Synology DS218+Source: Windows Central

Best NAS for Plex Windows Central 2020

Network-attached storage for Plex can transform your home into a smart one, allowing you to not only stream different media to all your connected devices but also store files, which is handy for when you're working from home. Choosing the right NAS for Plex can be a daunting task with the countless models available. After testing a whole range of models, we're able to recommend the best choices for running Plex.

Best Overall: 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. 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 somewhat 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.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Best Overall

Synology DS218+

Synology's popular value-driven NAS offering

Synology strikes a balance with the DS218+, rocking two drive bays, an Intel processor, upgradable RAM, and an excellent OS.

Best Value: ASUSTOR AS5304T

ASUSTOR AS5304TSource: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central

The ASUSTOR AS5304T is a very capable NAS. It's inspired by the latest trends in gaming design, rocks a beefy Intel CPU, and upgradable DDR4 RAM for optimal performance at this price point. This configuration even allows for some stable 4K movie transcoding. It's not all about looks.

There are loads of apps supported by ASUSTOR's user-friendly OS, and the dual-2.5Gb LAN setup lets you eliminate 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.

The only drawback is the price, which puts it above other four-bay NAS models, but this does come with a few advantages, including the faster CPU and LAN ports. If your budget can stretch to cover the AS5304T, it'll perform admirably in your gaming, streaming, or home media server setup.

Pros:

  • Gaming-inspired design
  • Beefy Intel CPU
  • Upgradable RAM
  • Loads of apps
  • 2.5Gb LAN

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No 10Gb LAN
  • Bay locks feel flimsy
  • No NVMe cache

Best Value

ASUSTOR AS5304T

A pricey but powerful NAS

With Intel's Celeron J4105 CPU, this ASUSTOR NAS is ready to serve as your live stream content and home media server.

Best Budget: TerraMaster F2-210

TerraMaster F2-210Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central

The TerraMaster F2-210 is an interesting NAS, namely because of how affordable it is. The main unit is styled to look like aluminum; it's easy to set up once you've unpacked the NAS, and you don't require any tools to open it up to install or remove hard drives.

Where this NAS lacks is in performance. It uses an ARM processor, which is supported by Plex but doesn't offer much for transcoding 4K content. The F2-210 is quiet, though, which is excellent if you want to install it in an office or living room, and even if you can't transcode 4K movies, you will be able to stream music and a whole host of files just fine.

Pros

  • Attractive metallic design
  • Good value
  • Easy to set up
  • Quiet
  • Toolless drive access

Cons

  • Very quiet but audible whine
  • No 4K transcoding
  • Lackluster CPU

Best Budget

TerraMaster F2-210

Affordable and fun

TerraMaster's F2-210 is designed to be affordable, yet offer enough performance to run various apps, including Plex.

Best for 4K: QNAP TVS-672N

Qnap TVS-672NSource: QNAP

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 unmatched 4K transcoding, it's not the best processor for the job. This NAS will be able to handle the transcoding of your 4K movie, though, so long as it's not HDR.

The six bays allow you to throw high-capacity drives into the NAS to ramp up the storage volume, and M.2 and PCIe expansion makes it possible to employ speedy SSDs for the cache. Lastly, you've got DDR4 RAM, which can be expanded up to 32GB. The downside to the QNAP TVS-672N is the price, lack of secondary 5Gb port, and no option for Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs.

Pros:

  • Powerful Intel Core i3 CPU
  • Six drive bays
  • 5Gb LAN
  • M.2 and PCIe expansion
  • DDR4 RAM

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Only one 5Gb LAN port
  • No Intel Core i5 or i7 options

Best for 4K

QNAP TVS-672N

For 4K movie lovers

QNAP TVS-672N may be a little pricey on paper, but this NAS has everything you need to create a powerful Plex home media server.

Best Capacity: ASUSTOR AS6208T

ASUSTOR AS6208TSource: ASUSTOR

The ASUSTOR AS6208T is a monster of a NAS, rocking eight drive bays that lets you install up to 128TB of storage. It also houses an Intel Celeron processor, which isn't the most powerful CPU in this collection, but will let you do many things with ASUSTOR's great OS.

There are four 1Gb LAN ports available, though it would have been nice to see 2Gb or 5Gb, especially at this higher price point, and a front-facing LCD panel. The RAM is upgradable, though it is restricted to DDR3, and the processor will struggle with 4K transcoding if you attempt to watch some UHD movies.

Pros:

  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Eight drive bays
  • 4x 1Gb LAN
  • Front LCD panel
  • Upgradable RAM

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • No 2Gb or 5Gb LAN
  • Struggles with 4K transcoding

Best Capacity

ASUSTOR AS6208T

For when you need eight bays

The ASUSTOR AS6208T has a lot going for it, including a 1.6GHz quad-core CPU, 4GB RAM, and eight drive bays to store all the things.

Bottom line

Synology did a stellar job with the DS218+ NAS, which offers adequate performance for a home NAS and can even handle Plex streaming. It's not the most potent NAS around, but it doesn't need to be if you're mostly streaming music and a few shows in HD.

If you need something a little more powerful, we'd recommend the ASUSTOR AS5403T, which at almost double the price of the Synology DS218+ comes with a faster processor, RAM, and more drive bays. The addition of two 2.5Gb LAN ports also puts this in the futureproofed basket.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

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