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Drobo 5N and Roku


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#1 orryowr

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:35 AM

I wasn't sure whether this question belonged in the Drobo section or the Roku section. Mods, please feel free to move the topic as you see fit.

 

Simply put, how will the Drobo 5N play with the Roku 3?

 

Most of my media files are h.264 (or is it x264?) wrapped in a .mkv container. I wasn't able to find out whether the Roku 3 can natively handle this or needs transcoding.

 

Also, I've been told before that adding subtitles requires transcoding. However, I've also seen reports that the Roku 3 can handle subtitles without transcoding. Which of these is true?

 

I'm wondering all of these because I want to buy both devices but currently own neither. I wanted to make sure that the Drobo 5N and the Roku 3 will be a good fit with the media I have, with my style of usage: 

  • I use subtitles fairly often
  • most of my media is 720p or 1080p h.264|x264 inside a .mkv container
  • I don't have surround sound, so stereo sound is good enough for me
  • The Drobo will only serve clients within the LAN. I'll have a second PMS that runs on a Mac Mini that will serve external clients.

I hope that my question has enough information to merit a detailed answer. Thanks everyone!



#2 lfk1

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 05:09 PM

I have had poor results using the Roku 3. Most of my files (m2ts, mkv, ts) needed to be buffered or they wouldn't play all together. I refuse to re encode any files. I have a WDTV HD live that plays all files great. It works very well with the the Plex app for the Drobo. Just make sure you get a custom profile for it located here http://forums.plexap...e-4#entry359092 and add it to the profiles section on the Drobo. ( i renamed the other WD live file to .old to make sure it wasn't interfering. I had issues with the Drobo plex app trans-coding files off it before I discovered this custom profile. See this post http://forums.plexap...with-drobo-app/ )

 

The only drawback to the WDTV for me was that it doesn't use the Plex interface so your going to be missing most of the metadata and the overall experience is pretty bland menu wise. 

 

Another alternative is to buy an Intel NUC. The NUC is actually a PC thats a bit bigger that the ROKU, about 4x4x2. IMO that's the best way to proceed, you'll get all the benefits of a PC, and can install the PC version of the Plex Client which can play any file it can handle without trans-coding issues, no matter what size or bit rate the file is. And you can customize windows 7/8 very nicely to make a pretty Media Center around the Plex. Ill be adding a thread at some point to demonstrate what I have done. All my friends have seen it and want my setup. The overall wow factor is pretty great.

 

Link to NUC http://www.intel.com...boards/nuc.html

This the one I have http://www.intel.com...-dc3217iye.html

 

Over all cost of NUC after adding an Msata (128gb) and Ram (8GB) was a little over $300 from newegg.



#3 roscowe

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:36 PM

@lfk1 I think the Roku3 box works really well (Even the Roku2), did you gave the "Experimental Transcoder" within the ROKU->Plex->Advanced options... a try?

I too tried a few MKVs that were 30GB+/plain-rip..., and you are correct that the Roku wasn't very happy, even with Roku attached via Ethernet.

I however see this to be an issue for a small percentage of users, I'm assuming that the vast majority of videos are encoded and packaged up. The quality for a normal feature film, whose encoded/mkv size is of about 8GB seems to be really good. Compared to something like Netflix's SuperHD.

The NUC is a nice little system but I think that adding ram, storage, OS, tax, dealing with AV software and all the goodies that come with MS Windows... not sure if this the best approach for a small home server that is able to stream movies at home. I think a much attractive solution if you want to go this route, would be something like rasplex.

#4 orryowr

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 11:58 PM

Thanks for the response, guys.


For starters, the NUC would be unnecessary for me. I already have a mac mini if I wanted to run a native client.

Most of my files are ~12GB. It sounds like I'm mostly going to be okay, except for really ugly subtitles. :/



#5 orryowr

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 06:59 AM

Finally! I got my Roku 3 today.

 

My first test was with 1080p x264 mkv files. Looks like the Roku's having to buffer every few (~5?) minutes. Each buffering pause seems to take around that much time as well.

I looked for the experimental encoder, but couldn't find it. My only options were 'legacy' and 'universal'.

 

I later noticed that the output was set to 720p. I changed it to 1080p, but am skeptical that it will help with playback.

 

Is the Roku doing some sort of transcoding internally? I don't understand why it has a such a hard time with playback. Clearly, network latency isn't the issue, since the Mac Mini I was previously using as a player in an identical setting played files just fine. (And since I have a Drobo 5N, it doesn't know how to transcode, so PMS can't be transcoding.)



#6 roscowe

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 09:09 PM

@orryowr Check my comment at

http://forums.plexap...issue/?p=417864

#7 orryowr

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 08:53 AM

@roscowe which part of your comment are you referring to?

 

  1. I did try changing Roku's setting to max (1080p @20mbps), but it didn't make a difference, which makes sense, since the Drobo isn't capable of transcoding. 
  2. The Roku is already connected via ethernet, and the only thing between it and the Drobo (running PMS) is a gigabit switch.

Given these two facts, I'm unsure which part of your comment you were referring me to. Perhaps I missed something? Please let me know what I can try. Thanks! :)



#8 orryowr

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Posted 07 November 2013 - 10:42 AM

Bump. If I can't solve this, I have no use for my new shiny Roku. And that makes me a sad panda. :(



#9 zazelsodo

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 05:04 PM

I have been using a drobo 5N and a computer running plex server.  Basically, I map the media drive to the machine and run the Windows Plex Server.  I then connect my Roku3 to my media server, and everything is happy.  The problem is, I also use this computer for day to day work, sometimes I connect to my work VPN, etc...which disconnects the DROBO from the computer, thereby rendering my media server offline.

 

I installed the Plex app on the Drobo directly, set up the libraries, scanned and pulled metadata, everything looked great...then when I went to the Roku to play a movie, it'd buffer every 30 seconds.  over and over again.  It won't stream a movie from the Drobo...but will work just fine directly from my media server. 

 

Other information I forgot to include.  The Roku is wired over CAT6, and I'm trying to stream 2GB MP4 files...

 

Any ideas why this is happening?  I'd really love to remove the need to have a computer on all the time.

 

Thanks!



#10 ifrancine

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 05:59 AM

I have this same problem. I have Plex on Mac Mini and on Drobo 5n connected by Ethernet to my network. Files from the Drobo will play on Plex on TV connected to the Mac Mini. Files from Mac Mini will play on Roku, but when I transferred them to the Drobo, they continually buffer so are unwatchable if I try to play them on Roku. So for some reason Plex on Roku is not compatible with Drobo 5n. At least I have not been able to figure it out.

#11 orryowr

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 09:28 PM

hey ifrancine, so you're saying that the media files are on the drobo but the plex media server is running on the mac mini?



#12 ifrancine

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 11:31 PM

Not quite. What I am saying that I have two Plex Media Servers on my network at the moment. One is on the Drobo and one is on the Mac Mini. The Drobo is new. The idea was to use it to host all the media files on the network. I have three TV's that I want to be able to play the files. One TV is connected to the Mac Mini. The other two have Roku boxes. I have been using the Mini to host the media and it has worked well, except that I keep running out of storage and have to add external drives (currently 3 of them.) I thought that the Drobo would be easier to manage. So far I am about half way through copying files previously hosted on Mac Mini, to Drobo. Problem is that the Roku boxes cannot play the files from the Drobo Plex server. They constantly buffer. TheTV connected the Mini can play them perfectly.

#13 orryowr

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 04:35 AM

Ah, I gotcha. How are things when you run the Plex Media Server ont he mac mini, while keeping the video files on the Drobo? You'd mount the drobo onto the mac mini and point PMS to the drobo share that's mounted. I'm wondering if this helps with the buffering, since @zazelsodo seems to do something like that except with a windows box, which gets rid of the buffering.

 

(It's not really a solution though. drobo <-> roku should work, IMO.)



#14 ljunkie

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 04:58 PM

(It's not really a solution though. drobo <-> roku should work, IMO.)


I agree only to the fact I believe at drobos price point it should include a better CPU. I digress.

Your idea will fix buffering, if you are buffering while transcoding because the drobo's CPU is not powerful enough for that.
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#15 ifrancine

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 05:38 PM

I agree only to the fact I believe at drobos price point it should include a better CPU. I digress.

Your idea will fix buffering, if you are buffering while transcoding because the drobo's CPU is not powerful enough for that.


My feelings exactly. At the price point of the Drobo, I expected it would be able to handle my needs, but I heard back from Drobo support today and they confirmed that it cannot handle transcoding, so that's that.

Although not ideal, I am going to try orryowr's suggestion of using zazelsodo's workaround of adding the Drobo share to the Plex server on the Mini and see if that will fix the buffering on Roku. If that does not work, my other option would be to return the Drobo 5n and get a Drobo 5D instead to connect to the Mini. Perhaps a better solution, but the 5D is more expensive and Drobo support says that I could not just install the drives and keep the data. Drives are not directly transferable between 5n and 5d. They would be wiped and I would have to start all over again copying my media library over. [sigh]

#16 orryowr

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 07:04 PM

@ljunkie @ifrancine i think you guys are mistaken - transcoding is disabled on the Drobo.

 

*EDIT* video transcoding, to be precise. it does have audio transcoding enabled.



#17 ljunkie

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 07:24 PM

@ljunkie @ifrancine i think you guys are mistaken - transcoding is disabled on the Drobo.

 

*EDIT* video transcoding, to be precise. it does have audio transcoding enabled.

 

Audio transcoding can also affect buffering.. as it can still require a lot of CPU. 


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#18 ifrancine

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 07:53 PM

Funny thing you should say that, because it is the audio that needs transcoding to play on my Roku. I found this out when tried to use direct play and it streams great, but without sound.

#19 orryowr

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 03:09 AM

So you guys really think it's the audio transcoding that's killing perf? I'm a bit skeptical, given what elan said here

 

The usual issue with running on low-powered, energy-efficient devices is the lack of ability to do transcoding. However, the Drobo’s ARM processors, while not able to perform video transcoding in real-time, CAN transcode multi-channel audio to stereo AAC in real-time (easily!), and can remux (a fancy word for repackaging audio and video without converting it) video much faster than real-time. In fact, in our testing it could sustain multiple simultaneous streams without issues.

 

 

*edit* embed quote



#20 roscowe

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 09:05 AM

@orryowr As I said before I've been pretty happy with The Roku 2 and 3... However, I was able to validate the above in regards to the audio.

I have this Movie that is an MKV H.264 and DTS 5.1

-If I leave the setting in the Roku to Automatic, I can see that it is really slow to load the video, it plays,... and then stops, it plays,... and then stops.
-SSH'd into the Drobo to see what was the CPU utiliization, and it was pretty high.

-I forced the movie to do Direct Streaming, and the video loaded really quick but with no sound =) ahahaha, which makes me believe that the Roku doesn't know how to play this Audio stream.
-Checked the CPU on the Drobo, and it was cruising

-If I play this same movie from Plex Web client, no issues either.

...so in this case the lack of Roku's support for this audio stream, is forcing a Full Transcode and it is why the Drobo's CPU is so high.

Now, it is true that the Drobo was not meant to Transcode on the Fly, the vast majority of Atom based NAS devices will suffer from this issue as well. I did had a ReadyNAS Pro, which didn't skipped a beat BUT... yeah big but, it is an expensive NAS since it has an Intel dual core processor (1000dls aprox/without drives).

I haven't had to go this deep since most of my movies are pretty standard stuff, H.264 and AAC, etc... but I did run into this issue today =)

I would want to assume that the solution would be for the Roku to support this Audio stream (firmware update) as well but that may be a limitation on the hardware.




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