Adding a Quadro P620 to my Plex VM

I currently run Plex in a CentOS 7 VM (on top of vSphere 6.7) with two 2vCPUs and 2GB of vRAM.

When I needed to transcode video to sync it to a mobile device for a trip the process takes a while and consumes a lot of CPU on the VM. I could just add more vCPUs to the VM but I have a limit on how much CPU I have to toss around and there are more efficient ways to transcode video.

I bought my Dell T340 specifically with a Xeon E-2176G CPU in it so I could take advantage of the on-board GPU to handle my transcoding work. After a bunch of back and forth with VMware, Dell and Intel it turns out that Dell did not build the T340 in a way that it can actually use the on-board GPU on my CPU. Why they offer it as a choice, I don’t know but here we are.

My next option was to purchase a video card to do the work. I did some research and came up with the Quadro P620 (specifically the PYN version) being the most affordable with the features I wanted, specifically NVENC. Added bonus, it supports HEVC (H.265) which should future-proof me for a while and allow me to eventually take advantage of this card for transcoding my Blurays to H.265, but that’s another post.

The card arrived, I installed it, enabled it for passthruough in vSphere, attached it to my Plex VM and booted it up.

I downloaded the latest nVidia driver to my VM and ran the installer (as root):

The installation was straight forward, it in fact took care of everything I needed. It automatically blacklisted the default video device for me, asked me to reboot and re-run the installer, which I did and everything almost worked.

After the drive was successfully installed I ran the nvidia tool provided with the drivers to verify things and was greeted with:

Fortunately this issue is well documented on the internet and the quick fix was to shut down the VM and make a tweak to it’s configuration. Since I have vCenter I used the GUI to solve this problem instead of downloading the VMX file, editing it and re-uploading the VMX file for the VM:

  1. Login to vCenter
  2. Right click and choose ‘Edit Settings’ on the VM
  3. Go to ‘VM Options’ and expand ‘Advanced’
  4. Click ‘Edit Configuration’
  5. Click ‘Add Configuration Params’
  6. Enter the following without quotes:
    Name: “hypervisor.cpuid.v0”
    Value: “FALSE”
  7. Click ‘Ok’
  8. Click ‘Ok’
  9. Boot up the VM

Once the VM came back up I got the output I was expecting from nvidia-smi

The last thing to do before testing was to make sure Plex was configured to use hardware transcoding:

  1. Login to your Plex’s WebUI
  2. Under ‘Settings’ click ‘Transcoder’
  3. Checkmark ‘Use hardware acceleration when avalible’
  4. Click ‘Save Changes’

I then gave things a quick test by trying to sync a TV show to my iPhone and then re-ran nvidia-smi:

Bingo, that was it. Now. How much faster was the Quadro P620 over my Xeon E-2176G, roughly 4.5x faster.

My Plex transcoding settings are:

  • Transcoder quality: Prefer higher quality encoding
  • Background transcoding x264 preset: Medium
  • Maximum simultaneous video transcode: 4

But wait you might say, why set “Maximum simultaneous video transcode” to “4”? A Quadro P620 can only do 2?

This is why, only took a few seconds as root:

 

 

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