If you got tired of switch between streaming services to find out which one has exactly the content you want to watch right now, it might be time to build your own media server.
Of all the possible media servers out there, plex is the easiest way to keep all your shows, movies, podcasts and music in one easily accessible place. Depending on how you set up your Plex server, you can even stream your content from your home wherever you are.
The best thing about a Plex server is that it doesn’t require a dedicated machine to run, but it’s often a good idea to set aside a particular Plex server hardware device to use exclusively for that purpose. The key is making sure the machine can handle whatever you throw at it.
Plex Server Requirements
A Plex server relies on the CPU more than anything else. It requires a lot of processing power to transcode the video as it is being streamed, and even more power if you add subtitles and other additions to the video.
Plex officially recommends an Intel Core i3 or faster as the minimum processor, although faster is generally recommended. Plex also doesn’t use a lot of RAM. As long as you have at least 2GB of RAM, you should have no problem using a Plex server. Of course, more RAM never hurts, especially if you plan on using the computer for other tasks at the same time.
If this all sounds complicated, the good news is that there are plenty of pre-built Plex Server hardware devices you can buy. All you need to do is install the right software on it. We’ve rounded up the best pre-built options to help you get your Plex server up and running with minimal effort.
The best pre-built Plex servers
If you don’t want to build your Plex server from scratch, a turnkey machine can perform just as well.
The raspberry pi is a small computer that can perform most tasks as well as a normal PC, but at a fraction of the cost. You can buy a Raspberry Pi 4 for under $50 from Amazon.
While it takes some technical knowledge to set up, there are hundreds of tutorials available to help you navigate the machine.
The Raspberry Pi 4 isn’t the most powerful device in the world and isn’t the best choice for streaming and transcoding movies over distance, but if you want a Plex server Raspberry PI device to play movies right in your home, this is one fantastic option to connect directly to a screen.
The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is one of the most powerful Plex server hardware devices out there. The hardware is strong enough to transcode several things at once, and additional onboard storage can be added via USB drives and microSD cards.
You can stream directly to the Nvidia Shield via multiple antennas. As an added benefit, the Shield is a great device for streaming games, emulators, and more. Whether it’s an all-round device or a dedicated Plex machine, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is an excellent choice.
The ThinkCentre M75q Tiny is a compact, powerful machine that is an excellent choice for Plex server hardware. It well exceeds the minimum requirements and has a two-core AMD processor running at 3.4GHz.
With a 500GB hard drive, it has plenty of storage space for movies and TV shows, as well as four USB ports for connecting external drives.
Given the small size of the Lenovo M75q Tiny, it fits comfortably under most TVs for a direct connection, but can also be placed remotely in your home for streaming. Best of all, the M75q Tiny starts at just $340.
The Intel NUC Mini PC is a powerful little device with a low cost. It has an Intel Celeron processor that reaches speeds of up to 2.3 GHz and a 500 GB hard drive. It doesn’t come with RAM by default, although there are two expansion slots. It supports up to 8 GB of RAM and has an optional Thunderbolt 3.0 port. It starts at $148 and is one of the most affordable options for a pre-built Plex server.
Once you’ve found the hardware that works for you, all you need to do is install the Plex software on the machine. The software allows you to stream your media to any compatible device in your home or to external devices outside your home. For the cinephile on the go, a Plex server is a great way to access your media library without having to install dozens of movies on your laptop or tablet’s hard drive.