When shopping around for the best NAS, if you have Plex in mind as to what you'll be using your NAS for, there are a few additional factors to consider. To enjoy all your favorite 4K content, you'll need to have a capable NAS enclosure, which means a powerful CPU. That's where this collection of enclosures comes into play, allowing you to take your media to the big screen without any buffering.
The best Plex NAS at a glance
- QNAP TVS-672XT — Best overall: Intel CPU, 6 bays, 8GB RAM, 10Gb LAN.
- ASUSTOR NIMBUSTOR 4 (AS5304T) — Best runner-up: Intel CPU, 4 bays, 4GB RAM, 2.5Gb LAN.
- TerraMaster F2-221 — Best affordable: Intel CPU, 2 bays, 2GB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
- QNAP TVS-872XT-i5 — Best performance: Intel CPU, 8 bays, 16GB RAM, 10Gb LAN.
- Synology DiskStation DS220+ — Best value: Intel CPU, 2 bays, 2GB RAM, 1Gb LAN.
- QNAP TS-H886 — Best capacity: Intel CPU, 8 bays, 16GB RAM, 2.5Gb LAN.
How to choose the best NAS for Plex
Choosing the best NAS for home is one thing, but picking the right NAS for Plex is a whole different game. It's easy to look at the most affordable enclosures available and pick them for Plex, which would be sufficient for music and phones. Still, if you plan on transcoding and streaming 4K content, you'll need powerful components for Plex NAS compatibility.
Many vendors produce NAS enclosures that are great for Plex (and some transcoding); it's simply the case of picking out the highlight models. You can easily find at least one from the likes of Synology, QNAP, and ASUSTOR. If we were to recommend one NAS for you to buy to have the best Plex experience, it would be the QNAP TVS-672XT. It's powerful enough for Plex with plenty of other features.
A good runner-up is the ASUSTOR NIMBUSTOR 4 (AS5304T), which also has some kick-ass networking for game streamers and a unique design. And if you want to save some money or don't plan on storing too many media files, the Synology DiskStation DS220+ is a sound choice for an affordable Plex that houses an Intel CPU and supports for Plex Media Server.
It all comes down to what you plan on using a Plex NAS media server for. If it's merely music and photo streaming, you can get away with vastly less powerful and more affordable NAS enclosures. It's movies and shows where transcoding may be required, especially for 4K content, where you'll need additional firepower unless the NAS has HDMI output.
It's all about the processor. For Plex, you're going to want an Intel processor at the very least. Intel Atom, Celeron, and Core series processors are all different, too, with certain SKUs only supporting 1080p transcoding. If you plan on primarily playing 4K content that may require transcoding to recipient devices, an Intel Core processor is certainly the way to go. Still, the enclosure would be considerably more costly.
Best NAS for Plex
Bottom line: The QNAP TVS-672XT is the best NAS for Plex in our collection. It houses an Intel Core i3-8100T processor, which is ideal for the transcoding of 4K movies, and there are eight drive bays for storing all your favorite shows, music, movies, and photos. The single 10Gb LAN port is brilliant for high-speed networks. This NAS ticks all the right boxes.
CPU: Intel Core i3-8100T | Drive bays: 6 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (max 32GB) | Features: 1x 10Gb LAN, 2x Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2, HDMI
The QNAP TVS-672XT is the best NAS for Plex, in my opinion. The balance between price and functionality is excellent, making it the most powerful enclosure for this price point by a country mile. This is primarily due to the impressive Intel Core i3-8100T processor, which is far beyond the Intel Celeron CPUs found in more affordable (and sometimes more expensive) enclosures.
It's not the best CPU you can find in a NAS, but if you plan on going for an Intel Core i5 or Core i7, you'll be expected to pay for the luxury. The integrated graphics and four physical cores are more than a match for 4K transcoding, which is required if you want to stream a 4K movie to a TV or other receiving device that doesn't support the file format.
The Intel Core CPU is joined by 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be upgraded to 32GB, further cementing this NAS as a substantial investment for the future. The eight drive bays are more than enough for storing all your media with up to 96TB of capacity available.
But the highlight specifications don't end there. There is a single 10Gb LAN port, potentially handling network speeds upwards of 1000MB/s. Then you have USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 ports and a further single USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, as well as HDMI. The only drawback to this NAS is the price, which can put some people off.
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ASUSTOR NIMBUSTOR 4 (AS5304T)
Best runner-up NAS for Plex
Bottom line: The NIMBUSTOR 4 (AS5304T) is a brilliant NAS from ASUSTOR, rocking a striking design that sets it apart from the rest of the enclosure lineup. However, it's not all about looks since this NAS has a capable Intel CPU, plenty of RAM, and fast networking.
CPU: Intel Celeron J4105 | Drive bays: 4 | RAM: 4GB DDR4 (max 8GB) | Features: 2x 2.5Gb LAN, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI 2.0a
The ASUSTOR AS5304T is an excellent NAS. It's almost the best NAS for Plex. You can use it for home file storage, game streaming, and even Plex. The rather beefy Intel Celeron J4105 CPU is a cracking processor and has enough performance to handle even 4K movie transcoding. It's not the best around but is perfectly matched for media consumption.
There's 4GB of DDR4 RAM that is ample for most tasks, including Plex, but it's upgradable if you wish to install modules up to 8GB in capacity. ASUSTOR's OS is as good as QNAP and Synology. There are plenty of apps and third-party services that can be hooked into this enclosure to expand its capabilities.
Rocking dual-2.5Gb LAN almost eliminates any network bottlenecks, so long as your LAN infrastructure can keep up. This is especially important if you're a streamer and are looking for something that can handle the bandwidth that comes with offloading recorded media.
There is a downside to this enclosure, and that's the price, which puts it above other four-bay enclosures, but you get so much more for your money here. It isn't easy to find speedy LAN ports without going far beyond your budget, even though vendors are working to bring faster ports to more affordable NAS models.
ASUSTOR NIMBUSTOR 4 (AS5304T)
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Absolute best affordable NAS to use with Plex
Bottom line: Two is the magic number for the F2-221, not only in the model number but also with the specifications. It has 2GB of RAM, two 1Gb LAN ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Oh, and two drive bays. Your affordable entrance to the wonderful world of NAS and Plex awaits you.
CPU: Intel Celeron J3355 | Drive bays: 2 | RAM: 2GB DDR4 (max 6GB) | Features: 2x 1Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.0
The TerraMaster F2-221 is an impressive NAS. It has but two drive bays so you won't be storing much on this enclosure if you configure RAID (and you really should). So that leaves 16TB of capacity, which could be increased using an external storage unit. But it's the processor where this little unit truly shines.
The Intel Celeron J3355 is good enough to handle most of the things you need to do with Plex. Stream to multiple devices? Check. Transcode a few movies that aren't compatible? Check. It's when you want to try to enjoy 4K content that requires transcoding is where it all starts to fall apart. So long as everything is in line, you can watch 4K movies on this small enclosure.
This is aided by the fact that TerraMaster lets you upgrade the 2GB RAM to 6GB. That's equally impressive for such an affordable NAS enclosure. Add in the two 1Gb ports and two USB 3.0 ports, and you've got an excellent starter enclosure for anyone who has yet to own a NAS or set up and enjoy Plex Media Server.
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Best NAS for Plex with amazing performance
Bottom line: If you want something a little more potent than the rest of our picks here, there's always the QNAP TVS-872XT-i5 with its Core i5 processor. This processor is a dream for those wanting to set up and run a Plex Media Server. Want to stream 4K movies to multiple devices? No problem.
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
There are NAS enclosures, and then there are NAS enclosures. The QNAP TVS-872XT-i5 is something else. Intel Celeron processors are great, so too is an Intel Core i3, but how does an Intel Core i5 CPU sound? That's precisely what this enclosure can be configured with. We've highlighted the model with an Intel Core i5-8400T processor.
This CPU is a monster for anything you wish to do with the NAS, but even for Plex, it's excellent for transcoding 4K content to multiple devices. If you have a busy home that loves to consume media, this is a great enclosure to consider. It's not all about the CPU, though. The CPU would be bottlenecked if QNAP didn't include enough RAM.
Inside, the TVS-882BRT3 comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM installed, but you can easily upgrade it to a whopping 64GB if needed. That's more than what even the more capable desktop PCs have available. Then there's the fact this thing comes with two Gigabit ports and one 10Gb port so you can link them up for increased bandwidth for all the streaming.
The eight drive bays allow you to store up to 128TB of data, not taking into account RAID configurations for data redundancy. Still, you do get a few Thunderbolt 3 ports. If you can afford such an enclosure, you'll be bound to have a good time since this is the best NAS for Plex in terms of performance.
Reasons to buy
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Synology DiskStation DS220+
A great affordable and value NAS for Plex pick
Bottom line: My pick for the best affordable Plex NAS Synology simply has to be the DiskStation DS220+. The company recently released this enclosure with improved internals and a better CPU. It's a fantastic NAS enclosure for the price and can even handle some 4K transcoding, should you require it.
CPU: Intel Celeron J4025 | Drive bays: 2 | RAM: 2GB DDR4 (max 6GB) | Features: 2x 1Gb LAN, 2x USB 3.0, upgradable RAM
The Synology DiskStation DS220+ may be considerably more affordable than our top NAS picks for Plex, but don't let that fool you into assuming it won't be able to handle its own. This capable enclosure comes rocking an Intel Celeron J4025 processor, which is more than enough to handle 4K transcoding of movies, so long as you only have one stream running.
It's not all about the CPU, however, which is why Synology included 2GB of DDR4 RAM, and you can upgrade that later if you find yourself hitting capacity often. The only drawback is two drive bays, which does restrict just how much you can store on the NAS. If you configure the drives to be in a RAID configuration (and we recommend you do), you'll be left with up to 16TB of storage space.
Other highlights include two 1Gb LAN ports that can be linked together to increase available bandwidth to your router or switch. There are a few USB ports too that let you hook up external storage or accessories. The OS is one of the best around from Synology, allowing you to get more done.
Installing drives inside this enclosure is also a breeze, thanks to the hot-swappable tool-less design of the bays. Simply extract, install the drive, and re-insert, and you're good to go. This isn't the best NAS out there for Plex, but it won't cause a hole in your wallet.
Synology DiskStation DS220+ NAS
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Top pick for people who need a LOT of storage
Bottom line: The QNAP TS-H886 is an excellent NAS. It has a powerful Intel Xeon D-1622 processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM preinstalled, four 12.5Gb ports, and two expansion slots. This is a NAS you should consider if you need a capable storage device to store plenty of media with the capability of driving 4K transcoding.
CPU: Intel Xeon D-1622 | Drive bays: 8 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (max 128GB) | Features: 4x 2.5Gb LAN, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 2x M.2 slots
The QNAP TS-H886 is what you need for storing countless movies and shows. We could have gone with a 12-bay NAS with a mediocre processor, but if you plan to store more than 100TB worth of content, chances are some of it will be in 4K. It's got one impressive CPU, making it easily the best NAS for Plex if you need power.
This is where the Intel Xeon D-1622 comes into play. It's powerful enough to make mince work of 1080p transcoding and can even have a bash at 4K, so long as you don't have a bunch of clients attempting to do so simultaneously. This beefy CPU is joined by 8GB of expandable RAM and eight drive bays in total — six for HDDs and a further two for SSDs.
For networking, QNAP decided to go with four 2.5Gb ports, so there's plenty to play with here, even if you've yet to upgrade your home network to 2.5Gb/s. The addition of two M.2 slots allows you to install two SSDs to act as caching and improve performance further.
Reasons to buy
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What about all other NAS enclosures?
To say there are enough NAS enclosures to choose from is an understatement. The choice available is immense, but not so much for Plex. If you don't like the look of our top pick, there are plenty of other shortlisted enclosures worth considering for installing and running a Plex Media Server.
It's possible to get similarly powered enclosures from different vendors too. It doesn't have to be Synology. You can easily pick a good NAS that will run Plex well from ASUSTOR, QNAP, among others. If you want to stream your favorite shows, movies, music, and some photos, most NAS enclosures with an Intel processor will be enough.
When you enter the world of 4K content and incompatibilities between the server and receiving hardware (be it your smart TV, phone, etc.), transcoding is required. This is where the processor matters most, and you need a perfect one to keep up with 4K. You could always go it alone and build your own FreeNAS Plex Media Server.
What is Plex?
Plex is an online media streaming service, much like Netflix or Amazon Prime. You can access free and premium content like other on-demand platforms, but Plex has a killer feature set if you own media outright. Plex Media Server (or PMS for short) is a piece of software that can be run on your PC to host music, movies, TV shows, photos, and more from your media library.
Devices can then connect to this server and stream content from anywhere. Where you can take this experience to the next level is by adding a network-attached storage (NAS) enclosure. It's not good to run your PC all the time when a server with a far lower power draw can do the same job and then some. This is where our Plex NAS collection comes into play.
By purchasing a NAS, a few hard drives, and installing Plex Media Server, you can quickly create your own home entertainment system. We have a comprehensive Plex beginner's guide available should you wish to learn more about the media platform.
What makes a good NAS enclosure for Plex?
A good NAS enclosure for Plex needs a few things:
It's simply not viable to run Plex on an enclosure that doesn't have an Intel processor. It's possible, just not recommended. If you want to stream music and photos, even the lesser Intel CPUs will be more than enough in affordable enclosures.
When you get to movie and show streaming and transcoding, that's where the performance really needs to increase to match demand. And that's just for a single receiving device. Consider your home where there could be multiple users on different hardware wanting to access content stored on Plex. This is why the latest Intel Celeron processors are recommended as the bare minimum to get by for 4K.
To be safe, I'd recommend an Intel Core i3 processor or higher. These CPUs have enough performance to handle 4K transcoding and more, allowing multiple users to stream their favorite content. It's best to set up an enclosure with more performance than required, much like the best graphics card. It's better to pay more now than paying even more down the line for an earlier upgrade.
Media streaming isn't heavy on RAM, but it's a good idea to always have more than you require just in case multiple people plan on streaming content simultaneously. 2GB is considered the baseline for a Plex NAS, while 4GB is usually enough for a busy home, but having upgradable RAM puts you in an excellent position to expand it later.
It's worth checking the maximum capacity for RAM of an enclosure to see whether you can upgrade the RAM.
There need to be enough bays to handle the number of drives required. If you want to store 4K content, you'll want one with at least six bays. Otherwise, you'll find yourself running out of space quickly. Shows and movies in Full HD can get away with being stored on a NAS with four or more bays.
HDMI is important since that can allow your TV to connect to the NAS directly. This negates the need to transcode anything since the TV will simply be displaying the output from the server itself. If you can, choose a NAS that has an HDMI port if you plan on having the server located near the big screen.
For Ethernet, 1Gb ports are okay, so long as you can link them up and increase bandwidth, though ideally, you'll want to have 2.5Gb or 10Gb ports. This also depends on your network infrastructure. Most routers from internet service providers (ISP) can handle only 1Gb connections, so you may need to upgrade if you plan on increasing bandwidth.
Rich Edmonds is a word conjurer at Windows Central, covering everything related to Windows, gaming, and hardware. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a device chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
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