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Old 02-10-2013, 09:19 PM   #1
Eug
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Default Best 1080p MKV streamer with movie rental functionality and Netflix?

My wife bought us an Apple TV 2 Xmas 2011 for use with our home theatre projector. She likes it for movie rentals but I've since jailbroken it and use it with ATV Flash for MKV streaming. I've also moved it to the living room, which means my wife can no longer use it to rent movies for playback on the projector.

If I could get my hands on another ATV 2 for $100, I wouldn't be asking here. I do MKV streaming, Netflix, and iTunes movie rental all in the same simple box.

In the projector room I do have a relatively recent Blu-ray player so Netflix is covered, but MKV streaming doesn't work (DLNA). Only sneakernet works (USB flash drive), but on that particular player, only up to 4 GB sized files. I also have an Xbox 360, but that doesn't stream or play MKV, and Netflix requires a Gold account. My wife doesn't like using the Xbox 360 either.

So, now I'm looking to getting a third party box. Roku seems simple and has Netflix, but does not have movie rentals as far as I can tell. Same goes for the WD TV Live. Other options? Apple TV 3 doesn't stream MKV either, but at least it has a decent movie rental store.

Note that I'm in Canada, so that could affect the choices.

Also, WiFi is unnecessary, as I have wired Ethernet there. Plus WiFi is unreliable there anyway. Optical coax output is preferred, but digital coax is also fine. HDMI audio is not supported on my receiver there unfortunately, but I have no desire to upgrade the receiver just yet since otherwise it works perfectly.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:47 PM   #2
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P.S. I stream from a Synology NAS, and rare from an iMac.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:04 AM   #3
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When you say movie rentals, what services are you referring to? If you are talking about strictly iTunes, then you're probably gonna be stuck with AppleTV. Once you buy into the Apple ecosystem.......

WD Live does things like Hulu, Vudu, etc. I would be very surprised if Roku did not offer the services you were looking for. Unfortunately, the Roku is not very good with local streaming but the WD Live is a champion for it.

Last edited by smitbret; 02-11-2013 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:29 AM   #4
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Outside of iTunes, you're pretty much stuck with two options for digital movie rentals: Amazon Instant Video and whatever your cable company has built into it's cable TV service (On Demand, Xfinity, etc).

The good news is that nearly every one of these streaming devices supports Amazon Instant Video these days, the bad news is that depending on your interests, the selection may be slim.

Personally, i'd recommend either a WD Live for its awesome compatibility with local streaming from your NAS and plenty of support for wide varieties of file types. If you need anything more robust than that with iTunes support, you're pretty much stuck with building your own HTPC at that point.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:49 AM   #5
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Outside of iTunes, you're pretty much stuck with two options for digital movie rentals: Amazon Instant Video and whatever your cable company has built into it's cable TV service (On Demand, Xfinity, etc).

The good news is that nearly every one of these streaming devices supports Amazon Instant Video these days, the bad news is that depending on your interests, the selection may be slim.

Personally, i'd recommend either a WD Live for its awesome compatibility with local streaming from your NAS and plenty of support for wide varieties of file types. If you need anything more robust than that with iTunes support, you're pretty much stuck with building your own HTPC at that point.
Actually, most streaming devices DO NOT support Amazon streaming. Roku and the Logitech Revue does/did. The rest of the devices that support it are BR players and some TVs.

I too would vote WD Live. I have never used Vudu, but I thought it was a similar service to Amazon and the WD Live supports that. But for local streaming, it can't be beaten.
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Old 02-11-2013, 11:22 AM   #6
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I don't need iTunes specifically, and I can rent movies from my Xbox 360, but my wife doesn't like it, and it's loud too. The fan on my ancient Xbox 360 can be quite annoying.

I just want to be able to rent some movies from a site with a good selection. I could be mistaken, but I don't think there are Amazon movie rentals in Canada. I haven't seen it advertised anywhere in any case, and I don't see it on my Blu-ray players either.

Maybe I'll just get the WD box and deal with the noise of the Xbox 360. I do have a dual-core Atom with ION which works well for HD playback, but since it's an HTPC, it's too complicated to use for my wife.

Who knows, perhaps in a few months a miracle will happen and someone will jailbreak the Apple TV 3.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:09 PM   #7
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Both the WDTV Live Streaming and the Roku have VUDU, which I have used successfully for renting movies (you can buy movies too I believe). Quality in HD is outstanding.
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Old 02-11-2013, 01:21 PM   #8
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Both the WDTV Live Streaming and the Roku have VUDU, which I have used successfully for renting movies (you can buy movies too I believe). Quality in HD is outstanding.
Armed with this info, I would definitely recommend the WD Live since it has the most solid support of local streaming, although you could use the Roku if you know how to set up channels and have a PC with a CPU that is strong enough to transcode on the fly.
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Old 02-11-2013, 02:19 PM   #9
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Unfortunately, it seems VUDU isn't supported in Canada either.

Still, I'd think WD Live might be the best secondary option. Jailbroken Apple TV 2 with ATV Flash Media Player isn't a perfect MKV streamer either. The interface is great, but on rare occasion I've run into files it wouldn't play, even though it will work fine in vlc.

Perhaps WD Live has a more robust player (although Media Player in ATV Flash is already quite robust).
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:09 AM   #10
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Unfortunately, it seems VUDU isn't supported in Canada either.

Still, I'd think WD Live might be the best secondary option. Jailbroken Apple TV 2 with ATV Flash Media Player isn't a perfect MKV streamer either. The interface is great, but on rare occasion I've run into files it wouldn't play, even though it will work fine in vlc.

Perhaps WD Live has a more robust player (although Media Player in ATV Flash is already quite robust).
That's the biggest problem right now, and I don't know what the best way to fix it is - there's no universal player, universal file format, or universal DRM, for inside the US and outside the US. I like the iTunes and Amazon Music approach - a DRM-free music purchase, for a reasonable price, that can be played on pretty much any player. If they did the same for movies and included a library/sync/transcoder app, they'd be golden, but then you get into the licensing/price wars.

If people really want to pirate, it's fairly easy to do so through Youtube/Usenet/Bittorrent/etc. type of sites, but there are plenty of people who want to purchase the movie legitimately and just play it on whatever devices they have. I think that's why Netflix is so popular...$8 a month, stream to whatever device you want, up to 3 movies streamed at a time, good quality, easy menu, etc.

I use VUDU once in awhile, but it's hard to overcome that mental block of paying for a movie digitally - most of the time, I'd rather just flip on Netflix and browse until I find something worth watching. If they could lower the price to where it was like a buck or two for a one-time rental, that'd be awesome. Impulse-purchase territory, you know? It's hard to justify $5.99 for an HD VUDU rental when I only pay $7.99 for a whole month of Netflix...
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:56 AM   #11
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Anyone used Boxee Box? I can get a refurb locally for $110. That's ten bucks more than the WD TV Live locally.

The price of the new WD TV Play seemed enticing at $70, but it does not support DD5.1 or DTS and it's not available in Canada anyway.
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Old 02-13-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
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So, it seems Boxee Box is being discontinued. Nonetheless, I'm still interested. If it works for local playback and Netflix, I'm fine with that.

Or do you think it's stupid to buy one now? The Boxee TV offering they have seems useless to me.

I have to make my decision today though, since the sale on the Boxee Box ends today.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
So, it seems Boxee Box is being discontinued. Nonetheless, I'm still interested. If it works for local playback and Netflix, I'm fine with that.

Or do you think it's stupid to buy one now? The Boxee TV offering they have seems useless to me.

I have to make my decision today though, since the sale on the Boxee Box ends today.
Boxee Box had its fans and I considered grabbing one before I picked up the WDTV Live Hub, instead. It has a really nice interface but I'm not sure of the services it still has. I would have gone that route, but for the price (at the time) the WDTV Live Hub gave me a TB of storage, too.

Check and see if it provides the services you want, and if it does, I wouldn't hesitate.
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Old 02-13-2013, 03:40 PM   #14
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My choices are Boxee Box for $110 (refurb) or else the WD TV Live for $100 (new). I don't need the WD TV Live Hub because I stream everything off a NAS anyway. (The WD TV Play isn't available in Canada, and doesn't support DTS among other things.)

None of them support good movie rentals it seems so absent that, I'd just need local and file-share support for streaming, and Netflix, which most of these things seem to have.
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Old 02-13-2013, 03:42 PM   #15
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That's the biggest problem right now, and I don't know what the best way to fix it is - there's no universal player, universal file format, or universal DRM, for inside the US and outside the US. I like the iTunes and Amazon Music approach - a DRM-free music purchase, for a reasonable price, that can be played on pretty much any player. If they did the same for movies and included a library/sync/transcoder app, they'd be golden, but then you get into the licensing/price wars.

If people really want to pirate, it's fairly easy to do so through Youtube/Usenet/Bittorrent/etc. type of sites, but there are plenty of people who want to purchase the movie legitimately and just play it on whatever devices they have. I think that's why Netflix is so popular...$8 a month, stream to whatever device you want, up to 3 movies streamed at a time, good quality, easy menu, etc.

I use VUDU once in awhile, but it's hard to overcome that mental block of paying for a movie digitally - most of the time, I'd rather just flip on Netflix and browse until I find something worth watching. If they could lower the price to where it was like a buck or two for a one-time rental, that'd be awesome. Impulse-purchase territory, you know? It's hard to justify $5.99 for an HD VUDU rental when I only pay $7.99 for a whole month of Netflix...
Which is why the only reason my Vudu account has a bunch of movies in it is from Ultraviolet Bluray conversions at $2 a piece. And sure, if you've got a LOT of movies, it can become pretty expensive, but being able to watch relatively decent quality movie anywhere in the US is worth it. And as soon as the common file format exists, you'll be able to download a copy for offline viewing. Yay!

Only problem is they've been promising this utopia for years. -_-
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:32 PM   #16
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Android on a stick? Netflix, rentals through Play (pretty good in US, no idea about Canada), Amazon via browser if you want, and of course stream any format you like.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:33 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
My choices are Boxee Box for $110 (refurb) or else the WD TV Live for $100 (new). I don't need the WD TV Live Hub because I stream everything off a NAS anyway. (The WD TV Play isn't available in Canada, and doesn't support DTS among other things.)

None of them support good movie rentals it seems so absent that, I'd just need local and file-share support for streaming, and Netflix, which most of these things seem to have.
i'm still using my Boxee Box - i've had it for about 2 years now. i love being able to stream my media easily via wifi from my desktop or NAS.
it's pretty simple to use and plays just about everything that VLC plays (including MKV's).

Hulu doesn't work, but Netflix works well along w/Vudu if you're interested~

Boxee definitely doesn't get the same type of love as Roku or AppleTV, but it works quite well for my needs.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:52 PM   #18
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I'd consider Roku, but it doesn't have optical output. My current receivers don't support audio over HDMI.
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:43 AM   #19
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I'd consider Roku, but it doesn't have optical output. My current receivers don't support audio over HDMI.
That and the Roku isn't nearly as smooth for local playback. You'd have to install something like Plex, Tversity or Mezzmo to a local PC to transcode those .mkv files to a compatible format. That's pretty much anything that's not an .mp4 with .aac audio. You'd have to make sure that the PC you're running it through has a pretty solid CPU to handle the transcoding on the fly, especially if some of it is HD.
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Old 02-14-2013, 08:30 AM   #20
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I'd consider Roku, but it doesn't have optical output. My current receivers don't support audio over HDMI.
Monoprice has HDMI to HDMI+Optical adapters available if you want to go that route, here's one with an HDMI switch built-in:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:25 AM   #21
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I'm heavily leaning toward the WD TV Live Streaming box now, for a number of reasons.

- The size of the Boxee Box. The unusual shape has it 7" high and 7" deep, which means the top of it would cover a part of my TV screen, and I'd have to push the TV back further into the cabinet to make enough room for the Boxee. With Apple TV and WD TV Live, they're short enough to slide just underneath the bottom edge of the TV, beside the TV stand.

- Netflix. Netflix on the Boxee Box works in Canada and the US (with some flakiness reported) but is locked at version 3.0, and will never ever be updated in the future. Version 3.1 is required in other countries or else Netflix won't work at all. I'm not entirely sure what's in 3.1 but I have to wonder if Netflix will require a 3.1 or 3.5 upgrade or whatever in the near future for North America too. Also, for some reason, Boxee Box Netflix is limited to 720p, so no SuperHD support. That's OK actually, but it's not ideal, esp. if I decide to use it with another display. I am in Canada and I'm not sure SuperHD has been implemented here yet, but their website states my ISP is indeed supported, and I have a 300 GB cap (with unlimited data in the early morning hours), so I'm not concerned about the increased data usage.

- Longevity of the hardware. I see lots and lots of reports of Boxee Box dying prematurely. I've seen similar reports with other devices, but a lot less often. (And Apple TV seems like it's much more reliable.)

The only thing though is that WD TV Live Streaming is 1.5 years old now, which makes me wonder if a replacement is imminent. If so I might be just better off waiting. I can use my dual-core Atom Win 7 nettop for the time being. It's a hassle (long bootup and much more complex interface), but it works. It'd be great for OS smoothness if WD TV Live Streaming got updated to a faster single-core SoC, or else a dual-core SoC, and those are cheap as borscht these days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaido View Post
Monoprice has HDMI to HDMI+Optical adapters available if you want to go that route, here's one with an HDMI switch built-in:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2
Thanks, but I'll eventually just upgrade the receiver. I've run out of HDMI ports now anyway.
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Old 02-14-2013, 11:36 AM   #22
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I would not buy the boxee. I had one for a while and thought that it was very "beta" like. Everything was a hassle to setup. Before that I had a wdtv live. After about three months of so so performance on the boxee I sold it and went back to wdtv live. I do admit the menus are not as polished as Boxee but the in general everything performs much better on the video side of things.

If I were to do it all over again I would just buy another HTPC. IF you have random parts laying around they can be very cheap. I have a Cavier Black Hard drive with windows 8 and that things boots up faster than my wdtv live. If I had the money I would get an SSD to make the unit near silent but those are still somewhat pricey for just playing movies. With todays motherboard/cpu combos and fanless operation you can have a great near silent set up for cheap. You may want to spend money on a nice case. I don't need to display mine so I went with a cheapo 25 dollar case.

I know most people hate on Windows 8 and so do I as a desktop until SP1 comes out. But it does lend itself to the HTPC world very well. That metro interface is just as good as ios IMHO for basic media needs.

I have never jailbroken a Apple TV 2. What makes it so much better than everything else? Is it just the free tv channels? I know XBMC is on there which is nice.
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Old 02-14-2013, 02:55 PM   #23
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An HTPC won't work where I want to use it, because it's in the living room. I'm not a fan of them anyway, but if I were to get one, it'd be small form factor machine like a nettop. I have one which I can use in a pinch - dual-core Atom with Nvidia ION and HDMI, and HDMI audio or optical output. Plays Blu-ray and 1080p high bit-rate video just fine. However, it has a slow UI since it's running Windows.

As for Apple TV, it has a slick interface, and of course, it maintains compatibility with the entire iTunes/iOS/Mac OS X ecosystem and you get things like AirPlay, etc. Jailbroken with XBMC is popular, but XBMC is a totally different interface, and it doesn't work with iOS 6 either. I run Firecore's ATV Flash which basically takes Apple TV and inserts their extra Media Player app into the Apple TV's app list, so the interface is the same as Apple TV but plays everything instead of just Apple's favoured formats. If you run iOS 5, you can actually have ATV Flash and XBMC on the same unit, but that can be problematic since XBMC has a fairly large footprint and the Apple TV 2 only has 256 MB RAM.
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Old 02-14-2013, 04:27 PM   #24
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If I were doing it all again today, I'd still go Boxee Box. I still haven't used a piece of hardware outside of the more specialty boxes (like PH) that work better.

Eug, the Boxee Box remote is RF. The Boxee box can go behind the TV if you need it to. The remote will be able to control it from anywhere.

If you don't need the cataloging that Boxee Box does, like this:


And are more comfortable with browsing your shows through a file system, then the WDTV Live would be a great other choice.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:55 PM   #25
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thanks for the advice on the apple tv. Now I know why they are so expensive. I wouldn't put XBMC either it there was an app that plays all the media formats.

HTPC is not for everybody. I personally like local saved content since a lot of my stuff is from usenet. They do make some slick controllers now.

Good luck. I would keep checking craigslist. I sometimes see an apple tv 2 for 80-100. They are few and far between though.
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