Why Your New Smart TV Doesn’t Need A Fancy Media Server

Why Your New Smart TV Doesn’t Need A Fancy Media Server
Image: Gizmodo

You’ve bought a new smart TV and you’re keen to pair a media server with it. You can’t just browse the videos on your file server using the TV’s user interface — you’ll need a middleman — but before you rush out and grab a Pi, NUC or install Plex on your desktop machine, make sure your humble NAS can’t do the job first.

Back in the day, it was uncommon for smart TVs to handle the video and audio data inside AVIs, MKVs, MP4s and so forth without that information first being “transcoded” — that is, converted into a format the TV can play natively.

This meant you needed software to do the transcoding, with something like Plex being a popular choice.

Of course, the Plex server can’t run on the TV itself, so you’d have to install it on hardware powerful enough to transcode on the fly — a desktop machine, spare laptop, or a Raspberry Pi.

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The good news is modern smart TVs can deal with most, if not all, of the popular formats, which means you don’t necessarily need an active transcoder in the middle, running on decent hardware. Often, you can get away with a lightweight DLNA server that doesn’t transcode, which means it can run on a potato.

Not a literal potato, but low-grunt devices like a NAS. In fact, it’s easy to find a NAS that supports DLNA out of the box. For example, Netgear’s range of ReadyNAS hardware comes with ReadyDLNA (also known as miniDLNA) and Synology has a Media Server package you can download. With a few clicks, you can be serving media to your TV in minutes.

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So, before you spend money on a dedicated server to pair with your new TV, make sure your current gadgets aren’t up to the task first. You might be surprised what they’re capable of.


    • LMFAO $1000’s? my NAS’ have always been made up of old computer parts. even a Q series with 8GB of DDR2 RAM is fine for a plex server.

      • Get a serious 4 + bay NAS with large drives it’s not hard to hit $1000.

        A quality diskless 4 bay setup is around the $500 mark

        Throw in 4x4TB drives, even the cheapest is around $155 so, x4 that’s $620

        For a total of $1,120. Sure that’s getting pretty serious for home use. But it’s certainly not crazy money. If you start talking 8 bay because you’re really serious then the empty NAS alone will cost you roughly $1,000 and the drives to fill it will be a minimum of $1,240 for a total of $2,240.

        And add up the original value of the parts you’re talking about. Just because *you* have the parts on hand doesn’t mean the average person will. A cheap mobo is still $100, a cheap case is another $50, add more for a CPU, RAM and again HDDs and we’re easily into the high hundreds.

  • Both my TV and PVR act as media servers. I just add videos or music to a shared folder on my laptop and they play on the TV. The only problem is they don’t show the subtitles if I have them for a movie.

  • The best reason for a media server like Plex is that it remembers which television episode you’re up to. With the right add-on, it can also automatically sync your viewing with Trakt.tv.

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