Advice: 2018 Mac Mini for Plex Server?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Jedwardoo, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. Jedwardoo macrumors member

    Jedwardoo

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    #1
    Hi,

    I'm curious to making my own Plex Server at home.

    I'm not sure if a 2018 Mac Mini would suffice for that purpose. Planning to do streaming 1080p on 2-5 devices simultaneously.

    Would the i3 model be more sufficient or does it need to have i5 or even i7 in it?

    Would the default 8GB RAM be enough or should I get at least 16GB or even 32GB?
     
  2. Stephen.R macrumors 65816

    Stephen.R

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    #2
    Does the plex server software do anything besides just sending data over the network?

    If not any cpu should be fine. If so it’ll depend what it does, but an i5 should be ok for most tasks, given enough memory.

    The real benefit with the i7 will be if you have known cpu-bound tasks, particularly if they benefit from hyperthreading.

    I’d suggest 16GB as a minimum these days - even for basic usage it’ll give your machine much better headroom on memory.
     
  3. dborod macrumors regular

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    Jul 22, 2002
    #3
    I have the i5 with 16GB and run Plex, Air Video, Logitech Media Server and other stuff, and it works very well. That said, I'm generally not trying to transcode 3 different 4k videos at the same time.
     
  4. nopc4me macrumors newbie

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    Jan 6, 2004
    #4
    I upgraded my Plex Server from an old iMac to a refurbished 2018 Mac Mini i7/16/512. I went with the i7 for longevity and because the refurbished i7 cost less than the same spec new i5 (by $60).
     
  5. brentsg macrumors 68040

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    #5
    Yes. If the source file isn’t in a format that the client can directly play, or if the bitrate of the source file is too high for the network conditions then it’ll re-encode on the fly.

    I haven’t checked lately but OSX has traditionally hamstrung Plex server in that it wouldn’t allow the CPUs integrated GPU to be used for transcoding, while Windows would.
     
  6. dborod macrumors regular

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    Jul 22, 2002
    #6
    There's a checkbox for "Use hardware acceleration when available" in the Transcoder settings.

    upload_2019-4-30_22-44-21.png
     
  7. Stephen.R macrumors 65816

    Stephen.R

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    #7
    @OP: With that in mind I’d definitely aim for the highest cpu affordable (assuming you use that feature).

    For iTunes serving you don’t need much - it just serves what it has, and even transcodes on the machine are not a problem because you’re not waiting for it to stream, if it takes a few minutes longer to convert before adding to iTunes you’re unlikely to notice.

    But if it live transcodes what it’s streaming (and potentially multiple streams concurrently) the cpu is going to be a bottleneck if it’s too slow.
     
  8. Code cookies macrumors member

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    UK
    #8
    If it's just plex you are running, then you'll certainly be able to get something more powerful for a lot less in the PC world. Not to mention the fact that the cases have space to put hard drives in, removing the need for external storage.

    I myself own a mac mini (2018 i5 16gb) but use a Lenovo thinkserver running ubuntu server with docker for plex and time machine backups as I feel that it's better suited to that job.

    Had I already owned the mac mini before getting the thinkserver then maybe I wouldn't have gotten it. But if you are just getting the mini for plex then it's definitely worth looking outside the Apple ecosystem in my opinion.
     
  9. brentsg, May 1, 2019
    Last edited: May 2, 2019

    brentsg macrumors 68040

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    #9
    I’d have to look into it, but it was not working in OSX just a handful of months ago.
     
  10. Midgetinabikini macrumors regular

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    Aug 1, 2006
    #10
    I'm running Plex Server on J1900 with 4GB of ram, the 2018 is several hundred percent stronger, so yeh, it will run great for you.
     
  11. HDFan macrumors 65816

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    Jun 30, 2007
    #11
    What client will you be using? What material will you be streaming? I have multiple Plex servers - 2 NAS, one on a an iMac Pro. Even the weakest NAS server I have will stream 4K material to clients that support direct play. If 4K transcoding is required (such as to an iPod or iPhone) then it becomes more complicated. Bottlenecks can include the cpu, network, and your source material disks. I occasionally see buffer issues even on my fast iMac if some other app starts heavy disk activity.

    In summary:

    #1 your client
    #2 Does your client have the appropriate network bandwidth
    #3 Cpu power. It's not just for transcoding, it is also used for the Plex background processes. I've seen Plex use ~1400% cpu at times.
     
  12. Stephen.R macrumors 65816

    Stephen.R

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    #12
    ... while transcoding, surely? Otherwise someone needs to be asking what the heck it’s doing.
     
  13. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #13
    I'm running my Plex server on a 2011 stock Mac Mini with 4GB RAM and a 2.3 Ghz i5, and it is doing its job perfectly, and serving multiple 1080p streams without skipping a beat. Any modern Mac Mini will serve you, unless of course you'll be doing transcoding.
     
  14. HDFan macrumors 65816

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    #14
    No. I can't get exact numbers right now but the actual transcoding cpu percentages I've seen are small. The large numbers occur when doing library scans, updates, new libraries, etc.
     
  15. Stephen.R macrumors 65816

    Stephen.R

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    #15
    Wow.
     
  16. WilliamG macrumors G3

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    Seattle
    #16
    Transcoding is slow if you’re using a Mac for PMS. REALLY slow.
     
  17. brentsg macrumors 68040

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    #17
    I’ll try to add Plex server to my 2018 Mini later to see if it’ll use the iGPU.
     
  18. legato01 macrumors newbie

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    Jun 4, 2015
    #18
    You have to have Plex Pass in order to get hardware transcoding.
     
  19. Jedwardoo thread starter macrumors member

    Jedwardoo

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    #19
    #1: Goal is using Plex server for the client.
    #2: I was thinking of more local usage with iPad, iPhones, Apple TV & Android TV. I will only be streaming 1080p 99% of the time, 4K I'm sure is too much for me.
    #3: I am contemplating whether a dedicated Mac Mini with i3/i5/i7 would suffice (now I'm unsure if it uses 1400% of CPU), or the 2019 iMac would be better?

    I was actually curious of using a Mac Mini and pairing with a NAS (for storage) would be redundant or would be better?
    --- Post Merged, May 2, 2019 ---
    The transcoding part is what confuses me. When is it needed to do transcoding and is it required if done via local and streaming outside the local network?

    So it only happens on those events, purely streaming would not trigger the 1400% CPU usage?

    Do keep us posted. I really thought Plex mostly requires CPU and some RAM, would having GPU help?

    Is it worth getting the Lifetime Plex pass?
     
  20. brentsg macrumors 68040

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    #20
    Heavy transcoding with the CPU is really resource intensive, but can have good results if you have plenty of power. Using the GPU for transcoding used to be quite fast but sacrificed some quality. They've improved this so the integrated GPU in the 8th and 9th gen CPUs is really good and handles the task with lower power requirements (both CPU power and actual power). It's much more efficient. Rather than brute force with software algorithms and CPU you are using hardware designed for the task.

    I get along fine with an i3-8100 in my Plex server (using Windows).
     
  21. HDFan macrumors 65816

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    #21
    A NAS changes the equation. If offers the additional storage that you may need if you are going to rip a lot of 1080p blu-rays (@~35 GB each). It could offer the expansion room to go to 4K in the future (@36-80 GB each). You could also run your Plex server there so you don't have to keep your main computer running all of the time. Some QNAP NAS enclosures allow you to add additional enclosures if you run out of space in your main one.

    In my environment and experience yes. It is dependent upon your cpus. My 4 (weak) cpu NAS will move up to 80% running 2 transcoding 4K streams. My cpu heavy system rarely goes over 20% even with multiple transcode streams. But the biggest factor here, again, is the client. A direct play stream has almost no overhead at all.

    As per the subsequent post some Macs support GPU hardware decoding.

    I would try it out first to see if it meets your needs. Some people prefer Infuse. If you like then decide if you want the pass. Pass members often get features first. Hardware decoding (if your system supports it) requires a pass. Even if there were no extra benefits if you like and use a program I think developers should be rewarded for their work. Encourages them to keep improving and supporting the product.
     
  22. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #22
    Your server needs to transcode whenever 1) your client can't decode the codecs the media is in by itself (Such as with Plex's own AppleTV client as it uses Apples own rudimentary decoding libraries, which is why most people are using Infuse instead - Note, they are currently working on an updated engine but given Plex's history, I doubt it will ever reach Infuses quality product), 2) your bandwith is insufficient to direct stream the media, such as if you have lousy WIFI at home, or stream over the Internet and either of you have low bandwith, and 3) you force transcoding for whatever personal reasons.

    Streaming itself uses little resources. Transcoding is the tough one, since you are doing on the fly codec conversion.

    More or less at this point. I wouldn't waste money on a GPU upgrade for sure.

    Hell no. Plex's attitude towards its enduser have been absolutely horrible the last couple of years. Unless you REALLY need whatever specific feature Plex Pro allows you, I would stay far away from it.
     
  23. HDFan macrumors 65816

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    Jun 30, 2007
    #23
    My experience is totally different. On my Apple TV I get way more errors, hangs, delays in Infuse than Plex. I just did a test on my iPhone playing a 4K video. Infuse (using the NAS Plex server) ran a 4K video in direct play with no visible load on the NAS server (cpu2%, network 5MB/s). Buffer stalls every few minutes. In contrast running Plex from the same sever had a hit on NAS resources (~25% cpu, 10 Mbps) but no stalls. Not one. And the plex dashboard allows you to monitor network and cpu usage without having to open up the NAS dashboard.

    I do like the support for lossless audio though.

    Somewhat my experience and no. It is true that there is no way to get support directly from Plex. However the forums can oftentimes solve problems, and recently I've seen people from Plex responding. The no part relates to the frequency of updates. No software that I own updates on as frequent a basis. And this is not just for bug fixes, they are constantly adding new features. To me this means a real commitment to the product. I really love the new dashboard.
     
  24. legato01 macrumors newbie

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    Jun 4, 2015
    #24
    Yes if you want hardware encoding. This helps with temps. Also cheapest option by far.
     
  25. brentsg macrumors 68040

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    Oct 15, 2008
    #25
    And for those wanting to attach an antenna and HDHomeRun (or similar) tuner. With Plex Pass it can then handle live TV and DVR features as well.
     

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45 April 29, 2019