Transcoding 4K Media on the Synology DS3018xs NAS Plex Media Server?
Transcoding on a NAS such as the Synology DS3018xs device is the ability for a multimedia file to be changed from it’s existing format or codec to one that is better suited to the destination device. In this file access, the Synology DS3018xs NAS is the host device and the device you want to play the file is the client. This is the case of whether you are using Plex or not. Transcoding is typically required when a media file is more recently released than the client device that is accessing it, so the newer compression or playback format is unknown to the device you want to access it with. Alternatively, you want to access the movie or music on your Synology DS3018xs and do not want to use the original file in its full size. Transcoding can enable you to stream a much smaller version in weight or resolution if needed. IN a popular program such as PLEX, smooth playback is essential, and with the plex media server application on the Synology DS3018xs NAS using a larger percentage of CPU and Memory than most programs, it is very useful to know the plex transcoding abilities of any NAS.
Why should you factor transcoding with a Plex Media Server on a Synology DS3018xs NAS
When you install a Plex Media Server on your Synology DS3018xs, you should know that plex is not the answer to all of your media prayers. It has some limitations and depending on the NAS you use, these limits can be annoying. You will most likely have media files in a large collection of different formats and there is no guaranteeing that these are going to be compatible with TVs, iPads and Smartphones that you wish to watch them on. Although you will have a version of the Plex app on the viewing device, that app will still be locked to playback the supported media types on that device.
So if your phone does not support.MKV or .MOV, then neither does the plex app you installed on it. However, this is where transcoding comes in again, as the plex media server will use the NAS system resources to change the file to a version/format that it CAN play. What makes transcoding with Plex different to ordinary transcoding is that often, the NAS (in this case, the Synology DS3018xs) will not let the plex use the transcoding engine inside. This is not the end of the world, as it will use raw system power instead. The result is that where a regular transcode outside of plex will use 20-30%, in plex it could go as high as 70-80%. This is why it is important to know how well a plex NAS will transcode, as if it will hapen regularly, it could potentially slow down the general use of your Synology DS3018xs NAS.
Which plex supported client devices require transcoding from the Synology DS3018xs NAS
Destination devices range greatly and are often referred to as the client device. Common client devices that your Synology DS3018xs device will be accessed by are often:
- iPad or Android Tablet
- iPhone or Android Smartphone
- Smart TV or DLNA supported monitor
- Macbook, Laptop or Netbook device
- Sound systems such as Bose, Sonos and Sony DLNA systems
- Home Theatre Systems
- Network and internet-enabled gaming consoles such as PS4, Xbox One and Nvidia Shield
Transcoding between a Synology DS3018xs and your media can be of tremendous benefit for those with limited internet bandwidth, download limits or low powered devices whilst using the plex client application.
What are the Specifications of the Synology DS3018xs NAS?
The specifications for the Synology DS3018xs NAS are below and like all NAS devices, the CPU and Memory play a big part in how well it performs at transcoding both in and out of plex. The key factors to consider are if the device features an x86 or ARM-based CPU, does the Synology DS3018xs CPU feature a transcoding engine and how much RAM the device arrives with for multiple transcoding tasks. Below are the Synology DS3018xs specs:
intel Pentium D1508 Dual Core 2.2 GHz
Burst to 2.6GHz when needed
8GB RAM that can be increased
5 Year Warranty
TRANSCODING ENGINE: YES
1080P Support: YES
4K Support: YES
Transcoding Support: YES
Where to Buy
What is the difference between H.264 and H.265 4K Media on a NAS
H.264 and H.265 are common codecs of modern digital media. H264 is also referred to as AVC by experts (Advanced Video Coding) and is considered the standard for video file compression. This allows for media originally created for large-scale entertainment to be recording, compressed, and distributed to the home and smaller scale production of digital video content watched by you, the consumer via plex.
H265 is the newer and more consumer-friendly alternative to H264. It is also known as HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) and was developed in order resolve issues of enormous 4K media files being just too large for your client device to playback. H.265 has become so popular and data saving that chances are that the YouTube clip, iTunes media or iPlayer content you watched was in .265 and HEVC. Typically a modern NAS such as the Synology DS3018xs will playback with JUST H.265 or it will PLayback both H.264 and H.265. The latter pretty much being exclusive to x86 or AMD based NAS CPU devices.
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 4K H.265 8-bit 30fps 46Mb/s PLEX Test 1- How well does it perform?
We pushed the Synology DS3018xs NAS to transcode a 4K H265 media file through the plex media server application. It was an 8-bit recording, running at 30 frames per second and featured a bitrate of 46 megabits per second. The Synology DS3018xs playback results were:
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 4K H.265 8-bit 25fps 38Mb/s PLEX Test 2 – How well does it perform?
Next, we pushed the Synology DS3018xs NAS to transcode a 4K H265 media file through the plex media server application. It was an 8-bit recording, but this time running at 25 frames per second and featured a bitrate of just 38 megabits per second. The Synology DS3018xs playback results were:
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 4K H.264 8-bit 30fps 51Mb/s PLEX Test 3 – How well does it perform?
Next, we pushed the Synology DS3018xs NAS to transcode a 4K H264 this time, the media file was an 8-bit recording, but this time back at 30 frames per second and featured a bitrate of 51 megabits per second, our highest yet. The Synology DS3018xs playback through the plex media server application results were:
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 4K H.265 10-bit 30fps 38Mb/s PLEX Test 7 – How well does it perform?
We then ran a much denser H.265 4K file on the Synology DS3018xs. This H265 file through the plex media server application was another 10-bit recording, at 30fps but this time with a much higher bitrate of 38 megabits per second. The Synology DS3018xs playback results were:
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 1080p H.265 8-bit 24fps 405kb/s PLEX Test 10 – How well does it perform?
In an effort to maintain fairness, we also covered an H.265 1080p file, so a comparison between this and Test 12 could be made. Ignore the test numerical order numbers, as this needed to be re-done (blame the Synology DS3018xs needing a firmware update mid transcode and therefore spoiled the results the first time). This was an HEVC/H265 8-bit file running at 24fps through the plex media server application, but with a comparatively low bitrate of just 405kbps. The results (correct this time) were again, fairly expected:
The Synology DS3018xs NAS Ultra HD 4K H.264 8-bit 24fps 22Mb/s PLEX Test 15 – How well does it perform?
We then decided to end on an older and currently more common owned 4K type of media file. This was kind of our control tests for most NAS and was no exception for the Synology DS3018xs through the plex media server application. This UHD file in 4K was an 8-Bit file, arriving in 24 frames per second and at a bitrate of 22megabits per second. For those who have owned 4k media for a while and want to consider their older H264 material, this test would be of interest. The results were.
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 1080p H.264 8-bit 24fps 13Mb/s PLEX Test 16 – How well does it perform?
In order to validate the earlier tests, we then switched back to 1080p/HD briefly as we could test an older h264 mp4 file via the plex media server application on the Synology DS3018xs. This 2014 made media file type was pretty high spec back then and below we can see how the Synology DS3018xs dealt with the 8-bit file at 24frames per second via plex with transcoding enabled.
The Synology DS3018xs NAS 1080p H.264 8-bit 24fps 40Mb/s PLEX Test 17 – How well does it perform?
For test 17 we wanted to check that the file used in test 16 was not just a fluke, so we found the exact file, at the same frames per second, file format (mp4), in 1080p and in h.264 type – however this file was THREE TIMES the bitrate. So, the same as before but denser. We can then see a direct comparison between them and how bitrate effects plex media server transcoding on the Synology DS3018xs NAS.
I hope these Plex Media Server 4K results were of use to you and this helps you consider which NAS you wish to you buy in 2018, whether it is the Synology DS3018xs or something more or less suited to your needs.
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