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Hi all,

I have a huge collection of media files and so planning to setup a Plex media server to host the same. Is it a good idea to use RPi 3B for the same?

Below are my concerns -

  1. Storage - Total collection would be about 4 TB which is spread across 2-3 USB external HDDs.
  • USB ports - I don’t have as many ports in RPi to connect all my devices. This doesn’t seem scalable too.
  • How failure prone are Always-connected External HDDs? I don’t want to end up losing all my data.
  • Disk I/O Throughput - I typically get about 20 MBps read speed from the devices. I hope this isn’t going to be a problem. Or will it be?
  1. Network Throughput - I imagine atleast 2 clients connected to the server at any given time - a phone and a TV connected via LAN. If I connect RPi via LAN will it be able to serve 2 or more 1080p video streams at a given time?
  2. Transcoding - Is the server powerful enough to transcode multiple video streams without glitch?
  3. Daemons
  • Since I’m putting in all the data for the server, I’m also planning to setup something like Netdata for the same.
  • I’d also setup some daemon to download content from the internet on a time-to-time basis.

Its tempting to use RPi for the cost. But I want to make sure it can suit my needs.

Any leads would be appreciated.

Thanks.

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    We have used a Raspberry Pi 3 as a home media server for a while. At the very minimum, buy a proper adapter that can deliver the power that the RPi needs. However, in our experience, the RPi was generally unstable and underpowered as a media server. The SOC is not great for transcoding, but even worse, the LAN7515 chip in the RPi 3 shares bandwidth between Ethernet and USB 2.0. So in most circumstances, both Ethernet and external USB 2.0 disks is terrible. (This is resolved in the Raspberry Pi 4.) For us, using the Pi 3 as a media server was just a miserable experience.

    We bought an Intel NUC (we didn’t need RAID or multiple disks, though you could hook them up with USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt) and haven’t looked back. It is actually usable and fast as a media server. NUCs start just north of 100-120 Euro, you can add a decent amount of memory, use a SATA disk (or M.2 SSDs on newer higher-end NUCs), and use a decent file system like ZFS.

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      That makes sense. Thanks for the response @iswrong!

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      I tried to run Plex briefly on a Synology RB411+, which I think has an 1.6GHz Atom CPU. I’ve no idea how fast that 1.6GHz Atom is, but at any rate Plex was severely unhappy. It often wanted to do on-demand reencoding (even though the only client was connected via gigabit ethernet and supported 1920×1080) and the user experience left much to wish for. I got the impression that Plex tried to serve video streams that wouldn’t overstrain the clients, even if that overstrained the CPU Plex was running on.

      Few video files require more than 10Mbps (that’s megabits, not megabytes) sustained, but if you also use the same storage for other things (such as backups or other crontabs), the bandwidth requirements add up.

      I suggest that you try it briefly, and consider the HD durability issue only when you see whether the CPU does what Plex asks of it.

      (FWIW I now serve my files via NFS and use either Kodi or VLC as clients.)

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        I run a Plex server off a RPi 4 alongside transmission-daemon and its web frontend and a samba server, everything is stored on a 5TB USB3 external drive and it’s hooked up to my LAN over Ethernet; it’s been quite serviceable. 1080p content looks great when streamed to my PS4. Not sure about streaming to multiple sources or higher resolutions. Remember to get a fan for the Pi 4, it will throttle without one.

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          related sidequestion: has someone experience with rockpro64 nas setups?

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            I used to run a home Plex server on a RPi 3B. It was generally OK, but there’s something important to keep in mind—you won’t have any success transcoding. With that said, you’ll need to make sure you have your media stored in a format (video/audio codecs, resolution, etc which your clients support. And also make sure all settings are configured to avoid any and all transcoding. Even some subtitle formats will force transcoding.

            With the Pi, I had no problem with 2 “direct streams” (which means no transcoding) to two different Apple TVs. My use never had me running more than two, so I can’t report on how more would do.

            What I’m running now though, is a much better setup for my needs. I’m running an “Atomic Pi”, which is a low-power x86 SBC with a similar price point ($35-55?). It has an Intel Atom processor that’s part of the Cherrytrail line, which supports hardware x264 transcoding. I’ve tested running this with up to 4 transcodes and we often have two running in my household (along with other processes on the same server)—everything’s working super well.

            Feel free to drop me a line if you have any specific questions.

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              Oh, one detail re: hardware transcoding on the Atomic Pi—I think you need a “PlexPass” subscription to enable hardware transcoding.