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Small HTPC recommendations - Plex media player

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I am currently using an old Vidabox I acquired from a client for my HTPC. It gives me issues sometimes on HD .mkv files with surround sound . . . takes a while to load, buffers a little, etc. I would like to upgrade this unit to help alleviate these issues. Now I am not saying these issues are directly related to the processor as they may be network but I do have a full Gigbit wired network streaming off a ESXi storage server hosting Plex Media Server. Since I am using "Direct Play " the file should be coming straight from my unRaid server (same machine, diff VM image). The HTPC has an annoying fan noise since the cooler is right up against the top of the case and the case barely fits where it is. That being said I am looking to upgrade to a small case, small motherboard/APU, and efficient power supply. A case with IR window would be nice as I am currently controlling IR until I get my Crestron system up and running. We use this machine for atleast 4 hours a night and I normally have recorded shows playing as I work into the wee hours of the morning so power efficiency and silence are a must. Also, economy hasn't turned around enough for the Home Theater business so funds are a little tight.

What is the cheapest/smallest build we can make that can stream/decode 1080p/TrueHD audio on the fly?


Thanks for your help!!



Current setup:



Server:
ASRock 970 Extreme
AMD Phenom II x4 Black edition @3.4
16 gigs generic RAM
Onboard + Intel EXPI9301CT NIC
15TB usable storage, mostly in 2TB WD Red and 2x 3Tb seagates
>> This machine runs as a ESXi server hosting 1 Unraid storage server, 1 PMS/misc server (Win 2008), and 1 Download server (I will be setting up a dedicated VPN feed from my router in a few months, Win 7)

Network:
Cisco 800 Series router
HP1810G 24 port switch
Currently subswitching through a netgear pro line 8 port but will be 3com gig when it comes back off loan
Cat 6

HTPC:
Old Vidabox Slim V2, wiped with Win 7 installed
AMD 5200+ @ 2.7
2 gigs DDR2
Geforce 8500GT
^^ I have minimized all OS impact to a max disabling/uninstalling everything except whats needed for eventghost and Plex.

Stock Image:

Edited by DanNEBTD - 8/17/13 at 11:31pm
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 
almost 5 days and no replies? If clarification is needed please let me know and I'll reword.
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 6
So, if I'm understanding you, your looking to upgrade the HTPC, and don't want to touch the server right?

Because you're using plex, it is doing transcoding on the fly while it plays (if I understand it correctly), so the HTPC shouldn't actually be doing much work (if any).

I'd be checking the servers CPU load while you're watching first, and then see if the problem appears to be on that end. I mainly say that since its running some other stuff at the same time, and HD video transcoding isn't easy peasy, so thats what I'd check next.

Also, you're sure that network bandwidth isn't an issue? It should be fine on gigabit, but you never know if your storage server is doing something else at the same time. So I'd keep an eye on network usage at the same time that you're looking at the processor, just to make sure that things aren't doing something you wouldn't expect.

That said, if you're using plex, then basically your HTPC is a dumb terminal, so it can be just about anything, since all its doing is the playback and no transcoding or anything really strenuous. But first I'd check your server while streaming, and then go from there.
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by logan View Post

So, if I'm understanding you, your looking to upgrade the HTPC, and don't want to touch the server right?

Because you're using plex, it is doing transcoding on the fly while it plays (if I understand it correctly), so the HTPC shouldn't actually be doing much work (if any).

I'd be checking the servers CPU load while you're watching first, and then see if the problem appears to be on that end. I mainly say that since its running some other stuff at the same time, and HD video transcoding isn't easy peasy, so thats what I'd check next.

Also, you're sure that network bandwidth isn't an issue? It should be fine on gigabit, but you never know if your storage server is doing something else at the same time. So I'd keep an eye on network usage at the same time that you're looking at the processor, just to make sure that things aren't doing something you wouldn't expect.

That said, if you're using plex, then basically your HTPC is a dumb terminal, so it can be just about anything, since all its doing is the playback and no transcoding or anything really strenuous. But first I'd check your server while streaming, and then go from there.

Correct, I am trying to upgrade the HTPC . . . player end that is. However, in Plex transcoding is an option, I plan on having this setup for "Direct Play" which basically means the server is simply a redirect to the NAS. The HTPC streams the raw file from the NAS so it will need some grunt. I just subscribed to PlexPass I will soon be using the Plex Home Theater (Based off XBMC 12). That version needs more CPU + Ram than the others. So I would def. like to concentrate on a budget CPU thats powerful enough to decode 1080p/TrueHD .mkv's on the fly.

as far as the network goes . . . the problems are fairly intermittent and I played around with jumbo packets. That just caused issues with the menu's and other functions that needed small amounts of data instantly.

Thanks for the reply.
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
 
ESXi Server
(10 items)
 
HTPC
(13 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7-4790K Asus Sabertooth Mark 2 Radeon HD 6950 GSkill Sniper Series 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Samsung XP941 Noctura NH-D14 8.1 Pro QNIX 27", Dell 24", Samsung 22", Sony 24" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair K95 PC&P 750 NZXT H2 Logitech G500s 
CPUHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Phenom II x4 965 WE Red Seagate Intel SSD 
Hard DriveCoolingOSOS
WR Raptor  Silenx Fans x2 120mm Win 7 x2 Unraid 
OSCase
pfsense Rackmount 16 bay hot-swap 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i3 2100t Gigabyte integrated 2x 8GB GSkill 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
OCZ SSD Stock Win7 - Plex Shell Sony XBR2 
PowerCase
Generic 350 watt Repurposed Vidabox 
  hide details  
Reply
post #5 of 6
Got it, my bad. I actually thought that plex always transcoded. I didn't realize that plex offered direct play.

If thats the case, then things get easier actually. And you say you're using plex home theater, which is based off of xbmc 12. XBMC 12 supports hardware video acceleration, does plex home theater? I looked around the on their site for a while, but wasn't able to find out.

Anyway, the general rule of thumb is that you want 2Ghz dual core of something recent to be able to play HD video. I run XBMC 12 on an older laptop with a 2.8Ghz dual core i3, and it plays HD video just fine. With that in mind, it appears that the cheapo a4-4000 or a4-5300 should work just fine for the HTPC build. I did some checking around on audio/HT forums, and the 5300 seems to be really popular among HT enthusiasts, so it should work fine. Don't know for sure about motherboards just yet, but I hear that in general the a75 motherboards are more reliable.

Maybe I'll check around later tonight to see what would work best for your setup. Either way, that should get you started I think.

Good luck thumb.gif.
post #6 of 6
When I first started, my requirements were Bitstreaming HD audio and being able to direct play decode full bluray rips.

After going through various stages (Boxee included) I settled on some of the first gen AMD APUs (E-350) and Plex. They are in the Zotac barebone boxes that are very very small. (AD-02 I believe)

I watch straight bluray rips (Direct Play) with True-HD/DTS-MA no problem. CPU maybe 50% at the most. I even ran a 110Mbps test file and it decoded perfectly.
4GB RAM, SSD. Very low cost, gets the job done perfectly, and would recommend to anyone.

If HD audio isn't in the cards and transcoding isn't a problem, just go with a $99 Roku box :-)
Edited by Bonz(TM) - 8/24/13 at 8:39pm
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