WD PR4100 or DS418play or TS-453Be for home media

Looking to start my first media server project. My main purpose behind this project is to safely store and be able to remotely access my media files wherever I am without having to always bring along hard copies. (i.e. CDs, DVDs, or memory chip) Also redundancy is a large factor to insure that personal media (photos/videos) files aren’t irrevocably lost in the case of a hard drive failure.

My initial plan is to have a 4-bay NAS running on RAID 1. I would start with two 2 TB drives, and expand with more 2 TB drives as needed. I was also planning on running Plex on the NAS to drive media consumption.

I was able to score the initial 2 TB drives at a really good price, so I currently have two 2TB WD Red NAS drives.

The NAS systems I’ve been looking at are
* WD MyCloud Pro PR4100
* Synology DS418play
* QNAP TS-453Be

You are on the right track with any of these NAS models. The cheapest and best value for money will probably be DS418play. It comes with dual-core CPU and a video transcoding engine built just like other two NAS options.  If you do not pay for a Plex pass, then PR4100 might be an interesting option. WD and PLEX have made a special agreement between themselves which will let PLEX do hardware transcoding without paying for it.

Normally you get free software transcoding which might make your CPU hurt once you try to do parallel tasks while streaming. Hardware transcoding will consume noticeably less processing power letting you have more simultaneous streams or tasks. If you are paying Plex user, hardware transcoding should be included in the package.

TS-453Be is stripped version of TS-453B but will perform as good as DS418play but give you few more simultaneous transcoding streams. It is a good choice because it comes with a PCIe slot for 10GbE card upgrade or many other upgrade options. It will also let you use for many more interesting tasks compared with WD PR series.

But my pick would be DS418play. If you use Synology DS video app which is free video player app, you can even transcode 4K media. You can also load your movies on the mobile devices for traveling. Or use transcoding functions to watch videos with your friends remotely at their place. It will be a great replacement for Dropbox with included file version control.  All that without a monthly fee.

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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.