HTPC Assistance


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I wonder if someone could help?

 

I have a PC that's running Windows. It has 5 or 6 hard disks in it storing TV and films.

 

I use Plex on the PC as my media manager as the TV I have has its own Plex app, so it's effectively like a customised version of Netflix or Amazon Prime. The PC is connected to the network, the app on the TV sees it as a media server and I'm away!

 

I've ran into the problem where the PC struggles to play 4k without it being all choppy.

 

I suspect it's because the graphics card simply isn't good enough - it's a fanless low profile version so the PC only has the case fan and PSU fan to create noise.

However I also realise Plex throttles decoding somehow, so this also may be an issue.

 

I don't mind getting another (2nd hand) graphics card but not sure the noise would be too much.

 

But I don't know if there's some sort of NAS that I could utilise instead of a fully fledged Windows PC, although having two Windows computers has saved me a few times.

 

Sorry I don't have access to the graphics card details - I'll add it tomorrow.

 

I know the TV is fine with 4k content as YouTube works fine, as does playing some content direct from a memory stick.

Thinking about it, the PC was playing 4k content fine through Windows so maybe it is Plex that is dicing 4k content up...

 

I did ask elsewhere on the Internet but the single respondent recommended an Nvidia something or other - I'm not sure they understood my setup.

 

Thanks

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You want 4K set to direct play and not transcoding.

On 12/01/2022 at 18:33, Marujan said:

illegal torrent downloads?

Doesn't matter what the content is.

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Specs:

 

Windows 10

CPU: Intel Dual Core 2 Duo E8400 3000Mhz

Motherboard: Asus P5Q-E

Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 5450 512MB

RAM: 4Gb DDR2

 

Looking at the system now, I wonder if the low / slow ram and low graphics card memory could be to blame? If it's a simple case of swapping those, that's fine.

 

Have tried to play some 4k content in MPC but it stutters. Tried the same in VLC Player, it plays the audio but the video gets stuck. Streaming 4k content from YouTube is fine but it isn't a hugely massive file. It could be the test file I'm using so I'll try another but I guess it's hardware related?

 

In addition, under "Settings > Plex Web > Debug" Direct Play is ticked. 

Edited by Sir Topham Hatt
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The CPU is too weak to decode 4K video, however you can get a GeForce GT 1030 that is passively cooled to solve this issue.

 

Windows will offload the video decoding to the GPU: https://www.scan.co.uk/products/asus-geforce-gt-1030-passive-2gb-gddr5-graphics-card-384-core-1228mhz-gpu-1468mhz-boost (GPU prices suck at the moment, that GPU used to be £30).

 

My parents actually have an old Core 2 Duo E8400 in their HTCP that can decode 4K content without issue with the above GPU.

 

Keep in mind if the Plex app on your smart TV forces the PC to transcode, you are going to have a bad experience, even with the GT 1030. However Plex, Kodi and VLC should offload any video decoding to the GPU allowing you to play 4K content with no DRM on the PC its self, so you could hook the PC up to the TV via HDMI and use it that way.

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Hello,

 

Given the age of the system's components (14 year old CPU, 12 year old video card), I am wondering if it might be better to spend money on replacing the systemboard, CPU and RAM, rather than a new video card?  I suspect a 2017-era Intel 9th generation CPU with integrated UHD 630 graphics would outperform the ATI Radeon HD 5450.  You could always add a video card later if a performance improvement was still needed.

 

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky
 

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It will be choppy because it's transcoding (assuming networking isn't a limiting factor).

It will transcode if it can't play back natively. You'd be better off looking how you can achieve that, rather than upgrading the hardware, as regardless as the hardware as somebody said earlier you'll always struggle transcoding 4k.

To test, I'd suggest copying one of the movie files to a USB, plug that straight into the TV and attempt playback from that. If it can't play it natively, there's your problem.

I had an old 4K TV that couldn't playing content natively, my newer TV (LG C9) plays them natively and works well (running Plex on a Synology NAS).

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On 13/01/2022 at 15:59, Sir Topham Hatt said:

Specs:

 

Windows 10

CPU: Intel Dual Core 2 Duo E8400 3000Mhz

Motherboard: Asus P5Q-E

Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 5450 512MB

RAM: 4Gb DDR2

 

Looking at the system now, I wonder if the low / slow ram and low graphics card memory could be to blame? If it's a simple case of swapping those, that's fine.

 

Have tried to play some 4k content in MPC but it stutters. Tried the same in VLC Player, it plays the audio but the video gets stuck. Streaming 4k content from YouTube is fine but it isn't a hugely massive file. It could be the test file I'm using so I'll try another but I guess it's hardware related?

 

In addition, under "Settings > Plex Web > Debug" Direct Play is ticked. 

You need a new GPU that can decode AV1, HEVC and all the new codecs. There is also the new VVC (H.266) but there is no graphics card / APU that supports it. Sadly the RX 6500 XT doesn't support AV1 decode so I recommend the RTX 3050 instead.

 

I know the CPU is weak but I don't think GPU decoding of videos should be that bottlenecked by the C2D.

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I appreciate in an ideal world the PC would be able to decode the codec, but it's by no means requirement. If the client (the TV in this instance) can decode the media, the PC simply acts as a glorified file share.

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I'm all for changing to a NAS and something else to run Plex (or another nice front end) though.

 

But I've also read that I will need a Plex Pass if I want to get the GPU to do the transcoding...  which makes me wonder whether some sort of NAS will be worth it in the end.  But then I may not have the nice front end that has been years in the making.

 

I know it seems a lot of hassle for 4k but more and more content will be like this so I don't mind tackling the issue now while I have the time and money (well, maybe not a huge amount of money for a NAS enclosure! But maybe 😛)

 

On a side note - wow, I hadn't realised I haven't really upgraded this since buying it all about 12 years ago!

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I think the thing that may be the sticking point is the front end.

I really don't want to have another remote, so I guess that puts me firmly in the "build a new PC" camp.

 

My Android TV (bought last year) can use the Plex app through the wonders of my home network to connect to my PC (although they're connected directly through HDMI anyway) so all my stuff is there nicely organised - "Family videos", "Holiday videos" and all the other stuff I have.  I've been looking but there doesn't seem to be another front end that I can install on my TV that will connect and display stuff like Plex can.

 

Will catch up with the responses shortly.

 

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On 14/01/2022 at 07:27, Sir Topham Hatt said:

I'm all for changing to a NAS and something else to run Plex (or another nice front end) though.

 

But I've also read that I will need a Plex Pass if I want to get the GPU to do the transcoding...  which makes me wonder whether some sort of NAS will be worth it in the end.  But then I may not have the nice front end that has been years in the making.

 

I know it seems a lot of hassle for 4k but more and more content will be like this so I don't mind tackling the issue now while I have the time and money (well, maybe not a huge amount of money for a NAS enclosure! But maybe 😛)

 

On a side note - wow, I hadn't realised I haven't really upgraded this since buying it all about 12 years ago!

yes you need to pay for GPU transcoding but CPU transcoding can be done on the free tier I believe. for that reason I agree with @goretsky assessment.

A newer CPU will be much more advantageous for you due to Intel Quick Sync / AMD VCE technologies in newer generations.

 

4K transcoding is still a bit resource intensive, especially if you're transcoding subs with it so newer CPUs are a must.

 

----

 

I'd recommend checking out Amazon's selection of refurbished business class PCs. You can get some pretty good specs for reasonable prices and many of the machines are just perfect for this kind of use.

 

In 2020 I picked up a HP EliteDesk 800 G2 Mini Business Desktop PC Intel Quad-Core i5-6500T for roughly $200 and it works great as a Plex server. Sure I don't do anything higher than 1080p as I don't own any 4K TVs but I'm sure I could throw higher res content at it without issue.

 

They have numerous deals like this to choose from even for newer generation models.

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On 14/01/2022 at 10:29, goretsky said:

... it might be better to spend money on replacing the systemboard, CPU and RAM, rather than a new video card?  I suspect a 2017-era Intel 9th generation CPU with integrated UHD 630 graphics...

Do you have anything in mind?

 

I saw...
 

PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-9300H (£150ish)
MOTHERBOARD: Gigabyte H310M S2H (£40ish) (but has no optical output and not enough sata inputs.  Could always add a sata board (£30) and cheapy sound card (£50) though?  Although the original PC was supposed to be a low power bare bones components sort of build).

RAM: ?

I wonder if getting a more expensive motherboard that has optical out and potentially more SATA inputs would be better?

Processor alone is £150ish but I guess if I'm not getting a graphics card...
 

I'm not too bad with eyeing up new stuff but slightly older components - I have little idea.

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On 14/01/2022 at 10:40, StealMySoda said:

To test, I'd suggest copying one of the movie files to a USB, plug that straight into the TV and attempt playback from that. If it can't play it natively, there's your problem.

I had an old 4K TV that couldn't playing content natively, my newer TV (LG C9) plays them natively and works well (running Plex on a Synology NAS).

The TV (Sony KE55A8BU) plays content from a USB stick fine, which led me to think it was the PC that was struggling.
 

Even playing something in VLC or MPC (with MadVR) through HDMI to the TV, it stutters - more than happy to play the audio, but if I skip to the middle of the file, the picture gets stuck.  I haven't tried through Plex yet as I wanted to get native playing working nicely so I know that wouldn't be a limiting factor.

 

I did think about a Synology NAS but was a little put off by the lack of an optical output.

HOWEVER, the same speakers are connected (via optical) to the TV anyway, so I wonder if audio will be passed from the NAS to the TV and the TV can then pass it to the speakers?  Although if there's nothing but USB output, will that suffer with quality loss instead of HDMI?  And can I still use the Plex app on the TV?

Edited by Sir Topham Hatt
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On 14/01/2022 at 16:55, Brandon H said:

yes you need to pay for GPU transcoding but CPU transcoding can be done on the free tier I believe. for that reason I agree with @goretsky assessment.

 

----

 

I'd recommend checking out Amazon's selection of refurbished business class PCs. You can get some pretty good specs for reasonable prices and many of the machines are just perfect for this kind of use.

 

In 2020 I picked up a HP EliteDesk 800 G2 Mini Business Desktop PC Intel Quad-Core i5-6500T for roughly $200 and it works great as a Plex server.

Ahhhhh, I see - yes, no graphics card (so I can still use the free tier on Plex) because the CPU will do all the transcoding and thus pass it properly to the TV...

 

Would still need a NAS to store all the drives with that sort of PC though and no optical out for sound :(.  I wonder how would it cope with next to no cooling and 4k every so often?  UK Amazon has something similar - I found a 530 graphics version, which also has DP output, not HDMI (not sure my TV has DP input?).

Edited by Sir Topham Hatt
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Hello,

 

I think the Intel Core i5-9300H is a mobile processor for laptops.  The i5-9400, i5-9500 and i5-9600 are desktop parts, though.

 

There are a lot of motherboards out there with Intel's 300-series of chipset that have some (or all) of the features you are looking for.  When I did a search on Newegg, here were the first half-dozen models that popped up, as an example:


Brand    | Model                | # of SATA | Video               | Audio
---------+----------------------+-----------+---------------------+------------
ASUS     | TUF Z390M-Pro Gaming | 3         | 1 DP, 1 HDMI        | 3
GIGABYTE | Z390 M               | 6         | 1 DP, 1 DVIm 1 HDMI | 5.1
GIGABYTE | Z390 M GAMING        | 6         | 1 DVI, 1 DP         | 5.1
MSI      | MAG Z390M Mortar     | 4         | 1 DP, 1 DVI, 1 HDMI | 7.1+S/PDIF
MSI      | MPG Z390M GAMING EDGE| 4         | 1 DP, 1 HDMI        | 5.1+S/PDIF
MSI      | Z390M-S01            | 4         | 1 DP, 1 DVI         | 5.1+S/PDIF

 

I have personally had good results with ASRock, ASUS, EVGA and MSI motherboards.  Gigabyte, too, but just not as recently.

 

I would try to find one that has the number of display outputs and SATA ports that you need, plus a S/PDIF (optical) connector, though, so you do not need to purchase any expansion cards to add that functionality.

 

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky
 

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You definitely need to get more than 2 CPU cores in that thing.  4k is a 2x2 square of 1080p, so playing back a single 4k movie requires the same pixel pumping power as 4 simultaneous 1080p streams.  But, besides your needed hardware upgrades, when ripping your content you should pay attention to what codecs you're using.  Some codecs are a lot more friendly for streaming than others.  I always dump my stuff to H.264 video (x264 encoder since I'm on Linux) and AAC audio in a Matroska (MKV) container.  Not only are these good codecs in terms of how much quality you can retain with a reasonable compression level, but they're also natively supported by a LOT of software and players, which means that the workload placed on your server is greatly reduced.  Putting them in an MP4 is a little bit more universal than MKV, but MP4 doesn't properly support the PGS subtitles you'll find on Blurays, and even if something doesn't support the MKV container Plex will just re-package it on the fly via "Direct Stream".  My Plex server is running 16GB of RAM with an old 6 core AMD Phenom II CPU and no dedicated graphics, and it can handle multiple 1080p streams no problem because a lot of the time the content will either being getting played via "Direct Play" or "Direct Stream".  Direct Play is exactly what it sounds like, the player (The app on your TV, game console or whatever) is 100% compatible with the source file.  "Direct Stream" is basically just Direct Play except the remote player doesn't support the "container" format, so the server just re-packages the existing audio and video streams into one the player does support, which is trivial in terms of workload.  Both of these means that the player itself natively supports the codec and basically all the server does is stream the file to the player and the player does all the decoding/decompression, so basically your Plex server gets turned into a glorified file share with a pretty interface.  If your content is stored in some codec that a player doesn't natively understand, that's when your server has to step in and re-package the content into some other format, and that is where things can get really hinky with your server.  Play something in a weird codec, maybe turn on subtitles, and all of a sudden your server is having to work overtime to try and re-encode the entire movie on the fly in real time.  Not sure what you use to convert your stuff, but here's the Handbrake preset I use for everything; DVDs, Blurays, etc.

 

https://marcusandash.net/index.php/s/DfQB9qKrraQ3RXM

 

If you are a Plex Pass subscriber, the web interface will actually show you whether the client supports the content natively and how much work your server is doing.  You can see here that my son watching MASH is just direct playing.

 

image.png.2bdaa4537de01b06b93718c24f92cd4c.png

Edited by Gerowen
grammar
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