Continuing the discussion from Plex – Unreliable?:
I’ve started a new thread for this one as it’s likely to get a wider range of opinions.
Way back when I started with a 4 bay NAS and was disappointed with its performance with only an 800MHz CPU, even just trying to keep up with RAID 5 limited it to maybe 12MB/s write speeds. This was in the days before PLEX but I would suggest that it wouldn’t have had a snowballs chance in hell of keeping up. I also ran out of space very quickly and upgraded to an 8 bay unit in only a few months. Again, back in the days when 2TB HDDs were the norm. 4 x 2TB in RAID 5 only gives 6TB of space, something which can be quickly chewed up with a media library.
4 years ago I updated to the QNAP TS-870 with a i3 and 2GB of RAM… which was updated to 16GB of RAM on day one so I could run VM’s on it and later upgraded again with a quad core i7-3770S when I finally found one at a reasonable price. This unit is running 8 x 4TB NAS drives although I should note that the old unit was running 8 x 2TB Seagate (??) Green drives (the ones they say shouldn’t be in a NAS apparently) without any issues over their life. I only had one SMART warning in 4 years of 24/7 operation. The new NAS drives actually had TWO SMART warnings in the first couple of months, both replaced under warranty, and nothing since. I do have a cold spare sitting in the rack waiting for the day it’s needed.
CPU wise I’m set, there isn’t really anything my setup can’t do, but for normal humans you’re likely to be stuck with whatever comes in the box. While some play back devices can do their own decoding, iOS and Apple TV don’t except within a pretty narrow range. The ATV4 does actually have the guts to do quite a lot itself, but Apples player (which is used by Plex for TVOS) is limited it what it can decode locally (MrMC (a KODI branch) can actually decode most stuff locally). The likely hood of multiple people watching multiple streams at the same time is also something you have to take into consideration. Personally I would be aiming at something in the Core iX range rather than the Celeron.
You need to consider what you want it to do, do you want VMs? Then more RAM (and CPU power) would be handy. If it’s for transcoding, more CPU. The more apps you want to run, again more CPU is nice.
And the big one, media storage. Damn that adds up quick and exponentially as you move from 720p to 1080p to 4K. Movies aren’t too bad since it’s one and done sort of deal, so even a high quality 1080 Bluray extracted in h264 or h265 might only be 10-20GB but a TV show in the same quality can be 5-10GB per episode times 10 – 20 episodes per season… lots of stuff. You need to look at the size of the library you want to keep, add room for expansion and go from there. Assuming you’re running RAID 5, a four bay unit limits your total capacity to three times HDD capacity, six bay + units open that up a lot more.
As for brand, I’m a QNAP fan, but I’ve heard good things about Synology too. If I was replacing my unit again I would be leaning towards a rack mounted unit over a box because it lives in a rack, but then only if the cost difference wasn’t too much (it would be neater, but not necessary if the price premium was too great… I haven’t looked into costs in four years so can’t talk too much about that).