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Best NAS for Plex 2022

Synology DiskStation DS220+ review
(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

If you're looking to stream Plex to all connected devices in your home, a great option would be to buy a NAS (network attached storage) server. Doing so allows you to store your media library in a single location, and installing Plex media server on that device lets you stream to other devices in your home. 

So if you want to set up a Plex media server and are interested in buying a NAS, these are the best enclosures currently available. 

What is the best Plex server?

There are plenty of options if you want the best NAS for home use, and you can choose between entry-level picks that have a single or two drive bays, and there are four-bay models that are designed to last. 

But if you're in the best Plex server, there are a few additional points to consider. For one thing, Plex transcoding is a very CPU-intensive task, so you will need to look at NAS enclosures that have a powerful chipset. Thankfully, the biggest NAS manufacturers — Synology, QNAP, and ASUSTOR — deliver models catered for Plex media streaming. 

Synology's DiskStation DS220+ illustrates this point perfectly — the two-bay NAS server features Intel's Celeron J4025 and can easily handle Plex native streaming. It also has the ability to transcode files so that they can be played on target devices that don't have the requisite codec. 

For instance, if you're playing a movie on an iPad, but the tablet lacks the codecs for that media file, Plex will transcode that file natively on the NAS and deliver a version that can play on the iPad. 

If you want a little more room, the DiskStation DS920+ has four bays that can hold up to 64TB of storage, and it has a slightly faster Intel Celeron J4125 that's ideal for Plex 4K transcodes. The ASUSTOR Lockerstor AS6604T is also a good choice to consider, alongside alternatives from TerraMaster and others. 

Now that you have a better idea of what's needed in a Plex NAS, let's take a look at the best NAS servers for Plex streaming. 

Synology DiskStation DS220+ review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Synology DiskStation DS220+

The best NAS for Plex

Reasons to buy

+
Can handle 4K streaming/transcoding
+
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports
+
Up to 32TB of storage
+
Extensible software
+
Robust internal hardware

Reasons to avoid

-
No eSATA port
-
No SSD caching

Right now, the DiskStation DS220+ is the best NAS you can buy for Plex streaming. It has two drive bays, all the wired connectivity you need, and in my usage, it handled Plex streaming and transcodes without breaking a sweat. 

The NAS is powered by an Intel Celeron J4025 chipset and comes with 2GB of RAM — with the ability to add another 4GB — and two drive bays can hold 16TB of storage each, taking total storage to 32TB. 

The DS220+ has two Gigabit Ethernet ports at the back with Link Aggregation, and you can just bridge these ports and double data transfers. There are two USB 3.0 ports as well, and overall, the DS220+ is the best NAS for home use, particularly if you want a robust media server.

The DS220+ works particularly well as a Plex media server. It takes just a few minutes to install and configure the service, and it does a fantastic job streaming your locally stored media library to all connected devices on your home network. 

Any NAS — including cheap NAS enclosures — has the ability to play Plex files natively, but if you need to transcode media, that's where the DS220+ comes to the fore. 

The DS220+ handles 1080p transcodes without any issues and can transcode 4K content if you really need to do so, and it is the ideal option for Plex. Synology's software is the best in the industry, and you can do so much more than stream your Plex library. The DS220+ automatically backs up data with ease, and you can run your own email, audio, video, and even VPN server straight from the NAS. 

I recommend picking up 4TB Seagate IronWolf drives with the NAS to start, and if you need more storage, you can get the 6TB model or the 8TB option.

Synology DiskStation DS920+ review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Synology DiskStation DS920+

The perfect four-bay Plex media server

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming/4K transcode
+
Up to 64TB of extensible storage
+
M.2 slots for SSD caching
+
Exhaustive software features
+
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports

Reasons to avoid

-
No 10GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet) ports
-
Fewer DRAM slots than predecessor
-
Expensive

The DiskStation DS920+ has the same foundation as the DS220+, but with a few key upgrades. This NAS is the ideal choice if you share your Plex library and need additional bandwidth, or you want to transcode 4K media. 

You get a faster Intel Celeron J4125 chipset, 4GB of RAM out of the box, M.2 slots for SSD caching, and four drive bays that can hold up to 64TB of storage. You get the same dual-Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and there's also an eSATA port at the back.

The DiskStation DS920+ is an ideal Plex media server if you want to stream 4K content on your devices. The DS920+ handles 1080p and 4K transcodes just fine, so if you're using an older TV or a device that doesn't have the latest video codecs and containers, the NAS will decode the file and play it on the TV. 

Furthermore, when it comes to playing 4K files on your home network, you'll need to consider the network bandwidth — 4K files have a bitrate of over 100Mbit — and storage. That's where the two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the DS920+ come in handy, and the four drive bays that can hold a total of 64TB of storage should be more than adequate for most users. 

If you think that the 64TB of storage may not be enough, Synology has a DX517 expansion unit that adds five drive bays to your DS920+ — that's another 80TB of storage. If you're looking for drives to fill up the DS920+, the 8TB IronWolf NAS hard drive is the ideal option.

Asustor AS6604T NAS front panel with drive bays

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Asustor Lockerstor AS6604T

The ideal NAS for content creators

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming/4K transcode
+
HDMI port for connecting to TV
+
Dual 2.5Gbps ports with Link Aggregation
+
Decent set of software features
+
Powerful hardware

Reasons to avoid

-
No PCIe slot for upgrades
-
No tool-less HDD installation

Asustor's Lockerstor AS6604T is a fantastic choice if you want multi-Gigabit networking. The NAS has powerful hardware that's ideally suited for Plex, but it is the dual 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports at the back that make it stand out. 

There's also an HDMI port that lets you plug in the NAS directly to a TV or monitor, and the Intel Celeron J4125 can handle Plex 1080p and 4K transcodes without any issues whatsoever. 

You get 4GB of RAM out of the box, and the four drive bays can hold 80TB of storage in total — more than enough for even demanding users. 

Plex is available natively on the NAS, and Asustor has a set of tools that let you stream content directly to Twitch or YouTube, making the AS6604T a decent option for content creators as well.

Synology DiskStation DS220j

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Synology DiskStation DS220j

The best budget Plex media server

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming
+
Incredible value
+
Gigabit Ethernet connectivity
+
Runs quiet
+
Up to 32TB of storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited RAM
-
Doesn't transcode

What if you don't care about 1080p/4K transcoding and just want an affordable NAS that streams files from Plex to your devices? Then the DiskStation DS220j is the best option for you. The NAS has two drive bays and features the Realtek RTD1296 along with 512MB of RAM, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and two USB 3.0 ports.

It may not be the fastest NAS around, but it runs Plex fine and streams content to your devices without any issues. You miss out on transcoding, but for direct streaming, this is a great option. The value on offer here makes the DS220j a particularly great choice, and the fact that it offers the same robust software features as Synology's costlier models means you're not missing out on much.

If you're looking for a budget Plex media server, the DS220j is hard to beat right now. Pair the NAS with a few 4TB IronWolf hard drives, and you'll have a robust media server that can stream Plex to all connected devices in your home.

TerraMaster F2-221

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

TerraMaster F2-221

The ideal value choice

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming/1080p transcode
+
Great overall value
+
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports
+
Holds up to 32TB of storage
+
Decent software

Reasons to avoid

-
No eSATA port

TerraMaster is a well-known manufacturer focused on the value segment, and the F2-221 is a solid choice if you want a value-focused NAS enclosure for Plex. The NAS is powered by the Intel Celeron J3355 chipset, and has 2GB of RAM out of the box. Plus you can fit a total of 32TB of storage in the two drive bays.

The F2-221 also has two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 3.0 ports. You also get a decent set of software features, but the standout point is that the F2-221 can stream 4K files without any hassle, and transcode 1080p content easily. There's no 4K transcode here, but that's not really a major omission, as I outlined above.

If you don't need some of the more productivity-focused features and are in the market for value, the F2-221 is a fantastic overall choice. Just pick up a few 4TB IronWolf hard drives with the NAS, and you'll be able to set up a great Plex server.

QNAP TS-451+

(Image credit: QNAP)

QNAP TS-451+

A good value-focused Plex server

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming/1080p transcode
+
HDMI port lets you connect to a TV
+
Four USB 3.0 ports
+
Amazing value

Reasons to avoid

-
Software not as polished as rivals
-
Limited RAM out of the box

QNAP's TS-451+ is a reliable workhorse that excels at the basics. The NAS is powered by an Intel Celeron J1900 chipset, and you get 2GB of RAM out of the box, an HDMI port for connecting it to your TV, and remote control.

The NAS handles Plex 4K streaming without any issues whatsoever, and you get hardware 1080p transcoding as well. There are four USB 3.0 ports at the back, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and four bays that can hold a total of 64TB of storage, so you won't need to worry about running out of storage on this NAS.

You also get a decent set of software options on the NAS, including backing up media and running virtual machines. For what you're ultimately paying here, you are getting excellent value. The one downside is that the software interface doesn't look as modern as what you get with Synology. To get started, all you need is a few 6TB IronWolf drives or the 8TB variants, and you get a powerful Plex media server.

Synology DiskStation DS1520+ review

(Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Synology NAS DiskStation DS1520+

A truly outstanding NAS

Reasons to buy

+
4K Plex streaming/4K transcode
+
Four Gigabit Ethernet ports
+
Two eSATA ports
+
Outstanding performance
+
M.2 slots for SSD caching

Reasons to avoid

-
Costly

The DiskStation DS1520+ is an excellent choice if you're looking for a larger NAS enclosure for Plex. The hardware on offer is more than adequate for Plex 4K transcodes, you can store a lot of storage in the five drive bays, and it will stay relevant for a lot longer thanks to the added features. 

The 5-bay NAS features the Intel Celeron J4125 and comes with 8GB of RAM out of the box, and you can add up to 80TB of storage natively.

A differentiating feature is the two eSATA ports, through which you'll be able to add up to 10 additional drives. The extensibility makes the DS1520+ an exciting choice, and it delivers excellent performance for Plex. I didn't see any issues transcoding 4K content on the fly, and there are four Gigabit ports at the back.

You'll also find M.2 slots for SSD caching, and the NAS as a whole is a fantastic overall choice if you're interested in a high-end enclosure for Plex streaming.


What makes Plex such a good media server?

As a high-level overview, Plex is a free media server utility that catalogs your media collection and makes it available for streaming on all of the connected devices in your home. 

It is often considered to be the best media server around, and there are a few reasons for that. First up is the fact that it's available on just about any ecosystem: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Android TV, all streaming dongles, and most smart TVs. Basically, you can install Plex on all the devices you own. 

Plex also does a great job with media organization. It sorts your music, movies, and TV shows into relevant categories, and adds high-resolution album art, covers, trailers, and metadata automatically. Also, as the content is streamed locally within your home network, it doesn't count toward your internet bandwidth costs.

What is Plex transcode, and how does it work?

The biggest reason for Plex's dominance has to do with the fact that it can play any file on any device. Plex has a powerful transcoding service baked in, and if you have the paid Plex Pass plan, you can unlock hardware acceleration — that makes a huge difference for transcoding 4K files.

Even if you're using an iPhone, iPad, Amazon tablet, an older smart TV, or an Android phone, you can confidently play your media library on any device without any issues. Plex handles transcodes automatically, so there's no intervention needed from your side — and that makes it a fantastic media streaming service. 

Plex streaming generally falls into three categories:

  • Direct Play: This is when the Plex client (your TV or streaming box) natively handles the video container and just streams the file as-is without any issues. This uses minimal resources. 
  • Direct Stream: In this scenario, the client device you're using can play the video and audio streams, but does not work with the container (like .mkv or .m4a), so Plex will copy those streams to a compatible container and send it to your device. This mode uses a few resources, but it isn't demanding on the server. 
  • Transcode: This is where things get interesting. Plex will transcode files when a client device is unable to play the video or audio streams at all. This is due to the lack of audio or video codecs (like H.265, HEVC, H.264) on the client device, and in this situation Plex converts the video to a file that can be played on the device. This is the most CPU-intensive option and needs a powerful NAS. 

What should you look for in a Plex NAS?

Synology DiskStation DS220+ review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

There are a few things you'll need to pay attention to if you're interested in a Plex NAS. 

CPU

This is a key consideration when choosing a Plex NAS, as you'll need a powerful CPU for transcodes. Most servers over $400 meet this criteria, but as a general rule, you'll need a recent Intel chipset — Celeron models are good for home use, but if you're sharing your Plex server with friends and family and need more bandwidth, you'll need to look at servers featuring Intel Core hardware.

While AMD is making some inroads into the NAS category with models like the DS1621+, Intel is still king here. If you want the ability to transcode 4K content in Plex, you'll need to buy a NAS server with a recent-gen Intel Celeron or Core CPU.

Memory

Basically, you'll need a decent amount of RAM to make sure there are no bottlenecks. Plex isn't memory-intensive, but if you have a lot of other services running on the NAS, it could become an issue. Generally, 2GB of RAM is the bare minimum in this category, and if you're looking to run a lot of services, I'd suggest getting an 8GB memory module and slotting it in. 

Most NAS servers let you upgrade the RAM with ease, so you shouldn't have any issues slotting in 8GB or more memory within the server should you need it. 

Connectivity

Most NAS servers have two Gigabit ports as standard, and that should be adequate for home use. But if you're sharing your Plex instance and need additional bandwidth, you should look at a server with 2.5GbE or even 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. 

That said, if you switch to a NAS with multi-Gigabit connectivity, you'll need to simultaneously upgrade your switch and router to take full advantage of the additional bandwidth on offer. It isn't as costly as it used to be to switch to a 10GbE home network, but you'll have to take those additional costs into consideration. For now, Gigabit Ethernet is more than adequate for handling a few Plex 4K streams without any issues. 

Some NAS models feature an HDMI port that lets you connect the server to a TV or monitor. This is useful as you can then play the media stored on the NAS directly without having to stream it wirelessly on your home network. 

Which Plex NAS should you buy?

Synology DiskStation DS920+ review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Right now, if you're looking to pick up a NAS for Plex streaming, the best option is the DiskStation DS220+. The upgraded internal hardware makes it an enticing model in this category, and with two Gigabit Ethernet ports and robust software features, the NAS has all the basics covered.

Plex's media server is available natively on the DS220+, and you can install the Plex client (for streaming videos) on just about every platform out there. The DS220+ does a fantastic job with streaming Plex files in 4K, and it also has hardware-assisted 1080p transcodes that work reliably enough.

If you need a bit more power or more drive bays, the DS920+ continues to be a stellar choice, and the DS1520+ gets my vote thanks to its extensibility and five drive bays. Both the DS920+ and DS1520+ excel at Plex 4K transcodes, and the number of software features you'll find on either NAS server is more than adequate for most home users. 

And if you're interested in multi-gigabit networking, Asustor's Lockerstor AS6604T ticks all the right boxes. It has two 2.5GbE ports, and you can hook it up to a TV or monitor directly via HDMI. 

Our testing methodology for the best Plex server

There are a few things I consider when deciding what NAS servers to recommend for Plex streaming. First up is the CPU; I run a few synthetic tests to determine its performance potential, looking at single and multi-core scores. 

Then I set up a native Plex install on the NAS and run multimedia streaming tests to see resource usage in real-world scenarios when streaming 720p, 1080p, and 4K files on the local network. 

I also evaluate transcoding potential by streaming a 4K file to a device that doesn't handle the native container — this is a great way to determine if the NAS can handle on-the-fly transcodes for 4K files with high bitrates. 

Finally, I look at sequential read/write potential by transferring an image library containing over 5,000 files (all under 1MB), and a dozen media files over 1GB in size. 

Ultimately, the best Plex server needs to be able to stream your local media library to all devices on your home network (and over the internet), and it should be able to do so consistently for several years. 

All of the NAS models highlighted in this post can do just that, so if you're looking to get your hands on a Plex NAS server, you can go ahead and pick up any models in the list below with confidence.