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I also built a Plex Server (but not as cool as the other thread)

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gsrcrxsi

Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
So recently my computer builds and tweaking have been taking more of my interest lately. I was out of the loop (pun intended) for a little while, but after building my most recent gaming rig I wanted to do more.

I started with a Synology DS416 NAS and 4x2TB drives courtesy of cw. NAS setup was a breeze and I got my data transferred to it. It's a fairly low powered device with only a slow dual core, and 1GB of ram, but it's plenty for running the NAS itself. I briefly tried using the NAS itself as a Plex server, as I had the option to install the App, but it was woefully underpowered for anything but direct playback (no transcoding).

I had enough parts left over from my old computer that weren't really selling, so I decided to put them to use and build a nice-ish Plex server.

Parts:

Case: Antec Fusion Remote (mATX)
MB: Gigabyte GA-B85M-DS3H-A (mATX)
CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1231v3 (3.4GHz quad w/HT)
CPU cooler: Scythe Ninja-mini (running passive)
GPU: EVGA GT430
Storage: old WD blue 640GB just for the OS for now. I plan to swap it with an SSD when i find a cheapo one
OS: Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit (old copy I had lying around)
misc: cheapo SYBA dual RTL8111 gigabit NIC pcie x1

pics:
eVwrkOW.jpg
inGgOLV.jpg

About the passive cooler. I did this for nothing else other than noise, and I believe the proximity of the 120mm case fans is sufficient to keep it cool enough. As a totally unrealistic test, I ran Prime 95 v29.3 (AVX enabled) and let it run for about 10 mins. Max temp was 89C; quite hot, but in limits. in real world loads sending files and transcoding, I've not seen the CPU over 65C. Since the case only has 2x120mm 1200rpms fans, it's very quiet. i only hear the HDD activity sometimes (which will go away when i swap it for an SSD).

About the NIC. This MB only has one gigabit port, and part of me felt it was stupid for the server to pull data from the NAS over the network, then send it back out over the network via the same port to the requested client. Maybe in real practice it won't matter and wouldn't be a bottle neck, but I feel it would just be cleaner if the server could grab data from the NAS directly, more like it was an attached HDD. Since the NAS has 2 gigabit ports, and this NIC has 2 ports, so i thought i could double the bandwidth by connecting both NAS and server directly with 2 ethernet cords (direct connection, no switch or router). The plan was to have a 2Gbps link between NAS<->server, then have the server send out data to whatever client wanted it. I couldn't quite get this to work properly. I was able to successfully get the 2 ports on the NIC bridged together, set a static IP route (different host than the main network, 192.168.2.xx0), and set the NAS ports to be bonded, also on the same different host, static IP (192.168.2.xx1). I could transfer data between them, BUT i was still limited to 1Gbps, it wouldn't go faster, from a quick google search it seemed to be a Windows 7 limitation, or maybe else. AND since Windows can't re-share and existing network share, no other computers on my network could access the NAS.

So I came up with a hybrid setup. I set static routes on the NAS for each port, but on separate hosts (192.168.1.xxx and 192.168.2.xxx). I set a static route to the server NIC connected to the NAS on the same 192.168.2.xxx, and a static route to the MB-NIC for 192.168.1.xxx. I then setup a mapped network drive pointing to the NAS defined by IP @ 192.168.2.xxx. And i configured the Plex Server to look for media on that mapped drive letter. This way when a file requested for playback by a Plex client, it gets pulled from the NAS directly, and set out over a different port. the router is also hooked to the other port on the NAS (the 192.168.1.xxx one) so any other client can access the NAS directly for regular fire transfers/backups/whatever.

connected this way:
"home network"<==(192.168.1.xxx)==>[NAS]<==(192.168.2.xxx)==>[PlexServer]<==(192.168.1.xxx)==>"home network"

after getting everything to work, I made the server full headless (as seen in the pics) and I just RDP into it for any configuration or tweaking I may need.

questions comments welcome! this is my first time setting up a real server like this so I'm quite noob with all this networking stuff. But I try to make up for it with decent Google-fu.

Thanks!
 

wagex

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Jan 14, 2011
dang a whole machine running just for plex? virtualize it and use it for many things :) you certainly have the machine to do it with. im running like 6 vm's right now on a core i3-2120 with 16gb of ram lol. one of them is a testing vm for plex / emby not sure i like either one for my uses though.
 
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gsrcrxsi

Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
the whole machine for plex can certainly be used. If i try to stream a 4k movie to 1080p devices, it pegs all 8 threads to 100% while transcoding. gets decent CPU usage during a 1080p->720p transcode as well for things like streaming to my cellphone.

creating VMs sounds cool, but i really don't have a need for that, i'm not doing anything else.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
the whole machine for plex can certainly be used. If i try to stream a 4k movie to 1080p devices, it pegs all 8 threads to 100% while transcoding. gets decent CPU usage during a 1080p->720p transcode as well for things like streaming to my cellphone.

creating VMs sounds cool, but i really don't have a need for that, i'm not doing anything else.

from what ive read plex should use hardware accelerated transcoding so should be able to use your gpu and take the load off your cpu

edit: maybe it only works with intel built in gpus
 
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gsrcrxsi

Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
Yup. in Beta phase.

-only supports intel GPUs (my current Xeon CPU has no iGPU, however)
-also important to note that while hardware decoding is undoubtedly faster, it does not have the same quality as software decoding (it has less).
-only supports H.264

i used my gaming rig to encode my blu-ray rips (because it's much faster/efficient), starting with a 100% quality BD rip (25-40GB files)
-Handbrake settings = HQ1080p preset, MKV output, H.264 encoder, RF slider to 20, Encode profile to Film, Encode speed to Slow, Audio AC3 5.1ch 640kbps
-results in a 6-10GB file depending on source, with video quality pretty much imperceptible from the original
-takes about 2.5hrs per movie to encode

The only program I tried to use the Nvidia encoder (NVENC) with my 1080 was called StaxRip. Lets just say that this program is clunky to use and not very beginner friendly. I was only ever able to get it to work once.
-The video quality was decent, but not as good as the software encode
-audio didn't work (i think i selected some kind of weird audio format, but reties with different audio settings failed)
-file size comparable to software encoder
-only took 20-25mins to process

if they get it work for other GPU's, GREAT!, i'm fairly certain that even my GT430 can hardware decode, but maybe that's only if it's on the receiving end of the stream, ie, figuring out the h264 encoding and turning it back into a video, is that correct?

for now i'm sticking with h264 because of it's widespread support. but i'd be interested in h265 as i hear its more efficient (better quality, smaller files) but at the cost of being harder for the CPU to work with.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
Yup. in Beta phase.

-only supports intel GPUs (my current Xeon CPU has no iGPU, however)
-also important to note that while hardware decoding is undoubtedly faster, it does not have the same quality as software decoding (it has less).
-only supports H.264

i used my gaming rig to encode my blu-ray rips (because it's much faster/efficient), starting with a 100% quality BD rip (25-40GB files)
-Handbrake settings = HQ1080p preset, MKV output, H.264 encoder, RF slider to 20, Encode profile to Film, Encode speed to Slow, Audio AC3 5.1ch 640kbps
-results in a 6-10GB file depending on source, with video quality pretty much imperceptible from the original
-takes about 2.5hrs per movie to encode

The only program I tried to use the Nvidia encoder (NVENC) with my 1080 was called StaxRip. Lets just say that this program is clunky to use and not very beginner friendly. I was only ever able to get it to work once.
-The video quality was decent, but not as good as the software encode
-audio didn't work (i think i selected some kind of weird audio format, but reties with different audio settings failed)
-file size comparable to software encoder
-only took 20-25mins to process

if they get it work for other GPU's, GREAT!, i'm fairly certain that even my GT430 can hardware decode, but maybe that's only if it's on the receiving end of the stream, ie, figuring out the h264 encoding and turning it back into a video, is that correct?

for now i'm sticking with h264 because of it's widespread support. but i'd be interested in h265 as i hear its more efficient (better quality, smaller files) but at the cost of being harder for the CPU to work with.

yeah i only deal with 1080 source video's most are 20-40gb depending and i only direct stream over lan, my upload is my limit on sending to remote stuff 2mn/s gets me about 360p lol and the i3 handles that fine from the 1080 source.
i probably wont make it to 4k media for another 5 years when i upgrade my tv lol. crazy that a 4c8t cant keep up. i did have an old 8 core xeon setup and it would peg it out too when streaming to wifi devices. but i went back to just using kodi and lan only because plex was a waste of resources for me :(

i did install it again to try it out recently since i heard alexa integrated with it, problem is when you use the google home to send commands to it for some reason it wont do direct stream over lan and sends it to the internet and back resulting in transcoding and quality potato. might try it again later when alxea integration matures.
 
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gsrcrxsi

Member
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Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
you should encode your blu-ray rips. you can cut down your file size, while keeping video quality very good. i went through my libray over the past 2 weeks, which is mostly DVD rips, started out taking up about 2.5TB of space, after re-encoding it all, less than 1TB.

I stream my BD rips to my iphone 6s over the internet, transcoding down to 720p/2Mbps stream, I need to double check the CPU usage while doing that, but it plays just fine (my upload is limited to 5-6Mbps).
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
you should encode your blu-ray rips. you can cut down your file size, while keeping video quality very good. i went through my libray over the past 2 weeks, which is mostly DVD rips, started out taking up about 2.5TB of space, after re-encoding it all, less than 1TB.

I stream my BD rips to my iphone 6s over the internet, transcoding down to 720p/2Mbps stream, I need to double check the CPU usage while doing that, but it plays just fine (my upload is limited to 5-6Mbps).

they are all encoded using h264 / dts-hd 5.1-7.1 or dolby 5.1-7.1 and it would take me like a year of non stop encoding to shrink it lol i prefer the quality, im a bit of a stickler for it. heck my audio streams usually account for 6-10gb of the file lol. they are all blu-ray sourced almost no dvd.
 
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gsrcrxsi

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Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
when i played my raw BD rips next to the encoded BD rips, playing exactly synced, and checking still frames, I couldnt see a difference.
 

wagex

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Joined
Jan 14, 2011
when i played my raw BD rips next to the encoded BD rips, playing exactly synced, and checking still frames, I couldnt see a difference.

mine are encoded, just high quality. im gessing yours are too. im also watching on a 65" tv which might make a difference idk what you are on.
 
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gsrcrxsi

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Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
i checked the files on my 3440x1440 monitor, but i mainly do playback on my 46" 1080p TV.

wanting to upgrade to a decent 4k i think, since they're finally cheap enough.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
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Jan 14, 2011
i checked the files on my 3440x1440 monitor, but i mainly do playback on my 46" 1080p TV.

wanting to upgrade to a decent 4k i think, since they're finally cheap enough.

yeah hard to tell details on a smaller screen even being high res, kinda like my phone as a 2k screen and 480p looks great on it lol. also lookup the viewing distance chart to see if splurging for 4k is worth it for you, i went with 1080 because i sit far enough from my tv couldn't tell the difference between 1080 and 4k. also 4k was quite a bit more expensive when i bought mine. idk how they compare price wise these days.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
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Jan 14, 2011
The only 4K TVs that are still expensive are the OLED ones.

You can buy a 50” 4K from Best Buy for $400 lol.

yeah my cousin bought a 70" 4k a year later for like a hundred more than i paid for my 65" 1080 im still pretty happy with it though there still isnt very much content in true 4k yet and i dont have any hardware capable of even displaying 4k i think it'll be a while. when i do upgrade i think il be shooting for a 75+" i think dolby atmos recivever setup will be first though.
 

custom90gt

Member
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Aug 20, 2003
Hah sweet setup, I like the form factor of it all. 4K transcoding is super cpu intensive, my 7800x gets pegged doing it...
 
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gsrcrxsi

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Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
yeah. I plan to buy a 4k TV soon. And i already ordered the new Amazon Fire TV (gen3) which supports 4k streaming and H.265/HEVC decoding. So even if I store some 4k content, and stream it to this device, I can direct play it without transcoding the video stream. and even transcoding a handful of 1080p streams should be ok with my current setup.
 

custom90gt

Member
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Aug 20, 2003
yeah. I plan to buy a 4k TV soon. And i already ordered the new Amazon Fire TV (gen3) which supports 4k streaming and H.265/HEVC decoding. So even if I store some 4k content, and stream it to this device, I can direct play it without transcoding the video stream. and even transcoding a handful of 1080p streams should be ok with my current setup.

Yeah if you can direct stream to a device you won't have any issues.
 
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gsrcrxsi

Member
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Feb 21, 2008
Location
Baltimore, MD
it will be a great day when Plex supports GPU transcoding on nvidia. GTX 1050 and done.

have you tried the Plex beta for Intel GPU transcoding?