Plex Media Servers are great for storing and accessing all your movies, tv shows, and other media. Unfortunately, Plex Server hardware can be expensive, electricity intensive, or both. To reduce both bills, use a Raspberry Pi for a Plex Server.
What You Need to Know
Running a Raspberry Pi as a Plex Server does come with several benefits. It won’t take up as much room as a server or a full-size PC. It also will use less electricity, even when idle all day. Best of all, it costs less than most other hardware capable of working as a server.
There are some downsides to be aware of, though. The Raspberry Pi 3 has an ARM processor that just doesn’t have the power to support transcoding. So when you are setting up your videos, you are going to want to choose MKV as your video format. That will usually bypass the need for transcoding. (Just about every Plex player supports MKV without transcoding on the fly, but a few smart TVs might have problems.)
Even then, while you’ll be able to watch standard Blu-ray quality locally, you probably won’t be able to view these videos remotely. And 4K Videos are likely not going to play well either. Also, keep in mind that this is not officially supported, and you’ll need to update the server software manually.
But once you account for those potential pitfalls, the Raspberry Pi does make a competent Plex Media Server.
Compared to using a dedicated full PC or an NVIDIA Shield as a Plex Server, the costs to get started with a Raspberry Pi are relatively low. You’ll need:
- Raspberry Pi 3
- MicroSD card
- Power supply
- Ethernet Cord (if possible)
- External storage such as USB drive or NAS unit
- Powered USB hub for USB drive
Optionally you might want to consider a case and a heat sink for the Raspberry Pi. You’ll need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to get everything in place, but after that, you can run the Pi headless.