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Running Gigabit Ethernet to Media Centre?
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ShortcutToMoncton
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Oct 19, 2021, 04:22 PM
 
I stream a lot of 4K movies from a 2018 Mac mini i5 server in the basement that’s connected directly to my ASUS Wifi router down there. After recent renos, I’m running into occasional pauses when direct-playing massive 4K movies from my Wifi-connected media centre, which after some digging I’ve determined is likely a Wifi bandwidth performance issue.

So now I’m going to make a mess and run some Ethernet from my router to my media centre, which unfortunately is about 30 cable feet away and in a ground-floor extension on the house (no basement access—will be a tough slog).

Is there a way to run a single Ethernet cable from my ASUS router and have some type of switch at the media centre location to split it into multiple ports? I have an Nvidia Shield Pro, ATV 4K, Marantz receiver, LG oled, and a Bluesound Node streamer all currently on Wifi, but ideally I could plug them all in as well. Obviously there might be some speed loss if two+ pieces are using data at the same time, but it should still be much better than Wifi correct? Typically no more than one or two would be streaming at the same time since they’re all connected to the same TV/sound system.

Cheers
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ghporter
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Oct 19, 2021, 05:10 PM
 
I have a gigabit switch for a similar purpose. It’s a “dumb” switch, so there’s no management - and unless you’re worried that your media server is hogging all the bandwidth, that’s not a problem.

My TP-Link switch goes for $18 on Amazon. I definitely saw an improvement in performance when I went wired.

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OreoCookie
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Oct 19, 2021, 09:22 PM
 
Yes, like Glenn said, a switch will do that, and gigabit switches are cheap these days. Make sure to get a quality cable, though.
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ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Oct 19, 2021, 09:57 PM
 
OK great—that looks like what I’m looking for! Many thanks. Yeah I’d be running a Cat 6e cable I guess? That looks like the logical choice for distance + shielding + speed.

I’d be fine with the media server hogging bandwidth—I think that’s ideal state when streaming from the server. Especially given the bandwidth of direct streaming super resource heavy 4K movies. I mean my Nvidia box shows I’m getting 240 Mbps down, 19 up for internet, but the internal streaming is still getting clogged up.
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OreoCookie
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Oct 19, 2021, 10:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
OK great—that looks like what I’m looking for! Many thanks. Yeah I’d be running a Cat 6e cable I guess? That looks like the logical choice for distance + shielding + speed.
Yes, but quality ≠ specs. One issue I have with cheaper cables is that the retention clip that secures the ethernet jack in the ethernet port is prone to breaking or weakening. That then results in intermittent failures. More expensive cables protect this plastic clip by extending the plastic housing with a notch that supports the clip. Cheaper cables could also have worse shielding, which is an issue for longer cables.
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ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Oct 19, 2021, 10:23 PM
 
Yeah I’ll probably be getting it from Blue Jeans cable which has a pretty good quality/price point.
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reader50
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Oct 19, 2021, 10:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
... Especially given the bandwidth of direct streaming super resource heavy 4K movies. I mean my Nvidia box shows I’m getting 240 Mbps down, 19 up for internet, but the internal streaming is still getting clogged up.
Streaming 4K movies shouldn't run more than 10-20 MB/s (assuming full blu-ray rips). Maybe slightly higher peaks during action scenes.

I agree with the others on hardwired ethernet, especially with so many devices. Maybe they really are saturating your wireless - and your neighbors may have upgraded their wireless. So congestion is lowering your speed a tad. But it might be worth exploring other bottlenecks.

Your i5 Mac Mini server. How are the movies stored, on an attached USB HD? If an external HD, fragmentation could be an issue. Especially if it's been near to full at some point. It might be worth doing a drive benchmark on it, or copy a large file on/off, and monitor how steady the read/write is.

You also didn't mention your Time Machine (or other backup) setup. Perhaps another drive attached to the Mac Mini server? A TM backup running over WiFi while streaming 4K movies - now that might cause glitches. Especially if the two drives are plugged into USB ports that are on the same buss.
     
subego
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Oct 19, 2021, 10:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
More expensive cables protect this plastic clip by extending the plastic housing with a notch that supports the clip.
Are you talking about the semicircle thing at the top?



That’s not really a support, it’s a shield to keep the clip from snagging when you pull the cable.
     
OreoCookie
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Oct 20, 2021, 02:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Are you talking about the semicircle thing at the top?
Yes.
Originally Posted by subego View Post
That’s not really a support, it’s a shield to keep the clip from snagging when you pull the cable.
In my experience, it also stabilizes the retention clip thingy: when cables are cheap, the plastic of this retention clip is thin and the retention force tends to be small. Pressing it a few times can have a significant effect on the spring constant and thus, the retention strength. I have had it happen a few times with cheap cables that basically the retention clip would be so low that it would no longer lock the plug in place. Then I'd carefully have to bend it back up.

The cables with the protective housing have had beefier retention clips. For some cables the force was so strong that the dome of the housing acted as a stop for the retention clip. And because the plastic of the retention clip is thicker, it acted as a stiffer spring and wouldn't deform (“flatten”) as easily.

Of course, snagging is also an issue.

PS Perhaps one other contributing factor is that that cables with domed housing for the retention clip tend to be better made, period. I don't think I ever needed to fiddle with the retention clips of more sturdily built cables.
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Oct 20, 2021 at 04:39 AM. )
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subego
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Oct 20, 2021, 09:38 AM
 
They’re named “snagless boots”, which implies snag reduction is their primary purpose.

Also, the boot and connectors are separate components. That the boot has housing for the clip tells you nothing about the quality of the connector.

To bring this around to the OP, whatever cables are used, a little extra should be run at both ends so if for some reason there’s a failure in the connector (retention clip or otherwise), the bad connector can get chopped off, and there’s still enough cable left to reach the socket. For non-cable nerds, this extra bit of cable is known as a “service loop”.
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Oct 20, 2021, 12:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
Streaming 4K movies shouldn't run more than 10-20 MB/s (assuming full blu-ray rips). Maybe slightly higher peaks during action scenes.
I don’t think this is right. Maybe Netflix streaming? These are pretty much direct Blu-Ray rips with no compression. I was streaming Kong Skull Island last weekend and I’m pretty sure Plex was showing sustained 100-140Mbps with bursts to 320 or so…? Once I saw that it made me suspect Wifi was the problem….

Your i5 Mac Mini server. How are the movies stored, on an attached USB HD? If an external HD, fragmentation could be an issue. Especially if it's been near to full at some point. It might be worth doing a drive benchmark on it, or copy a large file on/off, and monitor how steady the read/write is.
Good point. They are on a Thunderbolt 3 4-bay OWC drive with 7200rpm Seagate drives. I’ll fire up DiskWarrior and see what it says but it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

You also didn't mention your Time Machine (or other backup) setup. Perhaps another drive attached to the Mac Mini server? A TM backup running over WiFi while streaming 4K movies - now that might cause glitches. Especially if the two drives are plugged into USB ports that are on the same buss.
I’ll check this one out too, as I’m pretty sure TM does back up to a partition on the same drive. I used to have another backup program that scheduled backups overnight only, but come to think of it I’m not sure TM operates like that. I’ll check it out. Thanks!!
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reader50
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Oct 20, 2021, 03:15 PM
 
For read/write benchmarking, I use Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. It's a free utility on the Mac App Store. Copying big files back and forth works too, but this way you get big, colorful speed guages.
     
Chongo
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Oct 20, 2021, 04:34 PM
 
I bought an eight port Netgear switch on Amazon for about $25. It replaced the 15 year old five port switch after I went from a 60"' dumb PDP to a 75" 4K set. PS3, 4K BluRay player, ATV 4K, LG TV, Toshiba HD DVD, and a Yamaha TSR 700 AVR. My brother ran some Cat5e through the attic from my computer room . we have FTTH, 940/940
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ghporter
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Oct 20, 2021, 05:09 PM
 
There are several ways to avoid broken RJ45 latches.

High quality, pre-made cables might look like this:

The molded in place strain relief covers the open end of the latch to prevent it catching.

Boots, like the one subego posted, are an inexpensive way to do this with your self-made cables. Almost every cable I make gets a boot.

I suggest using a more flexible type of cable for patch cables. Cat6a cable has solid conductors, which make for stiff cables - which can fail because of excessive flexing. Stranded Cat6a is more expensive, but you won’t have cable failures because of it. Make sure your RJ45s are compatible with stranded cable.

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ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Oct 20, 2021, 06:00 PM
 
Good point. I’m not too familiar with this stuff but running cables from the switch to the media devices behind a super-crowded media console will be a nightmare if the cables aren’t flexible. I’ll probably get one robust long 30+ foot cable for the single run through several walls and a floor, and then four or five 3- to 6-foot, more flexible versions from the switch itself.

This place isn’t that far away from me and I’ve used them on some past projects for some cabling and outlets. Looks like they have several different options.
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