The perfect home media setup — ReadyNAS 102 running Plex on the new AppleTV

I have been using the new AppleTV for over a month now and couldn't go back to not having one. The AppleTV is a smart TV box that would obviously appeals to iOS & OSX users as it heavily intertwines with Apple services including iTunes & iCloud. My favourite feature so far is AirPlay as it allows you to beam content from your phone to the TV such as a photos or videos from SkyGO or Amazon Instant Video.
AppleTV ATV ReadyNAS 102
The long awaited AppleTV App Store was released in 2015.

The AppleTV is more than just an AirPlay device however as it has its own App Store. The App Store is where the main potential lies in the 4th Generation model with apps already available on the AppleTV such as iPlayer, Netflix & HBO:GO. With time more apps will be released and the power of the AppleTV will be even more apparent.

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Luckily for us the most important home media app is already in the App Store which is… Plex! If you haven't heard of Plex already it is a free media organiser that allows you to enjoy your films, TV shows, music & photos across multiple devices. Plex is both extremely easy to setup yet powerful with lots of ways to customise your library to how you like it. Plex essentially adds any video/music/photo content within a specified folder to your Plex library, this can then be streamed to any approved device. There is very little to set up within Plex as it can automatically add cover art, subtitles, bonus content, & even remember which episode you are on in a series. The experience is like having Netflix for free but with your own content!

ReadyNAS 102 Unboxing
ReadyNAS 102 diskless model ready to unbox.

To get going with Plex you will need a device that hosts the media files you would like to share. This could be the computer you work from (PC/Mac) but it requires you to have it on each time you would like to access your content. If want the perfect home media setup, then you should invest in a Network Attached Network (NAS) drive such as ReadyNAS. With a NAS drive your media content is always accessible as it is essentially a hard drive with built in wifi.

So where to start when looking for a NAS device for Plex? I started by browsing online for Plex compatible NAS drives but I found many conflicting articles about which devices are compatible. I also checked out the official Plex Compatibility List and tried to not get bogged down with the CPU types & speed for transcoding movie files. I was personally looking for the best value NAS drive that would allow me to play Blu-Ray quality films on my AppleTV. It may appear that you require a top end NAS drive costing over a thousand pounds to do this, this however is not the case! The good news is that transcoding in most cases is NOT important, I have here the ReadyNAS 102 that is under £100 and can effortlessly stream Blu-Ray quality films. A new Plex feature 'Media Optimizer' also allows you to transcode in advance if required. My movie library complies of 1080p films that are multiple file types including .mp4 & .mkv, I use the ReadyNAS 102 to host all my films & TV shows to seamlessly play on my AppleTV.

Setting up Plex Media Server on ReadyNAS 102

To run Plex on the ReadyNAS 102 you will need to install the Plex Media Server on it, but first the drive will have to be set up. The ReadyNAS 102 has two bays and you will have the option to buy it diskless or as a configuration with storage for convenience. The maximum storage is 12TB (two 6 TB drives) and you will likely get better value for money buying the drives separately. You do not need a specific NAS HDD with the ReadyNAS 102, but I would advise it. I first tried it out with an old regular 3.5-inch HDD Seagate drive, I then invested in a Western Digital Red 3.5" 3TB drive which is a NAS optimised drive. The NAS HDDs are worth the extra if you will be buying a new HDD specifically for your NAS, they are more reliable, more energy efficient and quieter than regular drives. Currently the 3TB or 4TB drives are the best value at approximately £28/TB, the 2TB drive cost more at £72 which is £36/TB.
ReadyNAS 102 Unboxing Front side buttonsReadyNAS 102 Unboxing Back Reverse side ports
ReadyNAS 102 front side buttons (L). Reverse side buttons & ports (R).

The ReadyNAS 102 is very easy to setup, open the case to slide out the tray and attach the HDD to it, then connect the NAS to power & internet with the included ethernet cable. Once ready either download the ReadyCloud app for Mac/PC or go to to discover the device on the local network. Once the device has been found follow the on screen instructions to finish the setup. If your HDD needs formatting then see this useful page for instructions. Once up and running either use the ReadyCloud website or Finder/My computer to easily add your content to the server. Ensure you have separate folders for Movies & TV shows, this makes your Plex library a lot cleaner! Make sure you change the standby settings on your ReadyNAS, I personally use 5minutes standby, as the device automatically turns back on when a registered device starts requesting the data.
ReadyNAS 102 Unboxing Disk Drive
Up to two Hard Disks can be inserted into the trays of the 102 with a maximum storage of 12 TB.

In order to set up Plex on your NAS, download the Plex Media Server from the Plex site or through the Addons page on ReadyCloud. If you want the very latest Plex version or the PlexPass version I suggest downloading at the Plex site and then use the upload feature on ReadyCloud to install it. The ReadyNAS 102 requires the ARM 6.X version of Plex which is a .deb file. After 5 minutes or so Plex will be installed, go to the Admin page of ReadyCloud and press Plex to go to your new server.
ReadyNAS 102 Plex Setup Interface
Plex Media Server interface on the PC/Mac for setting up content for ReadyNAS.

When on Plex press the + symbol to add a new Library, from there add separate libraries for Movies & TV shows linking to a folder on your NAS device eg. Data > Video > Movies. Then press the Update library icon and watch your content get added. Metadata, cover art, subtitles, trailers, bonus content are automatically added depending on your Agents chosen in the Server settings. The main Agent to ensure on top of each content type is Local Media Assets, Agents can be quite confusing since the setup possibilities are endless, I think it be useful if there were a more user friendly Agent initial setup. Watch the video below to see the settings I use.
ReadyNAS 102 AppleTV Plex app
Plex App interface on the AppleTV running on ReadyNAS 102.

Once your content is set up how you like it on the Plex site, play your content from on device you like. I have tried iPhone, iPad & AppleTV 4th Gen and the ReadyNAS 102 has worked flawlessly. On the new AppleTV go to the App store and download the free Plex app. From there the app automatically scans your network and suggests the ReadyNAS 102 once it has Plex Media Server installed. The Plex user interface on the AppleTV is identical to the iTunes movies which is great.

As I had previously used my MacBook Pro as a Plex Media Server before switching to a ReadyNAS 102 I did notice a speed difference. For example updating the Plex library or waiting for cover art to show in the Plex app was slightly slower when it was hosted on the ReadyNAS 102. This is due to the slower CPU of the NAS compared to a MacBook but the speed difference is insignificant and does not affect viewing experience. The main issue I had come across using the 102 was playing films with separate subtitles files. When I tried to a film on the AppleTV with subtitles enabled I had a black screen. After speaking to a ReadyNAS representative the only way to play films with subtitles are to have a version of the film with the subtitles HARDCODED into the file itself. You can prepare your files in advance that need subtitles burned in using a free program called HandBrake.

Finally, if you want to get the most out of Plex, check out the optional Plex Pass, which gives you premium features like Cloud Sync, Camera Upload, Movie Trailers & Extras, and more. Plex Pass members also get access to new features early and can participate in Beta trials and provide feedback. Plex Pass is the perfect way to support the fantastic software that is essentially being given out for free to all.

Question: What Plex features & agents do you use? Let us know in comments!

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