HTPC Alternatives

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HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:38 pm

Hey guys,

So I wanna stream stuff wirelessly to my TV. I wanna do it on the cheap. I've been looking at a few options but I don't really know where to start. HTPC's seem cool, but a little pricey considering the alternatives. The android IPTV options look pretty sweet but don't have very good reviews. Roku's seem like another option, but they may be too centered around popular services and not stream MKVs or other codecs. The SFF atom machines have abysmal reviews, so they don't look attractive.

My price range is 50-150 but maybe up to 300 if it's got basically full PC functionality. I'd really prefer to stick to the lower price range for now, as I want to get these:
http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdet ... er=300-702

so I need to pinch my pennies.

Money is tight right now, just bought a new house, trying to make it more enjoyable for guests.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:50 pm

It's hard to beat a Roku for price/performance. I have one that I picked up for a song and for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon video, it is fantastic. Honestly, I don't stream MKVs/AVI much except for the occasional emergency.

The other possibility I can think of is to use your main PC with Win7 Media center and then use an XBOX360 as a media extender. You can pick up a used XBOX for a song these days.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:58 pm

That's a good idea. Would the xbox be able to stream other codecs like MKV etc?
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:13 am

No. You'll have to do some transcoding. Whether that's on-the-fly or done via batch process is up to you. It depends on how quickly you need the content, I suppose. I admit I don't know too much about it as I rarely stream from my PC to my XBOX.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:23 am

Smart blu-ray player. You won't get dvr like functionality, though, which was what HTPC's were originally conceived for.

I only possess an EDTV (DVD like 480p,) so an old Wii fits the bill nicely for me.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:40 am

How powerful is the PC serving the streamed movies? I've been using Serviio (http://www.serviio.org/) to transcode on the fly to my Panasonic plasma TV and Xbox 360. My PC is a mildly overclocked i5-3750K and 16gb RAM and has no issues streaming MKVs to either over a wired gigabit network. I have Serviio configured to only use two cores of the CPU.

What kind of TV do you have?
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:32 am

I have a bunch of old PC's lying around, so I just use one of those. Gives a lot more flexibility than other devices out there. Its Core 2 and 2 GB RAM are enough for that use.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:14 am

The other options are items like the Asus O!Play and then just use UNC paths to directory browse.

I've not yet had a file the O!Play cannot play and Asus was still release firmwares for my old unit (over 4 years old) till middle of last year.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:21 am

If you already have a Playstation 3 or XBox 360, then you're already able to do a lot of things that the Roku provides (Netflix, HBO Go, etc.). Even if you don't subscribe to any of those services, a Playstation or XBox 360 are great when you use them in tandem with something like PlayOn and/or Tversity. I use PlayOn, and it allows me to not only stream files from my PC to anything on my local network. What's great about it is that you don't have to worry if your PS3 or 360 will transcode the files (I'm looking at you, MKVs) as the PC does all of the work. It'll also stream it across the internet allowing me to watch things on my phone/tablet/etc when I'm not at home. The Liftetime license for PlayOn is currently $40, so I would jump on that if it suits your needs.

However, if you're looking to record stuff over-the-air, then an HTPC is the way to go.
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Re: HTPC Alternatives

Postposted on Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:04 am

Dizik wrote:However, if you're looking to record stuff over-the-air, then an HTPC is the way to go.

I think this is a good takeaway. There are a lot of streaming devices might that get most of what you need (that being wireless streaming), but to add DVR functionality would require something with a "PC" on the end.

However, exclude the 360 from the bunch. I know you can do Media Center, but since Netflix and other services require an XBL Gold subscription to use, there's really no reason to get a 360 just for that. A used PS3 will run about the same, and you won't need an extra subscription to stream. You might also consider that a PS3 has gaming capabilities to entertain your guests.
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