Apple TV buffering issue - alternatives?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Boxer757, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Boxer757 macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2009
    Hello friends,

    I’ve been converting files to MP4 (or maybe m4v – acronyms, sheesh) using Handbrake/Subler and streaming them to my Apple TV 3 via homesharing. Works great for DVD quality but larger Blu Ray quality files can’t seem to buffer quickly enough. Tried watching a 1080 ~8GB Blu Ray rip the other night and it was stalling out so much that I finally just hooked my macbook up directly to the TV. Using a wireless N setup with decent signal strength so I don’t think my network is the bottleneck.

    I’m looking for a better solution. I don’t want to have to rig up my macbook anytime I want to watch a high-def movie. I would also prefer not to spend any more money. I’d prefer not to have to use a “middle-man” device such as iPad or iPhone. Looking to get highest A/V quality possible.

    Here is what I have at my disposal:

    I have a WD TV Live but the thing had a new firmware update every time I turned it on and was so damn buggy that I buried it in the back of my closet. Is there a way to install Plex or XBMC? Would those solve my problems?

    I have an old Dell laptop circa 2006 with a dual core Intel processor. It only has VGA but I’ve read that VGA can handle 1080 just fine. I’ve considered hooking the Dell up directly to the TV or using it as a media server somehow but I’m not really sure the best way to go about it. Could I hackintosh this computer? I don’t want to reformat my HFS+ drive that has all my movies on it.

    If there’s something I could be doing with the Apple TV to make it work more effectively I’m all ears. Don’t really want to jailbreak it though.

    I’ve been searching the interwebs but am on information overload at the moment and always get solid advice from this forum. So, what do you say? Let’s McGuyver this thing.
  2. cosmicjoke macrumors 6502

    Oct 3, 2011
    Portland, OR
    Your network is definitely the bottleneck... make sure to use dual band wireless n router (I use AEBS) and hook it up over 5gz or find an alternative solution, I use a MoCa adapters which get a solid 270mbps piggybacking on coaxl cable from living room to computer room... less messy than running ethernet all over the house...
  3. Mrbobb, Nov 14, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2013

    Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    "I finally just hooked my macbook up directly to the TV. Using a wireless N setup with decent signal strength so I don’t think my network is the bottleneck."

    Where are the files stored, another server on the WIFI?
  4. bond007hmss macrumors newbie

    Jan 29, 2008
    Forgive me for not being too descriptive with this reply but I'm at work and not in front of my Mac at the moment.

    I used to have the same issue with 1080p rips as you. There is an optimize setting in Subler that rearranges something about how the file container is written when saved that matches how iTunes movie / TV files are set up. After doing this with my 1080p files, I no longer had a stuttering or buffering issue.

    Hope this can work for you.
  5. tbayrgs macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2009
    I'm also going to suggest it is a network issue as I routinely stream my blu ray encodes that are often 12-15 GB in size. I'm using one of the newer Time Capsules broadcasting dual band wifi but used to do the same with an older AirPort Extreme with no issues. My media library is kept on an external drive connected to my Mac Mini via FW800 that is connected to the TC via Ethernet.
  6. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
  7. PM-Performance macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2012

  8. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Add me to the list of those pointing at the network. I used to live in a house with multiple ATV3s - all ethernet connected - and had great performance from them all. Then I moved into a condo, with no ethernet, tons of rebar and at least a dozen other wireless networks all interfering with my wifi. I had exactly the same issue as you: photos, music, internet content and SD movies would stream just fine to the ATVs, but HD movies just ground to a halt.

    The fix was to update my old AEBS to a new one. The old one had 5GHz capability, but not the fancy antenna array of the new column design units. The ATVs work very well now, connected to the much cleaner 5GHz frequency (which also serves my iMac, work laptop and our 5Ss). In fact, my wife's laptop is the only device using the 2.4GHz band.

    As an aside, one of the ATVs did still have a problem. It is close enough to the new AEBS, but between them are two HVAC units which I suspect were killing the signal. The ATV could see the 5GHz network, but was never able to connect. The fix (a moment of inspiration on my part) was to use the old AEBS as a bridge, with it connecting to the 5GHz wifi and the ATV connected to it via ethernet cable. The old AEBS has a better antenna than the tiny ATV, so it can grab and hold the 5GHz network.

    Bottom line, I think you will have to boost your wifi or lay some wires.
  9. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    I'm currently in the process of stringing more Cat-5e cables through three floors of an old house. Not easy but wired > WiFi.
  10. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    There is an option in Handbrake to do this too (like you I'm not at my Mac so I can't look up the option - it's a simple check box on the main screen). I prefer this as it takes care of the processing all in one go. I use Subler only for tagging thereafter.
  11. jeff92k7 macrumors member

    Dec 14, 2012
    It's the network. The Apple TV does not have MIMO Wifi so it can only transmit or receive at any given time (Half-duplex). It has to stop receiving the IP packets to send the acknowledgements that the packets were received correctly.

    At best, The WiFi on the Apple TV will only connect at 72Mbps on an N network. Taking away overhead for network connections, acknowledgement packets, etc. You'll be lucky to get ~50 Mbps of streaming rate. If you have other interfering devices, other devices on the same WiFi connection, or other overlapping WiFi networks nearby, then your rate will drop even more.

    If your MacBook (iTunes server) is also on Wifi, then you can cut your bandwidth in half... You're down to ~25Mbps throughput at best with no interference.

    In practice, WiFi network speeds fluctuate wildly. Even if you can get ~50Mbps max throughput, the connection will constantly adjust and your overall throughput will be closer to the ~35-36Mbps range. Again, halve that if your iTunes server is also WiFi.

    Wired is ALWAYS better than wireless. Even with a 100Mbps connection on the Apple TV, you can get about ~80-90Mbps sustained throughput. Wired connections are typically full-duplex (send and receive at same time on different wire pairs). Even if you have other wired devices on your LAN, your throughput will rarely drop below the ~80Mbps rate. Wired switches do a great job of prioritizing packets to keep everything running near full speed.

    (source: I'm a network engineer - this stuff is what I do)
  12. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    Not to quibble, but this is still 4-5 times what you need to watch a typical 1080p movie. I run two Apple TVs over an N-only network without issues. If the OP has bandwidth issues due to wireless, he has an unusually poor wireless (N) network.

    I do agree that wired is better, but it's not always convenient.

  13. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012

    Your own house, next big renovation, WIRE that sucker up.
  14. jeff92k7 macrumors member

    Dec 14, 2012
    Yes, but that ~25Mbps is best case scenario. Reality is much different and typically a lot slower.

    If even one device active on the network is a G device, then the whole wireless network runs at 54Mbps max. That adjusts all the numbers down lower. (I'll spare you all the math, but you're under 10Mbps now.) Figure in a couple of overlapping networks from neighbors, and you'll be lucky to get a quarter of the bandwidth.

    There are so many variables to consider with wireless that it's really just not worth the hassle. Yes, to me, wireless is far more hassle than wired. I can run a new network cable in less than an hour to anywhere in my house. This is through the attic and drilling through studs and feeding a fish tape through...all the messy stuff, basically. Once connected, I don't have to worry about that outlet any more. With wireless, however, interference constantly fluctuates and I never get consistent speeds. I can move my laptop two inches and get wildly different connection speeds.

    I run INSSIDER around my house every now and then. There are nearly 30 WiFi networks in my neighborhood all sharing the same eleven 2.4G channels. (I can't even imagine how bad the WiFi spectrum must be in most apartments nowadays). There are exactly two 5GHz channels visible, and one of those is mine. I can do channel bonding in the 5GHz band that you just can't do in the overcrowded 2.4GHz band. Even still, I'm lucky if I get ~150Mbps connections which puts me just a hair over 100Mbs for throughput. If I move farther away from the WAP, the speed drops. WiFi is just not worth it.

    Almost all of my wired network is running at 1Gbps. WiFi can't even touch that. The few 100Mbps devices (like apple TV) have no problem with bandwidth.

    Now I'm not so naive to think that wired is the solution to everything. Sometimes, you just have to go WiFi. (apartments, condos, other places where you can't run a wire). But the problem in residential areas is that there are so many people who use WiFi just because they can, that it leaves little wireless bandwidth for the people who actually need it.

    Anyway...I write all this just to restate that wireless is not a good networking solution, especially for people with large bandwidth needs (like streaming). It works if you need it to, but you need to understand the limitations of wireless. It is NOT the perfect networking technology that vendors want you to think.

    So what can you do if wireless is your only option? Get a windows laptop and run INSSIDER. See what other nearby wireless networks are around. Then change the channel on your network to one that isn't being used, or is less used. Try to get the wireless clients as close as possible to the access point (router). Don't use the microwave while streaming - that causes interference. Turn off all WiFi devices that aren't needed. If it still doesn't get good performance, then buy a better access point (router) - preferably one that will do the 5GHz band. That frequency range is less crowded and the Apple TV can use it just fine.
  15. Boxer757 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2009
    Thank you everyone for the input! I do believe the wireless network is the issue after all.

    Yes, I am serving the files through iTunes from an external HDD that's hooked up to my macbook pro.

    I'm using a Linksys E1000 that only broadcasts in the 2.4Ghz band. I am surrounded by other networks. Also, it's quite possible I have devices on the network that are not wireless N, which from what I understand will cause my throughput to drop to that devices maximum for some reason?

    I knew my router was a little dated, but didn't realize just how behind I was :eek:

    I'm in a triplex, so I can't run wire through the walls or anything of the sort. The Apple TV is too far from my router to hardwire it to the network. Looks like I need to invest in a new wireless router. Maybe I'll ask for an Airport Extreme for Christmas. In the meantime, I will look into INSSIDER so I can find the least crowded 2.4Ghz band.
  16. steve123 macrumors 6502

    Aug 26, 2007
    I think bond007 is correct. You need to pay special attention to encoding 1080 content. I have had severe streaming problems with 1080p content generated with Aperture. If the AppleTV has to transcode the content on the fly it gets bogged down.
  17. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    I don't think AppleTV will (or is able) to transcode anything in the first place.
    The scenario bond007 describes, makes Apple TV to buffer the whole movie before it can start the playback, because the movie atom it needs to interpret the stream data, comes in at the end of the whole stream.
    The optimization moves this movie atom to the beginning of the stream, so it's one of the first pieces of data Apple TV receives and can prepare for playback properly.
  18. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    There are also routers that do Ethernet over power lines. The bandwidth isn't as great, but as mentioned above you only need about 3-5 megabytes per second to watch 1080p.

    Megabits (Mbps) is 8x the more common term Megabytes (MBps). Watch that "b". 24Mbps = 3MBps.
  19. Boxer757 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 16, 2009
    I don't believe the encoding is what's at fault. I use the recommended settings for Subler. I think it's 64-bit chunk offset or something to do with "optimize" - I can't recall off the top of my head as it has been awhile since I've encoded anything but I'm pretty certain that's not the issue.

    Westrock, good point I had not thought about a powerline adapter. I may have to look into that...
  20. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    "Optimize" in Subler is the what moves the movie atom from the back of the file to the front. It allows the movie to stream, rather than have to be downloaded in full before it will play.

    Handbrake has a checkbox on the main page to "Web Optimize", which does exactly the same thing. I have that checked on all my HB presets, so I don't have to worry about doing it post-coding in Subler.

Share This Page