What's the Current Best Streaming Media Center Option? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-02-2014, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
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We're looking to get away from cable and go to a streaming setup that incorporates Netflix, Hulu, etc. with our own library of music and videos. Ideally we could access it from two TVs and possibly our phones via Plex. Is XBMC the way to go? Or can the Roku 3 somehow do it all? It's been awhile since I've built a PC but can go down that path if doing a dedicated HTPC is the only real solution. Thanks in advance for any input you have. I've found a lot of advice from various sites but much of it is outdated and I'm wondering if I'm missing an obvious option.
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post #2 of 15 Old 01-02-2014, 12:15 PM
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XBMC is AWESOME! give it a try, been using it for 6 months now, came from WDTV Live setups. everything is just about automated in XBMC after you set it up initially
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-02-2014, 06:34 PM
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Roku 3 will get your Netflix and Hulu. You can play both music and video through Plex on the Roku 3 but might not be able to play all the files depending what type they are.

I'm looking to do both. I have a Roku already but thinking of getting my HTPC going so I can use XMBC for videos and music.
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-02-2014, 08:57 PM
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I'd consider the Apple TV3. Hulu and Netflix interface are excellent as well as they're adding apps with every update. Very reliable unit as well.....just plain works all the time. You will have to encode your library to MP4 using Handbrake or the like. I currently have 5 un jailbroken ATVs in my home without a hitch. Once you start encoding to one container, everything else is gravy. ITunes has a great selection of PPV movies competitively priced.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 11:07 AM
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If you're going to run a Plex server you're going to either
a) convert all your media beforehand to a universally supported format (Roku has extremely limited file support)
b) need a moderately powerful PC to handle on the fly transcoding

you won't need an i7 thats overclocked or anything, but something based on the newer cpu architecture.

I use Plex to transcode some things on my Google TV box (as well as stream music to my phone). I have an AMD A10, which is more powerful than that task requires.

If you wanted to create a somewhat unified look among your devices you could try their Plex Home Theater htpc front end. It looks very much like their other clients (Samsung smart tv, Google TV, etc).
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post

If you're going to run a Plex server you're going to either
a) convert all your media beforehand to a universally supported format (Roku has extremely limited file support)
b) need a moderately powerful PC to handle on the fly transcoding

you won't need an i7 thats overclocked or anything, but something based on the newer cpu architecture.

I use Plex to transcode some things on my Google TV box (as well as stream music to my phone). I have an AMD A10, which is more powerful than that task requires.

If you wanted to create a somewhat unified look among your devices you could try their Plex Home Theater htpc front end. It looks very much like their other clients (Samsung smart tv, Google TV, etc).

^
This guy knows what he is talking about, your only other option would be to use a full-blown PC as your client at every TV. I just got done building my own mini-itx file server with a Intel Core i5-4570 processor because the thought of re-encoding thousands of movies/tv shows into a useable format(regardless of whether for Apple or anything else) seemed like a nightmare. I also didn't want to have full blown pc's/laptop's(which can play any file format) attached to every TV in my house either.

The Intel processor I chose was, in hind-sight, way overkill. I have had 7 different blu-ray MKV's, ranging in file size from 13GB to 29GB, streaming to 3 phones, 2 tablets, a chromecast, and one PC. That means that my Plex server was actively transcoding 6 different streams, and the processor never showed it going over 25% and only about 2GB RAM out of 4GB was used.

So, to sum up what I have said and to re-iterate what pittsoccor33 said, althought not the cheapest, BUILDING your own media server that can handle the transcoding on the fly, regardless of container, video format or audio format is the best solution because it pretty much gives you the freedom of choosing ANY client you choose. The $25 Google Chromecast actually gives a image worthy of being watched once Plex transcodes the stream down to something that can be used by the Chromecast. Big investment up front but it should last you a very long time.
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post #7 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 01:59 PM
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I use a $35 Raspberry Pi running XBMC ($free) for all local content. Plays 20GB 1080p rips flawlessly. Local content is saved on NAS and streams through gigabit wired network.

I also have a $35 Chromecast which streams Netflix, Hulu+, Youtube, and much more through my 802.11n wifi connection and the Internet. Works pretty flawlessly for me as well.

With those two small investments, I'm set for my media needs.

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post #8 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caseyparsons View Post

I use a $35 Raspberry Pi running XBMC ($free) for all local content. Plays 20GB 1080p rips flawlessly. Local content is saved on NAS and streams through gigabit wired network.

I also have a $35 Chromecast which streams Netflix, Hulu+, Youtube, and much more through my 802.11n wifi connection and the Internet. Works pretty flawlessly for me as well.

With those two small investments, I'm set for my media needs.

Seconded on these options. Not quite as elegant as a single box solution but for less than $100 out of pocket it is hard to beat. The RPi won't do HD audio codecs (as far as I know) but everything else it handles like a champ. I use a Dune player in my 7.1 set up specifically for the HD audio ability, my RPi serves the stereo only TVs.

Hi Casey, Andy Z from Alliance here, nice to see your post.

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post #9 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 02:59 PM
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How do you navigate the content on your Pi, do you use a remote?
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post #10 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 10:17 PM
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XBMC has a free app for android, I think ios has a version too. I use irule on my android devices as well and the IP commands work nicely within that app too.

There are standard IR remotes available that use a dongle plugged into the Pi's USB port, I don't have experience with those though.

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post #11 of 15 Old 01-03-2014, 11:06 PM
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I used to use Plex but moved to XBMC. I also suggest building a media server to run XBMC and share its library.

 

On our (Android) phones we can access and play media from the XBMC's library via BubbleUPnP and MX Player. We also have Windows, GoogleTV, Mac Mini accessing the same library. There are clients/apps for other devices like AppleTV, RasberryPi.

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post #12 of 15 Old 01-04-2014, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Lots of great info and advice. Thanks everyone. I guess finding some of this out makes me re-think my approach.

Up-front costs aren't a problem since I know it'll save me a lot long-term. Should I:

A) Use my current desktop (Pentium dual-core 2.8 GHz w/ 4 GB RAM) as a NAS and setup Raspberry Pi devices at the TVs to run XBMC and then just use the phones/Surfaces as remote streamers with Plex.

B) Build a new dedicated media center (or get a nettop of some sort) that I can either have attached to the main livingroom TV (or have hidden around the house somewhere if it's just a file server) and use another device like a RPi box for our bedroom TV.

And I guess one thing I'm confused on is if I have a central media server and a RPi unit or two, would I need Chromecast also or would XBMC integrate that functionality? I thought XBMC integrated Netflix, Hulu+, Youtube, etc. but I've never played with it so maybe I just have misconceptions about it doing everything.

Thinking one more step ahead and wanting to integrate surround sound on the main livingroom setup, which option is going to give the best feed to a receiver? And what should I be on the lookout for in a new receiver?
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post #13 of 15 Old 01-05-2014, 09:01 PM
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You could try using "Serviio" its a free DLNA server program. I'm currently using this program to stream movies over my network using a wireless-n router to my TV. I mostly stream 8-15Gb BDRiP and BDRiP3D movies with DTS and I have one high bitrate BDRiP that is 25.7Gb streaming at 38451kbps with full DTS-HD. Hope that helps or atleast gives you some sort of idea.
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post #14 of 15 Old 01-06-2014, 12:02 AM
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PLEX!

Media Server: UnRaid Server: 15TB of storage and growing :).

http://www.avsforum.com/lists/display/view/id/8599

 

Home Theater Set Up:

http://www.avsforum.com/lists/display/view/id/8597

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post #15 of 15 Old 01-06-2014, 06:51 PM
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Quote:
Lots of great info and advice. Thanks everyone. I guess finding some of this out makes me re-think my approach.

Up-front costs aren't a problem since I know it'll save me a lot long-term. Should I:

A) Use my current desktop (Pentium dual-core 2.8 GHz w/ 4 GB RAM) as a NAS and setup Raspberry Pi devices at the TVs to run XBMC and then just use the phones/Surfaces as remote streamers with Plex.

B) Build a new dedicated media center (or get a nettop of some sort) that I can either have attached to the main livingroom TV (or have hidden around the house somewhere if it's just a file server) and use another device like a RPi box for our bedroom TV.

And I guess one thing I'm confused on is if I have a central media server and a RPi unit or two, would I need Chromecast also or would XBMC integrate that functionality? I thought XBMC integrated Netflix, Hulu+, Youtube, etc. but I've never played with it so maybe I just have misconceptions about it doing everything.

Thinking one more step ahead and wanting to integrate surround sound on the main livingroom setup, which option is going to give the best feed to a receiver? And what should I be on the lookout for in a new receiver?
Well, if we're voting, I vote for option A. That's pretty much what I do and it works great for me. I use unRaid for my NAS, but there are many options and they all work.

I use the official XBMC app for my android phone. It's not beautiful, but it works solid.

Casey
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