With the RasPi platform and tiny Streaming/Media Boxes, powered by Linux/Android etc with glorified Cell phone/tablet hardware being so CHEAP (affordable) and readily available for the past couple years, are people still building x86 HTPCs ?
I think I may be stuck in a bit of a time capsule, as I plan to build yet another x86 rig for HTPC duties. Am I missing something ?
I currently use a Win7 setup, that boots directly to MCE without ever needing the desktop and having immediate remote control support/functionality, which I use as a springboard or launchpad to eventually get me to OpenPlex Home Theater, Kodi, Netflix etc, using the same Microsoft MCE remote/receiver setup that I have used since WinXP MCE.
I am planning a hardware upgrade, as the current setup struggles a bit with 1080p H.265, but other than THAT, I am going to keep everything the same.
To the average onlooker, it might seem that I have a difficult time using a single front end, but I simply enjoy options.
I've got the HTPC case that looks good next to my Amp/Receiver, the remote setup...and the comfort in a platform that works, as well as a great place to re-purpose desktop leftovers.
Is this just old school ? not cost effective any longer if you have to do 'IT' from scratch ? OR, are there better alternatives that I am not familiar with, considering I haven't thought about the setup in many years....?
I look forward to any thoughts.
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The Raspberry Pi doesn't have a hardware h.265/HEVC decoder so it has to use the CPU for decompressing it. That works adequately for SD resolutions but not for HD (depending on frame rate, complexity, etc). Otherwise it works very well with KODI. There's no support for Netflix, Amazon Video, etc.
Many "Android TV" devices use tablet firmware and don't work well without a touchscreen, touchpad, air mouse, etc. For example, the cheap (US$40) device I bought included a Netflix app and a very simple remote. Netflix was unusable with that configuration because the app expects you to swipe on the screen to scroll, and tap on a video to play it. When I complained they sent me their air-mouse remote for free. Netflix is usable now though an air-mouse is more difficult in practice than swiping/tapping on a tablet or smartphone. If you stick with KODI (which works with a simple remote) it works fine.
Windows MCE is still required if you use a Cablecard tuner (we use two HTPCs for this). MCE dropped Netflix support a few years ago so you have to switch to a browser for Netflix and other online streaming.
One advantage of RPi and Android devices is that they consume very little power. 1 or 2 watts at idle, 5 or 6 when playing HD video.
Answer is very simple - there is limited number of ARM based SoC's that offer at the same time high connectivity (at least Gigabit Ethernet), decent support for mass storage (at least 2 SATA ports + 2 USB3 ports) and decent video HW acceleration and at the same time graphic support (common issue with ARM based SoC's is very low drivers quality and overall poor vendor support) - from practical perspective only NVIDIA Tegra based solutions offers desired functionality but usually they are not price competitive (higher cost than x86) - so conclusion is quite simple and straightforward - at this moment x86 offers higher versatility at a cost of higher power consumption and higher price than low/medium class ARM based SoC's yet x86 is still very attractive (software base, maturity) to those low/medium class ARM SoC's and usually it is significantly cheaper than NVIDIA Tegra based solutions (most of Tegra based boards cost around 600$).
So far, I've been I repurposing the motherboard and CPU from my old desktop and the Windows 7 license for an HTPC when I build a new desktop. However, if I decided to build a new HTPC from scratch a few years from now I would look at Intel's SOCs. The current Gemini Lake/Goldmont Plus Pentium Silver J5005, have 4 cores and the iGPU (Intel HD Graphics 605) can decode HEVC as well as provide 4K @ 60Hz over HDMI, although they lack the ability to deliver HDR. Tremont should be even better.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 23rd Feb 2019 at 14:09. Reason: correction: I confused a Pentium Silver J5005 with an earlier modelIgnore list: hello_hello, tried, TechLord
looking at mini pcs like
Beelink X45 Mini PC with Intel Gemini Lake J4105 4K60Hz Windows 10 6GB LPDDR4/128GB SSD/Dual HDMI 2.0/Dual Wi-Fi/Gigabit Ethernet/Fan
pretty good for hevc and 4k..low power too makes a great tv box (win 10 home os)
Last edited by teodz1984; 24th Feb 2019 at 19:24.
I still want Blu-ray, and me (and the kids) like to have a PC connected to a TV for playing games. Finished building another HTPC before Christmas.
I use an older sandy bridge i3 and a silent GFX card, SSD, it can play pretty much anything, cost nothing (except electricity) as I built it from left overs. Some might not call it HTPC, as it's micro ATX form factor, but it's hidden well and all controls and gamepads are wireless. It doesn't support 4K, but neither does my TV, so...my main computer has UHD Bluray player, and 4K monitor, but I still prefer the TV for movies and casual gaming (my kids like platformers such as Giana Sisters, Ori and the Blind Forest, Castle of Illusion). I find a HTPC more versatile, but if you just want a cheap and easy solution there are better ways I guess.
I wouldn't buy a raspberry to replace my htpc, might buy a "computer on a stick" though, as they are soon more powerful than my current HTPC and quite cheap. Still, I like Blu-ray...
I can clearly remember when the 'pipeline' dried up. After LGA775 Q6600, then on LGA1366 and i7 920, I went to Dual Xeons and never looked back.
With my 2018 adoption of Kabylake, I am left dealing with an old AMD AM2+ X2/Geforce 210 based HTPC that is in dire need of an upgrade...lol
With power consumption and platform not being a real concern, I think this time around, I am going to go with some near obsolete hardware, once again, as for it's purpose, it still seems capable of fitting the bill and replacing it's aging AMD X2 setup in the chassis currently. For me (anyways) the spirit of my HTPC builds have always been based on the repurposing of old hardware.
This is what is going into the case this week:
- 6 Core/12 Thread Xeon L5638 (LGA1366, 60W)
- Repurposed HP MicroATX LGA1366 Motherboard (Gig Lan, Optical Output, Dual x16 PCIe)
- 3 x 2GB Tripple Channel Memory Kit
- (whatever SSD I can find around the house that is not in use).
- Geforce GT 730 PCIe, Passive Heatsink.
- Win7 w/MCE and the standard Win MCE Remote & Receiver.
- The old stand by, LG BluRay/HDDVD Combo Drive (the previous HTPC's last upgrade 6 or 8 years ago).
Looking at the above list of hardware, it would seem sad to most at first glance, to even considering wasting time on throwing something THIS antiquated together in 2019, but considering the level of hardware that the above list will be replacing, it will me miles ahead in terms of performance and more than enough to be a Network Media Player.
Last edited by Allan74; 2nd Mar 2019 at 08:28.
Our HTPCs are an i3 4130T in a small tower case and a Celeron N3150 in an Asrock Beebox. Both use only their onboard graphics. These are fine for 1080i/p video. The only reason we use Windows 7 computers is because of the need for Cablecard support. If it wasn't for that, a Raspberry Pi (except for the aforementioned lack of HD h.265 support) or Android box running KODI is fine for playing local material (on a network share).
None of these devices are used for encoding video. That's done elsewhere on the network with the final results stored on the NAS.
Better H.265 is literally the only reason I am even rebuilding.... my current setup on the X2 AMD just lacks the horsepower and the current video card is a dud.
The main reason i still use a htpc is be able to play blu-ray.
Sure a cheap chinese box will do fine but they lack a blu-ray player.
I use libreelec on a asrock intel socket 1150 motherboard, a quad core i5 and use the intel igp.
It works fine and i don't have any material above 1080p.
I use a addon for free iptv (npo in the netherlands)
and makemkv addon to play blu-ray.
I will only upgrade the hardware if it broke down or i ever have the need for h.265/4k
So in short, yes still going strong here
Guys where is your enthusiasm. Most of the members here can "cure" VCR DVD recorder and similar relic of the past I can just imagine what they can do to the "tv box" and there mobile chips pushing them near 3ghz (It still ARM ) and in 2019 HTPC (I can't see literally its use) is pretty much useless. If for a moment think about what is purpose of this "mini PC" it was when mobile chips where severely under powered and graphically useless for any serious work. Now even the lowest power Amlogic or Rochckip SOC can pretty much do anything that a HTPC can do Tegra and similar more expensive boxes even further, regardless the purpose of watching Movies Youtube Amazon Netflix ( the biggest problems with cheap boxes is DRM but solvable with different firmware's to have full Netflix or Amazon prime experience )Kodi or similar all the way to 2160p H265 (even VP9 ) 10 bit HDR 60p/60hz (suitable for most 4k TVs) as most popular platforms. Raspery Pi seems to live on the old glory and sleeps like bear hardware is aging behind the competition.
Regardless software side there is Android ( TV version most suitable ) Libreelec as Kodi or even Full desktop variants like Ubuntu Ambrian and similar which can turn these puppies ontu full Linux machines. Never had problem with Tv cards and Libreelec ( Station Os and Ubuntu can even record live tv on sd cards trough virtual dub "clone" ( I also use cable service DVB C ) and I use couple of these cheap Chinese boxes (there are no many high priced if any like nvidia boxes in my country ) so I will say they are pretty fine for purpose of Home media center and replacing HTPC
I love my HTPC, it's just the thing for OTA recording -- we've got a few decent local stations, PBS, Me-TV, etc. that have shows I enjoy, so for the cost of an old Dell Optiplex 780 SFF ($30 at Goodwill), Radeon GeForce GT640 ($5 at Goodwill), and a Silicon Dust HDHomeRun dual-tuner box ($5 at Goodwill, I get lucky with Goodwill finds) I built a very serviceable HTPC running MediaPortal for less than fifty bucks. Of course I'm a computer tech so this wasn't a big deal for me to put together, but it works even better than I thought, and just the thing for watching TV and being able to pause for coffee breaks and the like.
Oh, and of course it's great for watching videos stored on my OMV NAS server upstairs.
drm playback requires wildvine L1 certification so only certain tv boxes will work with HD netflix or amazon video..