[SOLVED] HTPC Advice

TODDTH

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I am looking for some advice on a build for an HTPC that primarily will be running as a Plex player. It will only ever be used on a single 4K TV, Samsung Q90T 85" I don't use it for gaming, so only one screen. Most use is BR and 4K UHD movies, and HD Audio music.

In order of importance to me:
  1. Able to play back 4K HVEC completely smooth in at least 10bit color.
  2. Full bit rate 7.1 HD Audio, uncompressed from a UHD movie (but i don't think this is actually an issue).
  3. Quiet
  4. Compact - sit on a shelf with other audio gear.
In case anyone asks... I have tried to use devices like the nVidea Shield for plex. Biggest issue is it won't playback 5.1 flac without making Plex transcode it. Apparently the only player that will allow Plex to do this right is an HTPC.

So all that said: I currently use a ZeBox with an Nvidea 1050T video chip. The biggest issue is the box is starting to bluescreen 1-4X a day after a fresh re-install of Windows 10. The other issue is the video playback is very often not smooth. I don't think its my 9 series samsung tv and the network is hard wired. I can only assume its this HTPC.

  1. Of course if anyone just has advice of a specific integrated unit... I'm all ears for such a device. However the only devices I have seen that function as an HTPC, and have real integrated video cards 1060 and above are the ZeBox and they are both pricey and hard to find in the USA. Integrated units are smaller, sleeker, fit in a living room rack better etc.. Always open to a suggestion if someone has one.
  2. What is the min video card that will achieve smooth playback of 4K UHD? I'm willing to buy whatever this is, but with the cost of GPU's I really don't want to over-buy either. is 3 GB enough or do you need 4? 6?
  3. Any suggestions on a MB / Case combo? Consider size, noise etc...
  4. Once you have a good GPU, how much CPU do you need? My brain says i5, if for no other reason that Windows seems to grind away in an i3, updates take forever etc..
All other advice pertinent is welcome.

Thanks all in advance.
 
OK so here is the setup
  • Plex is on an unRaid server
  • Hardwired gig network in the house
  • Currently using an HTPC as a Plex Player with Plex HTPC client software
  • HDMI to Marantz AV7702mkii
  • HDMI to Samsung 85" Q90T TV
99.99% sure the TV and audio processor both support eARC. I'll give it a shot. The last time I tried I was using an 5 yr older 9000 series Samsung and it wouldn't send the high bitrate audio upstream to the processor.
That receiver does not support eARC sadly is limited to ARC. What you can do is to purchase HDMI eARC extractor like "Thenaudio Sharc"(expensive but is highly rated) or "Orei eARC Extractor"(cheap but not highly rated). Using that you can get full eARC capabilities as the eARC signal is converted to Audio Signal(Lossless) and output to AVR regular HDMI Input from which you can get Lossless audio.

Yes this is extra step and extra setup required but will convert that old AVR with only ARC support to eARC support without needing to upgrade the AVR.

But if you were planning to upgrade the AVR in near future anyways. No point going through all this process.
 

Lutfij

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You should look at entry-mid tier level cards, like the GTX1050 and above. Can you include a budget for your HTPC build? Some people prefer their builds to look at home in an home entertainment setup looking like audio/video receiver equipment. Others like it to look like a sleek tower off to a corner but is part of the HTPC furniture. What sort of a case are you looking for? Also, perhaps shoot us a picture of your HTPC corner/area of your crib to help others with case suggestions.

You can get away with an i3, in it's current generation, me thinks since you're not going to be gaming but having an i5 will offset the need for any processor upgrades down the line.
 

TODDTH

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You should look at entry-mid tier level cards, like the GTX1050 and above. Can you include a budget for your HTPC build? Some people prefer their builds to look at home in an home entertainment setup looking like audio/video receiver equipment. Others like it to look like a sleek tower off to a corner but is part of the HTPC furniture. What sort of a case are you looking for? Also, perhaps shoot us a picture of your HTPC corner/area of your crib to help others with case suggestions.
You can get away with an i3, in it's current generation, me thinks since you're not going to be gaming but having an i5 will offset the need for any processor upgrades down the line.
Budget: If I must pick a number i'd say $1K.... I'm willing to bend to make sure it works right though... The only thing worse than blowing your budget is not blowing it but wishing you had. When it comes to tech I'm a believer in buying smart... buy enough to make it last but stay on the right side of diminishing returns. It's served me well.

Looks: Its not a specific look. I'd love if it were invisible, but otherwise as SFF as possible. cool enough to not require noisy fans, usually means bigger case. Let's sum it up this way.. I dont want to draw attention to my "COOL HTPC CASE".. I'd rather it disappear.

My current ZeBox is a 1050T I think and it has very noticeable stutter. I have no idea if its not enough video / memory, or just a bad box i picked up used.
 
I am looking for some advice on a build for an HTPC that primarily will be running as a Plex player. It will only ever be used on a single 4K TV, Samsung Q90T 85" I don't use it for gaming, so only one screen. Most use is BR and 4K UHD movies, and HD Audio music.

In order of importance to me:
  1. Able to play back 4K HVEC completely smooth in at least 10bit color.
  2. Full bit rate 7.1 HD Audio, uncompressed from a UHD movie (but i don't think this is actually an issue).
  3. Quiet
  4. Compact - sit on a shelf with other audio gear.
In case anyone asks... I have tried to use devices like the nVidea Shield for plex. Biggest issue is it won't playback 5.1 flac without making Plex transcode it. Apparently the only player that will allow Plex to do this right is an HTPC.

So all that said: I currently use a ZeBox with an Nvidea 1050T video chip. The biggest issue is the box is starting to bluescreen 1-4X a day after a fresh re-install of Windows 10. The other issue is the video playback is very often not smooth. I don't think its my 9 series samsung tv and the network is hard wired. I can only assume its this HTPC.

  1. Of course if anyone just has advice of a specific integrated unit... I'm all ears for such a device. However the only devices I have seen that function as an HTPC, and have real integrated video cards 1060 and above are the ZeBox and they are both pricey and hard to find in the USA. Integrated units are smaller, sleeker, fit in a living room rack better etc.. Always open to a suggestion if someone has one.
  2. What is the min video card that will achieve smooth playback of 4K UHD? I'm willing to buy whatever this is, but with the cost of GPU's I really don't want to over-buy either. is 3 GB enough or do you need 4? 6?
  3. Any suggestions on a MB / Case combo? Consider size, noise etc...
  4. Once you have a good GPU, how much CPU do you need? My brain says i5, if for no other reason that Windows seems to grind away in an i3, updates take forever etc..
All other advice pertinent is welcome.

Thanks all in advance.
Me being media consumption-purist. Would usually like to run media directly through Inbuilt Media Player of the TV to get best result for Picture quality by connecting the Storage Server through USB/Ethernet. Even Plex and Kodi directly on TV give better result.
General issue with HTPC is to set it up properly so that it passes unprocessed signal to the TV to be Processed. The Image Processing done by Windows OS do effect the actual Picture Quality. I have yet to find a viable way to do that on Windows PC. Don't know if any Linux OS does that. Please do check into that.
 

TODDTH

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Me being media consumption-purist. Would usually like to run media directly through Inbuilt Media Player of the TV to get best result for Picture quality by connecting the Storage Server through USB/Ethernet. Even Plex and Kodi directly on TV give better result.
General issue with HTPC is to set it up properly so that it passes unprocessed signal to the TV to be Processed. The Image Processing done by Windows OS do effect the actual Picture Quality. I have yet to find a viable way to do that on Windows PC. Don't know if any Linux OS does that. Please do check into that.
Thats interesting. I haven't thought about getting better imaging processing by going straight to the TV with Plex as an imbedded app. The embedded apps I've used have all been much more clunky / slow to navigate. The real issue though is I don't know of any TV that will pass the high bit rate audio back out to the audio processor. You may get 7.1 but certainly down-sampled. I know I'd loose my multi-channel flac abilities.

As a test I'll try to play a movie through the app and see if I get better video.
 
Thats interesting. I haven't thought about getting better imaging processing by going straight to the TV with Plex as an imbedded app. The embedded apps I've used have all been much more clunky / slow to navigate. The real issue though is I don't know of any TV that will pass the high bit rate audio back out to the audio processor. You may get 7.1 but certainly down-sampled. I know I'd loose my multi-channel flac abilities.

As a test I'll try to play a movie through the app and see if I get better video.
Yes do that.

They are slow to navigate and pain to set up. But you do get best Video quality out of them.

And HDMI eARC do handle High-bandwidth Audio pass-through. I don't think there is any Dolby Atmos or DTSX track mixed above 24-bit which eARC can easily handle. You don't have to worry about it.
 

TODDTH

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Yes do that.

They are slow to navigate and pain to set up. But you do get best Video quality out of them.

And HDMI eARC do handle High-bandwidth Audio pass-through. I don't think there is any Dolby Atmos or DTSX track mixed above 24-bit which eARC can easily handle. You don't have to worry about it.
The issue in the past has been the apps on the TV force Plex to transcode and you do lose audio fidelity. I don’t need ATMOS but 7.1 TrueHD and DTS HD is a must. I have a number of multichannel .flac audio only files and the HTPC has been the only thing to play them without transcoding.

I will try again this evening for sure and see what it does.
 
The issue in the past has been the apps on the TV force Plex to transcode and you do lose audio fidelity. I don’t need ATMOS but 7.1 TrueHD and DTS HD is a must. I have a number of multichannel .flac audio only files and the HTPC has been the only thing to play them without transcoding.

I will try again this evening for sure and see what it does.
What Setup do you Have?
Please can you give me more details to work with.
Like What Receiver are you using. The Model details will be helpful. How is it connected?
Are you using HDMI for eARC to connect TV to Receiver?
 
It comes down to Receiver you got the TV connected to. Q90T has eARC out but if Receiver only has ARC out then not gonna work. It too need eARC support. And after making sure that it has eARC support also check if the receiver supports Dolby True HD and DTS HD/DTS HD Master(backwards compatible).

What Receiver are you using.
 

TODDTH

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What Setup do you Have?
Please can you give me more details to work with.
Like What Receiver are you using. The Model details will be helpful. How is it connected?
Are you using HDMI for eARC to connect TV to Receiver?
OK so here is the setup
  • Plex is on an unRaid server
  • Hardwired gig network in the house
  • Currently using an HTPC as a Plex Player with Plex HTPC client software
  • HDMI to Marantz AV7702mkii
  • HDMI to Samsung 85" Q90T TV
99.99% sure the TV and audio processor both support eARC. I'll give it a shot. The last time I tried I was using an 5 yr older 9000 series Samsung and it wouldn't send the high bitrate audio upstream to the processor.
 
OK so here is the setup
  • Plex is on an unRaid server
  • Hardwired gig network in the house
  • Currently using an HTPC as a Plex Player with Plex HTPC client software
  • HDMI to Marantz AV7702mkii
  • HDMI to Samsung 85" Q90T TV
99.99% sure the TV and audio processor both support eARC. I'll give it a shot. The last time I tried I was using an 5 yr older 9000 series Samsung and it wouldn't send the high bitrate audio upstream to the processor.
That receiver does not support eARC sadly is limited to ARC. What you can do is to purchase HDMI eARC extractor like "Thenaudio Sharc"(expensive but is highly rated) or "Orei eARC Extractor"(cheap but not highly rated). Using that you can get full eARC capabilities as the eARC signal is converted to Audio Signal(Lossless) and output to AVR regular HDMI Input from which you can get Lossless audio.

Yes this is extra step and extra setup required but will convert that old AVR with only ARC support to eARC support without needing to upgrade the AVR.

But if you were planning to upgrade the AVR in near future anyways. No point going through all this process.
 

TODDTH

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That receiver does not support eARC sadly is limited to ARC. What you can do is to purchase HDMI eARC extractor like "Thenaudio Sharc"(expensive but is highly rated) or "Orei eARC Extractor"(cheap but not highly rated). Using that you can get full eARC capabilities as the eARC signal is converted to Audio Signal(Lossless) and output to AVR regular HDMI Input from which you can get Lossless audio.

Yes this is extra step and extra setup required but will convert that old AVR with only ARC support to eARC support without needing to upgrade the AVR.

But if you were planning to upgrade the AVR in near future anyways. No point going through all this process.
OK, yes it looks like the AV7704 is the first model to support eARC.
That processor costs about $3K so probably not in the cards over this one issue.
Thanks for the input on the other device options and I'll try out the embedded TV app tonight.
Please keep an eye here and I'll likely have some thoughts this evening.

Thanks all for the help.
 
OK, yes it looks like the AV7704 is the first model to support eARC.
That processor costs about $3K so probably not in the cards over this one issue.
Thanks for the input on the other device options and I'll try out the embedded TV app tonight.
Please keep an eye here and I'll likely have some thoughts this evening.

Thanks all for the help.
Yes. Share your experience of embedded TV app with us.
Will surely be looking forward to it.
 

TODDTH

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Yes. Share your experience of embedded TV app with us.
Will surely be looking forward to it.
OK, I didnt do sound but just ran a 1080P movie that I knew troublesome scenes. It might have been a little better, but still very noticeable.

While I only watched a little, navigation is much improved. My guess is the TV just has a better processor at this point than the last one I tried. If all else was solved, I would find it usable.

The real issue is "studder" or "judder" whichever you call it. If the entire screen has movement at the same time. IE some wider scene where the camera pans with any speed whatsoever... the video moves and then skips, moves and then skips. It leaves me thinking it ran out of memory on the card, but I can't say for sure. I'm not sure what the equivalent issue would be on a TV (IE out of video memory)

I didn't try out a UHD 10 bit color to see if it could read /display color correctly. I'll try that tomorrow.

Any thoughts?
 
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OK, I didnt do sound but just ran a 1080P movie that I knew troublesome scenes. It might have been a little better, but still very noticeable.

While I only watched a little, navigation is much improved. My guess is the TV just has a better processor at this point than the last one I tried. If all else was solved, I would find it usable.

The real issue is "studder" or "judder" whichever you call it. If the entire screen has movement at the same time. IE some wider scene where the camera pans with any speed whatsoever... the video moves and then skips, moves and then skips. It leaves me thinking it ran out of memory on the card, but I can't say for sure. I'm not sure what the equivalent issue would be on a TV (IE out of video memory)

I didn't try out a UHD 10 bit color to see if it could read /display color correctly. I'll try that tomorrow.

Any thoughts?
TV Has motion setting which you can use to smooth it out.
And the bigger difference gonna be with 4K HDR movies.

Yes try it tomorrow and also try playing around with the settings.
I will try to find and post video link if I find one which will give you an idea of what settings is suitable.
 

TODDTH

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TV Has motion setting which you can use to smooth it out.
And the bigger difference gonna be with 4K HDR movies.

Yes try it tomorrow and also try playing around with the settings.
I will try to find and post video link if I find one which will give you an idea of what settings is suitable.
I turned on the setting you referenced above. I think its called "blur reduction" or something along those lines.
With that setting off the image motion "blurs" during a full screen "pan" When you turn it on, the image stays much clearer as it moves but then you get the "studder" every second or so where the image "skips" or "jumps" It reads to me like a video card running out of memory and it has to dump/refill. I honestly dont know if its actually a video card issue or something in the TV, but assumed a 9000 series Samsung TV that is barely a year old would process the video smoothly and it must be the player.
If you think its a bad assumption I'd like to hear. I should probably dig up the original BR disc and see how it plays conventionally.
 
I turned on the setting you referenced above. I think its called "blur reduction" or something along those lines.
With that setting off the image motion "blurs" during a full screen "pan" When you turn it on, the image stays much clearer as it moves but then you get the "studder" every second or so where the image "skips" or "jumps" It reads to me like a video card running out of memory and it has to dump/refill. I honestly dont know if its actually a video card issue or something in the TV, but assumed a 9000 series Samsung TV that is barely a year old would process the video smoothly and it must be the player.
If you think its a bad assumption I'd like to hear. I should probably dig up the original BR disc and see how it plays conventionally.
Then probably your Judder reduction is completely down. Set it to 3(recommended) or 5 and see how it improves.

And I hope you are running it in Movie Picture Mode.
 

TODDTH

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Then probably your Judder reduction is completely down. Set it to 3(recommended) or 5 and see how it improves.

And I hope you are running it in Movie Picture Mode.
Yes I'm in "movie" mode,
I played around with the settings last night. Judder and Blur are separate settings but fall under a single "auto" mode it was previously in. I took it out of auto, trying 1, 5, 10 on both settings, and then using my existing HTPC and the embedded plex app. Here is what I can share:
  • The plex app on the HTPC has better resolution / color depth while navigating the app itself than the embedded app. However little difference in in movie playback resolution / color (didn't test UHD)
  • The lower the settings .. the image does "blur" more, the entire motion is made up of constant faster jumps so the resolution and detail blurs out.
  • The higher the setting the image stays sharper and the motion lasts longer before there is a "skip" in motion. higher settings mean longer smooth section with larger "jump" at the end.
  • The embedded app MAY be slightly longer durations and larger "skips" when it does. Remember we're talking 1-2 seconds at the long end, and just blurry at the short end.
  • Oddly enough and not specific to last night's testing" lower native resolution files skip/judder less, than higher native resolution files. This makes no sense, other than maybe something about the memory taken up by upscaling capping out during high motion scenes. Thoughts?
 
Yes I'm in "movie" mode,
I played around with the settings last night. Judder and Blur are separate settings but fall under a single "auto" mode it was previously in. I took it out of auto, trying 1, 5, 10 on both settings, and then using my existing HTPC and the embedded plex app. Here is what I can share:
  • The plex app on the HTPC has better resolution / color depth while navigating the app itself than the embedded app. However little difference in in movie playback resolution / color (didn't test UHD)
  • The lower the settings .. the image does "blur" more, the entire motion is made up of constant faster jumps so the resolution and detail blurs out.
  • The higher the setting the image stays sharper and the motion lasts longer before there is a "skip" in motion. higher settings mean longer smooth section with larger "jump" at the end.
  • The embedded app MAY be slightly longer durations and larger "skips" when it does. Remember we're talking 1-2 seconds at the long end, and just blurry at the short end.
  • Oddly enough and not specific to last night's testing" lower native resolution files skip/judder less, than higher native resolution files. This makes no sense, other than maybe something about the memory taken up by upscaling capping out during high motion scenes. Thoughts?
Blur needs to be at max. Judder should be low but not completely off. So leave the Blur at max and only play around with Judder.

And seriously try some UHD content. Don't you have any 4K UHD content on the HDD ot USB stick.
 

TODDTH

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Blur needs to be at max. Judder should be low but not completely off. So leave the Blur at max and only play around with Judder.

And seriously try some UHD content. Don't you have any 4K UHD content on the HDD ot USB stick.
Honestly UHD has the least issues, then 1080p, then 480p is the worst. I'm not sure why that is, wonder if it has something to do with upscaling. I haven't found a way to turn that off, see if it helps.
I played around a little and think low blur / high judder was better.. but I'll try different source materials and see.

Do you think this is mostly TV processing and upgraded video cards won't help? Is the "skipping" normal? I would have thought the Samsung 90T would be smoother.

I do need to try the BR player, conventional disc and see if it makes a difference, will do this weekend.
 
Honestly UHD has the least issues, then 1080p, then 480p is the worst. I'm not sure why that is, wonder if it has something to do with upscaling. I haven't found a way to turn that off, see if it helps.
I played around a little and think low blur / high judder was better.. but I'll try different source materials and see.

Do you think this is mostly TV processing and upgraded video cards won't help? Is the "skipping" normal? I would have thought the Samsung 90T would be smoother.

I do need to try the BR player, conventional disc and see if it makes a difference, will do this weekend.
That is because of the Upscaling algo of the TV. SAMSUNG is not great with Upscaling.

Yes try Blu-Ray Player and let us know. Also try something like Amazon Prime or Netflix if you already have subscription for them. If not then subscribing may not worth it for Netflix, but can try Amazon Prime as that would come in handy even if you shop on it regularly and not specifically for Movies. Movies and Web Series is a bonus.
 

TODDTH

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That is because of the Upscaling algo of the TV. SAMSUNG is not great with Upscaling.

Yes try Blu-Ray Player and let us know. Also try something like Amazon Prime or Netflix if you already have subscription for them. If not then subscribing may not worth it for Netflix, but can try Amazon Prime as that would come in handy even if you shop on it regularly and not specifically for Movies. Movies and Web Series is a bonus.
Alright finally some progress. The BluRay original disc (same movie as the Rip) played like silk. Decent Pioneer player but far from high end player.
OK so that sent me off digging for plex settings again.

I'll cut through the process and give you the silver bullet. There is a checkbox for "Allow refresh rate switching"... the description says "Changes the Display refresh rate to match the video when playback in full screen mode"
Full Screen on an HTPC being... not in a window.. takes up the full screen.
That did the trick. More testing has me with Judder reduction at 10. Blur reduction at 6 (and on the fence with Blur)
I haven't checked a native 480p file yet, but will do. They were the worst.

Oddly enough, in the past 48 hours the HTPC ran another update in the blind. My bluescreen errors seem to have stopped so we'll see how that continues.
Maybe I won't need to build a new HTPC after all... and that wont hurt my feelings one bit :)

Thanks for the help and feedback, you got me digging enough to find the problem.
 
Alright finally some progress. The BluRay original disc (same movie as the Rip) played like silk. Decent Pioneer player but far from high end player.
OK so that sent me off digging for plex settings again.

I'll cut through the process and give you the silver bullet. There is a checkbox for "Allow refresh rate switching"... the description says "Changes the Display refresh rate to match the video when playback in full screen mode"
Full Screen on an HTPC being... not in a window.. takes up the full screen.
That did the trick. More testing has me with Judder reduction at 10. Blur reduction at 6 (and on the fence with Blur)
I haven't checked a native 480p file yet, but will do. They were the worst.

Oddly enough, in the past 48 hours the HTPC ran another update in the blind. My bluescreen errors seem to have stopped so we'll see how that continues.
Maybe I won't need to build a new HTPC after all... and that wont hurt my feelings one bit :)

Thanks for the help and feedback, you got me digging enough to find the problem.
Yes. Do consider direct playback.

Rest is fine.

Happy that it solved it without you spending much or anything at all.
 

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