Question Plex with Mac mini

REJI

Well-known Member
So after my little embarrassing mistake getting a Mac mini to work as my plex server everything seems to be working fine.

my question if someone can help is?

which Mac mini could I get that would work running 2 transcodes at 1080p. If I’ve read up right I think it’s down to cpu power but not sure , plex mention only 2g of ramm but most come with above this so should be ok.

if I can get away without buying the latest one this would save me some cash. If it would work

4K should I go this route would be direct play so I think I’ve no issues which one I get due to it reading the files direct with my nvidia shield.

I understand that I could could Buy windows, nas drives but would like to stay with Mac As I find macs easier to understand and work with-ish.
 

next010

Distinguished Member
If you have players capable of direct play you do not need transcoding on the server.

Also transcoding 4k HEVC files is not trivial, if a Mac has a modern GPU it should be able to use hardware encoder built into the GPU but on CPU alone I'm unsure of what old Mac Mini would be suitable, if no-one here can answer try the Plex server forums.

The Nvidia Shield and AppleTV 4K can both play 4K HEVC videos without the need to transcode.

The Plex player app on these boxes will sometimes invoke transcoding when it does not require it, a solution is to use a media player which will never tell the server to transcode and instead always use the box to play the video.
* MrMC - has Plex support built in for AndroidTV and AppleTV (settings->services->plex).
* InFuse - has Plex support built in for AppleTV (add media source-> Plex).
* Kodi - get Plex plugin from addons in Kodi for AndroidTV.

So if you use those boxes & above media player you can get away with a cheap Mac as your server.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
With real time trans-coding, there's not"magic" hardware spec. that is adequate for the job, or I guess more correctly we've yet to see anything that exceeds the requirements (whatever number of streams.) Real time-coding will take as much processing capability as it can get and if the hardware is inadequate, then the trans-coding process will be compromised in some way - e.g. not much compression, artifacts in the images, etc. etc. (and it depends on the source and target formats involved.)

So really, we ought to turn the question on it's head and not ask "what hardware do I need" but instead "what compromise am I prepared to accept for the hardware I have." Of course, the more streams one wants to transcode concurrently, the more this is exasperated.

I've long opined that IMHO the best way to deal with real time transcoding is to just not do it at all. Then all the server has to do is serve files and pretty much any hardware will be able to handle that. It'll run cooler and quieter, use less electricity, the results will be the same every time and multiple concurrent streams will not effect each other (unless you have ultra slow HDD's or want more then half a dozen (or so) streams running concurrently.)

Instead of transcoding in real time, do it once "off line" whence you can let it run for hours in order to get everything "just so" without having to worry that anything is being compromised to "keep up" with real time requirements.

That may mean you need to store two copies of the media to ensure compatibly with all your clients, but I'd go with one super-duper full fat version for the "big" TV with the attached multi-channel audio system where quality "matter" and one "basic" (say) Mpeg2 (or maybe H264 these days) with stereo audio - ie maximum compatibility - for the phones, ipads, kitchen TV etc. where the ultimate in picture and audio quality doesn't really matter.

The money you save on super power processors in your servers (and the increased running costs) can instead be spent on the additional storage required (if needbe) and you'll have a much better usage experience (including trick play which real time transcoding struggles with.)

I'd echo what Next010 is saying - rather than spend money on a mega-server, instead buy players that can handle all the required formats and/or as I've advocated, transcode offline, and then you only need basic file serving hardware in your media tank.
 
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MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
This might be over simplistic but surely get the right files in the first place then ‘just’ serve them? Then I’d expect any mac from the last ten years at the very least to be capable.
 

Sloppy Bob

Distinguished Member
If this is for streaming to TV's, the last thing you want to be doing is transcoding it.

Sometimes, when transcoding it's just putting the file into a compatible container, but often it's encoding it on the fly and reducing the video and audio quality.
 
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REJI

Well-known Member
If you have players capable of direct play you do not need transcoding on the server.

Also transcoding 4k HEVC files is not trivial, if a Mac has a modern GPU it should be able to use hardware encoder built into the GPU but on CPU alone I'm unsure of what old Mac Mini would be suitable, if no-one here can answer try the Plex server forums.

The Nvidia Shield and AppleTV 4K can both play 4K HEVC videos without the need to transcode.

The Plex player app on these boxes will sometimes invoke transcoding when it does not require it, a solution is to use a media player which will never tell the server to transcode and instead always use the box to play the video.
* MrMC - has Plex support built in for AndroidTV and AppleTV (settings->services->plex).
* InFuse - has Plex support built in for AppleTV (add media source-> Plex).
* Kodi - get Plex plugin from addons in Kodi for AndroidTV.

So if you use those boxes & above media player you can get away with a cheap Mac as your server.
Hi

I’m not interested in 4K at the moment.I’m looking at transcoding As I’m a long distance drive ,at the same time my daughter and parents will possibly be on the server. all there play back devices will require transcoding
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Hi

As above really transcoding is for myself when I’m down the road and for my parents who live in a different village or daughter on her tv in her room. These items will not direct play.this is where transcoding if I’m right comes into play

the Mac I’m using at the moment is gen one works flawlessly on one transcode but when 2 is applied we get stutter. I’m asking if anyone has a Mac mini and maybe transcoding ,if they’d tell me which gen they have that’s working with 2 streams at the same time at 1080p
 

MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
So you're not using the Mini as a server? You want it play at least 2 streams to tv's?
 

MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
Then I'd buy a couple of old Apple TV's to use as clients and serve from an iTunes library using home sharing. Your Mac mini will do that
 

cjed

Well-known Member
It would be a good idea to see where your bottleneck is. Is it the CPU maxing out, or is it the networking to the targets? What's the exact configuration (wired/wifi/WAN) of the paths to the players?
 

REJI

Well-known Member
It would be a good idea to see where your bottleneck is. Is it the CPU maxing out, or is it the networking to the targets? What's the exact configuration (wired/wifi/WAN) of the paths to the players?
Hi
The cpu is running at 70% when transcoding.
so when 2 streams are running transcode it will be around 140% this 40% over max. This is why it will be stuttering as the cpu can’t handle that.
So my question is what cpu and oldest model mini will handle 2 transcodes the same time
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Then I'd buy a couple of old Apple TV's to use as clients and serve from an iTunes library using home sharing. Your Mac mini will do that
Hi
Can’t use a Apple TV in a truck and parents already using Apple TV but still requires transcode
 

MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
So you need a Plex server to serve 2 local and one WAN stream? I think you're likely to be looking at a late 2014 with as much RAM as possible.
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Sorry don’t know wan stream is

I’m serving nvidia by direct play
Amazon fire by wifi
Apple TV wifi different network
Not sure it’s ramm as plex say 2gb is enough but will looking to it
 

MaryWhitehouse

Active Member
WAN wide area network. As in outside the home to your truck. For what you want to do I’d look at least 8gb preferably 16.
 
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mickevh

Distinguished Member
If you are streaming WAN, bear in mind most SOHO ISP links are substantially slower in the upload direction than the download direction.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Transcoding can take a huge overhead and multiple stream transcoding can be even more taxing, its not just 1 stream is 70% of processor so 2 streams is 140%, 2 streams could be way over 200% depending on what is being transcoded to what device.
So assuming that you have enough bandwidth to run multiple streams outside of your network your Mac Mini is your problem. Plex can now make use of GPUs to help with transcoding but Mac Mini GPUs are pretty pants so it wall fallback to the CPU and will use all of the cores it has available. So unless you have an i7 with 6 cores you only have 4 cores available to you. Each one of those cores is dedicated to a separate transcoding task

Audio = 1
Subtitles = 1
VC1 = 1
H.264 = 2-3

(Yes I know it can hyperthread but those threads are also needed for other tasks)

So already you can see that with an i5 you have run out of available cores to transcode, hence your processor will become your bottleneck.

That given, you therefore need the fastest clock-speed per core or or more cores.

As others have said, transcoding on the server should be your last resort - correct encoding for the display device should be first and hardware decodong at the device should be your next alternative. So forget Firesticks and TVs Plex clients, you really want Nvidia Shields / PC / Mac or Apple TVs.

Or move to a NAS that is hardware optimised to transcode.
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Transcoding can take a huge overhead and multiple stream transcoding can be even more taxing, its not just 1 stream is 70% of processor so 2 streams is 140%, 2 streams could be way over 200% depending on what is being transcoded to what device.
So assuming that you have enough bandwidth to run multiple streams outside of your network your Mac Mini is your problem. Plex can now make use of GPUs to help with transcoding but Mac Mini GPUs are pretty pants so it wall fallback to the CPU and will use all of the cores it has available. So unless you have an i7 with 6 cores you only have 4 cores available to you. Each one of those cores is dedicated to a separate transcoding task

Audio = 1
Subtitles = 1
VC1 = 1
H.264 = 2-3

(Yes I know it can hyperthread but those threads are also needed for other tasks)

So already you can see that with an i5 you have run out of available cores to transcode, hence your processor will become your bottleneck.

That given, you therefore need the fastest clock-speed per core or or more cores.

As others have said, transcoding on the server should be your last resort - correct encoding for the display device should be first and hardware decodong at the device should be your next alternative. So forget Firesticks and TVs Plex clients, you really want Nvidia Shields / PC / Mac or Apple TVs.

Or move to a NAS that is hardware optimised to transcode.
Boom

thanks can I come back shortly would like to check up on what you’ve said
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
You can come back with pleasure. I have been using Plex for years both personally and on installs. Go and have a look both in their forums and on their website about transcoding. Its an issue that bite everyone in the ass. Audio streams, wrong containers, wrong codecs FBR vs VBR all can have significant impact on transcoding in Plex. When I had movies I actually used to rip my movies twice, once for mobile devices - ipads / iphones and one for home streaming, just so that the NAS didnt have to transcode. The best device that I have found has been the NVidia shield because it has more than enough grunt to transcode anything you throw at it on the fly. So everything can be Direct Played to it and it sorts it out at the player end. I feel that ultimately this is a much more elegant solution than trying to have a big box at the back-end trying to transcode multiple streams potentially using different codecs. Its also the reason why I stopped ripping movies and just buy / rent from a streaming service and I buy on BR / 4k everything that I want to watch a lot.
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Hi

had a quick look and have a rough idea in what you’ve said.You’ll have to excuse me as my knowledge on pc in general is very limited but learning.

If I was to stick with the Mac for arguments sake you mention I’d be better getting a i7 due to more cores. This could be a silly question but does the 7 in i7 equate
to 7 cores ? If not how would I tell how many cores it’s got/running?
If so what would be the difference between let’s say lasts generation i7 and the latest i7 ?

regarding the nvidia this is what I use in my movie room that way I can direct play my files without the need for transcoding and if I’m right my daughters then transcodes in her bedroom via amazon fire stick. Which means 2 films are playing but only one is transcoding therefore the cpu is under less stress.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
The 7 in i7 is just the Model number that intel allocated to this type of chip. It has 6 Cores and 6 Hyperthreads (like a virtual core). i3 and i5 both have 4 cores and the i7 has 6 cores. Generations between models is way too much to go into for this thread, if you are interested I would suggest googling it. Yes the liklihood is that your MacMini is transcoding for the Firestick but Direct Playing to the Shield.
If I were you I would not buy a new Mac Mini to run plex. For your needs one of the new Synology NAS' would be a much better choice and much cheaper.
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Thanks for the response regarding cores

this brings me to next question .you mention nas drives can I ask why you feel the nas would be better than a Mac.please forget price if you would I’d like to stick the Machines if we can
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
A NAS is designed to serve files or media to multiple clients. The newer generation of NAS are optimised to transcode files so you will suffer with less stuttering. Also the software and sub-systems on a NAS are designed to handle multiple disk access simultaneously where your MacMini may not be optimised for this type of operation, which places additional burden on an already taxed processor.
For media serving a NAS is the correct device / machine for the task. Plus it’s easier to access your NAS from outside your home network. If you can use a Mac learning to use something like a synology should be relatively easy.
 

REJI

Well-known Member
Morning

sorry for late reply. Fell asleep .up 0245 yesterday for work

thanks for the reply regarding the nas ,may possible look into it in the future.
Also like to thank you for all your reply’s they’ve been very helpful in what’s going on also for been easy to understand as well
Again thanks
 

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