Any Plex Experts Here? [purchasing desktop]

Hey guys. I searched and scrolled through the plex subreddit forever for a thread like this but couldn't find what I was needing help with. Thanks in advance.

I've been running plex off various laptops for years now (5tb) but would like to upgrade and free up my primary laptop for regular use. I have no knowledge about servers etc.

A desktop appeals to me because I can download etc all on the one, is there anything I'm missing?

I'd like to stream 1-3 1080p to family and 1 stream locally for myself, I can't find the list of transcoding approved CPUs but I'm hoping these are okay.
I've heard good things about dell optiplex

are these upgradable (graphics/storage when needed)?
Are there other things for cheaper that would serve me just as well?
what should I consider before purchasing?
anything similar to a dell optiplex to look at?

Dell Optiplex 9020 $340AUD
CPU Intel Core i7 4770 Processor 3.4ghz
Motherboard unknown
Ram 16gb
Graphics Intel HD 4600 Graphics

Dell Optiplex 9020 $129AUD
CPU Intel Core i5-2499 3.1ghz
Motherboard unknown
Ram 4gb (can upgrade to 8gb with spare parts)
Graphics Intel HD 2000 Graphics

Comments

  •  

    Probably just buy a mid range PC from a computer shop, it basically has to be able to handle transcoding on the fly so a decent graphics card will help a lot to process the video on the fly, say 8-16gb of ram and a SSD to run your OS on. If you manage to get a ATX tower with say 3-4 hard drive bays you will be set to upgrade when you run out of space and easier to work with

    •  

      Anything wrong with the optiplex?

      •  

        You'd have to see if you could get a small graphics card to fit plus id assume it would only fit 1 drive May be 2 if it's HDD is removed? Plex is taxing on a PC and Intel graphics may not hold up to the job

      •  

        No. Very good, reliable business grade pc. NOT a games machine unless you install a decent graphics card. The Intel inbuilt graphics draw their power processing from installed RAM and a usually pre-set and difficult to configure. The Intel graphics is basic for general office apps ans web-browsing etc.

      •  

        No either of the above are great for Plex. Remember you will need a Plexpass to use the in-built GPU. (no rush see how you go without it).
        Don't get a dedicated GPU, just consumes power. 4gb of RAM is also plenty, but I don't recommend upgrading with spares. People may argue, but RAM modules should ideally always the same, or you risk stability issues.

        I would probably go the i5 if it is just for plex, as they run cooler, and likely less fan noise.
        An i3 with Plex can serve dozens of direct streams easily, along with 2 transcodes.

        Your bottleneck will be reading from your storage? and pushing out to the clients, not an i5 CPU.

  •  

    It all depends on video quality, if they're 4k/1080p/720p etc

    Surely not all 4 people will view at once? That will put a lot of pressure on the network (if wireless)

  • +3 votes

    Plex Experts

    I believe that the correct term is plexperts

  • +2 votes

    Here's the best tip i can give you about plex.

    DO NOT TRANSCODE!
    and tell anyone with 50 year old tech to buy a chromecast or mi box if they want to use your server.

    •  

      So don't get a capable pc and share?

      •  

        what? i said don't transcode, always direct play.

        Do you not know the difference?

        •  

          Nup no idea. Don't have much exp with it.
          Thought you had to transcode to send it as a compressed file to devices outside your network

          •  

            @science-teacher: Only need to transcode if the device can't do direct play.

          • +1 vote

            @science-teacher: Transcoding is converting media on the fly - i.e. your media file is encoded in H.264 and whatever device is trying to play it can only play MPEG-4. In this case, the Plex server will convert the file on the fly: it will read the H.264 file, convert it to MPEG-4 and send that to the playback device.

            So transcoding only occurs if your files are encoded in a format that's not playable by one of the receivers, nothing to do with their location.

            Best idea is to ensure your media is encoded in a common format playable by all your devices.

  • +1 vote

    I built a new plex server recently for about $380. I am using a Ryzen 2200g. It handles 3 to 4 1080p transcodes easily. When I am at home almost everything is direct play, so processor is no issue - however, having the grunt for transcodes is nice. It also gives me power to run multiple threads on rsync/rclone/lftp making it very fast to download and upload (well, as fast as my internet will allow) without having a huge impact on the processor.

    •  

      So graphics is as important if not more so than processor?

      • +2 votes

        If you are transcoding and want hardware decode (plex pass required), you need an Intel chip with these requirements:

        https://support.plex.tv/articles/115002178853-using-hardware...

        A recent Intel CPU meeting these requirements:
        2nd-generation Intel Core (Sandy Bridge, 2011) or newer (we recommend 5th-gen Broadwell or newer for the best experience; Sandy Bridge, in particular, is known to sometimes have poor visual output on some systems)
        Supports Intel Quick Sync Video (Not sure? Look up your processor)

        Graphics doesn't matter, his Ryzen 2200g is an 'all in one' so he doesn't even need a graphics card.

        If you do not use hardware decode then you will be using your CPU to decode it.

        Hardware decode = "0% CPU usage" as you would see it in Windows because the chip is doing the decoding not the processor (simplified explanation).
        Software decode = "Higher CPU usage", since it will be purely using the CPU to calculate/decode on the fly

        •  

          So long story short CPU is super important.
          Do I bother with dedicated graphics?
          So gpu isnt used?
          I guess I won't transcode as sharing without plex pass has been fine so far

          Sir murduck above mentioned a gpu

          • +1 vote

            @science-teacher: Processor Usage: Transcoding a media file can be CPU intensive. Generally, the more powerful the Plex Media Server’s CPU the better, as transcoding is a CPU intensive process. If you have a choice between adding more RAM (assuming there’s enough RAM for the operating system to run well) or a faster/better CPU, choose CPU for better Plex transcoding performance.

            https://support.plex.tv/articles/200250377-transcoding-media...

            Plex doesn't even use the GPU, at least not at any level worth mentioning.

            My Plex runs on synology 916 with no dedicated graphics card.

            •  

              @fishball: Thanks mate you're a legend. What do you think of the optiplex?
              Should I be thinking in another direction?
              Cheers

              •  

                @science-teacher: I don't see any particular problem with the Optiplex.

                It has quick sync video which is good if you need hardware decode down the line and it is fast enough even without it

                I would double check to see if you can cool it properly though as it will be very hot if the cooling is bad, never used optiplex myself so not sure how they perform under stress

  • +2 votes

    Hi the core i7 can comfortable do transcode of 4 1080p streams. The i5 model is just short of doing 3 streams. According to plex forums the cpu needs a passmark score of 2000 for every 1080p stream. The i5 has a score of just under 6000 and the i7 has a score just under 10000. Just because you have 4 people streaming doesn't mean you are transcoding every stream because some devices can watch the original video file because they have all video and audio codecs required and don't need the file transcoded. Streaming without transcode requires very little cpu but might consume more internet bandwidth than you are happy with.

    •  

      Thank you. Any thoughts on going for desktop and what else to consider?

      •  

        To get a laptop that could run as many streams as you wish would be extremely costly versus the desktop. My 18month old laptop could run 4 streams but that cost $3800. You are probably looking at 2k now for similar performance. The dell optiplex machines we have at work are great but once you have a machine that has been running 9 hours a day 3-4 years the moving components have reached the end of life and failures happen much more frequently on the older equipment. The units you are looking at are most likely dell small form factor units so you can't buy off the shelf replacement parts. Other considerations they recommend running plex off ssd so menus load faster but depends on how good of a service you want to provide because it all costs. Don't worry about gpu as much as cpu they can't process as many streams as cpu. If all 4 people are trying to stream off the one mechanical hard drive the drive will be a bottle neck and it won't matter how much cpu you have. 8 gig or more of memory would also be preferable for the number of streams you want to run. One of the nice features of the dell optiplex series is you can set a power on time in the bios. You can then setup a scheduled task in windows to turn off the pc over night. This will save you some money on you power bill as you are unlikely to have people watching your plex between 2am and 4pm.

        •  

          Thanks for the well thought out response.
          Do you know of any used PC series that are in a usual form factor similar to optiplex?
          I don't mind replacing parts as needed really.
          Or should I just find any pre built pc with a good processor.

          •  

            @science-teacher: The optiplex 9020 did come in a full size but I doubt many were sold as business preferred the smaller size to save desk space and this is the same in other brands. The optiplex was an enterprise grade machine so very high quality. Dell kept the parts in the machine identicle for the life of the product 15 months. I wouldn't recommend buying a second hand consumer pc of the same age as the moving parts are typically rated at half the number of hours of enterprise pc. You will be able to find spare parts for the optiplex on ebay and they look reasonably priced and they are designed to be very easy to replace. The used units are great value and may run without issues for years. If you look at new pcs Google the cpu model with the word passmark the website will give you the score. You need 2000 for every 1080p transcode and if you have 4k content you will need more I think its 3500 to 4000 per 4k transcode. Also the reason I have said not to worry about gpu is you need plex pass and if you have a nvidia gpu it is artificially limited to transcoding 2 streams and I'm not sure how beefy the gpu needs to be to do that. Also plex has stated gpu transcode produce lover quality results.

    •  

      @Fornax

      Insightful response there. A slight hijack here, but my tv lags a little trying to stream a 4k remux (no decoding). More so in the scenes with heavy detail.

      Do you think its a network limit (100mbit on the tv), or a cpu limit?

      • +1 vote

        If the TV and plex server have a wifi connection between that could be the bottle neck. If the 4k content sits on a portable hard drive is it USB 2 or using a usb 2 port it could be a possible bottle neck. To rule out the TV cpu not being powerful enough to play a 4k file put a 4k movie on a portable drive and play it directly off the tv.

    • +1 vote

      Transcoding doesn't always mean reduced network consumption, if your media is H.265 and your player supports direct H.265 direct will be just as efficient over the wire.

      Unless you specifically chose to downscale, say FULL HD or 4K down to 720p for remote clients. Which is usually required given most of our crap upload speeds.

      There are 4 streaming methods for Plex,
      Direct Play (negligible CPU)
      Direct Stream (minimal CPU, used where the container is incompatible with the player)
      Partial Transcode (eg; Transcode audio only, eg: from TRUE HD to stero, uses minimal CPU)
      Full Transcode (most CPU\GPU intensive)

  •  

    jump on facebook and look up plex pals and plexaholics.
    It will blow your mind the systems people have there, you'll definitely get some ideas there from plexperts

  •  

    As mentioned by others above the Optiplex i7 system is all you really need even with some decoding

    Not mentioned - The trick is to have files that DO NOT NEED to decode

    So when you create/find/download your content opt for a file type that your users won't need to decode
    If you have some files that need decoding do a once off conversion process so the files to stream are already converted and streamable
    Do a bit of trial and error first before committing to converting everything

    Example most devices will play an MP4 without decoding but may struggle with files coded via X264 (common now for good quality at smaller size)
    I had my server running on a QNAP NAS along with the storage but the NAS wasn't powerful enough to do the decode X264
    I moved the server to an i5 Optiplex (I only have 2 streams max) and left the storage on NAS - works fine

  •  

    One important thing not mentioned is that you want as much of it connected by Ethernet as possible, especially if doing high quality files (with no transcoding). I find that around the 9-10gb movie file is the limit for playing it over wifi, and that is with the TV in the same room as the router, and the server is cable connected to the router.

  •  

    Why isn't a decent NAS setup for Plex suggested around here?

    It would solve both the storage and Plex problem. I know that it will cost slightly more but in the long run you will not regret it.

    From time to time there's deals here for the drives (WD Reds, Seagate Iron Wolf) and NAS (918+).

    However I would suggest really doing the research to see if it actually suits your needs. Might also need Plex pass to take advantage of the hardware encoding if you're considering NAS option..

    •  

      I don't have a storage problem.
      A nas is a great idea but a 4 bay synology of $800, a little more than a$200 desktop.
      What nas what you recommend

      •  

        Right now I'm actually running a similar setup what you have a laptop and a drive which is only direct streaming. 918+ goes sometimes to $595 on Amazon which I will grab in the future for sure.

        If there is no real need for a NAS in your case then a lot of people use Nvidia Shield Tv for Plex as well which does a wonderful job with transcoding. Just try to Google it there's loads of threads about it.

        •  

          Cool I'll keep an eye out.
          I don't have much use for a shield except to use as a server.
          Why are these better than a desktop?

          •  

            @science-teacher: While they work, keep the shield as a plex client not a server.
            For a server you want low power and reliability, hence why people here recommend a NAS.
            If you get the right NAS, they make great Plex servers (very low power and high-reliability), and no Windows license.
            But nothing wrong with your Dell option.

  •  

    Wow, all you need is an Intel i3 processor. Just make sure it supports Intel Quick Sync.
    Plex only struggles with the low powered ARM processors.

    As other posters have said, most of the time plex won't even need to transcode, direct play will used, even remotely.
    If your a plex pas user, it does use the GPU (the integrated GPU is more than enough for plex) for transcoding. Great to speedup the thumbnail processing.

    PS: You don't want to transcode, direct is always best. I just have Telstra TV's and Iphones remotely, seems that direct is always used.

    •  

      do you disagree with this?
      Hi the core i7 can comfortable do transcode of 4 1080p streams. The i5 model is just short of doing 3 streams. According to plex forums the cpu needs a passmark score of 2000 for every 1080p stream. The i5 has a score of just under 6000 and the i7 has a score just under 10000. Just because you have 4 people streaming doesn't mean you are transcoding every stream because some devices can watch the original video file because they have all video and audio codecs required and don't need the file transcoded. Streaming without transcode requires very little cpu but might consume more internet bandwidth than you are happy with.

      •  

        Spamento isnt entirely wrong a 8th Gen i3 processor would be enough as it's much more powerful than a 2nd Gen i5 in the 9020 you have posted. The 8th Gen i3 is almost as powerful as the 4th Gen i7 in 9020 optiplex you have posted.

        This is the article that gives you all the details with passmark cpu requirements per transcode stream. I was off with the requirements for a 4k transcode. The requirements are much higher. Have a read. Pay attention to the passmark scores as I think they have listed requirements off the first Gen core i… Series

        https://support.plex.tv/articles/201774043-what-kind-of-cpu-...

        Like others have said the goal is not to transcode but you may wish to force your family to save bandwidth.

        •  

          Cheers. What sor tof power do I need if everyone streaming is direct playing off something like a ps4? No transcoding

          •  

            @science-teacher: The 9020 i5 would be more enough for that. The i7 is an extra 200 but I would buy the i7 personally especially if it has a ssd. Also if you do download content that needs a transcode you have more than enough power sitting there that nothing will be impacted and you don't need to think about video and audio codecs of the files you are downloading. Also not sure if anyone in the family needs sub titles because as soon as they turn it on it has to transcode. Once you have the pc you will probably set it up as the box you download content with as well which will consume some cpu. If you are going to have a pc running most the time why not add some ip security cameras around the house and setup email alerting. What I am saying is this pc can be more than just a plex server.

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