Back in January I wrote an article on a ‘Budget Plex Server Build’, my intention with that article was to show that $500, the ballpark price for a decent quality computer at Walmart or Best Buy, would allow you to build a Plex server computer that would better serve you.
This build is going to be different in that I want it to meet certain criteria.
Able to transcode up to five streams at the same time
Ability to be used as a DVR without worry that a tuner will be occupied
Enough storage for both DVD/Bluray rips as well as DVR function
Room and ability to add more Hard Drives when necessary
Processor – AMD Ryzen 1600X 3.6 GHz 6 Core
My previous build used an Intel, I’m going with AMD on this one because with the Ryzen computer chip you are getting more value for your money as well as the ability to upgrade to a higher performance CPU for less money if you decide that it is needed. If you compare the Ryzen 1600X to the Intel i5 7600K you will see that performance is very close. But Ryzen has a bit of an edge on pricing and multi-threading. It has a pass mark score of 13240. And when you look at the Plex website, it claims that a pass mark score of 2000 is needed for each 1080p (HD Bluray quality) transcode. This CPU should give me up to six transcodes allowing for a bit of buffer room.
According to PC Parts Picker the AMD Ryzen doesn’t come with a CPU cooler, but according to Newegg website you can order it with a cooler. I have no intention of overclocking the CPU so there’s no need for me to get an aftermarket one. But make sure that your supplier does provide a CPU cooler. If not you can choose one that will work and the Parts Picker website will give you a list of units that will likely meet your needs.
Motherboard – ASRock AB350 Pro4 ATX
I picked this board for several reasons.
ATX Form factor
4 Memory Slots capable of handling up to 64 GB of RAM
Multiple PCI slots (2 PCI Express 3.0 and 4 PCI 2.0. This will allow for both my video card as well as TV Tuner card and still allow for other devices if needed)
Up to 6 SATA connections. SATA is where your hard drive, as well as optical drives connect to the motherboard.
Up to 3 chassis (case fan) connections. I have come to appreciate having the ability to connect multiple case fans in order to keep things cool. More fans equals better cooling. Better cooling equals less noise from the computer.
Having this case allows for further expansion in the future. I’ll be starting off with three hard drives. If I need additional hard drives they will be easy to install. Even allowing for a PCI Express connector which would allow me to install even more hard drives if that time should ever arise.
RAM – G.Skill Aegis 16GB
According to Plex you only need to have 2 GB of RAM in order for it to work. I usually have around 8GB of RAM for my computers. But because this one will be doing multiple functions apart from just your typical “Plex Server” I opted to go with 16GB of RAM instead. AMD recommends that when using the Ryzen computer chip that you use either two or four sticks of RAM, not just one.
I went with G.Skill simply because I’ve been using their RAM for quite some time and have always been happy with it and the Aegis model because it has a low profile. The stock cooler for a Ryzen CPU tends to be rather large and having a heat sink on your RAM could interfere with the cooler. You may decide that another manufacturer is more to your liking.
Hard Drives – Western Digital Red 4TB (X 3)
This Plex Server is not only used to store my DVD’s and Bluray discs but as a DVR as well. While it may seem that 12TB over kill the one constant that I’ve found is when it comes to storage you have two scenarios.
I hope I have enough storage to last a while
I hope I have enough room because I’ve not gotten my much needed hard drive yet.
Because this will be used to store DVD’s and Blurays as well as a DVR, the storage need could be massive. I have a suspicion that this will potentially go through storage faster then Ozzy Osborne and Mötley Crüe went through drugs during the “Bark at the Moon” tour. If you are familiar with either of those bands then you’ve likely heard about the epic tour they took together. If you’re not familiar with either Mötley Crüe or Ozzy Osborne then just take my word for it. It means that it will require lots of storage.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t go with 7200 RPM drives, I’ve read that it really doesn’t make any difference when talking about NAS (Network Attached Storage).
Video Card – MSi GeForce GT 710
The Ryzen CPU that I picked requires that a video card be installed. While I could have gone with a much more powerful video card and used it to aid in transcoding video, the prices of video cards are through the roof right now due to Bitcoin mining. My CPU already meets the minimum standards I had. And this was a high-quality video card at a reasonable price.
TV Tuner Card – Hauppauge 1609
Rather then going with the HDHomeRun on this build I decided to go with a TV Tuner Card instead. My biggest reason is that I frequently use my HDHomeRun as a TV tuner to watch local TV. Installing a tuner card means that it can only be used through Plex. It’s possible that I would could be using Plex to watch live TV. It is unlikely but I like having a little insurance knowing that the Plex DVR will have TV tuners available only to it but still having access to the HDHomeRun as well.
Is it overkill? Maybe. But be honest. How many times have you wanted to record something with a DVR only to find out that it didn’t happen? Because someone was watching a program so that tuner was occupied? How many times have you wanted to record something but found out that there was a conflict and you had to choose which one to record?
I’ve had it happen several times… I’m in a pretty good position to make sure that it doesn’t happen ever again!
Case – Rosewill REDBONE U3
A friend of mine built a home computer and used this case. While I would like to tell you that I picked it strictly due to it having plenty of room for additional Hard Drives beyond (room for six internal hard drive bays) the initial set up. The layout makes it easy to route the wires and connectors around the back to make them out of sight. It is roomy enough to work around his CPU cooler. Adding or removing hard drives is easy with his case.
Power Supply – Corsair CXM 550W
The more experience you have with something, the more you begin to understand why some people are so picky.
When it comes to power supplies, you have three choices… a ‘power supply’ a ‘modular power supply’ and a ‘fully modular’ power supply. The differences between them is the cables. You won’t be using all of the cables that your power supply provides. Having a modular set up means that the cables you don’t use to power your motherboard, graphics card or other installed devices can be unplugged from the power supply box and stowed be used later. (expert tip) Put them somewhere you can find them or you will kick yourself when you re-order them later.
Will I use a non-modular power supply?
Absolutely, but I would also strongly recommend chopping the excess wires and wrapping them up in electrical tape too if you couldn’t get them secured in a way that you feel comfortable with.
When you are building a computer, go with a good, repeatable company, never get the ‘under $20’ power supply, but if you can afford the few extra bucks, go with a modular design, it could be worth the piece of mind.
Optical Drive – LG Bluray Burner
One of my stated goals was to have a Plex Server that was able to rip my DVDs and Bluray discs and I purchased this model when I built my first computer in 2016. It has gotten some pretty heavy use but still runs well so it’s proven its worth.
Be forewarned, if you purchase this model of Bluray you won’t be able to watch Bluray discs with it unless you purchase the software that allows you too. While I’ve heard that there’s free software that you can use which will allow you to watch Bluray discs with VLC, I’ve never used it, I’ve only used it for ripping with Make MKV.
Operating System – Ubuntu
BWhy Ubuntu over Windows? I can think of 10 Reasons Why off the top of my head. but the truth is, even with this project where money isn’t an issue, I would still pick Ubuntu over Microsoft. My preferred Bluray ripping software, MakeMKV is available for Linux based systems, Handbrake is available on Linux based systems and while I can’t use DVD Decrypter, I can use Brasero, which works in very much the same way.
I don’t expect anyone to pick each and every item on this list and build it, the truth is that what you pick and choose to use for your hardware is highly subjective. My intent was to give you the tools so that you can figure out what works best for you, but also to understand my reasoning as to why I picked it so that you can use your own reasoning to make a decision. While I got some really good feedback from my Budget Plex Build, I also had people tell me what they would have done differently and even had one tell me what he plans on doing differently, but that individual let it be known that he was building his first Plex Server in large part to some encouragement that he was getting from others that built their own computers. I’m anxiously waiting to hear about his experience.
Hardware prices are always changing too, when AMD released their Ryzen chips, the cost of Intel Chips dropped in price almost over night but graphic cards have more then doubled due to the popularity of bitcoin mining which relies heavily on the GPU’s. I keep hearing that the price of RAM is also increasing, but the RAM that I purchased in August of last year is actually cheaper by almost $20 now, and its DDR4 RAM too! So don’t be afraid to shop around, or even wait a week or two in order to see if the price of that much wanted/needed part will go on sale.
Lets not rule out brand loyalty either. While I know I can get Crucial RAM for a lower price then I can G.Skill, I have had some bad experiences with Crucial in the past when I purchased it and it didn’t work, but I’ve used G.Skill a few times now and have been satisfied with it so far. I also tend to fall into the AMD loyalty spectrum as well, but several of my friends fall into the Intel only camp… but that’s okay with me, I have learned to accept that other people have their own flaws and shortcomings. I’ve had some individuals tell me that I was crazy for promoting Ubuntu, they are fully in the ‘Linux Mint’ or some other version of Linux, but I’ve also had individuals tell me that they tried Ubuntu and made an oath that they would never go back to it again.
But one thing that I can say, and I believe that the majority of individuals who have built their own computer will agree with, it would be difficult to purchase a computer that would meet all of my expectations at a box store for the same amount of money and even if it could be done, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun!