Plex Server on the Cheap! Intel N100 Mini PCs are a great choice.

In my latest sponsored Plex video, we look at using a very inexpensive Intel N100 based GMKtek G3 Mini PC as a Plex server. Despite being a budget device, its performance, particularly with hardware transcoding, is impressive.

You can see my initial review of this particular PC here.

I began by installing the Windows version of Plex Media Server on the mini PC since it comes pre-installed with Windows and the Windows installation process is the simplest.

The Intel N100 processor, part of Intel’s Alder Lake series, features QuickSync technology, which enables hardware accelerated video decoding and encoding. This is important for users who plan to stream content outside their home network. QuickSync compresses videos into lower bitrate files on the fly, facilitating smoother playback over varying network conditions. Additionally, the chip’s capability to handle multiple video formats makes it a versatile choice for media servers.

Hardware transcoding requires a Plex Pass (compensated affiliate link). You can learn more about hardware transcoding in this video. If you are just direct playing the files from your Plex server inside the home the hardware transcoding (and Plex Pass) aren’t necessary. You’ll be able to spin things up for free.

In my real-world testing, I demonstrated the mini PC’s ability to handle multiple simultaneous hardware transcodes efficiently. For instance, a 4K VP9 encoded video from Netflix and a Blu-ray MKV file were both transcoded without significant CPU load, maintaining around 20-25% usage. Even with five concurrent transcodes, including various formats like VP9, H.264 and a 10-bit HEVC, the CPU usage only reached about 35%.

However, the mini PC encounters limitations with 4K HDR Blu-ray MKVs when playing back on non-SDR displays. Windows does not support hardware-based HDR tone mapping, forcing the CPU to handle this task, resulting in poor playback performance. Hardware tone mapping does work on Quicksync equipped processors on Linux operating systems, however. We’ll explore that in a future video.

Despite these limitations, an Intel Alder LAke N100 mini PC is an excellent choice for most Plex users looking for a budget solution with low power consumption.

Disclosure: This video was sponsored by Plex however they did not review or approve the video before it was uploaded.