TerraMaster F2-223

How to pick the best NAS for creating a Plex Media Server

Plex is a popular streaming platform that allows one to catalog purchased media content, be it songs, movies, shows, photos, and more. It’s also a great way to cancel streaming subscriptions and enjoy free content, as well as buy movies and shows outright. This guide will help you choose the best NAS for running Plex Media Server.

What is Plex?

Plex Media Server
Viewing TV shows on Plex. (Source: NAS Master)

The easiest way to describe Plex is to merge Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Spotify. The service is free and allows one to stream and enjoy free content available through official channels. Where it truly shines is through its Plex Media Server package.

This allows just about anyone to create their very own media streaming service. All that’s required is some purchased/owned media and you’re good to go. Plex is excellent at taking movies, shows, and songs and ensuring it’s all cataloged with metadata, trailers, artwork, and more.

It then allows one to stream to any supported device (there are Plex apps available on just about everything) anywhere in the world, so long as you have an active data connection and the server is configured to do so. It’s easy to set up Plex Media Server with one of the best NAS for Plex we recommend.

What is the best Plex NAS?

Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray
Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray. (Source: NM)

To get the most out of Plex, you’ll need a beefy NAS enclosure with a decent processor. If all you plan on doing is streaming a few shows and songs, even the most affordable two-bay NAS will suffice. But for larger 4K movies where transcoding may need to take place, you’ll need some additional processing power.

Plex itself recommends more powerful enclosures if the plan is to put the platform under some strain. Transcoding would be required if subtitles are enabled, the recipient device doesn’t support the stored file (type, resolution, bit rate, etc.), or the quality requested is higher than what’s available through Plex.

There are two forms of transcoding: software and hardware-accelerated. Software transcoding is available through the free account with Plex and uses the CPU to run software-based calculations and this can prove fairly resource-intensive. Hardware-accelerated transcoding is available with the optional Plex Pass.

The latter allows the CPU to utilize specific components, be it an integrated GPU or other features, to more efficiently handle these tasks. This frees up the CPU to perform other NAS-related duties, allowing the server to be used while someone is streaming their favorite movie.

Regardless of whether you build your own DIY NAS or buy a prebuilt enclosure, we always recommend using only the best NAS drives for storing data.

How to transcode 4K media on Plex

To achieve butter-smooth performance with transcoding 4K or higher content through Plex, we’d recommend going with the most powerful processor available. That’s easier when building your own DIY NAS server, but it can prove difficult (and expensive) when going with a prebuilt diskless enclosure.

NAS enclosures with an Intel Core series processor do exist, but even an Intel Celeron chip will suffice. They have decent enough graphics processing and the necessary hardware for accelerated transcoding. Plex and its community manage a spreadsheet with the most popular NAS enclosures listed.

We’d recommend giving that list a gander when shopping around as it has data on just how effective each NAS is for transcoding at 720p, 1080p, and 2160p (or 4K). All of the enclosures we recommend here at NAS Master for Plex have processors that can transcode at a resolution of up to 4K.

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Our best Plex NAS recommendations

QNAP TS-464

Best Plex NAS

QNAP TS-464
QNAP TS-464. (Source: QNAP)

We’re huge fans of the QNAP TS-464. It’s an excellent NAS with plenty going for it, including a capable Intel processor, upgradeable RAM, and great connectivity.

CPUIntel Celeron N5105/N5095
(4-core, 2.9 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM4 GB DDR4
(16 GB max)
Bays4 (HDD/SSD)
Expansion2x M.2 2280 (SSD/PCIe)
1x PCIe 3.0 x2
Cooling1x 120 mm
Ports2x 2.5GbE
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2
2x USB 2.0
1x HDMI
Power draw~40.5 W
  • Intel Celeron N5095 CPU
  • 4GB of DDR4 RAM preinstalled
  • M.2 SSD bays
  • HDMI port and IR receiver
  • Good-looking NAS
  • PCIe 3.0
  • QTS UI is showing its age

QNAP’s TS-464 is a compelling enclosure for running Plex Media server. It has the mighty Intel Celeron N5105/N5095 processor, which is more than capable of transcoding 4K content with four physical cores, a burst speed of 2.9GHz, and hardware-accelerated transcoding support. Then there are the four bays for 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives.

The two 2.5GbE networking connections are more than enough to handle the required bandwidth for streaming media, particularly at higher resolutions. QNAP’s operating system for its branded NAS is also excellent. If all that wasn’t enough already, there’s even an IR receiver for using a remote with the NAS.

We found it to be one of the best NAS in our testing and had no problems enjoying 4K content on the big screen through Plex.

TerraMaster F4-423

Best value Plex NAS

TerraMaster F4-423
TerraMaster F4-423. (Source: TerraMaster)

TerraMaster’s F4-423 is a little more affordable than our other Plex NAS recommendations, but it’s no slouch. It has the same Intel processor, upgradeable RAM, and solid connectivity.

CPUIntel Celeron N5105/N5095
(4-core, 2.9 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM4 GB DDR4
(32 GB max)
Bays4 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion2x M.2 2280 (SSD/PCIe)
Cooling2x 80 mm
Ports2x 2.5GbE
2x USB-A 3.1
1x HDMI
Power draw~35.2 W
  • Intel Celeron N5105/N5095 CPU
  • 4GB upgradeable DDR4 RAM
  • 4 drive bays
  • Affordable
  • Decent OS
  • OS isn’t as refined
  • No expansion support
  • M.2 and RAM slots awkward to access

TerraMaster may be known for producing more aggressively priced enclosures, but don’t write off the TerraMaster F4-423. This is an affordable NAS with some serious specifications. It has the same processor as our QNAP top recommendation and comes with 4GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be expanded up to 32GB.

There are also two M.2 slots for adding SSD caching support if it’s required to give the NAS a slight performance boost. The operating system isn’t quite as good as what you’d find with QNAP, ASUSTOR, and Synology NAS but the company is actively improving the UI to bring it up to speed.

We were positive about the TerraMaster F4-423 in our review, awarding it our editors’ choice award.

QNAP TVS-H874X-i9

Best Plex NAS for performance

QNAP TVS-H874X
QNAP TVS-H874X. (Source: QNAP)

When you want to go all-out with Plex media streaming, look no further than this monstrous QNAP NAS. It’s expensive, but well worth it if you want to transcode all your media and run other services on the same server.

CPUIntel Core i9-12900
(16-core, 5.10 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics 770
RAM64 GB DDR4
(64 GB max)
Bays8 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion2x M.2 2280 (SSD/PCIe)
1x PCIe 4.0 x16
1x PCIe 4.0 x4
Cooling2x 120 mm
1x 60 mm
Ports2x 10GbE
2x 2.5GbE
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1x HDMI 1.4b
Power draw~65 W
  • Intel Core i9-12900 CPU
  • 32GB upgradable DDR4 RAM
  • 8 drive bays
  • 1x 10Gb LAN
  • Excellent OS
  • Expensive
  • High power draw

Now is the time to move into the extreme performance bracket with the impressive QNAP TVS-H874X-i9. QNAP is alone in the enclosure world in producing NAS with Intel Core i9 chips. These are the same processors one would typically find in desktop computers, offering incredible levels of performance for a NAS.

This also makes the TVS-H874X-i9 incredibly well-suited for 4K (and above) media transcoding. Having such performance on tap does make this rather power-hungry when compared to other NAS we’d recommend for running Plex Media Server. Should you be on the hunt for the absolute best experience available, you’ve just found it.

How to install Plex on NAS

Synology DSM Plex
Plex in Synology’s Package Manager. (Source: NAS Master)

The process of installing Plex Media Server on NAS is largely the same between brands. It’s possible to install the package either manually by downloading PMS from the official website or through a NAS app store. We’ve written guides for specific brands, which can be found below:

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