Home / How-tos / How to build a full-fat 4K Plex streaming system for under £200

How to build a full-fat 4K Plex streaming system for under £200

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Plex Shield

Plex is probably the best way to stream to your TV, but what if you don't have a PC to use as a back-end server? Thanks to a new NVIDIA Shield update, you can now build the media system of your dreams on the cheap.

We love, love, love Plex. I mean, seriously, how backwards does transferring content to a TV via USB stick seem these days?

If you've always wanted to get hip to the Plexolution but lacked the necessary hardware, today's your lucky day – it's time to join the party.

Review: Plex Media Server

How?

The 4K-ready NVIDIA Shield – a tidy Android set-top box that earned an 8/10 review rating - is getting full Plex Media Server capabilities as part of the imminent SHIELD Experience 3.2 software update.

That means that the NVIDIA Shield box will now not only support the Plex front-end player app, it'll actually be able to function as the Plex server itself.

Why does this matter?

It matters because, previously, the Shield was only capable of serving as intermediary when it came to Plex – it could receive content from another device on behalf of your TV, but not actually locally store or stream that content.

For that, you needed a relatively powerful PC or NAS drive as your back-end – neither of which come of the cheap. And even if you had one, there were energy efficiency concerns, as you need your server to be always on.

Related: How to turn your old PC into a media server

With the Shield update, that's now longer the case. Just grab yourself an NVIDIA Shield over on Amazon for £150 (or £190 bundled with the gaming remote) and you're nearly good to go.

Why nearly?

Because £150 'only' gets you an 8GB Shield and that's no where near enough on-board storage for the modern media hog. However, as the Shield features two USB 3.0 ports, you can easily hook it up to an external storage device and expand your capacity on the cheap.

By way of example, an ultra-spacious 2TB Samsung M3 is currently available on Amazon for just £63 – a whopping 30% or £27 off.

That gives you four times the storage of the £220 500GB Shield model for roughly the same price.

BUY NOW: Samsung M3 2TB at Amazon.co.uk from £62

Or, opt for the more directly comparable 500GB Samsung M3 – we should mention it's super-slimline, so it'll tuck nicely away with your Shield – for a shade over £40, meaning you can enjoy exactly the same Plex setup for under £200.

To our mind, this is the cheapest way you can enjoy a full-fat Plex experience on the cheap – there's no expensive hardware required. In fact, chances are you probably already have a decent sized external hard drive, meaning all you need is a Shield to get streaming.

BUY NOW: NVIDIA Shield 16GB at Amazon.co.uk from £149.99

As well as offering 4K UHD, it's also worth mentioning that the Shield supports Dolby's new Atmos sound standard, so this really is a great way to enjoy a premium media streaming experience on a budget.

WATCH: All you need to know about TVs

Know of a better way to build a sweet Plex system? Let us know in the comments below.

Bugblatter

June 9, 2016, 1:37 pm

How many people turn off their NAS when they're not using it? I know I don't.

Sadly my NAS doesn't support Plex, and equally sadly I don't have a spare HDMI input to give to a Shield.

cheese king

June 9, 2016, 2:43 pm

Plex stinks, no idea why people rave about it, perhaps they've never used KODI or media portal. The gui and server feel like they were created by someone who got booted out of apple, all the useful stuff is missing, like picking up PC shares... Streaming is also SSSSLLLLLOOOWWWW even on my gigabit network, anything more than 500ms to start a movie is unacceptable to me. Anyway, if you are going to have a media server anyway surely it has to be cheaper to just throw a £99 GTX 950 in it and get 4k that way?. When the Polaris cards come out later this year a 4k HTPC rig will be even cheaper. I would wait and take the HTPC route, its more flexible and can be upgraded. You also wont need to stream so no waiting for stuff to buffer / load, setup KODI and everything will play instantly.

Volodesi

June 9, 2016, 3:54 pm

The original SHIELD TV is 16 GB, not 8. The Pro is 500 GB.

Bugblatter

June 9, 2016, 4:12 pm

It's a question of taste. I really don't like the KODI UI, the Plex one is ok. Having saidf that I use MPC-HC with madVR, which has a truly awful 1980's UI but I get good results with it, far better than I had with KODI (although I haven't tried Jarvis yet).

Also getting a HTPC running properly for movies is pretty complicated. Even getting the black levels right without multiple conversions is stupidly tricky. And no HDR yet, which I think Shield now has.

cheese king

June 9, 2016, 4:19 pm

there are some truly awful and frankly unusable skins for Kodi, but most of them are very good and more than skins, they can completely transform KODI. Huge can of Titan myself.

pimlicosound

June 9, 2016, 5:08 pm

What's the advantage these days to going the server+client route? I've just set up a new Apple TV with the Infuse video player, and it picks up all the media on my Apple Time Capsule disk and populates it with appropriate metadata. It can play virtually any media format, including MKV. No need for a server+client relationship to make this work. So what does Plex (or others like Kodi) add to that?

Harish Vekaria

June 10, 2016, 11:57 am

I've used KODI for many years with an Aeon Skin variant, but recently switched to PLEX because of the platform support (without the jail-breaking), allows me to watch my media pretty much anywhere, For a single standalone box KODI definitely is great, but for multi device usage, you can't go wrong with PLEX, the library management side of things blows KODI away. You can load up the PHT client and use Aeon skin on it, and it looks and feels like KODI. BTW not sure what is up with your playback issues, mine flies over 1gb network. Bottom line, single media centre KODI - thumbs up, multi device - PLEX.

Christopher Alan Grundhofer

July 23, 2016, 11:40 pm

Technically, the setup you just described IS a server + client setup...

pimlicosound

July 24, 2016, 3:44 pm

Only in the sense that the Apple Time Capsule is a disk serving data to the Apple TV. But that's quite a reductive take on it, and is quite different from what we normally mean when we talk about servers and clients in a networked media setup. There is no media serving software running on the Time Capsule, and the Infuse app on the Apple TV does not require compatible media server software to be running on connected resources. So, yes, technically the disk is a server, but it's completely different from using iTunes or Plex as an active media server.

Robert McKee

September 4, 2016, 12:49 am

People switched to Plex, because KODI simply can't do what plex can. Plex allows me to play my media on any TV I have in the house (because I have plex clients for all of them). It also tracks what different people watch in the house (Multi-User support). It also allows me to sync content to my phone and tablet so I can watch stuff without an internet connection. All while keeping my watch list up to date no matter what I watch something on.

I will sometimes start watching a movie on one TV, then move to another TV and it picks right up where I left off. KODI can't do any of that, but the UI is better if I only needed to watch stuff on one PC/TV, didn't care about mobile or streaming to my phone when I'm not at home, and it was only me, but it isn't.

Matt Gordon

October 26, 2016, 7:15 pm

Sorry for the n00b question, but what is meant by "full fat". File type? FAT32?

Trevor Vance

November 14, 2016, 1:52 am

Sharing is one of my main reasons. me and my friend can share both of our Plex servers with each other and watch out complete collections over the internet with ease.

Alan Green

November 14, 2016, 12:40 pm

It really means little to no compromises. It has nothing to do with the FAT32 File system.

So in theory the Nvidia Shield running Plex should be able to take care of all your 4k/UHD Media; regardless of bit-rate, resolution, audio/video codecs (providing they all fall into whats acceptable and or standard)

GoodNPlenty333

November 28, 2016, 7:24 pm

The client server setup lets you stream all your media over the internet to a plethora of devices like phones, tablets, laptops etc.. It turns your media library into something like your own private version of Netflix that you and others can access from anywhere, and on any device that can run the Plex client.

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