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Here's What I've Got ... Now, How Can I Better Watch MKV?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
First I'll give you my complete set-up and how I currently stream MKV movies to my home theater system. Then, I'll tell you the issues I have. Third, I'll tell you the solutions I'm hoping for. My goal: someone with vastly more experience can tell me how to utilize the components I have, or buy the ones I need.

COMPONENTS

Sony KDL-70R550A 70" LCD Flatscreen (HDMI connected to A/V Receiver)
Sony STR-DN1040 A/V Receiver
Sony BDP-S5100 3D Blu-ray Player (HDMI Connected to A/V Receiver)
Apple MacBook Pro 15" 2.7 GHz Intel Quad Core i7, 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3, 750GB HD
Apple AirPort Extreme, 802.11n, Dual Band 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz (Extended Network with Apple TIme Capsule)
Apple Time Capsule, 2TB, 802.11n, Dual Band 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz (Extended Network with Apple Airport Extreme)

SOFTWARE

Plex Media Server for Mac, serving my iTunes Music Library and locally-stored MKV videos on my MacBook Pro

ISSUES

Most of the time, I can stream MKV from my MacBook Pro (which is wirelessly connected to my network) to my Sony KDL-70R550A TV (which is wirelessly connected to my network) without much problems. Occasionally, and always at the worst time (i.e. family and friends are over) my Sony TV will not play, or will stopping playing mid-stream, MKV. Other formats are not usually a problem, but my video library is predominantly MKV which is why I would like a more-efficient/more-effective set-up. I am also running out of space on my MacBook Pro.

SOLUTIONS?

I would like a separate storage for my video and music library. My options, as I see it, are a NAS or a HTPC. I've looked very closely at the Mac Mini with the Intel Quad Core i7 and 2TB of storage, using the Plex Media Center, but then I'm well over $1000 to do this. I know I can build a HTPC cheaper, but I'm an absolute brand loyalist who only likes Apple and Sony. I know it's irrational but it's what I like.

I've zero experience with a NAS, and I wonder if I will run into the same issues streaming over DLNA. Plus I'm not sure my Sony TV has native MKV support, so transcoding is still required/necessary for MKV playback. Still, I know Plex Media Server is available to Synology NAS, so it's definitely an option if it's easy to implement and the quality playback I'm looking for is achieved.

Lastly, as the most cost-effective option, I'd looked at streaming options that will give me the Plex app that I can use to stream (hopefully more effectively than with DLNA). Since Plex has an app for GoogleTV, I suppose I could get either the Chromecast or Sony Streaming Player that features Google TV that will then allow me to use the Plex app. My media library would stay on my MacBook Pro, but at least it would save me those embarrassing moments when the movie everyone is at my house to watch won't play.

CONCLUSION

I'm open to any and all feedback, suggestions, comments. Please!
post #2 of 11
If you haven't already done so, try using hard-wired network connections, ethernet or powerline networking, for example.

While I can't rule out your suspicion of MKV being a source of problems for specific movies, WiFi is quite susceptible to interference which can cause dropouts of both video and audio. Microwaving popcorn can do it, for example, as will most cordless phones -- they use exactly the same frequency ranges as WiFi.

Also, don't forget that MKV is a container format. What matters for the decoders is the encoding format of the audio and video tracks within that container. You need to make sure they're compatible with your playback device.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

Also, don't forget that MKV is a container format. What matters for the decoders is the encoding format of the audio and video tracks within that container. You need to make sure they're compatible with your playback device.

You know, I haven't thought about that! It would explain why some MKV files work, while others don't. I'll admit, I never thought of MKV as a "container" but it makes sense. I'm pretty new to these things, anyway. Now I know!
post #4 of 11
Bite the bullet and buy a real HTPC, not a Mac 'HTPC wannabee'. Windows Media Center is a pretty mature product that has no direct Mac equivalent. FWIW Sony makes Windows machines...And use a wired network.
post #5 of 11
I wouldn't waste money on a so called real" HTPC" as a Mac Mini is better than most HTPC's to begin with and Windows media center is a pile of crap for mkv media not to mention MS have mothballed that application so I wouldn't touch a HTPC/WMC combo with a ten foot pole.

The best option for Plex is a Mac Mini.
The next best option for Plex is a Samsung Blu-ray player which has a Plex client however these also come with Cinavia DRM which is something you don't really want.
The last good option is the Sony GoogleTV which also has a Plex client thats about the best of the GTV boxes.

If going with Samsung BD or GoogleTV to use the Plex server effectively (as it's such a CPU/resource hog) you need an x86 based NAS not an Arm based one and Synology do not sell x86 models cheap. A better value option is a Netgear ReadyNAS 6 series which are x86 based, look at the 312 or 314 and use the provided Plex v6 server with that on Plex NAS download page. The cheapest option is the Asustor 2 bay 3 series NAS which is also x86 however these are very new and I dont know if these are compatible with the Asustor Plex server they should be just not sure.

If you go with the Mac Mini even if you get a second hand one just use an external USB HDD like a Segate GoFlex.

Cheapest option, buy a WDTV Live and use that instead with a DLNA server on your Mac.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alx330 View Post

The cheapest option is the Asustor 2 bay 3 series NAS which is also x86 however these are very new and I dont know if these are compatible with the Asustor Plex server they should be just not sure.

This one has got me really interested, but I need a fresh pair of eyes to look at it and let me know if I'm imagining what I could do with it. I found on the Asustor website a set of Apps that can be downloaded and installed on the Asustor 2 bay (or 4 bay) Series 3 NAS. One of the Apps is Plex Media Server, which presumably what could serve my NAS-stored media to my Sony TV via DLNA or a Google TV-enabled devise via the Plex Google TV app.

Moreover, there's an XMBC app that could deliver my NAS-stored media to my Sony TV via an HDMI connection directly from the Asustor Series 3 NAS ... all using the/a XMBC GUI. That seems to be able to solve all of my issues: needing more/separate space for my media, and playing MKV files and transmitting the video/audio via HDMI (like an HTPC would).

Can anyone verify this functionality with the Asustor Series 3 NAS?

XMBC Media Player App for Asustor: http://www.asustor.com/apps/app_detail?id=112
Plex Media Server App for Asustor: http://www.asustor.com/apps/app_detail?id=116
Asustor Series 3 NAS Press Release: http://www.asustor.com/news/news_detail?id=2404
post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alx330 View Post

Cheapest option, buy a WDTV Live and use that instead with a DLNA server on your Mac.
+1

And if not the WDLive, there are dozens of other media players to choose from---including my suggestion below.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barton View Post


Can anyone verify this functionality with the Asustor Series 3 NAS?
Yes and no.

One of the primary keys to success with Plex is installing it on powerful system that can transcode video in real time so it's always compatible with the player. That i7 CPU in your MacBook Pro can do that well while the Atom in the Asustor cannot. I have not looked at the detailed specs for the Asustor but FWIW some of the latest Atom CPUs can support hardware accelerated encoding/transcoding on the CPU/GPU but there is no support for that with Plex.....yet. So the Asustor could work, but only if directly connected to your AVR or TV via HDMI.

I'd suggest thinking outside the box and place all your media on NAS (I'm very happy with my Synology unit, BTW, but there are lots of options) and get a small dedicated HTPC for use with XMBC for local playback. BUT....I'm skip all the nonsense with a full-blown Windows machine, particularly now that it appears that Microsoft has abandoned Windows Media Center, and go with a unit running OpenELEC with XBMC.

I am also a "Mac" guy and looked far and wide for something that just works.

With OpenELEC there are many choices for hardware but I'll add that I'm thrilled with my Intel Nuc (Celeron 847) with 4GB RAM, a fast USB memory stick for OpenELEC, and a MCE compatible IR receiver and everything is streamed via a wired network from the NAS in the basement. The whole HTPC was less than $200 and it plays everything I've thrown at it including full 1080p backups with HD Audio bit-streamed to the AVR and the awesome Aeon Nux interface. In theory, you could do the same thing with a Mac Mini for 3X the cost if you just absolutely need a Mac. During 1080p playback the CPU utilization never rises above 20% which goes to show how well the GPU handles the heavy lifting without dozens of background Windows processes in the mix. By avoiding Windows, XBMC just works and runs well even on low-end hardware although one could also use a i3 (or i5) unit and/or a SSD. XBMC is simply very hard to beat and the wife approval factor (WAF) is off the scale.

Oh, and another plus one for a wired network.
Edited by bluechunks - 9/16/13 at 8:30pm
post #8 of 11


wink.gif

Go XBMC - it seems to be the most trouble-free solution out there, for MKV.
post #9 of 11
My apologies for suggesting WMC. I didn't notice that you only wanted to watch videos. XBMC or MPC-HC is fine for that. If you wanted to watch or record live TV then WMC would be the best choice.
post #10 of 11
I'll never understand why people want to transcode content for viewing on a large screen. But a cheap player like the WD, setup network shares and sit back and enjoy. I can see using PLEX or something similar if you want to stream to an tablet or phone, but for any serious watching it's just one more layer of things to act up. That coupled with wireless is a problem waiting to happen. Hard wire, get a real media player and don't look back.
post #11 of 11
Cheapest option is get an ethernet cable and hardwire the mac and the TV into the network and see if you get the same problems. Your problem is trying to stream over wireless. Higher bitrate files require up to a constant 40Mbps (not including ethernet/SMB overhead) which almost no consumer router is going to do for the whole duration of a movie. And you have 2 wireless connections going at the same time, I am surprised it even worked at all in the first place.

If you want to spend more, then buy either a NAS or a computer with a shared drive and hardwire it into your network.
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