Computer for the Living Room (Media Playback, TV Hookup)

DanRoM

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I need a new solution for watching videos and listening to music in my living room because my current setup consists of a half-broken laptop from the stone age and a fairly old BluRay player that can also play videos from the home network (DLNA), but is unable to decode some of the most modern codecs.

The environment in my home is:
  • Network is provided for (LAN and WLAN);
  • videos and music are hosted on a NAS (Synology) and can be presented via the usual network methods (SMB, SSH, DLNA).
  • Spotify is an additional - or perhaps the main - source of music.
  • Sound and picture are handled by an AV receiver (Onkyo TX SR507) via HDMI.
So I am thinking about buying something that can run KODI, because that seems to be the platform of choice for this.

The question is: What should the ominous something be?
  • It should be able to handle 1080p video, and for the future, 4k ability would certainly be a good thing.
  • Usability: I have a remote keyboard/trackpad that works with a USB dongle, but for just controlling media playback, a more classical remote would be more convenient.
  • Power, HDMI out and LAN are necessary.
  • Price range: I think due to the increased resolution of videos, a Raspberry Pi (whatever the current incarnation is) might not be enough, but I'm not willing to spend more than ?200. Less is better.
  • Availability in Europe is a must.
Any recommendations, both for the main thing and for a remote? I also have the remote of my Onkyo TX SR507 receiver which might be usable for this.

And no, I don't want an AppleTV or a ChromeCast or whatever, but a standalone solution.
 
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DanRoM

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Yes, yes you do.
No, I don't. Apple is out no matter what, and as I understand ChromeCast just takes over whatever streaming client I have on my smartphone or tablet. This is, however, not my use case. I don't want to use my phone for this, not even as a remote, because a) battery life and b) it is inconvenient because locked screen (which is not negotiable).

The main use case is not streaming from Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever, but playing from my local NAS. Can ChromeCast even do that? The secondary use case is playing music either, again, from the NAS or via Spotify without having to control it with my phone because that is a no-go for the "having guests and everyone can have a go at the playlist" use case.
 

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What are 3rd-4th gen intel desktop or laptops going for in your area? I know for sure they can handle 1080p.
 

Matt2000

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Apparently some models of Synology NAS can run a Plex server, I know the Fire stick and Roku have Plex apps as I use them both with great results. Never really used them for music though. The Fire box supports 4k and you can install Kodi on it (along with other Amazon devices), it also has a LAN connection which I would recommend always using when possible from my experience. Amazon devices have a Spotify app.

My Plex server runs on a Windows box with a old Core 2 Quad that does all of the processing, it's possible that the NAS isn't powerful enough to transcode 1080p let alone 4k, I'd question its network performance for 4k altogether.
 

DanRoM

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Re the ChromeCast thing: On second thought, it might just be feasible under the condition that I can somehow get it to play the videos and music from my NAS and be controlled by a tablet under a guest account (so that all the personal info on my own account is not compromised when I have guests). That would mean I'd have to get a tablet too, but I want to get one anyway within the next four months.
Plex on the NAS sounds like a good idea for that. I'd have to seriously update my NAS operating system, though. And from what I read this model is too weak to do video transcoding - but I don't know what that means.

Matt: Amazon Fire something is not something I consider, same as AppleTV. I just do not want to enter another "ecosystem". I'm unhappy enough with Google, no need to add Amazon or Apple misery to that.

gaasc: That's ?500 and therefore sadly much too expensive...
 

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Plex server running on my desktop, controlled by my Android Tablet with the Plex app is what my Chromecast gets fed. Plex content all day long. Not a single issue. I was looking into a NAS that can run Plex just to outsource the storage, but decided against it because not enough of a reason to, since it already works just fine as is.
 

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Matt: Amazon Fire something is not something I consider, same as AppleTV. I just do not want to enter another "ecosystem". I'm unhappy enough with Google, no need to add Amazon or Apple misery to that.
Although I don't see why (I assume you have an Amazon account so that's all you need for using apps on the device) you might want to look at the Roku range then. No ties with that.
 

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I need a new solution for watching videos and listening to music in my living room because my current setup consists of a half-broken laptop from the stone age and a fairly old BluRay player that can also play videos from the home network (DLNA), but is unable to decode some of the most modern codecs.

The environment in my home is:
  • Network is provided for (LAN and WLAN);
  • videos and music are hosted on a NAS (Synology) and can be presented via the usual network methods (SMB, SSH, DLNA).
  • Spotify is an additional - or perhaps the main - source of music.
  • Sound and picture are handled by an AV receiver (Onkyo TX SR507) via HDMI.
So I am thinking about buying something that can run KODI, because that seems to be the platform of choice for this.

The question is: What should the ominous something be?
  • It should be able to handle 1080p video, and for the future, 4k ability would certainly be a good thing.
  • Usability: I have a remote keyboard/trackpad that works with a USB dongle, but for just controlling media playback, a more classical remote would be more convenient.
  • Power, HDMI out and LAN are necessary.
  • Price range: I think due to the increased resolution of videos, a Raspberry Pi (whatever the current incarnation is) might not be enough, but I'm not willing to spend more than ?200. Less is better.
  • Availability in Europe is a must.
Any recommendations, both for the main thing and for a remote? I also have the remote of my Onkyo TX SR507 receiver which might be usable for this.

And no, I don't want an AppleTV or a ChromeCast or whatever, but a standalone solution.
Answering from my phone, so I will keep it short.

I run Kodi on a Pi2, and it does most of what you ask for. Pi3 would do it even better.

It will not do 4k, but 1080p is usually ok with my pi2.

My setup:

Pi2 connected via hdmi to my Denon receiver, connected hdmi to the TV.

USB hard-drive connected on the pi, plus a network drive accessed via the LAN using the pi ethernet connection (100mbps only, the pi doesn't support gigabit LAN).

Kodi controlled via the regular tv remote (using hdmi-cec), keyboard and mouse can be added using my Logitech unifying receiver, pi3 supports bluetooth natively.
 
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Adunaphel

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Shield TV seems to fit your needs. It does everything you want it to. It runs KODI, it comes with a Plex server, can do 4K and HDR, has a tiny remote, you can use usb keyboards with it, and it costs around 200 euros for the 16GB one.
I have the old, 2015 model, which has the same HW as the 2017 one, except in a larger package, and the remote and controller are slightly different.
 

RdKetchup

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Although I don't see why (I assume you have an Amazon account so that's all you need for using apps on the device) you might want to look at the Roku range then. No ties with that.
I must admit the Roku is a good choice.

Since I got my Roku stick, it as taken over most of the media work both at home and during my travels.

Supports Netflix and Amazon video, Plex for local storage access, and while the stick only does 1080p, the bigger units do support 4k.
 

DanRoM

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RdKetchup: Roku seems to concentrate on commercial streaming services. Can it deal with a local (well, within the LAN) library as well?

Adu: Shields TV sounds good, if a little overkill already and slightly above the price limit. I have seen it in action at your place. Is your library located on that machine or do you get the files from a NAS or similar?
 

RdKetchup

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RdKetchup: Roku seems to concentrate on commercial streaming services. Can it deal with a local (well, within the LAN) library as well?

Adu: Shields TV sounds good, if a little overkill already and slightly above the price limit. I have seen it in action at your place. Is your library located on that machine or do you get the files from a NAS or similar?
Yes, it has a Plex client. You just need to run a plex server to serve your library.
 

Adunaphel

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Adu: Shields TV sounds good, if a little overkill already and slightly above the price limit. I have seen it in action at your place. Is your library located on that machine or do you get the files from a NAS or similar?
All my local content is located on my Server, SMB mounted on the Shield and indexed and served by the Plex server on the Shield.
 

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The problem with afaik all plug in players like Roku and ChromeCast is that they require an active internet connection to play local content. That pisses me off too much to consider one.
 

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There are cheaper versions of Intel NUCs with Celeron CPUs, like this one.
This one supports HDMI 2.0 with 4k@60hz and it has partial HDMI CEC compatibilty: TV on/off functionality supported without a separate CEC adapter, for more complete CEC support you'll need something like this. This will allow you to control Kodi, for example, using the TV's remote. Or maybe you could use the built-in IR receiver for remote control.
You will need to buy separately the DDR3 RAM memory and the HDD/SSD(you can add a M2 SSD and 2.5? SATA drive) or maybe you could use the ones from your old half-broken laptop.

I have an i3 Intel NUC that works great as browsing machine and a multimedia center, and with that CEC adapter I can use Kodi by using the TV's remote and without touching the mouse/keyboard. I didn't tried the IR receiver as I mounted my unit on the wall behind the TV.

A review for the Celeron version
 

DanRoM

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Thanks for the hints everyone. It looks like a current RasbPi ist the solution with the best value for money. All the others are either around ?200 or even more while not having any more features I need. And the propietry solutions like ChromeCast etc. are a no-go because as Dr_Grip said, it is just not acceptable to go through the vendor's servers just to play local content. I just don't trust Amazon, Google et al. enough.

For now, I have updated the ancient DSM installation on my Synology to the current version so I can install Plex. Due to other things to do the purchase and installation of the actual device I opened this thread for might be delayed a few weeks.
 
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