Looking for advice about how to properly start and invest in a Plex Server


#1

Hi,

I discovered Plex pretty recently and I really want to dive deep into it - it feels like the future of my media storage. Currently I have my almost 2TB library of films/TV on an external hard drive that's about to die, so I'm in the market for a new storage system anyway and I just found Plex. Now instead of rushing out and just replacing my hard drive, I want to spend a little more and buy something that I can use to access Plex anytime, anywhere. At the moment I'm doing this through my laptop, obviously not the ideal solution, but I keep getting stuck trying to figure out if I should buy a NAS box (and which one), if I should buy a Mac Mini or any of the hundred other suggestions out there.

I'm reasonably sure I'm up to speed on the whole transcoding issue when it comes to buying a server, but seeing as how I can't spend anywhere near $1000, I've made my peace with maybe having to re-format a lot of my media manually. Luckily, I don't predict the machine will be working too hard as I can't imagine anybody but me will be using it.

Basically, what's relatively easy and relatively cheap?

All opinions appreciated and welcome.


#2

If it will only ever be just you, then you probably won’t need much. If you’re looking at a NAS solution that can run Plex there are several options available. You’ll want to aim for the biggest bang for your buck with the NAS processor, looking for the highest Passmark score possible. As a general rule of thumb, a score of 2,000 is needed for each simultaneous 1080p stream you plan on running.

I know the Western Digital drives seem pretty limited, and don’t get updated too often, so shy away from those.

Personally, I’m a fan of separation of church and state… I think it’s more flexible to run PMS on a Windows box, and keep the media on the NAS. You’re in a better position for updates that way. Budget may stop you there… may not… My first Plex box was a crappy old AMD which handled single streams just fine.


#3

I feel like you’re speaking a language just out of my reach. I’m almost there, but can’t quite close the distance. Why do I need a Windows box and a NAS? Couldn’t I use the WIndows box to bring my server online and just have a normal external hard drive connected to that with all of my media on it?

Also, it really doesn’t need to be a hardcore setup - as long as it can handle Direct Streaming, I’m happy to pick up the slack and convert all of my media to formats Plex doesn’t need to fully transcode.


#4

I’ve done a bit more research and feel like a bit more of an idiot. I’m not too worried about my client (which I think is what you’re talking about in regards to the Windows box), because I’m planning on running Plex through my phone, computer, PS4 or Roku, whichever is closer really.

All I’m trying to figure out is my server solution. What’s the best server to run a single 1080p Direct Stream, on a budget? If I can get full 1080p transcoding going on three devices at once for under $200, that’d be great, but I am trying to be barebones and realistic. It’ll give me something to build up to.


#5

My advice would be to buy a small Ryzen 3 2200G box with a 240GB System SSD + 4TB Data HDD. I’ve got a Ryzen 5 2400G myself and the hardware transcoding from the integrated Vega graphics is great for Plex.

Never ever transcode already compressed media to another compressed format. Unless you have the original source (e.g. original Blu-ray).

Personally (although not necessary yet for the amount of data you have) I’m not using a NAS for my data but a external drive enclosure.
Currently these ones:
4-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003X26VV4
8-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GYDMYG

edit:
Just threw together a $500 build:
https://pcpartpicker.com/list/GkFRsZ

Although you may need a Bios update in order for Raven Ridge to work:
https://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/2Gen-Ryzen-AM4-System-Bootup.aspx

If you want something under $200, you can buy a used HP Elite 8300 on Ebay:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/401491380153 $60


#6

@TM1698 said:
I feel like you’re speaking a language just out of my reach. I’m almost there, but can’t quite close the distance. Why do I need a Windows box and a NAS? Couldn’t I use the WIndows box to bring my server online and just have a normal external hard drive connected to that with all of my media on it?

Also, it really doesn’t need to be a hardcore setup - as long as it can handle Direct Streaming, I’m happy to pick up the slack and convert all of my media to formats Plex doesn’t need to fully transcode.

Truthfully, you don’t need a NAS. I’ve been in media collection/sharing for eons, so I often forget that not everybody has taken my path. Yes, you can go with just a box and be fine.

My advice on storage is to get twice as much as you think you need. That will give you plenty of room to grow. I also often forget how long it took me to fill a 6tb NAS before I had to expand beyond that. I used it for several years of active media gathering.

If you plan ahead of time to direct stream, then you can get away with the most basic and minimal of PCs available on the market. At that point, your pain point will shift from how well the box runs videos, to how well/fast can it boot at all. I would shift your focus to the overall performance of basic use. In my world, I sit comfortably on most i5 processors for basic uses. More than enough to handle basic Plex operations.

@TM1698 said:
I’ve done a bit more research and feel like a bit more of an idiot. I’m not too worried about my client (which I think is what you’re talking about in regards to the Windows box), because I’m planning on running Plex through my phone, computer, PS4 or Roku, whichever is closer really.

These devices are “clients.” The Windows box would be considered the “server.” Plex comes in two pieces, the Server which handles and processes the files, and the Client, which is the app on the viewing end. The Server will take the file in hand and communicate with the Client to determine what types of files can direct stream. If the file doesn’t match what the client takes natively, it will transcode. This is where you run into issues when you want to run multiple clients. You have to narrow down the single file type that will work on all of them if you truly want to avoid transcoding. It’s way easier to get a processor that can just do the job.

All I’m trying to figure out is my server solution. What’s the best server to run a single 1080p Direct Stream, on a budget? If I can get full 1080p transcoding going on three devices at once for under $200, that’d be great, but I am trying to be barebones and realistic. It’ll give me something to build up to.

I wish I could just spit out a link to a box that could do that, but as you know, the sea of options is mind boggling. I point back to the Passmark rule of thumb. If you want to handle 3 simultaneous 1080p streams, then you’ll want to look up a processor that scores around 6,000. Find a box that looks interesting and Google the score of the processor.

Bonus points if the processor supports Intel QuickSync, (most modern Intel “i” processors do) cause then you can get into Hardware Acceleration, which takes tons of workload off the processor. Again, a Google search will answer that question for the specific processor.

Sorry if all of this seems overwhelming. I’ll gladly clarify any questions you have. This seems tough because you want to get it right… and that’s what we’re all here to help with.


#7

I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out. As blown away as I’ve been discovering what Plex can do, I’m also regularly impressed by how supportive a community it has as well.

I think my plan now is to get a Nvidia Shield TV (maybe Shield Pro) to run as my server, with a 5tb external hard drive connected with all of my media on it. It’s apparently beefy enough to transcode anything, although only for a few specific codecs. Luckily all of the negatives don’t seem like they’re going to affect me or the files it’ll be hosting.

But again, thanks. Everybody has a different opinion and setup, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed the process of cobbling together what I think should work for me, even if I still don’t really understand a lot of it. Again, this community is brilliant.

:slight_smile:


#8

Do some research before you decide between the two Shields. Ask lots of questions. I believe most prefer the Pro for running a server based on the internal drive size, and there are also special considerations when using external media. It can be done though, and lots of people are happy with that setup.

I started small on an old box I had laying around. Honestly, it met the need. I’ve been expanding piece by piece ever since. :slight_smile: Good luck!


#9

I had it pointed out to me a few weeks ago that the Shield pro was discontinued a while back.
A quick Google search seems to confirm it. However some larger stockists still seen to have a few in stock.
However this post seems to suggest that Plex directory on expandable storage may be on the horizon.

Other than that I can’t offer anything beyond the awesome info that @AmazingRando24 has already told you…
Other than to come back to his mention of hardware acceleration.
It really can’t be overstated how fantastically well it works and for systems with that capabilty it makes the whole CPU passmark a thing of the past.
I do have a Shield as well but only use it as a client so can’t really offer anything other that what is already mentioned in other threads as to it’s performance as a server.


#10

@Wiidesire said:
My advice would be to buy a small Ryzen 3 2200G box with a 240GB System SSD + 4TB Data HDD. I’ve got a Ryzen 5 2400G myself and the hardware transcoding from the integrated Vega graphics is great for Plex.

Never ever transcode already compressed media to another compressed format. Unless you have the original source (e.g. original Blu-ray).

Personally (although not necessary yet for the amount of data you have) I’m not using a NAS for my data but a external drive enclosure.
Currently these ones:
4-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003X26VV4
8-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GYDMYG

edit:
Just threw together a $500 build:
https://pcpartpicker.com/list/GkFRsZ

Although you may need a Bios update in order for Raven Ridge to work:
https://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/2Gen-Ryzen-AM4-System-Bootup.aspx

If you want something under $200, you can buy a used HP Elite 8300 on Ebay:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/401491380153 $60

How is 4k playback with this setup?


#11

@Biofreak said:

@Wiidesire said:
My advice would be to buy a small Ryzen 3 2200G box with a 240GB System SSD + 4TB Data HDD. I’ve got a Ryzen 5 2400G myself and the hardware transcoding from the integrated Vega graphics is great for Plex.

Never ever transcode already compressed media to another compressed format. Unless you have the original source (e.g. original Blu-ray).

Personally (although not necessary yet for the amount of data you have) I’m not using a NAS for my data but a external drive enclosure.
Currently these ones:
4-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003X26VV4
8-bay: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005GYDMYG

edit:
Just threw together a $500 build:
https://pcpartpicker.com/list/GkFRsZ

Although you may need a Bios update in order for Raven Ridge to work:
https://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/2Gen-Ryzen-AM4-System-Bootup.aspx

If you want something under $200, you can buy a used HP Elite 8300 on Ebay:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/401491380153 $60

How is 4k playback with this setup?

If it performs as well with hardware acceleration as recent Intel’s it should be pretty great.

@Wiidesire. How’s that 8 bay performing? My 14 bay Fractal Design case is reaching capacity and was looking at a similar thing but having clicked the link it seems Amazon will ship to me in the UK.