Choosing the right NAS to become a Plex media server

Synology DS218+

Synology DS218+

Source: Windows Central

Best NAS for Plex Windows Central 2019

The Synology DS218+ isn’t the most powerful NAS you can set up, but it is one of the better equipped prebuilt models offered by the company. Featuring a 64-bit Intel Celeron processor, it’s possible to stream 4K content to devices that support the same file format without issue.

If you’re holding off buying a new NAS to see what deals come up this Black Friday, you’re going to be able to enjoy some considerable discounts. Our picks here may be discounted through the month of November, but if they’re not, you’ll be able to score savings on other servers that allow you to install and run Plex. We’ll be refreshing our buyer’s guide to make sure you’re getting the best buying advice for Black Friday.

Our pick

Synology DS218+

Synology’s popular value-driven NAS offering

Synology strikes a balance between performance and price with the DS218+, which rocks two drive bays, an Intel processor, upgradable RAM, and an excellent OS.

Who should buy this NAS

If you’re new to the NAS game or need only two bays for storage, the DS218+ is one of the more popular options from Synology, and for good reason. Not only is it powered by an energy-efficient processor that can handle most tasks you’d perform on a home NAS, but it’s also more than capable of running a Plex server.

Is it a good time to buy this NAS?

It’s never a bad time to purchase a NAS, especially one from Synology, QNAP and other companies. Newer revisions mostly pack the latest hardware, meaning you’ll only be missing out on the next-gen CPU once the successor to the DS218+ is eventually released. The bump is performance is expected to be negligible, and you’ll still receive DSM OS updates.

Reasons to buy

  • DSM is excellent
  • Sleek and compact chassis
  • Great software support
  • Quick eject bays

Reasons not to buy

  • Only one Ethernet port
  • Can get very expensive with HDDs
  • Cannot handle 4K transcoding

Ideal for a home Plex server

Synology DS218+

Synology DS218+

Source: Windows Central

Synology opted to include a power-efficient Intel Celeron CPU, 2GB of RAM and two drive bays in the Ds218+, making it ideal as a mid-range or starter NAS. This allows up to 24TB of data to be stored, though we’d only recommend 12TB. Since you should have both drives in a RAID configuration for redundancy, you’ll likely never run out of space as a home NAS.

Synology DS218+ is a great balance between performance and price.

It can also handle Plex, which transforms the NAS into a media server for music, photos, videos, and more. The processor is more than capable of handling multiple connections to the Plex server and can even stream 4K content to a compatible device like a tablet, PC, or smart TV. In short, it can do pretty much everything you’d need.

It’s not perfect, however. No NAS is, and should you need to transcode 4K content you’ll be met by a few hurdles.

Stream and enjoy 4K movies

Synology DS218+

Synology DS218+

Source: Windows Central

Regardless of the NAS you select, it’s likely you won’t be able to transcode 4K content, which is just the nature of the game. These units are small PCs and as such, the available performance is rather limited when we consider just how much power is needed for handling 4K content that can’t simply be streamed to a device.

If you own a TV that can handle the same format your 4K movies are stored as on the DS218+, you’ll be able to stream them without issue. It’s when the formats don’t match up with the compatibility of the recipient device, which is when we need the extra horsepower to transcode the file and make it work. Depending on the processor, it’ll either work to a certain degree with buffering and performance dips or not at all.

If you’re serious about 4K entertainment and have the available funds to spare (and don’t need a small form factor NAS), it’s better to build your own media server PC, which can house a desktop-class processor, GPU, and more RAM. The drawback is the requirement to use a NAS OS like FreeNAS and do everything yourself.

Alternatives to the Synology DS218+

You may need more than two drive bays or the DS218+ may be just out of your budget range. This is where our alternative recommendations come in.

Power pick

QNAP TVS-471-i3

Comes with everything you require

When an Intel Celeron processor just can’t keep up with a busy household, a Core i3 may be better positioned to handle everything you’re throwing at the NAS. While you’d think this bump in available performance would mean 4K transcoding, but alas this NAS falls short there too. This QNAP NAS isn’t cheap but it does come with four drive bays.

QNAP’s TVS-471 with an Intel Core i3 processor is a powerful prebuilt NAS, but it shouldn’t be considered the saving grace for handling 4K transcoding. The processor may still find it difficult to handle all that data, but where it can shine is by running a Plex server alongside other handy services like surveillance.

Capacity pick

Synology DS918+

The DS918+ from Synology is just a larger version of the DS218+

You could consider the NAS a bloated DS218+, packing similar hardware with the addition of a further two bays, allowing for up to four drives to be installed for massive amounts of capacity.

The DS918+ is a robust NAS for a small office or home. The newer Celeron processor offers an uptick in performance, and the ability to slot in two NVMe SSDs for data caching will come in handy for office environments. It’s a great, versatile NAS with plenty of potential.

Bottom line

Synology did a stellar job with the DS218+ NAS, which offers ample performance for a home NAS and can even handle Plex streaming. There are other NAS models available too if the DS218+ doesn’t quite meet your requirements.

How to find the best Black Friday deals on NAS servers

When considering a NAS, you need to consider a few things. Firstly, do you really need to transcode 4K content? Transcoding is different to simply streaming, so if you have a 4K movie stored on a NAS that’s in a format not accepted by say your smart TV, the NAS will need to transcode the movie into a format accepted by the TV. This requires a considerable amount of power, which most NAS servers simply cannot achieve with smooth results. If you buy an affordable NAS with this goal in mind, prepare to endure plenty of buffering.

There are also different companies with their own operating systems. QNAP, Synology, and TerraMaster are our favorites for user-friendly experiences. Other factors of a NAS, including RAM and available bays depends on your budget and aren’t particularly important for Plex. (So long as you have more than 1GB RAM you should be good.) Planning to buy a 4K-capable NAS for Plex will require some considerable cash, but you could save with Black Friday deals.

We’re expecting to see many Black Friday deals on NAS servers this year, including models from QNAP, Synology, and TerraMaster. Whether you need a two-bay or five-bay server, you should be able to enjoy some form of discount to make the purchasing decision a little easier, especially given you’ll need to buy hard drives separately.

Our dedicated deals squad is ready to tackle all the Black Friday deals on the horizon, bringing you the latest deals on the more affordable or premium NAS servers, so be sure to check Windows Central often throughout Black Friday.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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