Mac Mini/Plex problems. Please help!

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Alucardx03, May 17, 2009.

  1. Alucardx03 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    Hi everyone. I was hoping someone here could give me some advice about a problem I'm having.

    Just a few days ago, I purchased a base configuration Mini, to use as a HTPC. So far, I absolutely love it. I'm playing some roms on my television using an XBOX 360 controller, which is almost worth the price alone. I'm also using Plex to play back ISO's of the movies I own (the physical DVD clutter is terrible... all digital baby).

    Currently, the movies reside on a HP Mediasmart EX485. The Mediasmart is connected to a router upstairs. A cable from the primary router is going to a Linksys hub. From there, a cable is plugged right into my Mini.

    When I'm playing these rips in Plex, however, they don't run particularly smoothly. About every 30-40 seconds, it almost looks as if the Mini skips frames (or just gets slightly choppy).

    Considering the setup is all wired, I'm not sure why I'm having this problem.

    My next step is to just play the movies from an external hdd attached to the Mini, but I'd really like to be able to stream them from a device that is easily expandable.

    I've tried playing the files in VLC from the server, and there is no long-term choppiness. However, the movies would pause (for only 3-4 seconds) occasionally, which leads me to believe the Mediasmart is not streaming fast enough. Although I couldn't see why this would be the case...

    Does anyone know why the videos are playing back choppy? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. hookem12387 macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    I'm new to Plex myself, but would going through Plex preferences and upping the video cache help?
  3. glap1922 macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    You may want to try converting to Video_TS to see if the problem continues. I have had issues with iso files in plex in the past, but the video_ts always seems to work fine.
  4. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I am using a new Mini with Plex and an HP EX485 as well and not having stutters with *.iso files even using wireless networking. I'm not sure what's causing your issue, but what you want to do is feasible.
  5. ethical macrumors 68000

    Dec 22, 2007
    as suggested try upping the video cache in plex.... and check out the plex forums, they will be able to help you out more im sure.
  6. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    Thanks for the responses guys. I tried upping the cache right after I was having problems. I turned everything to the highest setting, and still nothing. I have both ISO's and video_TS files, and neither run too smoothly. I'm not sure why...

    I think I'm going to have to play with everything a little more.


    Alright, I'm officially pulling my hair out.

    I've tried playing with settings in Plex, making sure nothing on the network was accessing the EX485 at the same time, and a number of other things. And I still get occasional choppy video on iso's. It looks almost as if 4-5frames are dropped at a time for for 5-6 seconds. This seems to happen every 3-5 minutes or so.

    I couldn't imagine that 1gb of ram in the Mini isn't enough... right? For a standard definition iso? VLC seems to play the movies over the network perfectly fine, which leads me to believe that the computer is more than capable.

    But if it's a problem with Plex, wouldn't it be more widespread and documented?

    Is anyone streaming to the 2009 Mini from a NAS? Are you having the same issues? Do I have the wrong settings in Plex? I mounted the volume as SMB and have toyed with the different scaling and cache options with no luck.

    I've been trying to research the issue on the Net, but have found very little. I ran across one thread in which 2009 Mini owners were complaining about choppy video and dropped frames, but the thread died out quickly before there were any answers.

    After spending over $1000 for the Mini, EX485, cables, etc., I'm very, very frustrated and disappointed. If anyone has any insight, it would be much appreciated.
  7. hookem12387 macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2007
    Austin, Texas
    I'd crack the mini open and add some RAM. That could help. 1gb isn't very much
  8. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    I would prefer to spend the money for extra ram only if I was 100% certain it would improve the situation. And while I'm running a movie in Plex, I have about 250mb of ram free, which leads me to believe that more ram isn't necessary for SD content. Adding to that, VLC plays the content perfectly as well.
  9. mtbright macrumors newbie


    May 20, 2009
    Portsmouth, VA
    I read in the description that you had a Linksys hub? Hubs broadcast to all ports and arent as smart as a switch. That could be your bottle neck.
  10. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    Hmmmm... So what you're saying is the hub isn't smart enough to allocate enough bandwidth to the Mini? Does it make any difference that the video is playing perfectly in VLC over the same connection? Honestly, networking is not a strong suit of mine, so any additional info would be great. Thanks!
  11. DAMAC3 macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2009
    Noblesville, IN
    I can confirm that the RAM isn't his problem. I have the base config new mini, and I haven't bothered upgrading the RAM yet. I've been able to stream DVD rips, 720p MKV files, and some Blu-ray rips all via wireless N from my unRAID media server connected to my AEBS. Other than software updates, Plex is the only thing installed on this mini other than what is came with OSX.
  12. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    Again, I will state my experience but with more detail.

    I have an early 09 2.26 mini and with 1GB RAM I was able to stream DVD *.iso and also 1080p rips over my "draft 2" wireless network (airport extreme) from my HP EX485 with no dropped frames.

    I had essentially a stock Plex install with no tweaks.

    I would take a look at that hub first. Even if VLC is working ok maybe it buffers better or something.

    Looking at my network, I should have been disadvantaged by the wireless but my experience was better than yours with essentially the same hardware. Oh, and I wasn't seeing anywhere near full CPU so I wouldn't sweat the 2.26 difference. I'm sure there are some Blu-ray rips that would stress my setup but the few I tried were flawless, as are my DVD *.iso.

    How did you rip the ISO files? It's possible that they were ripped in a manner that Plex doesn't appreciate maybe?
  13. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    Thanks a lot for the responses guys. I've been ripping most DVD's to ISO with DVDDecrypter in Windows Boot Camp, right to my EX485. For the problem movies with the newest encryption, I'm using a combination of RipIt4Me and DVDDecrypter. The two programs have seemed to work really well in the past, as I have burned many of the ISO's to DVD's with absolutely no problem.

    I'm going to try to bypass my hub completely and run the network cable from the primary router right to my Time Capsule, and try the streaming over the wireless N of the TC. I'll update as soon as possible with the results.

    I really hope this works!!! Plex is such a fantastic program, it's really revolutionized the way I watch my content.


    Hi everyone. I just rearranged my network setup, and it didn't help. However, I did find something interesting. I looked very closely while playing back an ISO in VLC, and I noticed the same choppiness. Then, I tried playing an ISO from a connected HDD via USB, and the same choppiness was present. Since the computer is new, I didn't think it was the problem. Narrowing down the potential causes, I think I thought of another issue.

    I have a DLP TV that uses overscan. To overcome this (the Mini is hooked up via HDMI, BTW), I was forced to use SwitchResX to set a custom resolution and eliminate overscan. Could the custom resolution be causing the issue?

    Is anyone else using SwitchResX, and are you having stuttering problems?
  14. DAMAC3 macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2009
    Noblesville, IN
    Did you know that Plex has some screen adjustment settings built in? I have a crappy Symphonic LCD in the bedroom that has really bad overscan with my Mini, but you can adjust the screen in Plex so that it eliminates overscan. I think it is under preferences. I would suggest you stop using SwitchResX and try adjusting for overscan in Plex. Now, my desktop still looks funky (can't see the menu bar at the top for example), but at least you can see if eliminating SwitchResX solves your problems. That may not be a long-term solution for you since you use your Mini for other purposes, but it might isolate your media playback problem.

    Have you tried playing other media files besides ISO on this machine? It would be nice to see if this is only and ISO problem or includes other types of files.

    One more thing I might mention. I had a hard drive failure on my iMac. Before than happened, Plex was playing all my Blu-ray rips very well. After I brought it back from the Apple Store, I used Time Machine to restore my OS X partition. For some reason none of my Blu-ray rips played smoothly after that. I have to remove Plex from the system and reinstall it. It worked perfectly again after that. I don't know why it did that, but removing it (and all the application files it saved) made everything work again. So you might try a removal and reinstall if the SwitchResX thing doesn't work.
  15. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I would also download the trial of AnyDVD (Slysoft) and try to rip an ISO with that, just to ensure that it's not an issue with the images.

    Also press "i" while files are playing to have Plex tell you if it's dropping frames.

    As mentioned above, encoding an iso as MKV or something might be somewhat useful, though if ISO is your end goal that may be of limited value.

    If you rule out the overscan software you are using as well as the ISO methodology, then I would reinstall Plex. If that doesn't work, blow away everything and reinstall OSX and Plex.
  16. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008

    I was using the Plex screen settings before I was able to tinker with Switchres X, and I'll try it tonight without the custom resolution. Part of me hopes that it's not Switchres X causing the problem, as I'm using the Mini for much more than Plex viewing (roms/emulators, web-surfing, etc.), but another part of me just wants to solve the problem.

    As far as AnyDVD, I don't think it's a problem with the ripping software. Before I set up Boot Camp, I was using Mac The Ripper to rip the DVD to Video_TS files, and even those are choppy.

    And that's really good advice about checking for dropped frames. I had no idea you could do that.

    I'll further test my setup tonight and let you know how it goes.


    Alright. I tried the Mini/Ples combo without Switchres X, and the problem persisted. I also watched the information of playback with and without Switchres X, and there were zero dropped frames and very little CPU usage. The ISO rip was 9800 kbs, and I was streaming 3 mb, so bandwidth is not the issue.

    I also did a clean install of OSX and Plex. Problem's still there.

    Ruling those out, I can only assume my TV is at fault, even though it performs perfectly with every other source. Could it be that the TV is unable to display 24p content? And if that is the problem, why does it work with DVD players?

    The other part of the equation is the monoprice mini displayport to HDMI adapter I'm using. Even though I doubt it, I guess that could be the cause.

    Honestly, I'm considering giving the Mini to my parents. This entire fiasco has been a complete mess. I'm really at the end of my rope...
  17. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I wouldn't worry about the Monoprice adapter. It's just working passively, not doing any active conversion. Also mine is working just fine.

    What TV do you have and what settings are you using for the mini's input?

    The output you are sending the display should be at 30fps, not 24. If you have the TV configured to display 24p then that might be your stutter.
  18. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    I'm currently using a Toshiba 62MX195 DLP. It's about three years old (I'm just going to wait a little longer before I upgrade to a projector for my home theater room...can't wait though...). The TV is running at 60HZ, which seems like the only option available. I just saw the consistent 24fps when I was watching the stats in Plex... I'm not sure if the Mini is actually outputting at that speed. Since almost all movies are filmed at that 24p, isn't it normal? As far as the TV goes, there are no advanced options to change anything like HZ or fps.
  19. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I'm not at home where I can verify but when I was ripping and encoding I'm pretty sure that "same as source" in handbrake resulted in 29.9x fps in most cases. Yea they were filmed at 24p but at that time there were no displays that could natively render 24p. At any rate that doesn't sound like your issue.

    I think at this point I'd recommend trying the mini on a different display to rule out the TV as the problem. Also maybe see if you can output to the same TV via something other than HDMI to see if they implemented it in some odd way.

    Another good thing to do would be to re-encode as an MP4 or MKV to see what happens.
  20. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Nov 19, 2006
    I'm a relative Plex neophyte but I will add this one comment: I've noticed that if I'm trying to encode a handbrake job while watching Plex the playback is horrible - very choppy. I check my activity monitor and Handbrake is absolutely caning the CPUs - as soon as I pause the encode, playback improves dramatically.

    I have also read elsewhere that plex is "all about the processor".

    My mini is an early 09 - 4gb ram upgrade.
  21. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Are any 'noise reduction' or similar 'image enhancement' features on your TV turned on by chance? Often those settings do more harm than good.
  22. Alucardx03 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Feb 10, 2008
    I've been monitoring the CPU usage while using Plex, and it rarely jumps over 5%. At any given time, there will be a 90%+ idle CPU, so I don't think I'm running out of power. I've also been monitoring the ram. During Plex, I have about 130-140 mb free, so I don't think that's it.

    That's a good question. I'll check as soon as I get home and report on the results. I do know my TV has a "Noise Reduction" feature, though it's usually turned off. However, I have been switching around my components lately, so the settings may have reverted when I unplugged it a few times.

    Also, I've been playing around with a variety of settings combinations. I've found that the video seems less choppy when I'm using one of the windowed Plex modes, like 1080i Windowed. However, the improvement could very well be my imagination.

    I've also installed Plex on my SR MBP (in my sig), which has comparable specs to the mini, and the videos appear to be smooth. It could be that it's a smaller screen, though, which makes the choppiness less noticeable. Not too sure.

    What shocks me is that there is very little mention of these kinds of problems on the Net. I feel like I'm the only one experiencing these.
  23. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    The only other option I can think of at the moment is to tinker with Plex's playback settings (while playing an iso, press Menu on your remote, then click on the film reel icon).

    Is your TV 1080i? In that case, perhaps the interlacing at the TV end has something to do with it?
  24. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    My money is on the TV at this point. Our configurations are so similar and I'm seeing nothing like he's describing. That's about the only other variable left.
  25. misterredman macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
    I had a similar problem with a macbook connected to a TV and Plex but I was not using a HDMI adapter so I am not sure it applies to you too. My problem were the settings in the Monitor pref panel: I first selected PAL 50Hz since the rest of my equipment worked with that setting. It turned out I needed to use NTSC 60Hz instead. Also thought about a network problem at first since my movies reside on a NAS.

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