Fanless XBMC box - still holding out - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-14-2013, 04:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Greetings all. I'm in a holding pattern of sorts

As I've mentioned in various scattered threads, I only have two primary display (living room / bedroom). The bedroom htpc is running openelec on an i3. I ended up with that as an impulse buy of sorts, since sandy bridge i3's were selling for $80 and the G645 it replaced made a nice upgrade for my parent's PC. It runs quietly and sleeps/resumes okay. The only thing that bugs me about it is the relative value it still holds. It could be resold / configured above value to someone who's on the fence about having their own DVR filled with *first-time-HTPC-bliss* Also happen to have a spare copy of W7 that they could use. The only reasoning behind getting rid of it is my desire to replace it with a ATV/roku/small looking box that I could creatively hide and wall-mount the TV.

I'm kind of holding until I feel like a few issues are ironed out in some systems I've been eyeballing. The other reasoning for this is that I might be scaling up the number of rooms/displays soon and I don't intend on putting a full AMD/Intel setup next to each one.

So first to the things I've had my eyes on
  • RPi
  • Pivos XIOS DS (or next iteration if one is rumored)
  • G-Box midnight
  • Arctic MC001-N
  • MK803 II - or other "HDMI-dongle"

With the welcome XBMC on Android addition as well as OpenELEC images for RPi and Arctic, I continually think that I could setup, sell, and replace the bedroom HTPC with one of these with no WAF repercussions

Prior to listing the issues, I realize that most Pivos threads end up saying to rid the box of Android and run XBMC on Linux. Could be the same for G-Box. Don't really care, that's no issue for me. The questions I'd still have are as follows
  • Are any/all capable of smooth network playback for full mkv BR rips with the following criteria
  • There is no receiver and no intention of there ever being a receiver at this location
  • Everything has to be decoded to TV speakers (no problem with this currently)
  • A working solution will not be any sort of audio conversion for my existing rips (HD audio stays)
  • NFS sharing will not be included
  • How is menu performance compared to traditional AMD/Intel HTPC?

I realize the list contains some things that are boundaries rather than questions, but it doesn't look like the RPi will fit because of those boundaries. Maybe if they have an upgrade

I also realize there are tons of forums berating samba and suggesting NFS instead. I posted about this in the Linux Chat area as well, but I wonder if anybody has spent any real time tweaking their default windows sharing protocol. For example, I could see how samba has the *potential* for a much higher overhead compared to NFS, but I wonder how they compare when you turn 128-bit encrypted password protected sharing off ? I leave my LAN wide open, because I don't like to fiddle with it and I don't forward anything outside my router. In network/sharing center I turn off password protected sharing (using W8 as server) and leave it off on all other clients. The OpenELEC box has no problem finding the shares and it plays everything without a hiccup, so I don't think the protocol is a problem. I see a lot of comparisons that are "off-the-cuff" and say that samba uses more cpu, so it makes sense that a resource starved box might not be able to handle it. If this is the case I'm willing to wait for the next generation of SoC tv boxes.

Also, another poster here first hand confirmed that the MC001N will run flawless. I've seen their barebones units as low as $100, so it's a compelling alternative. I'd really rather get to ARM, and my reasoning is highly based on this Amazon Review. I guess I listed that one with the other 4 just to make that point
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-15-2013, 08:17 AM
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The intel NUC's. There are some companies making fan less cases.
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-15-2013, 08:26 AM
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If you read the XBMC Hardware forum at all, there is a lot of Android discussion there. The general impression I get is it's not ready for a smooth experience. It's 90% of the way there or much less depending on which box/stick you get.

The MC001N is an older generation Atom D525 with an AMD GPU. It'll run ok with OpenELEC but won't have support for HD audio. I think there are better choices:

Atom D2550/GT610 example here
i3-3217U/HD4000 example here
Celeron 847 example here

OpenELEC runs great on all these and that hardware has support for all features. The Celeron 847s are an especially good value and there are plenty of motherboard choices from ASUS, Gigabyte, etc. as well as pre-built choices like the Lenovo Q190. There's also the Intel i3 NUC and Intel 847 NUC too.



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post #4 of 6 Old 05-16-2013, 06:58 PM
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Honestly, for me the fanless HTPC has always been a fruitless endeavor. Exactly what does a fanless PC give you that a quiet fan PC won't? No offense, that was more a rhetorical question than anything.

I've built dozens of HTPC's over the years for myself and friends, and while I've tended to get smaller and smaller (ATX, to mATX, and now to mITX). All of them are effectively silent (as in below the noise floor of the room).

It's much easier and safer to build an HTPC with a quiet fan setup and use standard components. You don't have to worry about horsepower (unless your into avisynth or madVR scripts), and you'll have long lasting components that are easy to replace/upgrade.

If I had to choose something now in a super-small form factor, I'd go with an Intel NUC, but that gets expensive once you realize you have to populate it with laptop parts (mSATA SSD, SODIMMS, etc).

For me, I just built an i3-3225/B75 build in an Antec ISK300 using a PICO PSU (ripped out the Antec PSU) and it's dead quiet and pretty much smaller than the cable box that goes above it. My other systems are mATX cases (fit well with other components) except for my main HTPC: an old OrigenAE X10 case (ATX) that is still the most beautiful case I've ever seen.

On the android front, I have an Asus Transformer Infinity (one of the more powerful tablets in the last year, Tegra3) that can't do HD without a special build of XBMC using Stagefright HW decoding. It works, but it's not an official build. I have it hooked up to my shared library and it functions just like any other HTPC in the house. But that took a lot of troubleshooting to fix. No way my wife's Galaxy Tab 8.9 would work for that (Tegra 2).

There's also the jailbroken Apple TV option, if you're into that sort of thing... wink.gif

For your PC silencing needs...check out

For your WHS needs...check out
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-16-2013, 07:05 PM
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You should really give RPi a try running OpenElec. I'm really surprised how well it runs for a device under $50 smile.gif
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-16-2013, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by rdb4133 View Post

You should really give RPi a try running OpenElec. I'm really surprised how well it runs for a device under $50 smile.gif

I have tried the Rpi running OpenElec and in my case it will not play 1080p MKV bluray rips with TrueHD or DTSMA downconverted to 2.0 stereo without massive stuttering. It's not quite there for his requests.
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