How to turn a $60 computer with a P2000 into a POWERFUL plex server?

I set out to answer a question I had after reviewing the P2000 in our previous blog post can a slow, dusty, 7 & ½-year-old computer in your closet into a high-performance plex server? Would it run well in a PC with a 240 watt Power supply? How much money can you save by using a low power desktop with this GPU as your plex server?

I had an old desktop with an i5-2400 CPU and 4GB of memory collecting dust and thought this would make a TERRIBLE plex server, so let’s add a P2000 and find out how far it can carry this computer.

You can find similar computers like this one on eBay for around 50-90 dollars. I am not specifically suggesting THIS as your solution to a plex media server and in my next blog post, I will make suggestions as to which desktops I think are the best bang for your buck when it comes to plex servers.

So after throwing the P2000 into my dusty old desktop, I fired up my first test. I transcoded H264 1080p AAC down to 720p @2mbps. Because the CPU did not have to transcode the audio you can see the transcoding performance of the card really shine here. I got 8 transcodes with HW transcoding off and I hit 20 transcodes with hardware transcoding on. As you can see there was still some room to grow here. It was at this point that I realized the 4GB of RAM was really holding this computer back as each transcode required about 200MB of memory.

The rest of the results are with 8GB of memory, but for comparison’s sake, I will cover the before and after.

The next test I ran was H265 1080p AC3 converted down to H264 1080p AAC on maximum quality. depending on the bitrate I was able to achieve 1 or 2 transcodes with HW transcoding off. The i5 was just BARELY up for the task of transcoding both h265 AND ac3 audio at the same time.  

With Hardware transcoding on and the p2000 helping I was able to get 19 transcodes to play simultaneously. Here is where you can start to see the CPU holding the P2000 back from its full potential. It might’ve gotten another couple of transcodes in had the CPU been able to handle the audio transcoding.

Here you can see the additional 4GB of memory added 10 transcodes!

So what if the CPU doesn’t have to transcode the audio? Next i transcoded H265 1080p AAC to H264 1080p AAC. I was able to get 3 transcodes running with HW Transcoding off, and 21 to play with HW transcoding ON. Once again you see the CPU holding the P2000 back as the GPU is unable to reach 100% utilization.

Here you can see we gained an additional 5 transcodes by adding the 4GB of ram.

After this I wanted to see how it could handle 4k. So I transcoded H264 4k AAC to h264 720p @ 4mbps. I achieved 3 transcodes with hardware transcoding off and 8 with hardware transcoding on. As you can see the GPU is only at 76% utilization in the pictures, it could’ve kept going if the CPU was a bit more powerful.

 

As you can see from the tests above the P2000 performed incredibly well, even in a 7 & ½-year-old computer. I think the CPU still held it back from reaching its full potential, but depending on your transcoding needs this could be MORE than enough for you. As you can see the i5-2400 with a P2000 actually outperformed dual x5670’s across the board; Doubling, and in some cases quadrupling the performance of dual x5670’s.

 You can save a LOT in initial purchasing costs by running this P2000 in a 7-8-year-old $75 computer, but there are also MAJOR savings in electricity costs by using it in a machine that doesn’t have power hungry CPU’s.. In the test cases, we’ve gone over today the total power consumption never rose above 137 watts, That is 1/3rd to 1/4th what you would see in most dual XEON servers under the same load.

The following graphs were made while running 2 h265 transcodes and 4 h265 transcodes. As you can see the P2000 in the i5-2400 desktop consumed 1/4 of the power compared to the dual Xeon server under the same load, Its power consumption at idle is only 36 watts vs 226 watts from the Xeon server. This translates to roughly 10 cents and 65 cents to power on and idle these two machines each day.

Which brings me to my next point. Running 2 servers at home costs me around $44 a month. If i were to migrate my transcoding server to a less powerful desktop like this i5-2400 with a P2000, or if I consolidated the two servers into one and put this P2000 in my storage server It would save me at least $200 each year in electricity costs all while increasing my overall performance.

It seems the P2000 GPU can reasonably turn almost any computer into a powerful plex server and thanks to its 75 watt TDP it does this while sipping on only tiny amounts of electricity. it seems the only thing you need to be mindful of is whether or not your CPU can keep up.

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