HTPC, or Home Server..? Both? I'm Confused...

seaneboy

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 19, 2013
Messages
253
Ok, so here is what I'm hoping to do:
Be able to play any files I have off my Synology, via the smart TVs in the house.. And my not-so-smart-tv in my room. I'm pretty sure the Smart TVs have not ran into any files they couldn't play yet, but let's play devils advocate... I want to make sure there is NEVER a file they can't play (if that's possible).

Now, I have a gaming build here in my room, that is about 30ft from the not-so-smart-tv. What is the best route to do this? Run a long-ass hdmi cable? Build a HTPC? I have been told that a Mac Mini would work. But even still, how would that work? Directly via output to the dumb-tv, or via a 'set top box' of sorts, like an apple tv?

Any input is greatly appreciated! As for budget, well, let's say I want to spend the least amount possible, while still getting the job done, with no snafus.. No bog downs, no incompatible stuff... Oh, and I want to run Plex!
 

ptirmal

Weaksauce
Joined
Nov 10, 2013
Messages
87
The only way to be sure you never have a failed file is have a beefy enough processor in the NAS, or make sure your files are in the formats that your clients can play natively. The second option (can be run in a batch) is the much cheaper option.

Roku 3 is a good Plex client (for your dumb TV), cheap and plays many formats. The next step up would be a NUC or HTPC IMO.
 

thegrinch

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Messages
209
I am in a similar situation - some SmartTV's and other not. I have a Synology NAS I play by Blu-ray rips on. I have Video Station and the native DLNA client running.

With Samsung SmartTV's, the issue I ran into is with TrueHD audio - natively, it won't play unless I remux and remove TrueHD audio and use the AC3/DD track (this TV is ~1 year old, 8000 series); DTS-HD is no problem. Embedded subtitles do not work well (or at all)...

On my non-smart TV's, I just got a WDTV Live - it connects to the Synology DLNA client and plays EVERYTHING I throw at. It also bitstreams both DTS-HD and TrueHD tracks, all w/out modifying my video files. The only caveat regarding subtitles is that they must use zlib compression when using with MKV - only a minor gripe.

I thought that the Roku doesn't bitstream or support HD audio - at least, it didn't when I checked on it last which drove me towards the WDTVLive.

So all that said, if you want good support for HD audio/subtitles and not mess with filetypes, I'd probably just stick a WDTV Live at each location.

Synology is working on a VideoStation Samsung app - it's beta right now and only works on 2012 Samsung smart TV's at this point. My guess it would have the same subtitles limitations that the native player has.
 

seaneboy

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 19, 2013
Messages
253
The only way to be sure you never have a failed file is have a beefy enough processor in the NAS, or make sure your files are in the formats that your clients can play natively. The second option (can be run in a batch) is the much cheaper option.

Roku 3 is a good Plex client (for your dumb TV), cheap and plays many formats. The next step up would be a NUC or HTPC IMO.

Hey man! Thanks for the response! I actually debated shelling off my 413j, and upgrading to a Synology that is beefy enough... Which (4) bay nas would be strong enough? Again, you get my point in that I NEVER want a failed file type.. I only have (1) surround setup where audio actually matters, which is of course connected to my dumb tv. So, taking into considering my fondness of quality audio, and video, would an upgraded Synology still be the right choice? I have been eyeing a mac mini, but am wondering if I'd probably get more bang for my buck building my own....


I am in a similar situation - some SmartTV's and other not. I have a Synology NAS I play by Blu-ray rips on. I have Video Station and the native DLNA client running.

With Samsung SmartTV's, the issue I ran into is with TrueHD audio - natively, it won't play unless I remux and remove TrueHD audio and use the AC3/DD track (this TV is ~1 year old, 8000 series); DTS-HD is no problem. Embedded subtitles do not work well (or at all)...

On my non-smart TV's, I just got a WDTV Live - it connects to the Synology DLNA client and plays EVERYTHING I throw at. It also bitstreams both DTS-HD and TrueHD tracks, all w/out modifying my video files. The only caveat regarding subtitles is that they must use zlib compression when using with MKV - only a minor gripe.

I thought that the Roku doesn't bitstream or support HD audio - at least, it didn't when I checked on it last which drove me towards the WDTVLive.

So all that said, if you want good support for HD audio/subtitles and not mess with filetypes, I'd probably just stick a WDTV Live at each location.

Synology is working on a VideoStation Samsung app - it's beta right now and only works on 2012 Samsung smart TV's at this point. My guess it would have the same subtitles limitations that the native player has.

Subtitles are not important to me, but I guess perhaps they should be? I've only ran into one movie that I wanted subs on - Broken Circle Breakdown, or rather, only one movie I need subs to watch, I guess.

WDTV Live sounds like it might be an option... Wasn't the 'older' one better or something like that? I seem to vaguely recall reading about a situation with that..
 

Dark Prodigy

Jawbreaker
Joined
Mar 10, 2006
Messages
2,803
I run WHS 2012 with Plex server on it. I have WDTV Live connected to my plasma via hdmi with the Plex client. Plays every format I throw at it.
 

thegrinch

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Messages
209
Subtitles are not important to me, but I guess perhaps they should be? I've only ran into one movie that I wanted subs on - Broken Circle Breakdown, or rather, only one movie I need subs to watch, I guess.

WDTV Live sounds like it might be an option... Wasn't the 'older' one better or something like that? I seem to vaguely recall reading about a situation with that..

I probably should have clarified - FORCED subtitles are important to me; i.e. any movie that doesn't have burned in English subtitles in the movie. This is pretty common these days - Thor2, Man of Steel, The Avengers, Captain Philips, The Wolverine (to name just a few) would be recent examples of movies with forced English subtitles not burned into the movie. Of course, being able to see the subtitle is part of the battle; whether or not the player honors a forced track flag is another (but minor in the big scheme of things).

Sometimes you can get through it w/out them but there are some critical parts where you would really want to see the subtitles.. think Avatar where they're not even speaking a real language. But you may just be lucky and not need them whatsoever depending on what you watch.

I recently got into the WDTV Live so I have no experience with the old ones - but it does seem the most recent version overcomes just about every issue that was prevalent on the old ones... maybe I'm wrong though.

It's too bad all this stuff is so complicated these days...
 

seaneboy

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 19, 2013
Messages
253
I run WHS 2012 with Plex server on it. I have WDTV Live connected to my plasma via hdmi with the Plex client. Plays every format I throw at it.

Cool, sounds like another vote for WDTV Live....

I probably should have clarified - FORCED subtitles are important to me; i.e. any movie that doesn't have burned in English subtitles in the movie. This is pretty common these days - Thor2, Man of Steel, The Avengers, Captain Philips, The Wolverine (to name just a few) would be recent examples of movies with forced English subtitles not burned into the movie. Of course, being able to see the subtitle is part of the battle; whether or not the player honors a forced track flag is another (but minor in the big scheme of things).

Sometimes you can get through it w/out them but there are some critical parts where you would really want to see the subtitles.. think Avatar where they're not even speaking a real language. But you may just be lucky and not need them whatsoever depending on what you watch.

I recently got into the WDTV Live so I have no experience with the old ones - but it does seem the most recent version overcomes just about every issue that was prevalent on the old ones... maybe I'm wrong though.

It's too bad all this stuff is so complicated these days...

Seriously, it's absolutely unreal... I am both amazed, and entirely lost at how complicated this is.. It's like, I just want to plug in some plugs, turn some crap on, and watch some stuff... I guess we've grown spoiled by how easy it is, sometimes... But yeah, I get a grasp on computer stuff, and this just blows my head off... I think that the most annoying part of it is, there's so many ways to skin the cat, that each have their unique advantage.. Versus, typically there is only one 'RIGHT' way to do things... That pretty much pisses me off, because I like to do things right, the first time...
 

ptirmal

Weaksauce
Joined
Nov 10, 2013
Messages
87
Hey man! Thanks for the response! I actually debated shelling off my 413j, and upgrading to a Synology that is beefy enough... Which (4) bay nas would be strong enough? Again, you get my point in that I NEVER want a failed file type.. I only have (1) surround setup where audio actually matters, which is of course connected to my dumb tv. So, taking into considering my fondness of quality audio, and video, would an upgraded Synology still be the right choice? I have been eyeing a mac mini, but am wondering if I'd probably get more bang for my buck building my own....

WDTV Live sounds like it might be an option... Wasn't the 'older' one better or something like that? I seem to vaguely recall reading about a situation with that..
I don't know which off the shelf units are powerful enough.

I haven't used a WDTV in long time, from what I recall the Plex interface is just DLNA so it won't be that pretty and different devices handle DLNA better than others.

You'd definitely get more bang for your buck building something, with FreeNAS and unRaid available they are great choices for building your own.

IMO your best solution would be to run an HTPC (Mac mini or other) that has at least a desktop Haswell i3 (performance wise, laptop i5 would probably suffice) and run Plex server on that, leave your NAS as is. The HTPC should have a CPU capable of running Plex media server at a better value than any NAS and you get the benefits of being able to pass HD audio to your receiver if you so desired. Leave all the files to be stored in the NAS. This way you get the best Plex client (Plex Home Theater) with a CPU that can transcode for other clients, and minimal "maintenance".
 

malacoda

Weaksauce
Joined
Oct 8, 2009
Messages
73
Cool, sounds like another vote for WDTV Live....



Seriously, it's absolutely unreal... I am both amazed, and entirely lost at how complicated this is.. It's like, I just want to plug in some plugs, turn some crap on, and watch some stuff... I guess we've grown spoiled by how easy it is, sometimes... But yeah, I get a grasp on computer stuff, and this just blows my head off... I think that the most annoying part of it is, there's so many ways to skin the cat, that each have their unique advantage.. Versus, typically there is only one 'RIGHT' way to do things... That pretty much pisses me off, because I like to do things right, the first time...

There is no single best set up you can copy. The myriad of options and customizations is what makes an htpc attractive to a lot of people. I personally use directvobsub and have no issues with forced or embedded subtitles. Plus it has an easy interface you can change on the fly while the move plays. I use mediabrowser3 for my content management but then I use MPC-HC, LAV filters, MAD-VR for my player. Directvobsub handles subtitles and I passthru DTS-HD or Dolb True HD directly to the receiver to decode and play.
 

thegrinch

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Messages
209
Seriously, it's absolutely unreal... I am both amazed, and entirely lost at how complicated this is.. It's like, I just want to plug in some plugs, turn some crap on, and watch some stuff... I guess we've grown spoiled by how easy it is, sometimes... But yeah, I get a grasp on computer stuff, and this just blows my head off... I think that the most annoying part of it is, there's so many ways to skin the cat, that each have their unique advantage.. Versus, typically there is only one 'RIGHT' way to do things... That pretty much pisses me off, because I like to do things right, the first time...

LOL - you sound exactly like my best friend, almost to the letter. Haha. :) Yes, it's way, way complicated.

There is no single best set up you can copy. The myriad of options and customizations is what makes an htpc attractive to a lot of people. I personally use directvobsub and have no issues with forced or embedded subtitles. Plus it has an easy interface you can change on the fly while the move plays. I use mediabrowser3 for my content management but then I use MPC-HC, LAV filters, MAD-VR for my player. Directvobsub handles subtitles and I passthru DTS-HD or Dolb True HD directly to the receiver to decode and play.

Agreed with malacoda. A dedicated pc is the *best* route - I use Shark007 codecs and also use DirectVobSub (it's included) - no issues with forced subtitles, etc. Works wonderful - subtitiles/bitstreaming, etc.

However, the thing to consider here is how much you want to spend (as with anything)... For instance, let's say I went with an Intel NUC (I3) - by the time I add ram, hd, OS, etc, I'm probably spending close to $300+. By and large, this is an ideal setup. But I really want to lend support to multiple other TV's and doing this at each TV isn't super practical. The WDTV Live @ ~$80ish is more reasonable if I'm talking more than one TV that needs similar capabilities.

Perhaps best - do a small HTPC in the room that matters (like a dedicated media room) and use WDTV Live's where it's less important.
 

Jaxon

n00b
Joined
Feb 21, 2012
Messages
50
Plenty of great advice here. My personal experiences:
* started with WHS v1 and a WDTV Live
* then went to WHS 2011 and WDTV Live
* Currently still using WHS 2011, but now with Plex Server on it and a Roku 3 with the Plex Client.

While I've considered going to a NAS many times, it just doesn't make sense for me. I currently have ~20TB of material and to get that onto a NAS with proper RAID just doesn't seem worth the effort. I've also thought about going with a NUC, but to be honest, the Roku hasn't let me down yet. Maybe down the road I'll give it a shot when I finally feel the need to move on from the Roku,

Good luck with your decision!
 

Cottonwood00

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
90
Just my two cents. Sell the NAS, get a cheap server (i got a Lenovo TS140 $230-$270), run plex. Get chromecasts($35 a pop) and the plex mobile app($5) and then you can just cast everything to the chromecasts. Pretty cheap

Plex uses a Client Server Architecture, so you need a server and anything that can be a client, be that a chromecast, roku, etc. Most NAS's aren't powerful enough to transcode... but you can also keep the NAS and just share the drives with the PLEX server but i figure save some money and sell the NAS.

Only thing the NAS has over a server or normal computer is the native web UI's
 

thegrinch

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Messages
209
He has a Synology NAS that can natively run a Plex server - from the sound of the post, I don't believe he's interested in transcoding.

How well do Chromecasts handle streaming full bit rate blu rays over Wifi? If its running through Plex, I assume the Chromecast will bitstream HD audio? I've been curious about Chromecast, but not a fan of wifi for Blu-ray streaming.
 

Cottonwood00

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
90
If he wants to make sure that its always compatable then transcoding makes sense here, that way anything not handled by the client gets transcoded.

Anyways i can't say much about wifi cause everything i have is wired but from what i can guess you can set the bit rate lower so higher bitrates get transcoded and compressed, I can do that with my sony google tv but i dunno about casting.

Even though i have a chromecast i dont use it cause i have a google tv with a plex client. sorry I've only dabbled with it
 
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