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$1700-2000 Budget Plex Build

I haven't built a PC in over 10 years. I currently have a 10 year old Desktop that I turned into my Plex Server. I have about 4-6 simultaneous streams going at the same time. I think its time to upgrade the computer as its lagging pretty bad not transcoding well anymore. Not sure if I need to focus on CPU or GPU, one over the other or focus on the equally. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Im not even sure where to start anymore. 

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14 minutes ago, TaxManD1 said:

I haven't built a PC in over 10 years. I currently have a 10 year old Desktop that I turned into my Plex Server. I have about 4-6 simultaneous streams going at the same time. I think its time to upgrade the computer as its lagging pretty bad not transcoding well anymore. Not sure if I need to focus on CPU or GPU, one over the other or focus on the equally. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Im not even sure where to start anymore. 

 

You should upgrade both, (considering the CPU is 10 years old) but the GPU is more important, as it's doing all the transcoding and such.

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43 minutes ago, 732 said:

 

You should upgrade both, (considering the CPU is 10 years old) but the GPU is more important, as it's doing all the transcoding and such.

I agree with 732 but I imagine it would be hard to find a good upgrade on a motherboard that is 10 years old. I would do a cpu, mobo, ram, gpu, and a power supply (if you need a better one) upgrade.

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It all depends, for 4 to 6 streams it boils down to:

 

How many are direct streams (that is no transcoding)?

How many are audio only transcoding?

How many are audio and video transcoding?

 

If you're mostly doing direct play, the answer is that you don't need much.  Generally speaking internet speeds will be the main bottleneck.   

 

For video, NVidia with its NVenc encoder is the fastest way to transcode, but not the non Quadro cards only support two streams (and a couple only support 1).  There are custom drivers available (third party, not nVidia) supported that let you do more than two streams and let you turn say an EVGA 2060 KO into a transcode beast, but you have to support the drivers and you can't totally ignore the CPU since audio is still offloaded to it.  You can also source some of the lower end Turing Quadros (normally second hand since they ship in a bunch of Dell Precisions and such)  and use those.  Pascal Quadros can be had for cheap, but the Turing NVenc is a really good one, so it's hard to recommend a Pascal Quadro at this point.  The other thing to call out is NVenc still has a higher bitrate, which presents the problems of saturating both your upload and the device playing it back.  CPU based h265 still gets you the best bitrates.  

 

What it kind of boils down to though is if you're say rarely over 2 video transcode streams, get Turing card like the 1660Ti.  You can check nVidia's matrix here.  Make sure it has a TU core, has 2 concurrent sessions, and doesn't have an asterisk next to its Number of NVENC Chips (ex: The 1650) showing it's a Volta transcoder in Turing chip.  If you want more sessions then it's either a quadro, third party drivers on a GeForce, or going CPU based.

 

For audio, it's honestly not a huge load on the CPU, but it's enough of a load you want to avoid going too cheap.  That being said if you're 100% confident the CPU only really needs to handle audio, even something like a Ryzen 1600AF easily get the job done with some headroom to spare.  One caveat is if you're doing lots of surround sound.  The one time I saw my server's CPU get wrecked was when I was watching a Bluray rip with 7.1 on the LAN and a buddy was pulling a video with 7.1 to his media PC.  Videos were direct playing, but because we both used Macs and Macs only support a subset of the audio codecs (even via the direct app) the CPU got spanked trying to convert both.  If you're just turning AC3 stereo into AAC stereo or such though, you can use almost anything.

 

Finally if half your users are family members on DSL (for example my use case) then CPU is king.  You can take say 480p and CPU transcode that it to 0.9 mbps for Grandma and Grandpa to watch in her cabin on Lake Huron because they only have 2 mbps DSL but still wants to watch the Golden Girls and Grandpa watches Victory at Sea on loop pretty much.  Turing NVEnc is great, but still not that efficient.  

 

For me personally, I invested a bit more in spinning disk and I have two copies of each file.  The rip off the bluray directly and then a CPU transcoded one that I automatically generate via Handbrake.  I name my bluray rips "Whatever - bluray.webm" and then just have a scanner that every night looks for cases where "Whatever - bluray.webm" exists and "Whatever - h265.webm" does not, then handbrake command line is used to generate the h265.   The files themselves sit on different disks, the blurays are hanging out on WD Reds that are in RAID 10 and backed up.  The h265 files are hanging out on the whatever disks (some 6 TB Blues and other stuff I've snagged on sales over the years) with no RAID and are considered disposable derivatives.  

 

The h265 derivatives are also cuts down sound to just stereo which increases the odds I can direct stream sound.  This works for my case since my users all use the native client (if your users are using the webclient, you want to be h264 and AAC audio) and I taught them to use the Play Version tool and go for the low bitrate one.  Eventually when say AV1 is more of a thing I'll just replace the h265 derivatives with av1 ones (this also is why I'm CPU biased, sure Turing has an awesome h265 support, but my 6 year old CPU can do AV1, something my 1 year old GPU can't).  I have a 1660Ti without any custom drivers on hand for when someone can't direct play or wants say 7.1 and needs to stream my direct bluray rip.  My CPU is a i7-5960X which does just fine for audio.  Probably overkill, I retire my old gaming rigs over to Plex duty, so it's what I had.

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Shrekpad said:

I agree with 732 but I imagine it would be hard to find a good upgrade on a motherboard that is 10 years old. I would do a cpu, mobo, ram, gpu, and a power supply (if you need a better one) upgrade.

I plan on starting from scratch and doing a full build 

10 hours ago, Egad said:

It all depends, for 4 to 6 streams it boils down to:

 

How many are direct streams (that is no transcoding)?

How many are audio only transcoding?

How many are audio and video transcoding?

 

If you're mostly doing direct play, the answer is that you don't need much.  Generally speaking internet speeds will be the main bottleneck.   

 

For video, NVidia with its NVenc encoder is the fastest way to transcode, but not the non Quadro cards only support two streams (and a couple only support 1).  There are custom drivers available (third party, not nVidia) supported that let you do more than two streams and let you turn say an EVGA 2060 KO into a transcode beast, but you have to support the drivers and you can't totally ignore the CPU since audio is still offloaded to it.  You can also source some of the lower end Turing Quadros (normally second hand since they ship in a bunch of Dell Precisions and such)  and use those.  Pascal Quadros can be had for cheap, but the Turing NVenc is a really good one, so it's hard to recommend a Pascal Quadro at this point.  The other thing to call out is NVenc still has a higher bitrate, which presents the problems of saturating both your upload and the device playing it back.  CPU based h265 still gets you the best bitrates.  

 

What it kind of boils down to though is if you're say rarely over 2 video transcode streams, get Turing card like the 1660Ti.  You can check nVidia's matrix here.  Make sure it has a TU core, has 2 concurrent sessions, and doesn't have an asterisk next to its Number of NVENC Chips (ex: The 1650) showing it's a Volta transcoder in Turing chip.  If you want more sessions then it's either a quadro, third party drivers on a GeForce, or going CPU based.

 

For audio, it's honestly not a huge load on the CPU, but it's enough of a load you want to avoid going too cheap.  That being said if you're 100% confident the CPU only really needs to handle audio, even something like a Ryzen 1600AF easily get the job done with some headroom to spare.  One caveat is if you're doing lots of surround sound.  The one time I saw my server's CPU get wrecked was when I was watching a Bluray rip with 7.1 on the LAN and a buddy was pulling a video with 7.1 to his media PC.  Videos were direct playing, but because we both used Macs and Macs only support a subset of the audio codecs (even via the direct app) the CPU got spanked trying to convert both.  If you're just turning AC3 stereo into AAC stereo or such though, you can use almost anything.

 

Finally if half your users are family members on DSL (for example my use case) then CPU is king.  You can take say 480p and CPU transcode that it to 0.9 mbps for Grandma and Grandpa to watch in her cabin on Lake Huron because they only have 2 mbps DSL but still wants to watch the Golden Girls and Grandpa watches Victory at Sea on loop pretty much.  Turing NVEnc is great, but still not that efficient.  

 

For me personally, I invested a bit more in spinning disk and I have two copies of each file.  The rip off the bluray directly and then a CPU transcoded one that I automatically generate via Handbrake.  I name my bluray rips "Whatever - bluray.webm" and then just have a scanner that every night looks for cases where "Whatever - bluray.webm" exists and "Whatever - h265.webm" does not, then handbrake command line is used to generate the h265.   The files themselves sit on different disks, the blurays are hanging out on WD Reds that are in RAID 10 and backed up.  The h265 files are hanging out on the whatever disks (some 6 TB Blues and other stuff I've snagged on sales over the years) with no RAID and are considered disposable derivatives.  

 

The h265 derivatives are also cuts down sound to just stereo which increases the odds I can direct stream sound.  This works for my case since my users all use the native client (if your users are using the webclient, you want to be h264 and AAC audio) and I taught them to use the Play Version tool and go for the low bitrate one.  Eventually when say AV1 is more of a thing I'll just replace the h265 derivatives with av1 ones (this also is why I'm CPU biased, sure Turing has an awesome h265 support, but my 6 year old CPU can do AV1, something my 1 year old GPU can't).  I have a 1660Ti without any custom drivers on hand for when someone can't direct play or wants say 7.1 and needs to stream my direct bluray rip.  My CPU is a i7-5960X which does just fine for audio.  Probably overkill, I retire my old gaming rigs over to Plex duty, so it's what I had.

 

 

 

 

So I have a bunch of people transcoding Both Audio & Video. Im the only one Direct playing. They will all be transcoding & some even pull surround sounds as well. So the users are family & friends some are using DSL others are using FIOS Gigabit. I currently have 200/50 Internet myself and never really have an issue too much unless everyone is on at the extact same moment. I do have 4K as well but I block that library from everyone other then myself. So starting literally from scratch on a build what would you suggest ? 

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if you want to save a buck and not do GPU transcoding, i was basically using a single core on a ryzen 1700 per stream with 1080p encoding.  I would imagine a 2000 series 8 core would be plenty. no need to spend money on a GPU unless you have another use for it.

 

actually a first gen threadripper might be the way to go? 12-16 core first gens are likely on the secondary market now.

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4 hours ago, TaxManD1 said:

I plan on starting from scratch and doing a full build 

So I have a bunch of people transcoding Both Audio & Video. Im the only one Direct playing. They will all be transcoding & some even pull surround sounds as well. So the users are family & friends some are using DSL others are using FIOS Gigabit. I currently have 200/50 Internet myself and never really have an issue too much unless everyone is on at the extact same moment. I do have 4K as well but I block that library from everyone other then myself. So starting literally from scratch on a build what would you suggest ? 

CPU heavy for sure in those situations. 

 

With your budget you're in an interesting spot.  You have lots of options with regard to a Ryzen 8 to 16 core processor (3700, 3900X, 3950X) that won't blow your budget and are going to handle the load and should last for some time.  I think the 3700 more than meets your needs and then the 3900X and 3950X are more if you want as big beefy home server that might end up doing other stuff.  Honestly even a 3600 probably works, but if the goal is "Build this and don't touch it for awhile", I'd go 8 cores.  

 

You also have Threadripper as an option, but unless you source used parts you'd probably end up creeping over the 2k limit.  You'd be looking at say 1,400 for a 3960X, 500 on a mobo and still need the other pieces.  The other thing is Threadripper is a more niche platform, so you have to put up the enthusiast space teething problems.

 

Where I could probably look is:

Ryzen 3700X ~300 USD

B450 Motherboard

EVGA 1660Ti Black ~250 USD

8 to 16 GB RAM (2666 MHz green stuff is fine).  16 GB of Crucial 2666 MHz should be ~75 dollars, 8 GB should be ~40 dollars

Tier A PSU

SATA SSD Boot Drive OR nVME drive if you want to save the SATA port for the data drives

However many drives you need, want to spend the cash on.  Just avoid Seagate and their abnormally high failures.  HGSTs are really good and WD Reds are also good.  

 

 

Some specific notes:

The B450 Motherboard's main purpose in life is to have SATA ports, so don't get the cheapest one out there.  Get one where you have more SATA ports.  I would say the MSI B450 Tomahawk with its 6 ports is about as low I'd go.  Since the fewer ports you have the more it forces you only have high capacity drives connected to them.

 

Since you need a GPU anyway given the lack an iGPU on your CPU, might as well go with the 1660Ti.  I find it a nice quality of life improvement because when you rip a Bluray and find it's VC-1 or whatever you can just immediately feed it into the Turing GPU to transcode and it won't take long.  That being said, literally any video card works.  At the end of the day, your GPU only needs to drive your display, your CPU is doing the transcode work.  You don't even need a GPU in that you could install a Linux distro that lets you headless boot and remote in from a different box.

 

For RAM 8 GB is more than enough, you just need RAM to hold your videos in as they playback.  The only reason to go up to 16+ GB is if you plan to any kind of memory cacheing or such.  Green Crucial 2666 MHz DDR4 is the way to go.  You don't need anything fancy.  

 

Power supply you want something good because this thing is on 24/7/365/.  I'm partial to the Seasonic Prime Titanium line.  They're pricey, but they run fanless below ~40% load and I don't mind paying for efficiency and the fact it's no moving parts in its default state.  You can easily save a buck here by looking at something else.  

 

Disk wise, it kind of comes down to ports on your mobo and your future expansion.  If say you have 6 SATA ports, have 1 port assigned to your SATA SSD boot drive and 4 drives assigned a RAID 10 pool, you can only add one more drive.  If you buy a M.2 boot drive then you'd have two SATA ports free (or in the future could you buy a PCIe card to give you more SATA ports, etc).  I'm partial to 10 TB Western Digital Red Drives and 12 TB HGST drives.  Just avoid Seagate and its above average failure rate.  I'd say pick something you are comfortable buying 4x of and then going RAID 6 or RAID 10 (plus of course external backup).  Then you can add more drives.  You can also look into Unraid which lets you pool up drives that don't match if you want look into that.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Egad said:

CPU heavy for sure in those situations. 

 

With your budget you're in an interesting spot.  You have lots of options with regard to a Ryzen 8 to 16 core processor (3700, 3900X, 3950X) that won't blow your budget and are going to handle the load and should last for some time.  I think the 3700 more than meets your needs and then the 3900X and 3950X are more if you want as big beefy home server that might end up doing other stuff.  Honestly even a 3600 probably works, but if the goal is "Build this and don't touch it for awhile", I'd go 8 cores.  

 

You also have Threadripper as an option, but unless you source used parts you'd probably end up creeping over the 2k limit.  You'd be looking at say 1,400 for a 3960X, 500 on a mobo and still need the other pieces.  The other thing is Threadripper is a more niche platform, so you have to put up the enthusiast space teething problems.

 

Where I could probably look is:

Ryzen 3700X ~300 USD

B450 Motherboard

EVGA 1660Ti Black ~250 USD

8 to 16 GB RAM (2666 MHz green stuff is fine).  16 GB of Crucial 2666 MHz should be ~75 dollars, 8 GB should be ~40 dollars

Tier A PSU

SATA SSD Boot Drive OR nVME drive if you want to save the SATA port for the data drives

However many drives you need, want to spend the cash on.  Just avoid Seagate and their abnormally high failures.  HGSTs are really good and WD Reds are also good.  

 

 

Some specific notes:

The B450 Motherboard's main purpose in life is to have SATA ports, so don't get the cheapest one out there.  Get one where you have more SATA ports.  I would say the MSI B450 Tomahawk with its 6 ports is about as low I'd go.  Since the fewer ports you have the more it forces you only have high capacity drives connected to them.

 

Since you need a GPU anyway given the lack an iGPU on your CPU, might as well go with the 1660Ti.  I find it a nice quality of life improvement because when you rip a Bluray and find it's VC-1 or whatever you can just immediately feed it into the Turing GPU to transcode and it won't take long.  That being said, literally any video card works.  At the end of the day, your GPU only needs to drive your display, your CPU is doing the transcode work.  You don't even need a GPU in that you could install a Linux distro that lets you headless boot and remote in from a different box.

 

For RAM 8 GB is more than enough, you just need RAM to hold your videos in as they playback.  The only reason to go up to 16+ GB is if you plan to any kind of memory cacheing or such.  Green Crucial 2666 MHz DDR4 is the way to go.  You don't need anything fancy.  

 

Power supply you want something good because this thing is on 24/7/365/.  I'm partial to the Seasonic Prime Titanium line.  They're pricey, but they run fanless below ~40% load and I don't mind paying for efficiency and the fact it's no moving parts in its default state.  You can easily save a buck here by looking at something else.  

 

Disk wise, it kind of comes down to ports on your mobo and your future expansion.  If say you have 6 SATA ports, have 1 port assigned to your SATA SSD boot drive and 4 drives assigned a RAID 10 pool, you can only add one more drive.  If you buy a M.2 boot drive then you'd have two SATA ports free (or in the future could you buy a PCIe card to give you more SATA ports, etc).  I'm partial to 10 TB Western Digital Red Drives and 12 TB HGST drives.  Just avoid Seagate and its above average failure rate.  I'd say pick something you are comfortable buying 4x of and then going RAID 6 or RAID 10 (plus of course external backup).  Then you can add more drives.  You can also look into Unraid which lets you pool up drives that don't match if you want look into that.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you feel about the 12 Core AMD Threadripper 1920X ?

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The only value prop on the Threadripper 1 is that in the future you can buy a later gen/higher core count Threadripper.  But you're limited to Threadripper 1 and 2 due to the socket shift for Threadripper 3.  I'd honestly rather have 8 3000 series cores than 12 1000 series cores.  A 2700X almost tied a 1920X in transcoding (the TR chip only had a 3 fps edge on h264 medium quality).  Can't find any head to head benches on a 3700X vs 1920X, but I'd expect the 3700X to win.  Most benches are of the 3700X vs a 1950X, with the 3700X losing by 5 fps to 7 fps despite having half the cores.  In GN's 1920X revisit you can see the 3700X pulling head of the 1920X in Premier and such.  GN actually ends up recommending the 3600 over the 1920X for most folks.

 

To me it is:

 

B450 Mobo: ~120 bucks

Ryzen 3900X: ~450 bucks (which a B450 like a Tomahawk can handle at stock clocks)

570 out the door

 

X399 Mobo: ~270 bucks

TR1920X: ~200 bucks

470 out the door

 

I think the X399 mobo destroys the value, unless you for a refurb mobo and cut price and/or your long play is to get a used 2990WX in a few years.  You either pay ~100 more (the 3900X option) for something that crushes the TR1920X or you spend ~299 bucks on a 3700X, save ~50 bucks over the TR1920X and still have a system, that I think will perform better overall for Plex duties.

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/14/2020 at 6:52 PM, Egad said:

The only value prop on the Threadripper 1 is that in the future you can buy a later gen/higher core count Threadripper.  But you're limited to Threadripper 1 and 2 due to the socket shift for Threadripper 3.  I'd honestly rather have 8 3000 series cores than 12 1000 series cores.  A 2700X almost tied a 1920X in transcoding (the TR chip only had a 3 fps edge on h264 medium quality).  Can't find any head to head benches on a 3700X vs 1920X, but I'd expect the 3700X to win.  Most benches are of the 3700X vs a 1950X, with the 3700X losing by 5 fps to 7 fps despite having half the cores.  In GN's 1920X revisit you can see the 3700X pulling head of the 1920X in Premier and such.  GN actually ends up recommending the 3600 over the 1920X for most folks.

 

To me it is:

 

B450 Mobo: ~120 bucks

Ryzen 3900X: ~450 bucks (which a B450 like a Tomahawk can handle at stock clocks)

570 out the door

 

X399 Mobo: ~270 bucks

TR1920X: ~200 bucks

470 out the door

 

I think the X399 mobo destroys the value, unless you for a refurb mobo and cut price and/or your long play is to get a used 2990WX in a few years.  You either pay ~100 more (the 3900X option) for something that crushes the TR1920X or you spend ~299 bucks on a 3700X, save ~50 bucks over the TR1920X and still have a system, that I think will perform better overall for Plex duties.

How does this look ? Would you change anything on here ? 

 

 

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