Plex Hardware Transcoding Options

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    n an effort to decrease file sizes of videos, people encode their videos using compression. In order to watch that video, it needs to be decoded. You can either have the CPU use software to decode the video, but this is slower and use a lot of power compared to GPU or hardware decoding. Plex has been coding to allow hardware transcoding to take advantage of the video card power. Of course, Plex supports different operating systems differently, so make sure that you pay attention to that. Anyway, we now have to look at the different codecs that are used to encode. The most common have been H.264. There are newer codecs such as VP9 and H.265 (HVEC). The H.264 has been around so long that quite a bit of video card hardware supports transcoding it. We are going to talk about the H.265 codec in this discussion.

    The H.265 encodes at almost a 50% greater compression than H.264 with the same settings. This makes it a great choice over H.264 if you have to hardware to decode and watch it at a later time. This is where you have to do a little homework. And this means that you would want an H.265 capable video card in your Plex server to keep your cpu from getting bogged down. If you pay attention to the Plex forums, you will see the two most commonly referenced will be the Quadro P400 and the Quadro P2000. Other cards talked about a little will be the GTX 1050 Ti and the GTX 1660, but these tend to talk about the session limit hack. Many of these discussions tend to focus on price per power. Now that I did a little research into this, it seems that there is more hype on some and some that are ignored. Most AMD cards are ignored because Plex does not really focus on them, but it is clear that you are going to want a Polaris (RX 4xx or WX2100+) or newer to use their H.265 AMF. So wer are going to focus on the nVidia offerings. Luckily we have charts with nVidia to help us out.

    Plex Media Server Hardware Transcoding Cheat Sheet

    Video Encode and Decode GPU Support Matrix

    With these charts we can see that the consumer chip sets of GM204, GM206, TU106, TU116, and TU117. The GM cards can decode H.265 4:2:0 of 8 bit and 10 bit, but no 4:4:4 at all. We also see on the professional side that the GM206, GP106, and GP107 are the same as the consumer cards with a few extras. Some of them are not locked to the 3 session limit. If you look around, we can see a few prices.

    Quadro P400 (GP107) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $100
    Quadro P600 (GP107) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $150
    Quadro P620 (GP107) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $180
    Quadro P1000 (GP107) 4GB with 3 Session Limit = $200
    Quadro P2000 (GP106/GP107) 5GB with Unlimited Sessions = $375

    GTX 1650 (TU106/116/116) 4GB with 3 Session Limit = $200
    GTX 1660 (TU116) 6GB with 3 Session Limit = $400

    These were the prices you had to pay to have the 8K and 4K Lossless color H.265 encoding. Of course, we are not really looking at 8K and in most cases 4K due to bandwidth limitations. This means we can focus on 1080p which makes things much easier. It also seems that we don’t really need to focus on Lossless or even 4:4:4 either as movies and tv shows seem to be set to 4:2:0 anyways. That means we have a much better choice in looking for price/performance for our systems.

    GTX 750 (GM206) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $90
    GTX 950 (GM206) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $90
    GTX 960 (GM206) 2GB with 3 Session Limit = $90
    GTX 960 (GM206) 4GB with 3 Session Limit = $140
    GTX 980 (GM204) 4GB with 3 Session Limit = $225

    Quadro M2000 (GM206) 4GB with Unlimited Sessions = $110
    Quadro M4000 (GM204) 8GB with Unlimited Sessions = $250
    Quadro M5000 (GM204) 8GB with Unlimited Sessions = $350

    It seems to me that a good buy would be the Quadro M2000 with the ability to do 4K 4:2:0 and Unlimited Sessions at $110. An added bonus is that it is a low powered card that can run off of the PCIe slot.

    • This topic was modified 1 month ago by Voodoo.
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