upgradeable RAM. It’s best suited for music and photo streaming.
What about the other best NAS?
There are some excellent NAS enclosures out there. So long as you choose one with a decent processor and more than two drive bays, you should be good. If you plan to transcode 4K content, this is when you’ll need to be extra careful in picking an enclosure to ensure the CPU is up to the task.
What is transcoding?
Transcoding is when a server needs to convert a file from one type to another. This is required when the recipient device doesn’t support the file type. For instance, if you have a 4K movie saved in a format that isn’t supported by your TV (or a device with a different resolution), your server will need to convert it while streaming.
This is incredibly CPU intensive, compared to simply serving a file over a network. Most Intel Celeron processors will be able to transcode a 4K movie, though ARM processors are completely out of the question. The more powerful the NAS, the higher the price and the better the transcoding support.
What CPU do you need?
The better the processor (and its integrated GPU), the more performance you’ll have available for running Plex Media Server and transcoding any media. It’s important to consider the workload that will be placed upon the NAS and the CPU, especially when more than one person starts streaming.
An Intel Celeron processor is generally fast enough for handling the transcoding of media files up to 4K. This is usually only good for a single stream, however. Moving up into the Intel Core processor family and you’ll be able to push the NAS further, but the price of the enclosure will also balloon.
An ARM processor isn’t particularly potent for transcoding. Usually, these lesser powerful enclosures are only good for streaming music. It all comes down to what types of media you have available and how many people you plan on using the server.