[Guide] Create a mobile media server setup with Plex's new app

And what app do you expect to use on a phone or tablet to access via VLC?

Trust me, the guide is the easiest way to make it happen.

VLC if and when you have the media offline stored.

Currently I’m an 8 hour drive away from home with 3 kids in a minivan. Too bad Plex’s new app came out about a week late, as this would have been a great solution for us! Next road trip for sure.

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You should be able to do this whether you are home or away! You’ll be limited to your Wi-Fi speed for downloads to your new mobile server of course.

Thanks for this guide. Got the wheels turning in my head for something I could run in our car for long road trips rather than frantically sync’ing media to each of the kid’s iPads.

Our car has standard AC outlet so should be able to plug in the PC easily. For in-car WiFi I was thinking one of the travel routers you recommended would work for in-car WiFi network for all devices to connect to even if I don’t provide it internet access right?

Lastly any recommendations for small PC to make this work? I have a 10 year old NUC I could use but worried about the onboarding graphics with transcoding. Unless stuff would just direct play on the iPads?

For in car Wi-Fi, I’d recommend the middle option. It’s much better with antennas, and the AC model is quite overkill.

Your NUC would be fine considering you shouldn’t have to transcode. I’ve tested 5 simultaneous devices on one of those travel routers and there was plenty of bandwidth and no stuttering with direct play on 1080p 10-20Mbps files. The only problem with the NUC is that you wouldn’t have a way to interact with it, you’d need to add a screen, keyboard, and mouse.

Honestly a laptop would be your best bet. It’s got a built in battery backup so it can keep going after you shut the car off, and it’ll safely shut itself down when it runs near the end of its battery. Not to mention it has a screen, keyboard, and trackpad built in. I posted this laptop on the discord just today. It’s around $211 in checkout. It’s got an 8th-Gen i3 (so it can hardware transcode via QuickSync) and would overall work great as a mobile server. You can upgrade the HDD to a 1 or 2TB SSD.

I’ve got an old Lenovo Thinkpad X220 which has this old Intel Core i5 CPU in it:

It supports QuickSync, so good enough? It’s got a 320GB HD, so I would need to upgrade it. I can’t tell from the specs, but think it’s not an SSD… but lots of guides on how to upgrade it to SSD.

You really don’t need quicksync. I bet most of your devices will direct play your files just fine, just like they would do on your home network. You can test this with your existing server! So ultimately the processor doesn’t matter much, it’ll be more than plenty.

A 320GB drive would definitely be a hard drive, not a SSD. I’d replace it with either a 2TB SSHD (best value option) or the largest SSD you can afford. The SSHD should suffice honestly, I’d probably go that route. It’s listed in the guide!

Might be off topic but is it possible to direct play everything remotely? It seems when I play files remotely plex wants to transcode. I’ve even tried a VPN so it looks as though I’m on my local LAN.

Yes, the default client settings are to limit quality to 2Mbps 720P, you’d have to change that in your client.

Check your player settings. Several players default to 4 or 2 Mbps settings rather than “original quality”

so I should aslo turn off automatically adjust quality on my client device settings?

I would, there’s typically no need for it.

Also with your write up are you using these devices over cellular network or Hotspot etc…?

Well, you’d be using them “locally” with a portable router.

That said, any type of internet connection (even cellular) is capable of direct play without transcoding provided you have the bandwidth for it, and the client supports the file type.

gotchya thank you!

Just wondering how much data (bandwidth) let’s say a 1080P movie would take to stream direct over cellular on average?

A decent quality 1080p would be around 8-12Mbps and high quality would be anywhere from 20-40Mbps.

Generally speaking, you’ll probably have to limit your speed over cellular to something less than 10Mbps for reliability’s sake. It really depends what download speeds you get in your area. You can check this by using a speed test app on your phone while disconnected from Wi-Fi.

can plex server and or client be forced to only direct play and bypass transcoding all together?

You cannot force direct play from the server, you can only allow it.