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HOUSTON HELP Building Server

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Any of you guys/girls from Houston that can help me put my unread together? Ive never done this before and need help picking out my parts. So far I have 5 3tb WD HDD, and my Antec 1200 case. Ill be buying some drive cages next but Im not sure how to choose affordable CPU, motherboard, and RAM. I plan on using this to run PLEX so I need to be able to get audio and video to my TV with this. Thanks in advance.

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47 minutes ago, drecain said:

Hey Im sorry I just saw this reply, are you still located in Houston?

neersighted last visited the forum in March of 2017.  It is not likely he/she will see your post any time soon.  Perhaps someone else in Houston will see this thread.


Your request for assistance was made 2 1/2 years ago.  Are you still looking for assistance in building your server?

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1 hour ago, drecain said:

@Hoopster yes still looking for some help before my wife makes me get rid of all these hard drives Ive bought LOL

I am two states away from Texas, so, I cannot help you with physically building your server, but, perhaps I can help you decide what hardware you may need.


If your primary use for Unraid will be as a Plex server then the biggest decision is how many simultaneous transcoded streams your server will need to handle.


Depending on what clients you will have on your network and the video formats they support natively, you may or may not need much transcoding.  If the clients can support H.264/.mp4, .mkv, .mpg, etc. natively transcoding is not really an issue.  If you are streaming to an nVidia shield, it will do the necessary transcoding, thus alleviating your server of that burden.


There are several ways for Plex to prepare your media so your clients can display the content:

1 - Have Plex optimize the content (basically pre-transcode so it plays natively on your clients)

2 - Transcode on the fly in software

3 - Transcode on the fly in hardware (requires an intel CPU with Quick Sync Video support)

4 - Stream to a client (Nvidia Shield, HTPC, NUC etc.) that will handle any necessary transcoding on the client side


Options 2 and 3 require you to anticipate needs and choose the appropriate hardware for your use case.


Option 2 - Transcode on the fly in software.  This puts the most load on the server CPU while streaming.  For this option, assuming you want to stream 1080p content (4K, HEVC/H.265 is a completely different discussion and requires even more thought regarding hardware choices), you need to look at the passmark score for the CPUs you are considering.  You need 2000 passmarks for each simultaneous transcoding stream plus an additional 2000 or so for Unraid overhead and server functions.




The CPU in my main server (see my signature) is a Xeon E3-1245 V5.  It has a passmark score of ~10,400.  This means it can handle up to four simultaneous software transcodes plus the Unraid overhead.


Option 3 - Transcode on the fly in hardware.  This relieves the CPU of much of the transcoding burden and offloads it to the integrated GPU.  For this, an Intel CPU with built in graphics and Quick Sync Video support is required.  The CPUs in both of my servers meet this requirement and I have them configured to do hardware transcoding when needed.  Many more simultaneous streams can be supported with hardware transcoding.  I could probably do 8-10 on my main server.  Fortunately, I don't need that. 


I stream from my server to local and remote clients (iOS phones and tablets, desktop and laptop PCs, TVs)


The downside to hardware transcoding is that video quality is lower than with software transcoding at any resolution lower than 720p at ~4 Mbps.  720p 4 Mbps is the resolution I have set for streaming to remote clients over the Internet and my remote family members who have access to my Plex server report good video quality at this setting



(scroll down and look at the hardware encoding and decoding table)


When you decide what you really want to accomplish with Plex, we'll continue the discussion.


1 - How many clients will be simultaneously accessing the server?  Local clients? Remote clients?  What type (phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, HTPCs, NUCs, etc.)?


2 - Will you have Plex optimize content or do you need on-the-fly transcoding?  Software transcoding? Hardware transcoding?


3 - Do you want to stream 4K content?  If so, your hardware requirements just increased.  😀


Determine as far as possible the answers to those questions and that is a good starting point.



Edited by Hoopster

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First of all thank you!

1.I plan to use plex just as you just to stream to my movie room and to myself when Im away from home. Movie quality is very important to me as well.

2. Whichever option you recommend that will yield the best quality of picture

3. Right now Im not worried about 4k content, I dont have any 4k movies. Maybe later down the road I can upgrade the server for 4k.

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14 hours ago, drecain said:

1.I plan to use plex just as you just to stream to my movie room and to myself when Im away from home. Movie quality is very important to me as well.


You do not need high-end hardware if you will only be streaming to a maximum of 1-2 clients simultaneously and even less so if you are not doing any type of transcoding.  Much of my media is optimized for local playback without transcoding (unless I turn on subtitles).  Streaming, even in the local network, to mobile devices like phones and tablets also usually requires some transcoding, but, my network and hardware can handle it so I rarely think about it.


I do not have any experience with AMD Ryzen CPUs, so, I cannot comment on them, but, many here in these forums are using them and are happy with their Plex performance.  They cannot do hardware transcoding due to lack of an integrated GPU which Plex supports; however, they tend to have more processing cores at the same price or lower than their Intel equivalents so they software transcode without issue.


Many Plex/Unraid users with minimal transcoding requirements are using Pentium G4560 CPUs.  This does have an iGPU so, it will do hardware transcoding but it has a <5000 passmark score, so one, maybe if you are lucky, two, transcoded streams is its max.


The next step up is an i3/i5.  The i5 in my backup server has a ~7300 passmark score, so, 2-3 streams.  Again, this does not matter so much if you are not transcoding.


At the higher end in the single CPU server is the i7/E3 Xeon.  The only real advantage of the Xeon over the i7 is support for ECC RAM.  I like it in a 24/7 server, but, that is personal preference and many will tell you it is not needed.


On the AMD side, you can get the latest Ryzen (2600/x, or 2700/x) CPU with the 2700x having a whopping 17,000 plus passmark score.  These chips are 6 core/12 thread (2600/x) or 8 core/16 thread (2700/x) compared to the Intel i7/E3 Xeon with 4 cores/8 threads (Kaby Lake) or 6 cores/12 threads (Coffee Lake).


If you go Intel, go with a Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake CPU as these support HEVC/H.265 transcoding in the iGPU. 


If you want lower-cost hardware that you can find used, you can go with the Haswell/Broadwell generation CPUs and motherboards and DDR3 RAM instead of the crazy expensive DDR4 that the later generations require.


14 hours ago, drecain said:

2. Whichever option you recommend that will yield the best quality of picture


Play around with Plex optimization if you have the disk storage for the original media plus optimized versions (it looks like you do).  If you are happy with that, you can minimize the need for on-the-fly transcoding.  Having a server capable of transcoding when needed will minimize your frustrations with media not playing to certain clients.  As I said, I am happy with hardware transcoding at 720p 4 Mbps remotely.  Locally I have Plex setup to play the media in its original format and bitrate, which, for some recorded TV shows is as high as 1080p 17 Mbps and for ripped Blu Rays I have not optimized, even higher.  Much of this content is transcoded, but, my server does not really break a sweat doing it in hardware.


14 hours ago, drecain said:

3. Right now Im not worried about 4k content, I dont have any 4k movies. Maybe later down the road I can upgrade the server for 4k.


Good.  But, if you go with a Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake CPU, you may not need to upgrade in the future.


Lots of choices I know, but, also think about other things you may wish to do on your server other than Plex and make sure you have enough horsepower for it all.  I run 10-12 dockers and a couple of lighly-used VMs mainly for testing purposes.  My E3 Xeon handles all of this very easily.


If you don't plan on running a lot of dockers and will have no VMs and mainly care about a good, solid Plex server that can handle the occasional transcoding need, a Pentium G4560/i3 may be all you need.  The i5 or Ryzen 2600/x will give you a little more oomph and you can go with an i7/E3 Xeon or Ryzen 2700/x at the higher end of a single CPU server.


I hope this help.  Good luck with it.

Edited by Hoopster

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