Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

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Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby wattershed » Wed Mar 18, 2009 5:21 pm

Hi everyone,

In going from tversity's, um, shall we call them, inconsistencies? to the stability and ease of use of PS3MS, coupled with my girlfriend's desire to have all my bulky desktop equipment out of our living room once we move to a new place, I was looking to build a Media Server that meets the following requirements:

1. Two 1-TB HDDs, I already know what I'm getting for these so it's not really something I need to figure out.
2. A case which could blend in relatively well with other media components (otherwise it'll be hidden out of view, which makes this requirement flexible). I think I've found a case which I'm happy with, but I'm open to AFFORDABLE suggestions.
3. MUST MUST MUST be able to stream 1080p without dropping the quality to a marginal level. I assume this means I need a decent...
4. Processor, I'd prefer Intel just because I'm more familiar with their processors and get their naming structures, if suggesting AMD processors I'd also like to know the Intel equivalent just so I know what level of hardware we're talking about
and
5. Motherboard with HDMI-out on it. Considering it's the processor and bandwidth which are the biggest strains on streaming 1080P over a network, I don't need a standalone video card, and having HDMI-out on the mainboard would be a nice perk.
6. RAM, I suppose, but I'll get whatever's popular and reliable.
7. I don't want to worry about overclocking, using heatsink paste (I suck at arts & crafts), RAID, NAS boxes, or Linux. I'll be running a flavor of Vista on this machine. Lastly, I can currently stream with my laptop (wirelessly) through my router to my (wired) PS3 in 1080p - Planet Earth looked wonderful. I'd just like a no-fuss media box for all my goodies that I don't have to worry about, which won't have a monitor/keyboard/mouse connected to it, that starts PS3MS as a Windows service and handles all my content without hassle or errors.

So, guys, what sorts of hardware should I consider that won't break the bank?
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby nokmond » Wed Mar 18, 2009 5:25 pm

Whats your budget tho mate? One persons £3,000 is another persons £300 if you know what i mean!
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby wattershed » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:11 pm

Good point, fair question!

Ideally? Sub-$400 USD, though with $220 going to the HDDs alone I'm not sure if that's feasible. Let's say, then, $500, with $550 as a peak, if that's rational?

I suppose for my goals I'm in a bit of a unique situation - it's got to be powerful enough to stream 1080P, though I couldn't care less about a video card so that'll help. I'm pretty up on my computer knowledge, though it's been a while since I've looked at processors and have known that everything above tier X can do 1080P - I suppose I need to know at which tier the processors begin to handle 1080P flawlessly, and can do so without too much loss of quality. Heck, I'm sure my P4 desktop from 2003 could have a go at 1080P, though it would probably be done with transcoding settings set to somewhere in the 'poor/below average' range.
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby Subject2Change » Wed Mar 18, 2009 9:19 pm

Are you looking to hook this up directly to your TV as an HTPC or are you using it as a media server to connect to your PS3 to then use on your TV. I mean this would work better, you would need a way to get audio out of the PC however so you'd need a home theater system, a wireless keyboard/mouse and then simply use something like VLC player or Media Player Classic.

I mean you are unlikely to build an Intel machine for $500 with a Core2Duo or whatever. I'd recommend going AMD to save some cash, you can get 1TB drives for about 90 bucks each and i'd raid em together for performance reasons, but thats up to you. There are plenty of inexpensive AMD boards and chips you can get to fit in this price range. A shuttle system may work well as well, also you may want to underclock/undervolt the CPU inorder to have it run cooler which would allow you to run the fan at a lower speed and lower the sound come from your system. I really don't know the specs required to do 1080p flawlessly, as I only have a 720p/1080i and use whats in my specs without issue.
Core2Duo E8400 (@ 3.0), 8gigs of Mushkin, Vista Home Premium SP2 64bit, 2.5 TB of Space, Wired to Linksys WRT54G wired to 80GB MGS4 PS3 on Sharp 32" 720p LCD TV
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby wattershed » Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:21 am

Looking through Newegg, I'm seeing that wanting to keep costs down could result in my first foray into the world of AMD.

I have no clue about AMD. That's okay, though! :)

I want this to be a headless server that talks to the PS3 - my television will be the conduit of whatever's generated on the PS3. If i have a reason to at some point, it'd be nice to connect the HDMI-out from whichever motherboard I buy into the TV, though the priority's going to be streaming to the PS3. Dealing with VLC or MPC with a wireless keyboard/mouse aren't what I want to do - I'm definitely into the business of minimalism with this project, and since I'll have the PS3 controller handy I don't consider that an additional hardware device to introduce to the entertainment center.

The content I'll be serving will be backed up already, and anything new which gets introduced will be archived first on optical media if I really care about the content. Because of that, I won't be running a RAID setup.

Good advice about the fan, I'm not sure how much of an issue that would be considering we have the TV on most of the time displaying something with some form of audio coming through the audio system but it's a good thing to think about.

So with that said, are there any recommendations out there on good processor/motherboard combinations I should look for which meet my requirements of streaming/transcoding and won't break the bank?
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby Jagged » Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:29 am

wattershed wrote:Hi everyone,

4. Processor, I'd prefer Intel just because I'm more familiar with their processors and get their naming structures, if suggesting AMD processors I'd also like to know the Intel equivalent just so I know what level of hardware we're talking about
and
5. Motherboard with HDMI-out on it. Considering it's the processor and bandwidth which are the biggest strains on streaming 1080P over a network, I don't need a standalone video card, and having HDMI-out on the mainboard would be a nice perk.
6. RAM, I suppose, but I'll get whatever's popular and reliable.
7. I don't want to worry about overclocking, using heatsink paste (I suck at arts & crafts), RAID, NAS boxes, or Linux. I'll be running a flavor of Vista on this machine. Lastly, I can currently stream with my laptop (wirelessly) through my router to my (wired) PS3 in 1080p - Planet Earth looked wonderful. I'd just like a no-fuss media box for all my goodies that I don't have to worry about, which won't have a monitor/keyboard/mouse connected to it, that starts PS3MS as a Windows service and handles all my content without hassle or errors.

So, guys, what sorts of hardware should I consider that won't break the bank?



Just wanted to add that most motherboards don't support audio via HDMI. A very few do, but most of them don't do it well/properly.

The one thing i would suggest looking at is a NMT (network media tank) such as a Popcorn Hour, or similar, if what you are really looking to do is just stream media, these do it very well, are low cost (relative to a complete PC build), and have low noise output.
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby wattershed » Thu Mar 19, 2009 4:57 am

Looking to avoid a PCH because I already have the PS3 and if I'm going to serve media, I'd like to do it on my terms as far as media types go, and let PS3MS be the intermediary in the bunch doing the transcoding. Also, it's only got room for one internal HD, and I have well over 1TB of data spread between my drives which get swapped in & out of my external enclosure for temporary service to my laptop.

The board I think I'll be going with, "ASUS M3A78-EM AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard," seems to support HDMI audio...and if there's any problem there, I'll do what I do now with my PS3, run the HDMI to the TV for video and the optical out into my receiver.

That scenario though, on the whole, is one I don't expect to utilize often if at all because I'll be routing everything through the PS3.

Here's a question - the processor I'm eyeing, "AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz Socket AM2+ 95W Dual-Core" - that should be able to do what I'm doing, yes? Or should I go up a level in quality?
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby butler360 » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:55 am

You're probably on the right track with your choices, although I'm not sure what the minimum for 1080P transcoding is for AMD. The author states e6750 I think in the readme for 1080P with Intel.

I've been checking out the same stuff as you and I'm currently at about $420 with MB, CPU, PSU, RAM, and case.

MB (Nvidia 9400 IGP): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813128363
CPU (E7400): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819115206
Case (Silverstone LC10B): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811163118
RAM (Wintec 2GB PC6400 kit): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820161172
PSU (Rosewill 430W 80+ rated): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817182159

I was checking out the AMD side but tests seem to show the 9400 motherboards as more power efficient and more powerful (the more powerful integrated GPU lets you offset some of the video processing/transcoding from the CPU to my understanding). The tradeoff of course is price. The Intel CPUs are supposed to be more efficient, as well.

And my plan would be to run Windows Home Server with PS3 Media Server as a service, along with uTorrent, eMule, SlimServer (or SqueezeCenter or whatever they call it now), up to possibly 8 HDDs, and full redundant backups for a house of three people, so that's why I'm opting for the more powerful 9400/e7400 combo. It sounds like you might be able to get away with a bit less.
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby Jagged » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:16 pm

wattershed wrote:Looking to avoid a PCH because I already have the PS3 and if I'm going to serve media, I'd like to do it on my terms as far as media types go, and let PS3MS be the intermediary in the bunch doing the transcoding. Also, it's only got room for one internal HD, and I have well over 1TB of data spread between my drives which get swapped in & out of my external enclosure for temporary service to my laptop.

The board I think I'll be going with, "ASUS M3A78-EM AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard," seems to support HDMI audio...and if there's any problem there, I'll do what I do now with my PS3, run the HDMI to the TV for video and the optical out into my receiver.

That scenario though, on the whole, is one I don't expect to utilize often if at all because I'll be routing everything through the PS3.

Here's a question - the processor I'm eyeing, "AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 Kuma 2.7GHz Socket AM2+ 95W Dual-Core" - that should be able to do what I'm doing, yes? Or should I go up a level in quality?


The PCH supports many more formats than the PS3. No need to transcode anything. In fact a friend recently got one and has had no problems w/ some of the 1080p content that a PS3 would refuse to play (large reframe's). It also costs a lot less than a PC capable of transcoding everything to something the PS3 can handle. Now, if you want to do something besides serve media to the ps3 with it, then I would say sure, setup a server/htpc. However, what you've said so far suggests all you want to do is play media from it.

The processor should be up to the task of playing anything. However, when it comes to transcoding, you might want to look at a quad-core (if you plan on having to transcode 1080p). Though, with tsMuxeR, you can play most 1080p content without transcoding.
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Re: Building the cheapest 1080p-streaming system?

Postby wattershed » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:10 pm

butler360 wrote:You're probably on the right track with your choices, although I'm not sure what the minimum for 1080P transcoding is for AMD. The author states e6750 I think in the readme for 1080P with Intel.

I've been checking out the same stuff as you and I'm currently at about $420 with MB, CPU, PSU, RAM, and case.

MB (Nvidia 9400 IGP): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813128363
CPU (E7400): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819115206
Case (Silverstone LC10B): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811163118
RAM (Wintec 2GB PC6400 kit): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820161172
PSU (Rosewill 430W 80+ rated): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817182159

I was checking out the AMD side but tests seem to show the 9400 motherboards as more power efficient and more powerful (the more powerful integrated GPU lets you offset some of the video processing/transcoding from the CPU to my understanding). The tradeoff of course is price. The Intel CPUs are supposed to be more efficient, as well.

And my plan would be to run Windows Home Server with PS3 Media Server as a service, along with uTorrent, eMule, SlimServer (or SqueezeCenter or whatever they call it now), up to possibly 8 HDDs, and full redundant backups for a house of three people, so that's why I'm opting for the more powerful 9400/e7400 combo. It sounds like you might be able to get away with a bit less.


I was looking at the benchmarks on Tom's Hardware for the CPU mentioned, the e6750, and comparable AMD processors which would run me a bit less money. I'm not entirely sure which benchmarks I should be paying the most attention to in their charts; I suppose I need to find that sweet spot of price and performance.

I didn't know that onboard graphics would affect transcoding. I was under the assumption that the process of transcoding is a CPU-churning process and that the GPU would only come into play for display purposes. That is, when playing a video locally, for example, the codec is working in conjunction with the process to display the data, however that only happens when the display is necessary.

You're on your way to building an awfully robust system there, definitely future-proofing it to a considerable extent with the size and space. And my goodness, the case, the aesthetic nerd in me is doing everything he can to resist not blowing a majority of my project's budget on a sexy HTPC case that would fit right in with my receiver, PS3, DirecTV, and my ancient but awesome DAT player. The case I'm looking at is modest, allows for some expansion, and has a touch of a/v to it, but certainly not that "would never guess it was a computer" quality I'd love to have.

Thanks for the information, I'll keep poking around and asking people who may have walked down this path recently and hopefully I'll reach a satisfactory conclusion.




Jagged wrote:The PCH supports many more formats than the PS3. No need to transcode anything. In fact a friend recently got one and has had no problems w/ some of the 1080p content that a PS3 would refuse to play (large reframe's). It also costs a lot less than a PC capable of transcoding everything to something the PS3 can handle. Now, if you want to do something besides serve media to the ps3 with it, then I would say sure, setup a server/htpc. However, what you've said so far suggests all you want to do is play media from it.

The processor should be up to the task of playing anything. However, when it comes to transcoding, you might want to look at a quad-core (if you plan on having to transcode 1080p). Though, with tsMuxeR, you can play most 1080p content without transcoding.


Going the PC route allows me to upgrade components a bit easier and with more flexibility than a PCH does. Also, the lack of multiple drive bays is a sticking point that disqualifies the PCH for me. I admit it's an excellent piece of hardware that's filling a niche out there, but I suppose I'm a fringe user who's looking for a bit more than what's in the prepackaged system.

One thing I'd like to follow up on, though - your last sentence mentions tsMuxer not transcoding, what is it doing instead of transcoding there? What's the system chugging on, the streaming network bandwidth? In other words, the video itself is fine as it is (or if using Mencoder, it's been successfully transcoded) but my network just can't handle that big of a file? I found myself going down to 25/7/x (I don't remember the third value in the manual configuration dropdown list) in order to fluidly stream 1080p from my laptop, but I suppose that only worked because the quality was transcoded to a low enough quality that the bitrate was acceptable on the network? I'm wired from router > PS3 but I may just have to wire up the laptop tonight and see if I can change that from 25/7 to 25/2, or even 3/2 if I'm feeling lucky.
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