The right hard­ware

Windows Help & Advice - - FEATURE -

Stream­ing isn’t usu­ally very gen­tle on your hard­ware. Transcod­ing or en­cod­ing a video stream puts strain on your CPU, your GPU, and your RAM, so if you’re look­ing for a smooth ex­pe­ri­ence for your view­ers, you should go as big as you pos­si­bly can to negate the over­heads of putting that con­tent on­line. Ma­chines with more cores and threads tend to han­dle the task much bet­ter. Ded­i­cate a ma­chine to stream­ing if you can; use a de­vice such as the Aver­me­dia Ex­tremeCap U3 to pull in a 1080p sig­nal over USB 3.0, then feel free to tax the ma­chine you’re cre­at­ing con­tent on, with­out fear of dropped frames.

That said, the most im­por­tant as­set of a good stream­ing ma­chine is avail­abil­ity. If you’re not per­form­ing oth­er­wise de­mand­ing tasks – say, if you’re only stream­ing your me­dia col­lec­tion – you can get away with a lot less, as long as your server is pow­ered up and ready to go pre­cisely when you need it. The best host­ing hard­ware in this case is low-pow­ered, low-noise, and able to be left switched on at all times. A specced-up In­tel NUC, an old desk­top tucked in an in­con­spic­u­ous cor­ner, an unloved lap­top with its screen turned off, just about any­thing will do – and a cloud­based op­tion, such as Plex Me­dia Server, could be even bet­ter.

Re­gard­less of whether you’re stream­ing to one or to many, your server needs a qual­ity net­work con­nec­tion. Don’t feel you’ll be able to rely en­tirely on wire­less, be­cause high-res video puts big band­width de­mands on your hard­ware, and shaky con­nec­tions, nat­u­rally, af­fect per­for­mance, so wire it up via Eth­er­net to a strong broad­band pipe if you can. Avoid pow­er­line Eth­er­net – we’ve found it has a ten­dency to go up and down at ran­dom – and opt for an In­ter­net pack­age with as much up­load band­width as pos­si­ble. It sounds ob­vi­ous, but some just have the ra­tio all wrong.

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