Limitations When Running Plex Media Server on NVIDIA SHIELD

Plex Media Server running on NVIDIA SHIELD is a full-fledged server. Due to the nature of the device, there are a few things which might affect how you use the server, so you should be aware of them.


What formats does the hardware transcoding support?

When Plex needs to transcode video to be compatible for an app or device, it always transcodes video to H.264. The NVIDIA SHIELD supports hardware accelerated H.264 encoding.

When content needs to be transcoded, the server will also need to decode the video stream before transcoding it. The following video compression formats are supported for hardware decoding on the SHIELD:

  • H.264
  • H.265 (HEVC)
  • MPEG 2

This means that if your media uses one of the above three formats, then the NVIDIA SHIELD will be able to make full use of hardware acceleration for transcoding. If your content is in another source format (e.g. VC-1, Xvid, VP9, etc.) then the SHIELD will have reduced performance in cases where transcoding is necessary.

Tip!: Making sure your content uses either H.264, H.265, or MPEG 2 will allow you to make the most of your NVIDIA SHIELD.

Note: In cases where content requires that subtitles be burned in (common for PGS or VOBSUB subtitles and sometimes required for other subtitle formats in some Plex apps), it is not possible to use hardware encoding. That means that the transcoding must be done by the CPU, which may be slower.

How many streams can the server support?

The real-world performance of the device can vary greatly depending on the particular properties of the media you're playing (bitrate, resolution, etc.), how many items are streaming at the same time, and how many of those streams require transcoding.

In most cases, the NVIDIA SHIELD will be able to support at least 2-3 simultaneous transcodes.

Storage Limitations

Writing to USB, microSD Card, and Network Storage

When you mount a USB drive or microSD card as "Removable Storage", a special writable folder is created on the drive. Only content within that folder is writable and all other content is read-only. See our Media Storage Options article for details.

Mounted network shares are writable since the "SHIELD Experience Update 5.2" firmware release.

Related Page: Media Storage Options for NVIDIA SHIELD


Using our DVR feature to record programming will necessarily require saving those recordings to disk. Since NVIDIA SHIELD is limited on where it has write permissions, you will need to ensure that you choose a library location that is writable. If needed, you can edit the library settings to add a second content/folder source pointing to the writable location.

The 500GB Pro model of NVIDIA SHIELD is particularly attractive for use with the DVR feature since it provides a lot of internal storage space.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > DVR
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Libraries > Editing Libraries

Media Optimizer

When making use of our Media Optimizer feature to optimize content, you will need to choose a library location that is writable. The optimizing process requires "write permission" to the specified location. If needed, you can edit the library settings to add a second content/folder source pointing to the writable location.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > Media Optimizer

Camera Upload

Using our Camera Upload feature to upload camera roll content from your mobile device to your Plex Media Server requires the server to be able to write the content to the specified library. To make use of Camera Upload, you need to choose a library location that is writable.

Related Page: Plex Pass > Camera Upload

Temporary Storage Requirements

Varying amounts of temporary space on the NVIDIA SHIELD's internal storage will be required when performing different things with your Plex Media Server. The most common of these is when streaming content that cannot be Direct Played by the client Plex app.

Some transcodes may fail if there is insufficient free space on the device. Streaming some very large, high bitrate files may actually require more than 16GB of temporary free space, meaning that the 16GB model of the NVIDIA SHIELD would fail to play that content by default.

In addition to streaming/transcoding, space will temporarily be needed when syncing content (both Mobile Sync and Cloud Sync) as well as when using the Media Optimizer feature (regardless of where the completed optimized files are stored).

The amount of temporary space needed can vary dramatically, ranging from very little to possibly dozens of GB of space. For devices without lots of free space, you can expand your internal storage by adding a microSD card or USB drive (see below).

Related Page: Plex Pass > Mobile Sync & Cloud Sync
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Media Optimizer

Server Data Requirements

When you set up libraries on your Plex Media Server, space is needed to store information such as the database, metadata about library items, posters and background art for the content, and more. The amount of space required can vary dramatically based both on how many items you have in your media libraries as well as what options you turn on for your server.

For instance, enabling the Video Preview Thumbnails feature can give you a richer experience in your apps, but the files that get generated for it can potentially require significant amounts of space if you have large libraries.

Tip!: If you're using the 16GB model NVIDIA SHIELD, we strongly recommend that you disable Video Preview Thumbnail generation.

Note: The server's data directory will always be placed on the original internal storage, even if you expand it with a USB drive or microSD card.

Related Page: Why is my Plex Media Server directory so large?
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Video Preview Thumbnails

Expanding Internal Storage

Android supports an "adoptable storage" feature that lets you expand what is considered "internal storage", making it very useful when you're running Plex Media Server, particularly on the 16GB model NVIDIA SHIELD. When adding more storage for this purpose, you can add the following to your device:

  • microSD card (up to 128GB)
  • USB 3.0 drive

Many people will choose to use a fast microSD card for this so that both USB ports remain open and available for other purposes. If you're interested in more space than a microSD card can support, then you can instead use a USB 3.0 drive.

How much space your Plex Media Server needs will depend on your particular server settings and usage. The more free space you have available, the more flexibility you will have with your server.

Tip!: For users running on the 16GB model NVIDIA SHIELD, we recommend you add at least a 32GB card/drive. 64GB or more could be useful if you do lots of syncing.

Note: Using adopted storage on the NVIDIA SHIELD for server data will not be as reliable as it’s own local storage. Degraded performance can be expected where the transcoder is starved for memory, causing a “Weak Signal” warning when using Live TV. Changing the transcoding folder to a faster attached drive (such as the USB 3.0 hard drive) may help.

Related Page: NVIDIA SHIELD > Media Storage Options for NVIDIA SHIELD
Related Page: SHIELD Android TV - How to Increase your Storage with Android Marshmallow
Related Page: Understanding Adoptive Storage in Android 6 (Marshmallow)

Manually Installing Channels or Plugins

When running on the NVIDIA SHIELD, the Plex Media Server data directory is not currently user-accessible. Unfortunately, this means that it is not currently possible to manually install channels or plugins on the device. You can, of course, still install things through the normal Channel Directory.

Related Page: Channels > Adding, Removing, and Updating a Channel
Related Page: Channels > Channels from the Channel Directory

Plex Media Server Updates

Unlike a regular Plex Media Server you might run on a computer or NAS device, you can't arbitrarily update the server version. Instead, new Plex Media Server updates will be released on Google Play specifically for the NVIDIA SHIELD.

Preview Releases

Preview releases for Plex Media Server on NVIDIA SHIELD are available by enabling beta access for Plex Media Server on your Google Play account. To do so:

  1. In your browser, sign in to the Google account that's being used on your NVIDIA SHIELD
  2. Browse to this page
  3. Use the Become a Tester button
  4. You'll be prompted with an update of Plex Media Server in the Google Play store on your SHIELD if the current preview release version is newer than the regular release

Tip!: If you no longer want to use preview releases, you can visit the same page and choose to no longer be a tester. You'll then need to wait for the next regular Plex Media Server release, which will update over the previous preview release.

Related Page: Google Play: Plex Media Server beta
Related Page: NVIDIA SHIELD > Setting Up and Managing Plex Media Server on NVIDIA SHIELD