2/1/2022

Universal Media Server Synology

Cord cutting has come a very long way. It wasn't that long ago that cord cutters had to hunt around for solutions to very basic cord cutting problems. Now, the opposite is true: we have so many options for streaming, organizing, and casting content that the difficult part is actually deciding which one to use.

Synology is known for making some of the best NAS devices for Plex media server. Most NAS devices do not have a CPU capable of handling UHD videos. However, Synology recognized that there is a demand for being able to use NAS devices as Plex media servers and upped the CPUs a little but more importantly upgraded the hardware to handle hardware. With our easy-to-install Plex Media Server software and Plex apps on the devices of your choosing, you can stream your video, music, and photo collections any time, anywhere, to whatever you want. Quick Start Video. Getting started is easy, download Plex Media Server.

Witness the crowded field of media server programs, for example: you have Plex, Emby, PlayOn, and many more. There are ways to rig up Kodi as a server or to integrate these other servers into a Kodi environment. In short, if you want to make your local content available on multiple devices, you have a lot of options – too many, in fact.

On this list, we're cutting through the confusion and naming the best media server applications. Use it as your guide – or take us to task in the comments if you disagree.

The Winner: Plex

As far as stand-alone media server applications go, Plex is the clear winner. It's the most polished and user-friendly of the media server applications, which is a big advantage in a space that's crowded by clunky options that are only a few steps removed from their DIY origins.

Plex is easy to set up and easy to use, and it's quite effective. It's pushing the idea of a media server beyond the concept's power-user origins, and making media servers attractive to more casual cord cutters. But Plex is still quite powerful, and it offers the essential media server combination of local content streaming and “channels” full of streaming content from major networks. Like many of its competitors, it has a free version and a paid “premium” version, which is priced fairly and includes some solid features (like access to your content outside your local network).

Synology Media Server Subtitles

Plex isn't perfect, of course – it still has too many channels that don't work on certain platforms, and idealists will note that it's not open source. It doesn't play that well with Kodi (Kodi fanatics, we have your best choice ranked at #2). But overall, the sum of Plex's advantages is greater than the sum of its disadvantages. It's leading the pack in the media server space.

The Runners-Up

Second Place: Emby

Emby splits the difference between Plex and the less polished media servers that make up the rest of our list. It offers more customization and – importantly – superb integration with Kodi, the best media center (but not the best media server) on the market.

Emby manages to offer all this customization and functionality without asking quite as much of its users as its DIY-leaning brethren. It's not quite as elegant as Plex, but it's much more user-friendly than Universal Media Center and the like. It has an awful lot in common with Plex, but it tweaks the formula to position itself as a bit more appealing to the DIY crowd.

Third Place: Serviio

Serviio is one of several media servers that takes advantage of DLNA interoperability to stream to a wide variety of platforms. It's a little less intuitive than Emby or Plex, but (unlike DLNA competitor PlayOn) can run servers on both Windows and Mac. If this one isn't for you, you could consider Universal Media Server (formerly PS3 Media Server), which is another DLNA media server with a loyal following.

Server

The downside to Serviio is that it's far less user-friendly than Emby or Plex. It's still a good choice for the tech-savvy among us, but be prepared to get your hands dirty.

Fourth Place: Universal Media Server

Speak of the devil! We ranked Universal Media Server below Serviio because we thought its setup process was a little more of a hassle (to be honest, both are far more difficult to set up than Plex or Emby are). But really, Serviio and Universal Media Server are very similar, and they run neck-and-neck for the affections of the DLNA server crowd. Universal Media Server is the old PS3 Media Server, so fans of that product will want to continue on with this one.

Using Synology as a Media Server

Last month, we wrote about setting up a Synology for backing up all your devices at home. This week, we’ll explore another of its most entertaining uses—as a home media server. A media server is simply any device that can be used to store or share media, including audio, photos, video, and books, via a network. This definition perfectly matches a Synology, which is a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device that can be used to hold and broadcast these types of files. The only problem? Synology’s instructions for doing so are so incredibly boring and obscure that they’re useless to most people. So—here we are.

Assumptions for Setting up Your Synology Media Server

First, we’re assuming that you have a Synology that is connected via ethernet cable to your router/LAN (Local Area Network).

Second, we’re assuming you have a DLNA device with such as Sony PS4, Xbox One, Sonos, Bose, Smart TV, etc. DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance and it’s just a certification system. As long as devices are certified DLNA, they can communicate with each other. Most mainstream devices are DLNA compliant.

Step 1: Setting up Your Synology

Go to the Package Center on your Synology and download the app called “Media Server.”

Next, upload your media files to your Synology. We advise that you put them in separate folders like “Movies,” “TV,” “Photos,” etc.

Synology Media Server Setup

Open the Media Server app, and point it to those directories. The Media Server app will automatically scan the Synology for media files, but this is still a good idea to help keep you organized.

Check that you have installed the latest codec pack and that you have enabled “UPnP” on the Synology. UPnP stands for “Universal Plug ’n’ Play,” which is a standard that allows a wide range of devices to be connected, including both wireless and wired. Beyond this step, you won’t ever really need to know this information ever again.

Step 2: Set up Your Media Playback Device

Check that you have enabled UPnP on your media playback device. Some devices, such as the PS3, will have it disabled by default.

For most DLNA devices, you’ll be able to select a setting and then select your Synology from the list. Once you have your Synology selected, you can view photos, listen to music, and play movies. If you’re not sure where to find the setting you need, the Synology Knowledgebase has a list of popular devices and instructions for finding it. Scroll down to the section that says “To access the media files stored on your Synology.”

Note: some older media playback devices may have issues playing certain formats, especially .mkv files—often because they are associated with piracy. In the event that you have trouble with these media formats, try converting the file(s) to a more compatible format.

Some people might recommend using Plex or Kodi to set up your server, but the Media Server app is native to Synology and it doesn’t cost anything. Give it a shot!

Synology

Written by I.T. Roadmap

Synology Plex Media Server Setup

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