Plex transcoding box on the cheap - which locally available HW will fit my needs the best?

Hello guys!

I have already asked this question in OTIS qsv hw transcoder thread, but after some consideration I came to the conclusion that a separate thread would be the best approach. (don’t worry, I’ll be removing that post upon posting :wink: )

I am planning to set up a dedicated transcoding plexbox. I would store my media on a separate NAS machine connected via a 1 GbE connection.

My usage:

  • most often only a single stream
  • max 4 concurrent streams, but this hasn’t ever happened yet
  • I want to be safe for the time that I upgrade to a 4k TV
  • I don’t want to increase my electric bill too much :wink:

Options I am currently considering:

  • SBC with Intel J3455 - Apollo Lake, but limited to 8 GB of RAM maximum ( YES - I am sure. I have this board w/ RAM on hand, so I’d only need a PSU, SSDs and a case)
  • Intel NUC with J4005 - Gemini Lake - would also need to buy RAM and a SSD - limited to 8 GB of RAM
  • HP / Lenovo USFF PC with Intel G4400(T) - some of them only have DisplayPort output, are there displayport monitor emulators that work well? - limited to 64 GB of RAM, so not much of a concern
  • Dell Wyse 5070 - Intel J5005 - needs a drive and ram - limited to 8 GB of RAM
  • Lenovo M700 - Intel G4400 - SFF, not USFF → this is the cheapest option

My NAS is HP DL380e with 2x E3-2450L, so I don’t suppose I can enable quicksync over there :smiley: and I don’t want to plug in GPU. (it would cause iLO to ramp up the fans).

Which option would you go with, were you in my boat?

The problem comes in if using QSV and you’re looking to transcode HEVC content which could be the 4k you speak of. Take a look at the diagram here to see which generation of chip you need for transcoding higher end media. If you are only looking to transcode H264, you can go as far back as a SandyBridge from early last decade. I have no idea about the QSV capabilities of The J series processors but I am sure someone here knows.

The other options is to put an Nvidia 1050 or newer with NVENC capability in the device and use that for transcode, if you want to do HEVC. Take a look here for assistance with picking the right video card.

Personally I run my main, all purpose server with about 12-15 apps in my docker stack, including Emby with access to the iGPU, on a system based around an i7-3770 and 32GB of RAM. I could probably push out 10+ concurrent transcoded streams easily and that device is absolute overkill. Mostly the compute power is sitting around unused.

Thanks for your reply @Plaidy !

Now I am thinking to go with the cheapest option for me, that is Lenovo M700 with G4400 SFF. The CPU is Skylake which can transcode HEVC. I believe by the time my transcoding needs evolve M720 will get cheap enough here where I live.

However I am still very curious about J series and their QuickSync performance. In a lot of cases these are really cheap option.

I didn’t notice before but yeah it looks like the Apollo and Gemini Lake you listed are actually above the G4400 on that diagram linked. It just depends on what your priorities are: space vs cost vs heat/electricity usage vs expandability. Such is the life of a builder amirite?

Well, I’d go with the j4005 NUC if I was sure that it performs better than G4400 in transcoding :wink:

The G4400 will perform better with exception of H.265 content.

Why are you limited to those options you listed above? Can you not get an 8th or 9th gen from this guide?

Thanks for your reply @JDM_WAAAT!

The options I have listed are the cheapest that are available locally. All of these are about 80 USD(with the exception of the NUC) , while putting anything together by myself starts at 250 USD. I know, it’s a crazy market :wink:

@EDIT: I actually did some calculations and updated the prices :wink:

I can get the Lenovo M700 with G4400 and 8GB of RAM for 83 USD, while putting togheter a PC with G5400 is about 250 USD here where I lie

Why does it matter if it’s available locally?

By locally I mean in my country. Shipping from us is another 100 USD.

Putting the hardware together myself is much more expensive then the options I have listed.

Thank you guys. It looks like I’ll go with Lenovo M700 with G4400 that runs for about 83 USD, and later down the road I’ll build a dedicated machine