Best NAS setup for home media centre

I need the NAS to:
– serve video to iPhone, Mac and my TV* (max 2 videos playing concurrently)
– act as a TimeMachine backup destination for my Mac
– have a partition for files (e.g. that I want to offload from my Mac)
– contain 2 iTunes libraries and serve them to iPhone, Mac and Sonos

* my TV isn’t “smart” so I would need the NAS to have HDMI out OR I could buy a Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast stick to plug into the TV’s HDMI and serve media to. Also, my TV is only HD1080p, but I guess to future-proof any NAS solution I should be looking to get something that supports 4k uhd?

ideally, i’d like the NAS to run straight out of the box with minimal config, and any config to be via a GUI rather than command line.

I’d like a 4 bay NAS so that I can set up RAID5, I’ll probably go for 4 x WD RED 4TB drives which will give me 12TB with RAID5 (since these disks seem to be the lowest £ per TB).

The NAS will likely connect to an ethernet port on my EE Brightbox ADSL router. I hope this router is up to the task, I might need to buy my own WiFi router if not.

I’m basically stuck on whether to go for QNAP or Synology. QNAP have so many different devices I don’t know where to start comparing them. The QNAP TVS-471-i3 was recommended to me by a friend as the best out there at the moment, but it’s so expensive and does far more than I need it to. In terms of Synology, i’ve been looking at the DS418, 418j and 418play, but i’ve read that none of those devices properly support Plex?

I’m trying to buy something that will last me at least 5 years (the longetivity is more that I want it to be forward compatible with media encoding formats for a long time, since having RAID setup means I can just swap out any failed drives should that occur). It seems a Synology setup with the WD RED drives would be around £800 and a QNAP may be up to £1500. Ideally i’d like to spend £800 but if I have to spend £1500 for the perfect system thats OK (but no more than that).

Finally – I’m quite worried about data security and would like to be able to disable external-over-internet access to anything on the NAS, as I don’t think i’ll ever use it. Do the NAS’s come with built-in firewalls, or would it be reliant on the (basic) firewall in my EE Brightbox? I’m familiar with AVG Antivirus on my Mac (and friends Windows PCs) – would I be able to use that on the NAS or isn’t it recommended?

There are quite a few options, but mainly from Qnap. The cheapest solution will be TS-453Bmini which supports dual-channel 4K H.265/H.265 hardware decoding and on-the-fly or offline transcoding. It will also serve as TimeMachine and Itunes server with no problem. Built-in HDMI port will ensure uninterrupted video streaming up to new generation 4K format. You can also easily cast video on your fire stick or chromecast as well as stream music on Sonos.

4 Bays will let you set up RAID5 which will enable 1 disk failure and biggest space available for the money. TVS-473e would be a more expensive alternative which would give you everything you have described above and more. It has faster processor if you decide to make it do many simultaneous tasks between many users. Otherwise 53B series will be just fine.

Plex is compatible with all Intel processors including Celeron featured on this NAS. You can enjoy Netflix kind of experience but private from your home. You can set up a firewall and also antivirus if necessary. But as long as you have a firewall on the router and antivirus on the computer, there is no real need for these things.


More info on suitable NAS options at SPAN. 


What can I connect to a NAS?

Wireless Speaker Sonos

The great thing about Sonos is that you don't need to pay for music subscription service. With the cheapest NAS at home like DS115j or any other, you can have your backups done for all of your devices and still use your network drive as a Sonos music library. Sonos will connect to your NAS via your network and let access your provided music library. If you have little more of IT knowledge, you can even set up your Alexa or Sonos with Alexa built in to play music on your voice commands ("Alexa! Ask DS Audio to Play Music!").

Casting devices

Nowadays it is so cheap to upgrade your old TV and make it smart. All you need is Google Chrome or EZcast alternative plugged into your HDMI port at the back of your TV. Now you have great functionality added to your TV to send a video file directly from your NAS to a TV. No need for wires and chargers and other mess. You can use your phone as a remote to go to your movies or family videos and cast that content on your TV during family or friend gatherings.


Apple TV

Amazon Fire TV

You may not have a smartphone, or you just simply prefer to control your content with a remote in that case Amazon Fire TV will be a great addon to get to your TV. It also plugs into your HDMI port and will play content from your NAS to a TV. No wires no mess.

nVidia Shield TV

It gets even better! If you want some more entertainment and all previously mentioned functions - nVidia TV is a great thing to get. You can use it for playing games and watching movies from your NAS. The greatest thing is - shield TV does video transcoding. So even if you have a cheap NAS with a weak CPU, in a combination of shield TV you can now automatically on the fly change video file size and format for a destination device. It is a great way to reduce network load and let older devices to play video content which normally was not supported on the device.

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