Looking for a dependable prebuilt "appliance" dedicated for Plex 1080p transcoding - AVS Forum

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MKANET's Avatar MKANET
11:14 AM Liked: 17
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12-01-2014 | Posts: 5,734
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Currently, I'm using my 8 year old HTPC Intel Quadcore 2.4Ghz, 8GB RAM (Win7), to transcode 1080p mkvs (which still isn't fast enough for certain tasks). I'm looking to offload PMS onto a much more powerful dual-bay, "NAS-like" appliance (dedicated to Plex Media Server and SMB shares).

In a perfect world, the below device would be ideal for me (if the CPU was significantly faster and more memory) for the same price:
QNAP HS-251 2-Bay Fanless Personal Cloud NAS, Intel 2.41GHz Dual Core CPU with Media Transcoding, PLEX and DLNA Support

GOAL:
  • Set-it-and-forget-it appliance that comfortably handles 1080p transcoding (intended for simultaneous Roku3 + PC Web-clients).
  • Dual-HDD bay solution. Only time I should touch this device is when swapping out a disk (flagged for predictive failure.).
  • Cost effective for the purpose it serves.

I know I'm not going to find the perfect solution out there; but, hopefully I can find the closest to what I'm looking.

NOTE: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE dont just suggest a bunch of spare PC parts. I don't have the time nor interest in building a PC from scratch. Also, I'm not a Mac guy, so people don't suggest a Macmini.

Thanks in advance
bryansj's Avatar bryansj
11:52 AM Liked: 203
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Sounds like pretty much any desktop PC would work. Just get one with a decent processor and enough RAM.
ElJimador's Avatar ElJimador
01:39 PM Liked: 86
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That QNAP isn't powerful enough to transcode multiple streams at the same time and that's going to be your problem with NAS appliances generally. Most have Atom or Celeron processors at best which are way too weak for multiple transcodes.

If it's purely going to be a Plex server and you want something as appliance like as possible then I would suggest a NUC or Gigabyte Brix with at least an i5.
tdallen's Avatar tdallen
02:05 PM Liked: 29
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As others have mentioned, commercial NAS units do many things well - but heavy duty transcoding isn't one of them. The Synology DS214play is worth looking at. Another option is to just buy a PC from Dell or HP that has a couple of extra drive bays...

Otherwise, you are going to need to split duties. If you are Ok with your storage solution, then you can get a NUC to just do transcoding. You now have several boxes, but if you want highly specialized requirements that might be necessary.
Ken.F's Avatar Ken.F
02:43 PM Liked: 269
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The specs and the processor model listed don't agree. The Celeron D 360 is an 8 year old single core 3.46 GHz processor. I wouldn't expect much transcoding performance out of it if that's what it has.
I wouldn't buy anything for the purpose of transcoding that doesn't have a QSV capable processor. Plex might not support it today but I suspect they are working on it, even if they won't admit it.

QSV processors:
http://ark.intel.com/search/advanced...rketSegment=DT
MKANET's Avatar MKANET
04:09 PM Liked: 17
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tdallen; and, all thanks for the quick replies. I'm trying to get a better idea of what kind of real-world transcoding performance to expect with whatever solution I choose. Can someone please recommend the most cost-effective CPU speed and model I should look for in a desktop PC? I haven't shopped for a PC in a long time. Ideally, I was hoping for something on the smaller side (the smaller, the better). If anyone has any specific suggestions, I'd really appreciate it.
EDIT: I just saw the Synology DS214play... Edit: The specs show 1.6 Dual core. It only transcodes SD; per the Plex NAS compatibility spreadsheet

Quote:
Originally Posted by tdallen View Post
As others have mentioned, commercial NAS units do many things well - but heavy duty transcoding isn't one of them. The Synology DS214play is worth looking at. Another option is to just buy a PC from Dell or HP that has a couple of extra drive bays...

Otherwise, you are going to need to split duties. If you are Ok with your storage solution, then you can get a NUC to just do transcoding. You now have several boxes, but if you want highly specialized requirements that might be necessary.

LastButNotLeast's Avatar LastButNotLeast
04:29 PM Liked: 287
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http://www.assassinhtpc.com/
ajhieb's Avatar ajhieb
04:33 PM Liked: 434
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKANET View Post
I'm trying to get a better idea of what kind of real-world transcoding performance to expect with whatever solution I choose.
Have a look here: The ultimate Pentium processor ??? I am just going to drop this here...
bryansj's Avatar bryansj
04:45 PM Liked: 203
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I'd get a current i5 if it was me and shoot for finding a good deal on an i7.
tdallen's Avatar tdallen
06:32 PM Liked: 29
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The 4th generation Haswell Core i3-4360 has a PassMark Score of 5599, where you're looking for approximately 2,000 per 1080p stream. That's just a ballpark - high bit rates can require a lot more. I'd consider a CPU like that, one of the upper end 4th generation Core i3's, as the starting point for a box that will handle multiple transcoding streams, and you should give consideration to an i5 or even an i7 (or Xeon) depending on how much work you want it to do.
wiley165's Avatar wiley165
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post
I'd get a current i5 if it was me and shoot for finding a good deal on an i7.
+1 on starting at the i5 (quad core).

OP didn't mention how many simultanious transcodes at once, but indicated Roku + Web-Clients (plural), so I'm taking that to mean at least 3.

If you still believe the philosophy of one core per transcode, that puts you at an i5. You probably could get by with an i3 (2 physical cores + 2 virtual cores), but why handicap it.
balky's Avatar balky
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Main issue here is you don't want to build a PC from scratch... but as someone suggested, you could get a normal Dell desktop with an i7 processor, drop in some extra HDDs and RAM (up to 16GB if you want) and call it a day...

I don't know of any ready-made appliance that will meet up with this in terms of performance... if it does exist, be sure it will cost you an arm and a leg...
LastButNotLeast's Avatar LastButNotLeast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by balky View Post
Main issue here is you don't want to build a PC from scratch...I don't know of any ready-made appliance that will meet up with this in terms of performance.
I'll try again:
http://www.assassinhtpc.com/
MKANET's Avatar MKANET
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The i3-4360 looks like it makes sense. It looks like for an addition $160, the "Intel Core i7-4790K @ 4.00GHz" has over double the PassMark performance 11288.

If I get a Desktop PC, it might as well get one powerful enough to handle all my server needs; not just PMS and network shares.

Could someone please recommend a specific product line from Dell (or HP) that would give me the closest to what I'm looking for? (Best value/dependability for a headless Windows 8.x Pro PC with small SSD for OS + 2 disk RAID). I also saw http://www.assassinhtpc.com/ link. If they happened to have a solution at a better value than Dell or HP, maybe someone could recommend it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tdallen View Post
The 4th generation Haswell Core i3-4360 has a PassMark Score of 5599, where you're looking for approximately 2,000 per 1080p stream. That's just a ballpark - high bit rates can require a lot more. I'd consider a CPU like that, one of the upper end 4th generation Core i3's, as the starting point for a box that will handle multiple transcoding streams, and you should give consideration to an i5 or even an i7 (or Xeon) depending on how much work you want it to do.

LastButNotLeast's Avatar LastButNotLeast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKANET View Post
I also saw http://www.assassinhtpc.com/ link. If they happened to have a solution at a better value than Dell or HP, maybe someone could recommend it.
Ask THEM. It's all they do.
tdallen's Avatar tdallen
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The big websites stink these days. You can't select processor upgrades, and you can't easily find basic information like the number of open drive bays in a chassis. You might have to give Dell or HP or Lenovo a call and tell them what you want, or drop into a Best Buy . I spent a little while looking but the lack of details reminded me why I build my own...

Do you have any local computer shops who could build to order? I know there are several around my area.
MKANET's Avatar MKANET
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The below system looks pretty close to what I want ($1999 from Dell); except it would still need to buy another 3TB disk; and, format as RAID1 for data storage. Not sure if the CPU included is the K version (the same CPU that had an average PassMark performance 11288). I didn't see the CPU I wanted on the AssassinPC webpage. I'll contact them anyway, just in case they haven't updated their website yet.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tdallen View Post
The big websites stink these days. You can't select processor upgrades, and you can't easily find basic information like the number of open drive bays in a chassis. You might have to give Dell or HP or Lenovo a call and tell them what you want, or drop into a Best Buy . I spent a little while looking but the lack of details reminded me why I build my own...

Do you have any local computer shops who could build to order? I know there are several around my area.

LastButNotLeast's Avatar LastButNotLeast
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You'll want to keep your Win 7 (you can probably transfer the code online; I had to call the 800 number once, no biggie).
MKANET's Avatar MKANET
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Win7 doesnt have hyperv.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LastButNotLeast View Post
You'll want to keep your Win 7 (you can probably transfer the code online; I had to call the 800 number once, no biggie).

bryansj's Avatar bryansj
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$2,000 sounds like a ripoff. I guess that's why I build my own.
MKANET's Avatar MKANET
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I've personally used Dell's accidental damage warranty more than once in the past for my laptops (and an old desktop). They come to my home; and, service the PC with no hassle. I can't put a value on this; mainly because it's also included in the price.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post
$2,000 sounds like a ripoff. I guess that's why I build my own.

bryansj's Avatar bryansj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKANET View Post
I've personally used Dell's accidental damage warranty more than once in the past for my laptops (and an old desktop). They come to my home; and, service the PC with no hassle. I can't put a value on this; mainly because it's also included in the price.

The price on it is $129 as shown in your picture. I would rather save that money plus the extra $1000+ on the Dell system and put it in savings. If something breaks I could use the money to fix it. However, you said you didn't want to build anything so go for it. Just realized where you are posting... Most of us are on Newegg building systems and try to avoid places like Dell.

I could build myself a great transcoding media server for under $1,000.
Ken.F's Avatar Ken.F
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKANET View Post
The i3-4360 looks like it makes sense. It looks like for an addition $160, the "Intel Core i7-4790K @ 4.00GHz" has over double the PassMark performance 11288.

If I get a Desktop PC, it might as well get one powerful enough to handle all my server needs; not just PMS and network shares.
You probably don't need an unlocked "K" processor. The plain i7-4790 would be just fine for your purposes. When I built my transcoding server I didn't want to cheap out on the processor so I decided to get the i7-4770. I resisted buying the 4770K because I know that if I was able to overclock it I would eventually do it. I wanted stability without the temptation.
ElJimador's Avatar ElJimador
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKANET View Post
The below system looks pretty close to what I want ($1999 from Dell); except it would still need to buy another 3TB disk; and, format as RAID1 for data storage. Not sure if the CPU included is the K version (the same CPU that had an average PassMark performance 11288). I didn't see the CPU I wanted on the AssassinPC webpage. I'll contact them anyway, just in case they haven't updated their website yet.

If you're going to be running this headless and you're set on Windows then you might want to consider Win 8.1 Pro for the Remote Desktop hosting. There are other remote desktop solutions but that's the one that has worked best for me and so worth the price bump IMO. Other than that this machine will certainly suit your purposes, however there is quite a bit here that is mismatched overkill also. For example:

*32 GB RAM is about 4x what you should ever need
*256 GB SSD is is at least 2-3x what you should for need for a boot drive
*3 TB HD is nice but 7200 RPM adds nothing over 5400 when all you're doing is storing large video files
*Windows itself isn't even necessary. As long as you're running 3 hard drives or less you could get a free unRAID license (which also takes care of your RAID solution), run Plex server on that, and even boot off a USB thumb drive so you don't need the SSD either.

Those extras are all things you're paying for in that $1999 price tag that you don't need and that (aside from Windows perhaps) aren't going to make a bit of difference in how that machine performs as a Plex server.

I think you should stick to your original idea and if you're not comfortable building the appliance that you want then get Assassin or some other PC builder to do it. The machine you need shouldn't cost near this much even w/the convenience of someone else building it for you and taking the time to walk you through your options.

One last thing: if the Plex clients you have in mind include friends or family outside your home, check to make sure your internet upload speed isn't going to put serious limits on that. Because if you don't have fiber and you want clients to be able to stream it at least 720p then you might find yourself limited by bandwith to only 2-3 streams tops and then that i7 (or any i7) will be overkill also.
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