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post #1 of 23 Old 02-10-2014, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
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I have decided to build a proper HTPC and I have no idea where to start. This is my current setup

 

QNAP NAS (Ethernet) -> Asus AC66u router -> Samsung TV (ethernet)

 

My issue is when I play high-bit blu-rays like Avatar I get occasioning buffering and it drives me nuts. DVD are fine. All of my rips (blu-ray/dvd) sit on my NAS in mkv form. I used makemkv. I grabbed an old core 2 duo pc and just installed windows 7/plex media server/ plex home theater client and I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!! Much nicer than the Twonky DLNA server on the NAS. The intent is for the plex server to connect to my NAS via SMB shares.

 

The primary use will be for the plexserver and client to sit on the same box and connect to my TV via HDMI. Currently I stream my to my windows laptop via regular SMB share and use VLC and I have no issues with this. The Asus router handles this brilliantly.

 

Of course, while I am doing this I want something that will last, but I also need small form factor, so it's not too unsightly.

 

I cam across the ZOTAC ZBOX! Has anyone on this forum used them and could you recommend hardware. I am looking at a core-i3 version but am not sure if this will be enough. I do want to the ability to transcode for future use.

 

Here's the link:

 

http://www.staples.ca/en/ZOTAC-ZBOX-Mini-Desktop-PC-28GHz-Intel-Core-i3-3320T-4GB-RAM/product_64301_2-CA_1_20001

 

Is this enough for what I want? Is AMD or Intel better for this?

 

Again the main goal is stutter free playing of my MKV blu-ray ripps. They tendto be around 35GB. give or take.

 

I want my end setup to be:

 

QNAP NAS  (ethernet) -> Asus AC66u router -> plex server (ethernet) -> Samsung TV (HDMI)

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post #2 of 23 Old 02-10-2014, 06:32 PM
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Minimum i5 for future proofing with transcoding. Don't hate yourself later.
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post #3 of 23 Old 02-10-2014, 06:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Is intel the way to go vs AMD, or does it really not matter much? The OS will most probably windows 7.

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post #4 of 23 Old 02-10-2014, 07:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I am looking at this one:

 

ZOTAC® ZBOX Mini Desktop PC, 2.9GHz Intel Core i5-3470T, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD

The Intel HD 2500 Graphics Card with Intel Clear Video HD and Intel InTru 3D technology transforms this computer into a multimedia powerhouse

 

Is this overkill? I don't want to break the bank either.

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post #5 of 23 Old 02-10-2014, 07:03 PM
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post #6 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 01:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbcain View Post

That's your choice. I prefer Intel, others may not.

http://www.cpu-world.com/Compare/446/AMD_FX-Series_FX-8350_vs_Intel_Core_i5_i5-4670K.html

HOT , hot topic of debate !

I gave up on anything that say's " AMD" on it years ago . That's just me though . Simply casting my vote . Intel cpu(s) have NEVER given me one bit of trouble .

i3 would be fine but other than heat , the i5 will give more options down the road . I am a tad skeptical about an i5 in a s.f.f. pc

Personally I would rank Zotac about on the same par as AMD ... stay away !! Asus , Asrock (sister to Asus) , Intel mother boards have all performed well for me . I use to build a lot with Gigabyte boards but not so much anymore as they (3) started giving me trouble .
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post #7 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 07:41 AM
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HOT , hot topic of debate !

Not really. If you want to talk price/performance ratio AMD has a couple offerings that compete but in terms of pure video encoding ability Intel is so far ahead of AMD that there is nothing to debate. You need the highest end 8 core AMD FX-8350 to match a 4 core Intel Core i5-4570. The AMD uses significantly more power and it costs more.

In terms of price to performance ratio the AMD FX-8320 is a competitor but the Intel Core i5-4570 is ~$30 more and you get much better performance. You get into the Ivy/Haswell i7's and AMD has nothing that even comes close.

And I have way more AMD PCs/HTPCs in my home than Intel....
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post #8 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok....I decided to cheap out and grabbed an old HP desktop:

Intel Core 2 Duo processor 1.6 GHz
4GB Ram

My processor is the minimum spec suggested by plex.

I installed windows 7 Ent, Plex server and plex home theatre client. It looked amazing, but the performance was crap. My current video card can't handle HD.

I am thinking of dropping $50 and getting a Sapphire Radeon HD 6450 1GB DDR3.

Would this setup adequate? Again I am not trancoding. I just need it to play ripped blu-ray MKV files from NAS through HDMI to my samsung TV, studder free.

QNAP NAS -> Router -> Plex server/client -> TV.

Everything will be wired ethernet 1000mbps other than the HDMI of course.
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post #9 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 08:55 AM
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If you plan to transcode videos to any devices other than your HTPC on your network, specifically HD Videos, that Processor is gonna bite you. An I5 system with 4 Gigs of RAM in my home set up runs laps around my HTPC with just a Dual Core AMD Processor, 8 Gigs of RAM and an SSD. For now I have the I5 Laptop running Plex Server just for handling large Blu Ray Rips and does it with hardly any effort.
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post #10 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 08:58 AM - Thread Starter
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No intentions at the moment. Just to my TV, no transcoding.
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post #11 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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The Sapphire Radeon HD 6450 is a PCIe 2.0. Is there anyway in windows 7 for me to determine if my motherboard has a PCIe 2.0 slot?
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post #12 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Bad news. I checked my intel chipset and my motherboard only has a pcie 1.0a slot.  

Teh sapphire card is out. Will any card that I buy be able to do what I want or is it just too old? Any recommendations?

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post #13 of 23 Old 02-11-2014, 05:12 PM
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Yeah that cpu will choke, however a fairly modern AMD apu or Intel Celeron will be just fine. I've been using a llano a6-3500 to transcode bluray mkv's via plex just fine for years. Keep in mind the AMD apu's have hdmi handshake issues, black screen is the result. I had to get a NVidia dedicated gpu for my HTPC to fix these issues.
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post #14 of 23 Old 02-12-2014, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by techmattr View Post

Not really. If you want to talk price/performance ratio AMD has a couple offerings that compete but in terms of pure video encoding ability Intel is so far ahead of AMD that there is nothing to debate. You need the highest end 8 core AMD FX-8350 to match a 4 core Intel Core i5-4570. The AMD uses significantly more power and it costs more.

In terms of price to performance ratio the AMD FX-8320 is a competitor but the Intel Core i5-4570 is ~$30 more and you get much better performance. You get into the Ivy/Haswell i7's and AMD has nothing that even comes close.

And I have way more AMD PCs/HTPCs in my home than Intel....

Yes , " REALLY " . Always has been a hot topic and always will be.
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post #15 of 23 Old 02-12-2014, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I have looking at a small all in one PC for my Plex server and client combo.

 

Has anyone out there ever used one of the Intel NUC, Acer Revo, or Zotan ZBOX devices?

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post #16 of 23 Old 02-12-2014, 05:03 PM
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I have a Celeron NUC running openelec off a thumb drive and I can tell you that would work great for you. No problems whatever playing 1080p + all HD audio codecs off your NAS. I assume plex would work fine as we'll but I've never used that and can only vouch for how it will perform w/openelec.
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post #17 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 06:52 AM - Thread Starter
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ElJimador...

Awesome..ok Intel i3 NUC it is. I am actually going to throw openelec on an old pc tonight. I want to try it out. What do you do for a remote control, or do you use a keyboard. Are there remote control IR kits I can buy? I would prefer a remote control.
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post #18 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryancharles View Post

ElJimador...

Awesome..ok Intel i3 NUC it is. I am actually going to throw openelec on an old pc tonight. I want to try it out. What do you do for a remote control, or do you use a keyboard. Are there remote control IR kits I can buy? I would prefer a remote control.

You don't need the i3 NUC unless you want 3D playback, and I'm not even sure about that actually. I have no interest in 3D myself but I remember seeing some comments that the Celeron NUC might not be able to handle that. So if you want 3D I'd at least suggest you research that further. If all you need is smooth 1080p playback w/HD audio though the Celeron version can handle that easily and you can save yourself $100.

For a remote I use a Logitech Harmony + a USB IR receiver. The receiver I bought with some Rosewill remote off Newegg. Don't remember the model # but it was around $20 and I just chucked the remote itself as soon as I programmed the commands I need into the Harmony. There are a lot of remotes you can buy that come w/a USB IR receiver though. Just go on Newegg or Amazon and search HTPC remote and you'll see plenty in the $15-20 range. Or if you already have something like a Harmony then even easier than that would be buying one of the new version Bay Trail Celeron NUCs coming out that have an IR receiver built in (you can search and find a thread on those in this forum).
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post #19 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice. Getting the i3 chip would be more for down the road incase I wanted plex to transcode to other devices.

I will take a look though.
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post #20 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 09:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Eljimador,

If I look at a celeron to save some $...would this work?

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 Mini PC - Intel Celeron 1007U 1.5GHz, 4GB DDR3, 500GB..

This includes the HD and the RAM and it's a better price.
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post #21 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 11:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ryancharles View Post

Eljimador,

If I look at a celeron to save some $...would this work?

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 Mini PC - Intel Celeron 1007U 1.5GHz, 4GB DDR3, 500GB..

This includes the HD and the RAM and it's a better price.

Well yeah that would work but where are you finding that at a cheaper price than than a Celeron NUC? Keep in mind the 500GB hard drive you're not even going to use if you keep your media files on your NAS and if it has Windows pre-loaded too there's another thing that you're paying for and not using if you choose to run openelec instead.

The Celeron NUC is $145 + $40 to buy 4GB RAM separately + $10 for the thumb drive to run openelec + $4 for a mickey mouse power cord if you don't already have one = $200 tops for everything you need. Looking around for that Lenovo I'm not seeing it anywhere for less than $350.

As for going for the i3 version to future proof, I suppose that does makes sense if you think transcoding is in your future. I'm not sure how that works though running Plex server on it while your media files are actually sitting on the NAS. If it were me I'd probably think about selling the QNAP at that point and just building a server with a powerful enough processor for the transcoding you need. You've already got the hard drives which are the most expensive part and then you could have Plex server running on an actual server which I would think might make it a little more seamless if you're thinking down the road to adding more and more devices.
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post #22 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
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ElJimador...one of my co-workers just gave me a great idea. I have always wanted to build a PVR. Maybe I should get more of a slip desktop, throw in an ati tv wonder or a haupppauge card and it can do double duty as a PVR as well. Do you any experience with that? I would be using windows 7. I am wondering would I be better off storing anything I record on the NAS or the actual PVR/HD streaming box.
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post #23 of 23 Old 02-13-2014, 01:20 PM
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There are plenty of folks here who do the whole cable card / PVR thing with their HTPCs so it's definitely doable. I'm just not on of them who can point you in the right direction on that since I already had a Tivo with a lifetime subscription at the time I got my NUC to be a media player only. Search around and you'll find plenty of info though and then if you still have questions start a new thread and I'm sure you'll get lots of help.

As far as where to store your data though, if you already have a NAS with sufficent capacity then there's no need to reinvent the wheel and look to store your media on the HTPC instead. Not only would it be spending $ you don't need to but storage in the HTPC means a bigger, bulkier box sitting among your AV components w/more moving parts generating more heat and fan noise, whereas a NAS you can hide in a corner or closet so you don't have to see or hear it at all, all without sacrificing anything performance-wise. (Again, even if you decide later you want to do transcoding I still think you're better off upgrading your server at that point and letting your HTPC remain a client device only whatever you choose to do with it.)
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