[Guide] OTiS 1.0 - Build your own Intel QSV HW transcoder!

OTiS - Off The Shelf
All of the components in this guide are readily available from your favorite retailer(s)!


serverbuilds legend says this is the last thing you see before you die.


Overview

Since the HP 290 is often going out of stock, and there is still quite a demand for it, I thought I would put together a simple guide on building your own! (with more options for expansion, of course)


Software

You really only have a few options to get Plex’s HW Transcoding to work properly.
Windows currently does not work properly and has a huge slew of issues.

  • Linux
    Currently, the recommended distro is Ubuntu Desktop 20.04. It works out of the box without any modification. Users have reported issues with other versions and distributions, so YMMV if you want to run something else.
  • Docker
    It’s possible to pass the iGPU through to the Plex container (use LSIO’s Plex container).
    You can run Docker on a variety of software hosts, such as Unraid or Linux.
  • Unraid
    You can use Docker on Unraid and pass through the GPU, or you can create a Linux VM and pass through the GPU. Your choice!

Hardware

The hardware requirements for a great HW transcoding box aren’t extreme, but we are going to shoot for some optimizations that will make the overall experience much better.

Again, just like the QuickSync guide, I’m going to highly recommend that you use a HDMI dummy plug.
These prevent the iGPU from going to sleep at a hardware level. Users have reported mixed success without using one. They are a cheap investment that will prevent the transcoding software from randomly crashing.

Generally, you need:

  • CPU with 7th gen or higher QSV (this guide features 8th & 9th gen)
  • 4GB of RAM minimum (8GB or higher preferred)
  • Onboard GbE NIC
  • SATA 3 SSD support (NVMe preferred)

Motherboards

You don’t need anything crazy for a dedicated hardware transcoding build. If you’re going to combine it into a NAS however, you should make sure that it has a solid expansion and upgrade path.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of motherboards. All are compatible with 8th and 9th gen Intel CPUs, some do require an updated BIOS. (check the notes)

Brand / Moodel (specs) CPU RAM max config Form Factor PCIe SATA M.2 NVMe NIC Other Amazon Price Ebay Price
ASRock H310CM-HDV 8th / 9th 2 x 16GB Mini-DTX 2 4 1 1 NVMe shared with x16 PCIe $55.99 $58.98
ASRock Z390 Pro4 8th / 9th 4 x 32GB ATX 5 4 2 1 N/A $94.00
ASRock Z390m Pro4 8th / 9th 4 x 32GB Micro-ATX 4 4 2 1 $90.47 $97.49
ASUS Prime H310M-C 8th / 9th 2 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 4 1 1 $73.99 $49.99
ASUS Prime H310M-E R2.0 8th / 9th 2 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 4 1 1 $56.07 $63.86
ASUS Prime Z370-P 8th / 9th 4 x 16GB ATX 6 4 2 1 9th gen requires BIOS 1410 N/A $69.90
ASUS Prime Z390-A 8th / 9th 4 x 16GB ATX 6 6 2 1 $179.99 $129.00
GIGABYTE B365M-DS3H 8th / 9th 4 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 6 1 1 $74.99 $74.99
GIGABYTE H310M A 2.0 8th / 9th 2 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 4 1 1 $64.99 $67.65
GIGABYTE H370M-D3H 8th / 9th 4 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 6 2 1 9th gen requires BIOS F12 $107.99 $59.50
Gigabyte Z370P D3 8th / 9th 4 x 16GB ATX 6 6 1 1 N/A $69.90
Gigabyte Z390 UD 8th / 9th 4 x 32GB ATX 6 6 1 1 $129.99 $65.00
MSI H310M PRO-M2 PLUs 8th / 9th 2 x 16GB Micro-ATX 3 4 1 1 $58.99 $59.99
MSI Z390-A PRO 8th / 9th 4 x 32GB ATX 6 6 1 1 $129.99 $94.00

CPUs

For use strictly as a HW transcoder, you absolutely do not need more than a dual core CPU (G4900/G4900T). They can perform 20+ simultaneous 1080p transcodes. However, when you start adding any additional load outside of Plex, such as NZB unpacking, you’ll have to look at a higher tier CPU.

A couple of notes about Intel’s QSV hardware transcoding:

  • Intel is extremely unclear with the specifications of the iGPU and QSV
  • Different CPUs within the same generation may have the same iGPU (ex. UHD 610) but perform differently
    • From what we can tell, the faster CPU will perform better in this case
      Example: Both the i5-8400 and the i7-8700 have the UHD 630, but the i7-8700 will outperform the i5-8400.
  • The largest quality and performance improvements have been generational (i.e. 6th to 7th gen)
    • Same goes for CPUs that have the same iGPU across generations
      Example: It’s likely that the UHD 630 in i5-8400 and i5-9400 perform similarly, but also likely that improvements were made.
  • TLDR: Modern QS is good, newer/faster processors are newer/faster.
    That said, even the low end 8th gen Celerons are fantastic, so most people should start there.

Some general CPU notes:

  • Plex’s passmark recommendation does not apply to hardware transcoding at all.
    Passmark scores are listed for reference purposes only.
  • TDP = estimated heat output in watts. It is not a measure or indicator of power consumption.
  • Pricing was determined at the time of writing, and subject to change.

Avoid F series processors like the plague. They do not have an iGPU, and therfore do not have QuickSync. They are not listed in this guide.

Model (specs) Cores / Threads Max Freq. Cache Gen. iGPU iGPU clock TDP Passmark (multi) Amazon Price Ebay Price
Celeron G4900T 2C / 2T 2.9 GHz 2 MB 8th UHD 610 1.00 GHz 35W 2311 $64.70 $37.62
Celeron G4900 2C / 2T 3.1 GHz 2 MB 8th UHD 610 1.05 GHz 54W 2407 $53.43 $40.80
Celeron G4920 2C / 2T 3.2 GHz 2 MB 8th UHD 610 1.05 GHz 54W 2314 $52.02 $39.93
Pentium Gold G5400 2C./ 4T 3.7 GHz 4 MB 8th UHD 610 1.05 GHz 58W 3717 $59.90 $54.95
Core i3-8100T 4C / 4T 3.1 GHz 6 MB 8th UHD 630 1.10 GHz 35W 5392 $151.87 $99.00
Core i3-8100 4C / 4T 3.6 GHz 6 MB 8th UHD 630 1.10 GHz 65W 6204 $109.00 $94.00
Core i3-8300 4C / 4T 3.7 GHz 8 MB 8th UHD 630 1.15 GHz 62W 6512 $147.44 $129.99
Core i5-8400T 6C / 6T 3.3 GHz 9 MB 8th UHD 630 1.05 GHz 35W 7764 N/A $147.90
Core i5-8400 6C / 6T 4.0 GHz 9 MB 8th UHD 630 1.05 GHz 65W 9263 $179.99 $149.99
Core i5-8500T 6C / 6T 3.5 GHz 9 MB 8th UHD 630 1.10 GHz 35W 8191 $213.39 $139.95
Core i5-8500 6C / 6T 4.1 GHz 9 MB 8th UHD 630 1.10 GHz 65W 9336 N/A $159.99
Celeron G4930 2C / 2T 3.2 GHz 2 MB 9th UHD 610 1.05 GHz 54W 2605 $47.90 $43.90
Pentium Gold G5420 2C / 4T 3.8 GHz 4 MB 9th UHD 610 1.05 GHz 54W 3051 $58.00 $68.91
Core i3-9100 4C / 4T 4.2 GHz 6 MB 9th UHD 630 1.10 GHz 65W 6730 $122.99 $99.00
Core i5-9400T 6C / 6T 3.4 GHz 9 MB 9th UHD 630 1.05 GHz 35W 7683 $139.00
Core i5-9400 6C / 6T 4.1 GHz 9 MB 9th UHD 630 1.05 GHz 65W 9495 $168.15 $159.99
Core i5-9600K 6C / 6T 4.6 GHz 9 MB 9th UHD 630 1.15 GHz 95W 10876 $199.99 $194.99
Core i7-9700T 8C / 8T 4.3 GHz 12 MB 9th UHD 630 1.20 GHz 35W 10972 N/A $353.95
Core i7-9700 8C / 8T 4.7 GHz 12 MB 9th UHD 630 1.20 GHz 65W 13902 $371.45 $320.00
Core i7-9700K 8C / 8T 4.9 GHz 12 MB 9th UHD 630 1.20 GHz 95W 14680 $379.99 $350.00
Core i9-9900K 8C / 16T 5.0 GHz 16 MB 9th UHD 630 1.20 GHz 95W 18908 $539.94 $509.99

CPU Heatsinks

The CPUs on this list are extremely power efficient and do not produce much heat. For the most part I’m going to recommend one of the lower tier heatsinks like the Arctic Alpine 12. It’s cheap, quiet, low profile, and can handle most of the reasonable CPU options around 65W TDP or lower.

If you’re looking for something else, look at the [Official] CPU Heatsink/Cooler Recommendations (Intel Desktop/Xeon, AMD AM4), specifically at the 115X column.

RAM

Speed isn’t important here, capacity is. Shoot for 8GB for a dedicated HW transcoder, 16GB for a NAS. If you want to transcode to RAM, 16GB is a good place to start, with 32GB being ideal. Density is preferred, even in single channel. This allows for more expansion in the future.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy multiple smaller kits instead of one large kit, so keep that in mind.

Brand / Model QTY / Size Speed Amazon Price
TeamGroup Elite 1 x 8GB 2400 MHz $29.99
HyperX Fury 1 x 8GB 2666 MHz $36.99
OLOy 1 x 8GB 3000 MHz $33.99
Patriot Viper Steel 1 x 8GB 3000 MHz $35.99
TeamGroup Elite 1 x 16GB 2666 MHz $57.99
SIlicon Power 1 x 16GB 2666 MHz $57.99
OLOy 2 x 8GB 2400 MHz $55.99
Crucial 2 x 8GB 2666 MHz $63.99
OLOy 2 x 8GB 3000 MHz $62.99
XPG Z1 2 x 8GB 3000 MHz $64.99
G.SKill Aegis 2 x 8GB 3000 MHz $64.99
OLOy 1 x 32GB 2666 MHz $122.89
Patriot Signature 2 x 16GB 2666 MHz $119.99
Crucial 2 x 16GB 2666 MHz $124.99
OLOy 2 x 16GB 3000 MHz $120.59
G.SKill Ripjaws 2 x 16GB 3200 MHz $129.99
OLOy 2 x 32GB 3000 MHz $259.99

Storage

Plex metadata is comprised of an insane amount of tiny files. SSDs handle this fantastically, HDDs not so much. NVMe SSDs are even faster than SATA SSDs, and are the preferred option if budget allows. Plex metadata doesn’t require a lot of space, 128GB for a small library or 256GB for a medium-large size library will suffice. If you’re using any advanced features like video preview thumbnails, this requires much more additional space, in that case look at 512GB - 1TB. NVMe drives are also fast enough to pull double duty as both a Unraid cache drive and Plex metadata drive at the same time.

The SSDs below have proven to be extremely reliable and performant. Check each one for potential deals as prices tend to fluctuate wildly.

Brand / Moodel Interface Capacity NAND DRAM Max R / W speed Amazon Price
Inland Premium NVMe 3.0 x4 256GB TLC YES 3.1 / 2.9 GB/s $46.99
Inland Premium NVMe 3.0 x4 512GB TLC YES 3.1 / 2.9 GB/s $76.99
Inland Premium NVMe 3.0 x4 1TB TLC YES 3.1 / 2.9 GB/s $139.99
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 3.0 x4 256GB TLC YES 3.4 / 3.0 GB/s $49.99
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 3.0 x4 512GB TLC YES 3.4 / 3.0 GB/s $79.99
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 3.0 x4 1TB TLC YES 3.4 / 3.0 GB/s $149.98
Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe 3.0 x4 512GB QLC YES 3.2 / 3.0 GB/s $69.99
Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe 3.0 x4 1TB QLC YES 3.2 / 3.0 GB/s $119.98

Accessories

There isn’t really a whole lot to accessorize here.
If you’re using this machine as a NAS, perhaps you need a [Official] Recommended LSI HBA (internal/external SAS2) to add more storage, but that’s about it!


Sample Builds

I know the above information is a lot to process. Let’s break it down and give some examples!
Note: Obviously, the parts list does not include case or PSU. You can really use whever you want for these, so long as they fit/function.

The HP 290 replacement

If you’d rather use a G4900 or G4920 instead of the lower power G4900T, the price won’t change much.

Part Model QTY Price
Motherboard ASUS Prime H310M-C 1 $49.99
CPU Celeron G4900T 1 $37.62
RAM TeamGroup Elite 1x8GB 1 $29.99
SSD Indland Premium 256GB 1 $46.99
Total $164.59

Basic Unraid NAS

9th gen quad-core and ready to rock.
Double the CPU cores, RAM, and storage of the HP 290 replacement.

Part Model QTY Price
Motherboard ASUS Prime H310M-C 1 $49.99
CPU Core i3-9100 1 $99.00
RAM TeamGroup Elite 1x16GB 1 $57.99
SSD Sabrent Rocket Q 512GB 1 $69.99
Total $276.97

Multi-tasking NAS

6 cores of low power awesomeness. Plus, the motherboard has a whack-ton of expansion options.

Part Model QTY Price
Motherboard ASUS Prime Z370-P 1 $69.90
CPU Core i5-9400T 1 $139.00
RAM TeamGroup Elite 1x16GB 1 $57.99
SSD Sabrent Rocket Q 512GB 1 $69.99
Total $336.88

I wanna go fast!

If you wanna be crazy and do Intel QSV hardware transcoding, NAS duties, and have a Parsec gaming rig, using [Guide] Remote Gaming on Unraid

Part Model QTY Price
Motherboard ASUS Prime Z390-A 1 $129.00
CPU Core i7-9700 1 $320.00
RAM OLOy 2x16GB 1 $120.59
SSD Sabrent Rocket Q 1TB 1 $119.98
Total $689.57
5 Likes

This is a great guide! If I didn’t already have 3 290s I might considering rolling one of these. Depending on my my NVR 290 does I might upgrade the cpu to a i3-9100…

1 Like

Don’t forget about PSU and Case into the cost unless you have one lying around.

1 Like

This is awesome. Hopefully my thread is what made you make this!! I finished picking out my build and while i went slightly off track it still follows this pretty closely! Makes me feel somewhat decent about mine

1 Like

Who wants to go fast on a budget?

1 Like

Check this out…

Mini-ITX transcoder

Case: InWin B1 w/ 200W PSU - $85
Motherboard: Asus Prime H310I-Plus R2.0 - $95
CPU: Celeron G4900T - $38
CPU Cooler: Arctic Alpine 12 LP - $14
RAM: TeamGroup Elite 8GB - $30

Just add an SSD for OS/metadata storage.

Other chassis models are available.


REALLY tiny mini-ITX transcoder

Case: Morex 557 - $50
PSU: Dell laptop 90w 19V DC PSU - $15
Motherboard: ASUS Motherboard PRIME H310T R2.0 - $95
CPU: Celeron G4900T - $38
CPU Cooler: Arctic Alpine 12 LP - $14
RAM: G.SKill 8GB DDR4 SODIMM - $30

image

1 Like

Hi all before I pull the trigger on parts I want to confirm if what I wanna do will work with the parts I’m planning to use. What I want this to be is Unraid Nas/PleX server using igpu to transcode but I’m not sure if two cores is enough to handle unraid and plex. Would I be better off with four cores?

Edit: Forgot to mention that at absolute max there will only be 4 streams.

Motherboard: Asus h310-c
Cpu: G4900T or 9100
Ram: 8gb Team Group Elite
Ssd: Inland 256gb
Lsi sas card (not sure which yet)

Are you going to run everything (Sonarr Radarr Plex) on the same machine? If you are then I would suggest the better cpu (@JDM_WAAAT actually suggested it to me). I just ordered all my parts for my Plex server running everything and I chose the i3 8100.

For the “Multi-tasking NAS” why go i5-9400T over i5-8500T?

They have the same TDP, core count, price, and igpu. But the 8500T has higher pass mark. Just curious if I was missing something.

Thanks for another great guide!!!

I’m not planning on running anything besides plex within unraid and I’ll probably have a raspberry pi for any dockers I wanna run which won’t be many.
I just wanted to confirm if those two cores were gonna be able to handle transcoding dts-MA for clients that don’t support it.
Main reason I was even concerned was because I read somewhere that unraid needs two cores and if that’s true then there won’t be any cores left for plex to use to transcode audio (unless that’s also handled by igpu?).

The i5-9400T is a generation newer than the i5-8500T, which I why I preferred it in the sample build. The performance difference between the two is marginal.

I’ll let JDM confirm it but I believe the 4900 would be fine to use for just transcoding. I planned on using it to transcode up to 5 streams at once but I also needed to run my other programs at the same time so I chose the i3-8100 for more power.

1 Like

So I am a little confused with this. Are these transcoders an external box that you would hook to …say your unraid server and somehow pass transcodes to it or are you also running plex on this same box?

So some of these boards have 6 PCIe slots, but a bunch of them are x1. What can anyone use 3 pcie x1’s for? All the 10gbe nic’s are x4 and higher.

The transcoder runs on the plex server. Ideally you would use this separately from a NAS to handle only plex functions, while the NAS would store all your media.

Ok…so to do this I would uninstall the plex docker and install plex on a separate box. Then connect the transcoding box with plex on it to the unraid server, correct?

That’s the idea, yes.