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I vote for a HTPC and yes you have options.
Right now Micro Center has a AMD AM1 Kabini 5350 for $40, they will throw in any AM1 motherboard in for free, net cost is $40 for a motherboard and AMI Kabini APU.
Hardware accelerated H.246 which covers just about everything. I have an AsRock AM1-H which can be used with a 19V Laptop adapter which is cheaper than the majority of PICO ATX power supplies, its $48 from New Egg.
If you take advantage of the Micro Center deal, you can take the AsRock AM1-B for free. What both AsRock boards have that the other AM1's don't is an on-board SATA chip which gives you an additional USB 3.0 header and four SATA ports; when the majority of boards have only two SATA ports and only USB 3.0 on the rear panel.
For about $90 you can have two boards and one APU. I got a Sempron 2650 from Fry's Electronics locally for $12.99. First one was dead, I have another one which is an open box, but my 5150 was an open box and it fired right up.
So for touch over $100 you can have two APU's and two boards. Most of the other Kabini's are available at New Egg or Amazon and run about $40, bringing the total to just about $130.
With both of these you can get cheap case for $30-$45 each. I got a InWin BP-655 200W PSU USB 2.0 for $45 (Amazon) for the HTPC which will replace my current HTPC (unexpected). The other could be used as a Media Server.
You would have WAY more functionality out of these things than getting a STB (Set Top Box) and current draw is low, no Raspberry Pi low/Fire Stick low but with the 19V plug idle current is about 18w and full load with something CPU intensive is exactly 25W (The TDP of the Kabini APU's).
Kodi seems to work well on these APU's, no problems with the vast majority of media files.
I am sticking with Windows 7 because I run a Cable Card Tuner as well and that's really the only option.
Right now I'm creating a custom W7 isoProject Digital: Eliminate All Physical Media is finally underway!
HTPC works for some, but as noted several times now, there is much setup/configuring/tweaking involved. If you have the time and patients, that is arguably the best route for file support.
For an STB like experience without any hassles, if you have the money for the upfront cost and you use cable or OTA, TIVO is hands down the best option. Full cable support using a cable card (aside from VOD), streaming support, file playback support. And uses the standard STB type interface that many users (non techs like the wife and kids) want. The exception being that the TIVO interface is (and always has been) much better than any cable or SAT interface (with the exception of the early DirecTV boxes which actually licensed TIVO). The best new feature (for me anyway) is the new search engine checks all of the configured services. So it will check the cable guide, Netflix, Hulu, your NAS/shared files, etc.Google is your Friend
Maybe something similar to this. Fun to build it yourself and relatively cheap. The article is a tad dated (eg new Pi is out) but the principle is the same and it works.
A chromecast server based on a Raspberry Pi and relying on native Chrome browser on a phone or tablet to cast a video from your Pi in your home network to the Chromecast devices you've plugged into one or more of your TVs.
Works a treat.
You need to pre-convert your videos to a fairly standard format beforehand (easy, ffmpeg can do it).
Those that like off the shelf gear with no fun or effort, buy a box or something, or use Plex on a PC or a Pi, or with some effort setup kodi on a Pi.
I recently got a Raspberry Pi 3 and installed one of the Kodi (XBMC) based OS/players. It plays everything my old WDTV Live did, and then some. Up to 1080p60 AVC. It plays low res HEVC with a software decoder but will choke in high res HEVC. It even plays DV AVI. No Netflix, Amazon video, etc. support though.
It uses hardware for decoding when possible. But by default it doesn't include a license for the MPEG 2 hardware decoder so it uses a software decoder for that. It's not quite powerful enough to play 1080p24 or 1080i30 MPEG 2 video without jerking so you'll want to spend a few extra dollars for the MPEG hardware decoder license.
It's not as simple to set up as a commercial media player (though I think you can buy fully assembled and installed RPi media player kits) but if you're up for a little adventure it's well worth the trouble.
Just a note for interest,
- I gather kodi and whatnot rely on the Pi being plugged into the TV via the HDMI port on each and then the Pi hardware doing the video file decoding into the HDMI protocol for the TV
- the other "chromecast" approach relies on your phone or tablet to direct the Pi to "cast" a compliant video file from the Pi (a vanilla webserver on the Pi, to be precise) via your home network (via WiFi or LAN) to the google Chromecast device you plug into any of the TVs in your house. Google's purpose-built Chromecast device hardware and software does all the actual video decoding and feeding the TV the resulting HDMI.
The other nice thing about chromecasting is you can use your phone or tablet to direct youtube or "google movies" etc to "cast" their stuff direct to your chromecast devices (i.e. the TV) which happily bypasses the Pi entirely and doesn't even know it exists. Lovely. I've got 2 Chromecast devices and am about to receive a "chromecast ultra" for Christmas if I stay off Santa's naughty list.
Last edited by hydra3333; 17th Dec 2016 at 23:58. Reason: fix spelling
I prefer to just navigate to my network shares to play videos. I can do that directly with the RPi. No need for Chromecast, a smartphone, or any other device. The RPi/Kodi is set up for a Windows Media Center IR remote by default. We use this:
It also controls the TV and WMC PC for cablecard TV.
Just added this thread:
[P.S.: I wouldn't trust Google on this score, either.]
I spent some time researching this today, and damn but there are a whole lot of Android boxes on the market now ! They run from a low of about 40 bucks up to nearly $400. Some of these units include: Matricom, Akaso, Minix Neo U1, Element Ti8, and at the higher end streaming boxes from Rveal and the Dragon Box DB5. (Sounds like the latter is channeling Aston Martin there . . . ) Some claim later, better hardware, with Kodi pre-installed; some have customized UI / proprietary builds of Kodi that supposedly give a better user experience, with regular automated updating, a very selective choice of apps that stresses reliability, and claims of enhanced customer support. Of course, anything proprietary may leave owners in the lurch if the company goes under or the developers go away. You can read through scads of reviews, and it's still hard to determine the best bets. Maybe some of you have experiences with these.
To generalize, ..., cheaper model tends to have crappy remote included, that is the first, BUT you'd get better remote anyway , they are around $20 , I have this, that is why I mentioned that one. Model coud have one star less on average and you just realize that it is all because of bad remote, that you are not going to use anyway.
Not sure about customer care etc., you get Android box, it is you that you have to choose appropriate app. You might not be happy with pre-installed versions of Kodi , it might be buggy, perhaps older versions, so you just download latest Kodi 16.x or whatever there is. Or BSplayer, MXplayer, VLC, apps for file handling, like ES file explorer, latest versions are pretty cool, new sharing features (right from your phone), network browsing and many, many more.
Again get latest models, and again number of stars might be misleading for older models, they could be relatively good but that was then, not now.
Those more expensive models might have solid remote included, or system updates are more frequent, that comes on my mind. I am one of those having cheap Android and I cannot be more happy with it. I'm sure those who get those expensive models like NVIDIA Shield Android TV or others, would not change their models after their positive experience. Also if you are planning on playing high bitrate HEVC videos ~20Mbits or so and more , more power is always needed. But for simple movies, video watching habits, H264 or HEVC (not high bitrates, 1920x1080 max, not more than 30fpsfor HEVC) those latest cheap Androids should be ok. You can get couple of them instead of just one.
Last edited by _Al_; 25th Dec 2016 at 20:52.
Every Android potential buyer of Amlogic chipset should check what chip is inside, it should be always latest is SoCs, S9 family, if not I would not touch it. Those latest one should have latest Android versions also, in this case and right now 5.1x, lollipop.
If market changes boxes would use different chipset, , buyer should follow this principal. Same like getting PC.
But pro would be maybe more powerful than firetv? It's 2.0 ghz octacore
Last edited by ezcapper; 26th Dec 2016 at 14:23. Reason: Wrong listed info
Fire Tv is a Amazon/NSA spying device, I thought it is out of question here.
I have a Roku and an Android box, but nothing beats my beloved WDTV for reliabity, simplicity and overall file compatibility. I've resigned myself that nothing (even a HTPC) will have everything I want. I use my WDTV for local HDD playback, my Seagate Theatre + for special playback (forward and rever slow moition and zoom), my Android box for Kodi and streaming (and when I come across it, H265 playback), and my Roku for quick access to mainstream streaming channels.
Thanks for all of your comments.
I think I'm probably on the same page as lingyi, and headed for multiple devices, as the cost is not prohibitive to me and I'm curious to explore this brave new world of Kodi streaming. (Good to have other options on hand too though, like VLC and whatever, so long as they don't clash with each other or become mutually exclusive.) I also still really like my WDTV Gen. 2 for Netflix and most local playback . . . although sometimes I hit a codec that won't play on it. HEVC & H265 are definitely among those. Having a few of these boxes would still take up much less space than the sort of HTPC that I would assemble, would be considerably less costly, and should involve much less complexity.
Had I read that article I linked first, I might have skipped the Fire TV altogether. As things stand, I may limit its use to Amazon streaming. (I'm currently enjoying Season 2 of "Man in the High Castle", on a free trial month of Prime.) It is possible that Fire TV has the inside track on Amazon streaming: some are saying that Amazon either outright denies compatibility for alternative boxes or limits the performance, as they don't want to encourage any competition (?) I dunno: some scenes in MIHC look somewhat low light / grainy, no better than 720P. Or maybe that's just how they shot it ?
Amlogic s912 chip and Android 6 were already listed for some of the boxes I mentioned. Already determined that a better remote would be highly desirable. Build quality and reliability on these boxes may be the big difference maker. More Ram / ports too. [Other considerations with some of these: presence of heat sinks & vents may be a plus. Relative WiFi performance.]
Last edited by Seeker47; 26th Dec 2016 at 17:50.
Be careful what you wish for. Using those streaming services and getting full HD, 3-5 GB per movie, you might waste your bandwidth very soon. Luckily, or better at last, Comcast have 1T bandwidth per month right now, not 300GB as it used to be, so 1T is enough for sure. Netflix can regulate streaming resolution in settings but who'd just go there at the beginning of movies and change it all the time.
I thing regular Android devices get 720 feeds anyway, is that still correct? It used to be like that. I was not being afraid about wasting 300GB limit for what all family would use it.
And regarding Netflix, not Amazon, I also read that 4k is available only for win10 and internet explorer devices. As of now. Perhaps they are afraid of too much bandwidth or Microsoft pays some little cash to have exclusive (especially regarding Xbox exclusivity and 4k as it would seem), not sure.
I have TWC -- now Spectrum -- for internet. Read somewhere that they supposedly promised no data caps for a few years, in the course of doing this merger / reorganization. (?) But I don't really know what their service limitations may be. Especially for what I'm paying, which is not all that cheap, if they did hit me with caps I would very quickly look around for alternatives. Unfortunately, this cable Co. has an exclusive (in the cable sphere) for this territory. Not sure just what that leaves. DTV does offer some sort of internet service. (Must be via AT&T.) So does EarthLink, which is probably reselling from some other carrier's infrastructure. There is Hughes satellite service. A friend, who used to rave about his Verizon FiOS, tells me that Frontier (?), which took that business over, is truly the pits. I don't think any form of DSL is going to be able to deliver streaming-worthy performance. The GigaFast service from AT&T that I've been hearing some very promising buzz about seems to still have very limited region availability.
Stop - there might be a problem with the requested link
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Some URL-shorteners re-use their links, so bitly can't guarantee the validity of this link.
Some URL-shorteners allow their links to be edited, so bitly can't tell where this link will lead you.
Spam and malware is very often propagated by exploiting these loopholes, neither of which bitly allows for.
The link you requested may contain inappropriate content, or even spam or malicious code that could be downloaded to your computer without your consent, or may be a forgery or imitation of another website, designed to trick users into sharing personal or financial information.
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This is probably just overzealous BS on someone's part. Uses of certain redirectors like Anonym.to has thrown out bogus warnings from my FireFox before, or from my anti-virus program.
As an online category, I despise these link shortener / disguiser things . . . .
Some sites require them for links in posts though, but I don't recall VH being one of those.
Oh, wait a minute: looks like the link resolved into readable text when I copied that warning. But now I'm getting this:
"Sorry, your search ' Q-Box-Android-5-1-TV-BOX-Amlogic-S905-2GB-16G ' did not match any products. Please try again."
[FWIW, this vendor -- AliExpress -- has gotten flagged several times before in my email as Spam content.]
Last edited by Seeker47; 28th Dec 2016 at 01:45.
One appeal of the cheaper ones is that they are unlocked, you can customize or hack them to your preference, and if you should brick them in the process, you're not out much $, just mainly whatever time you've put into them.
Perhaps a much bigger and looming concern is that Big Content is up in arms about this whole product sector, and is apparently pushing Congress to crack down on them severely. That may apply to the hardware itself, for sure to the companies selling it, and to the huge amount of via-internet, unsanctioned streams / channels that are being served up. It may be too gigantic a job to snuff out the latter, but it doesn't mean they won't give this a good effort. From what I understand, a lot of that stuff has long been flakey anyway -- here today, gone tomorrow. That is why the much more expensive units claim their big "value added" includes constant monitoring of the major apps & streams, to replace the ones that fall by the wayside with ones that still work. Whether they actually deliver on this I have no idea, but I'm disinclined to spend 3 or 4 hundred bucks to find out.
Kodi is also legal.
It's the custom versions of Kodi which include addons that help users to find warez that come pre-installed on these boxes that are not legal. To be honest, I would think someone as security conscious as you are would want to install Kodi and any other apps himself. If you don't trust Amazon why would you trust a Chinese company that you know nothing about? They might not care about what you download illegally, but they might want other information.Ignore list: hello_hello, tried, TechLord
I have a WDTV Live, in its box under the bed, just too many issues about it I did not like. I replaced it with a Dune HD TV303D player, which while better than the WD, still has some issues. For me, anyways. (ie, both have way too many buttons on the [smallish] remote for just watching 'anything', for one)
-c-Cranky Old Man
$60 Android device is not trusted with possible malware and $120 device is suddenly trustworthy? I would certainly use them only for video watching, nothing else. To be more sure perhaps grabbing a box, put Ubuntu on it and latest Kodi only, but hey is Ubuntu and Kodi safe?
To think about it, in a long run, what is worse for us, Amazon cloud info about you,what you buy browse, watch, Google cloud with what we watch and when, search, NSA cloud (possibly phone conversation also) in a long, long run, Chinese cloud that tries to cash right away I guess, your credit card cloud of info what you buy and where, Netflix database of what and when I watch what content? Do we have like top 5 list for this, most dangerous
Last edited by _Al_; 28th Dec 2016 at 15:44.
You raise some points deserving consideration. I've just ordered a couple mid-range units that seemed to have better specs, write-ups, and user reviews. (Though one certainly has to be suspicious of many likely "shill" reviews.) At least one of these units seems to be sold by an American company -- one that claims some added value and better customer service. Both are unrooted, so I could replace whatever is on there with my own Kodi installs. Then I would have to deal with a learning curve that is easily underestimated, and a lot of hit & miss on the apps & streams. Although these things can browse the internet, I think I'll leave that function to my actual computers. Nor would I purchase anything over it, or use it for anything like online banking. (Which I don't do anyway. Period.) So, what information of any value would they get from me ? I've purchased a subscription to what I hope is a good VPN, and plan to integrate that into this picture. If you are suggesting they might use software on this device to sink some sort of hooks into your home network, then I don't know. That's probably a nearly inescapable risk from all sorts of things now. Smart refrigerators ? (No thanks ! I'll pass.) Baby monitors, anyone ? What isn't made in China, these days ? At the same time, policies of Amazon and Google are known risk factors. I have zero trust of anything that is cloud-based.
When you speak of devices that may have been compromised by the Chinese, how do you know that does not apply to any popular tablet you may purchase ? I don't think you can. Major email breaches in the news, for the last few years and recently. We have to suppose that a lot of things are suspect now, and proceed accordingly. Just assume that someone is looking over your shoulder . . . .
[EDIT: when I said "unrooted", I meant unlocked. Which maybe = rooted ? Not so up-to-date on the correct terminology . . . . ]
Last edited by Seeker47; 30th Dec 2016 at 12:49.