Perfect Tiny Plex Media Server

Perfect Tiny Plex Media Server

With once popular private channels being shut down on Roku, Plex is is again becoming a popular channel. To be able to use this Roku channel, a Plex Media Server is required. We will show you some options that work well and will have you up and Plexing some great new content in no time.

Plex Media Server

Gone are the days of noisy, heat producing large energy sucking tower PCs that need to be running to watch the Plex channel on your Roku. Now more and more cord-cutters are once again looking towards Plex as a nice alternative channel to give them access to a wide range of content.

This guide will help give you some great tiny footprint options for what could be the ultimate low profile and quiet Plex media server.

With the recent crack down by Roku of channels on their platform that offered unlicensed free content, Plex with their unsupported App Store is once again seeing a big surge in popularity. Unlike channel content on Roku's servers, plex is basically an empty container which is filled with content by adding apps to it that are added to a folder on your media server. Also, by streaming content that you may have stored on a computer server or NAS.

Plex is a lot different than almost any other channel on Roku since it does require a computer to be on and running the Plex Media server software at the same time you watch the corresponding Plex channel on your Roku media player or running Plex on other media streamers like Apple TV or on the Nvidia SHIELD.

The SHIELD is powerful enough to run both the Plex channel, and also the Plex server software so it can be used to stream your media. What it can't do is install any unsupported apps. So you are limited to only the official Plex channels on the SHIELD.

While this takes some additional steps to setup your Plex server software on a computer. Once it's all setup and running it will give you a lot more flexibility to access a much wider range of free content than what you will find on Roku alone.

Plex Media Server Software

This is the app you will run on your computer. It is free to download and install from Plex and it will work with a variety of operating systems like on a NAS or Windows 10, Linux, OS X computer. So no matter which device you ultimately decide on to run your Plex Server software, there will be something that will interface with the Plex channel on your Roku and let you get the most out of Plex.

Plex Pass and Live TV DVR

Another great reason for using Plex if you have an antenna is it can record content to your Plex media server and let you watch, pause, fast forward or rewind your recordings right from your Roku or Nvidia SHIELD media streamer.

This will require a Network Tuner like the HDHomeRun which attaches to your Router, than lets you record your live HD TV channels from your antenna right to your tiny Plex media server. Plex Pass is a paid service and is only needed if you plan on recording live TV shows with Plex.

Best Tiny PC Plex Media Server Options

When searching for a tiny Plex media server, you will need to look for a few things that can make a huge difference in overall performance.
  • File Transcoding - This requires an Intel Dual core CPU to transcode 1080p media on the fly that is not be compatible with your Roku or other devices.
  • Drive Storage - If you plan on storing a lot of local media content like photos, music and movies or TV shows. Look for a device that has more space for storage like a NAS.
  • Energy Efficiency - If you plan on always having your device running, smaller computers or NAS devices are better for the lower operating costs.

Here are the best options for Plex media servers listed from most expensive to least expensive.

QNAP or Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) Plex Media Server

While a NAS sounds like the perfect Plex media server, because it can run as many 8 hard drives or more for almost unlimited local storage. Powerful NAS models from Synology and QNAP have Intel processors which can transcode and stream multiple files in 1080p or 4K at once.

All this Plex goodness comes at a high price. A multiple drive NAS with a dual core CPU can cost a lot more than a small form factor computer. Since most are sold with out drives, you will need to choose both the NAS and outfit it with enough drives to store all your files.

Since NAS devices offer redundant data storage, it is best to choose identical drives in pairs. They are hot swappable so if one drive fails, you only need to plug in a new drive of the same type and size and your files will automatically be mirrored onto your new drive.

This is much safer if you plan on having a huge Plex library of content you want to store at home and share with family or friends. If you only plan on using Plex to use their unsupported apps to stream and watch content from the Internet. Then extra drives are not that important and you could save some money by getting one of the next two mini PC options.

Learn more about Synology vs QNAP for the Best Network Attached Storage Options

Mac mini Plex Media Server

This is our favorite Plex media server because we use the excellent EyeTV software for Mac that we use as a free DVR. While Plex Pass is another option, it costs $5/month and still is not as nice for recording two shows at once as what you can do with EyeTV on your Mac.

The Mac mini is a powerful HTPC which can also be used as a full PC hooked to your TV with a HDMI output. It has a browser, and can run any number of apps like Kodi, and even an Android Emulators like Bluestacks, Droid4X or AndyOS so you can even use and watch popular Android apps on your TV without needing to buy another separate Android box.

You can also watch any number of FREE Live Internet streaming sites like these.

Which model Mac min should you get. While you can buy Mac mini's in several configurations, you only need one that is typically an i5 dual core to run your Plex server software. With Plex random access memory is more important than a more powerful CPU. Try to find one with at least 8 Gb of RAM.

Best Mac mini configuration for Plex - Apple Mac mini, 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 Dual Core, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, Mac OS, Silver, MGEN2LL/A (Newest Version)

Tiny PC Plex Linux or Windows 10 Pro Media Server

For a tiny PC running Linux or Windows 10 Pro, one of your best options now is the Intel Nuc line of mini PCs.

These tiny computers are very powerful and they feature the latest and fastest Intel processors in a very small package. These are often sold as a build it yourself barebones kits which are great if you plan on using Linux or you may already have access to the Windows installer software. They also sell  some Intel NUC mini PCs that already come pre-configured with Windows and are also plug and play.

By buying the barebones kit, you can configure your Intel NUC Plex server any way you like. Load it up with 16 to 32 Gb of Ram, add a huge hard drive and power it with an i7 Quad Core CPU for a Plex server monster which is still very small and silent.

The Intel NUC comes in several sizes. For file storage for your media you can get the higher version which has a room for an extra hard drive. If you don't plan on saving your own media you can get by with a single drive slim version for an even smaller footprint.

Best Barebones Intel NUC Plex Server - Hard Drive, Memory and Operating System needed.

Complete Intel Nuc Plex Server - Just add Plex server software and optional extra hard drive.

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