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Cheapest Option for My Needs?

Riverhound777

Diamond Member
Aug 13, 2003
3,360
59
91
I've gone through a few things trying to find something that will do what I want, and they all seem to have issues. Is a dedicated HTPC my only option? I'd prefer something ~$100. Here is my list of wants:

- Have all the usual Netflix/Hulu/etc with a nice and fast GUI.
- Play movies (AVI,MP4,DivX,H264, etC) stored on network (NAS, Computer) or USB Drive
- Be controlled by Harmony remote and have a nice interface I can navigate through for any apps like Netflix, Hulu, etc as well as movies and audio stored on network devices. I don't want to navigate through all the folders, a nice list and search function would be great. Maybe some categories.

I use to use Playon to do this from my PS3 but it sucked, I had to go down through 10 folders and often times had to restart the service to get things to show up, plus some movies would get blocked by the PS3. I now have an HDMi going from my PC to the Receiver, but have to control it from my pc, and the HDMI audio out never works right and I have to reboot my computer each time I want to watch a movie (Tried every driver I can, still doesn't work). I've looked at a Plex server, but it seems like i'll still run into the same issues with the PS3.

This seems like it should be easy, but I can't seem to find a good solution. Apple TV is interesting, but needing to use iTunes and not being able to view things on my NAS without iTunes seem stupid.

Will the Roku3 do this? I can't find any info on streaming content from a computer.

Raspberry Pi?

I know the Fire TV wont work with a Harmony remote, that was stupid of them.

Am I going to need to bite the bullet and build something like a NUC with WMC?
 

DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
15,368
740
126
Roku will work, it supports plex now, so that should take care of streaming from computer requirement. Harmony remote, I am not sure
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
I second the vote for a Roku 3. Best option for what you want, and I am usually a "Just Build a NUC!!!" guy...
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
It's so hard when a person hasn't really picked an interface to work with.
You don't use Plex
You don't use XBMC

How do you organize your media exactly and how do you want to access it?

For me, the Roku 3 doesn't exist as a choice because I can't use XBMC with it. But it doesn't seem like you're a Plex or XBMC user so it makes me wonder how you organize your media. Or maybe you dont, and you just play back the file.

Since you don't already have a system in place, it leads to me to believe that you're a little new to the game.

I'll second a Roku 3+Plex recommendation.

It'd help though if we knew what media center you've been using to play your files or if you actually go through folders to play your media.
Edit: Seems like you actually go through Folders. Seriously learn to use Plex or XBMC your life will change. Roku 3 + Plex or a NUC + XBMC is just such a better option. Dunno how great Netflix/Hulu is on Windows though so go with Roku 3 if that's better for you. My library is way too far encompassing at this point for me to ever use Hulu/Netflix. Pretty much only use Hulu to watch TheDailyShow and ColbertReport.
 
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Riverhound777

Diamond Member
Aug 13, 2003
3,360
59
91
Yeah right now I just go to the folder and play the file with windows media player. So Plex will allow me to have a nice interface that organizes all the files it finds? If so that would be great. Looks like the Harmony should work with Roku.
 

DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
15,368
740
126
Yeah right now I just go to the folder and play the file with windows media player. So Plex will allow me to have a nice interface that organizes all the files it finds? If so that would be great. Looks like the Harmony should work with Roku.
Yes, Plex and XBMC, they are twin brothers, Plex was adopted by rich parents, XBMC stayed on the street, got open love from everyone and became very street smart.
They organize your media very nicely, even if you dont use it, its just worth trying it, they are just fascinating piece of software, very well thought and executed.
Plex is better at streaming, atleast in my experience, but XBMC has wider support and more addons. One example is XBMC's ability to play BRD/DVD iso files directly.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Yeah right now I just go to the folder and play the file with windows media player. So Plex will allow me to have a nice interface that organizes all the files it finds? If so that would be great. Looks like the Harmony should work with Roku.
Plex is a server app that would run on your desktop/server that will put all your media in a library (so fanart and real name instead of just files) and stream it to your devices (Roku and mobile devices).

The only downside is you need a computer to host the server application, but it is a great sub $100 solution if you have one.
 

Riverhound777

Diamond Member
Aug 13, 2003
3,360
59
91
Plex is a server app that would run on your desktop/server that will put all your media in a library (so fanart and real name instead of just files) and stream it to your devices (Roku and mobile devices).

The only downside is you need a computer to host the server application, but it is a great sub $100 solution if you have one.
Yes I have gone ahead and installed Plex on my computer. It works pretty well on the PS3, better than Playon, but still is just a list of folders. The Plex app for the Roku is much better yes?

Edit: Just watched a video demo of the Roku Plex app, looks awesome. Definitely what i'm looking for. thanks all!
 
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tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
Yeah right now I just go to the folder and play the file with windows media player. So Plex will allow me to have a nice interface that organizes all the files it finds? If so that would be great. Looks like the Harmony should work with Roku.
Oh man, you have a whole world ahead of you you've just missed out on. XBMC or Plex (Plex in your case since you want a cheap easy setup device I'm guessing), is just loads better.

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=174501

Scroll down to the part where you see:
AEON MQ 5 ALBUM

That's how XBMC looks. The screenshots sadly though in those albums don't really give justice to how navigating XBMC is. Plex is similar as Plex is a group of people who took the XBMC project and modified it in a way to monetize it.

This thread has a similar skin so you can see more of what navigating your own media library would look like as well as playback.

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=183504

There are lots of different skin options. I choose ones that are heavily graphic oriented as it looks great on my big screen tv. But some people like that straight up black background appletv feel (which I feel is a joke but whatever). There are skins to fit exactly how you want your media to be played out and XBMC offers a ton of customization options as well.

I'm giving most information about XBMC because I RARELY use my plex server. The two are similar though. Install Plex on the PC that you have all your media on, point Plex to scan all of your media and you're set.

One thing about Plex, XBMC or ANY media manager that organizes your movies/tvshows into a nice interface. The file names need to be correct, and they need to be named a certain way. There are programs that will do this for you. Filebot for example is the one I exclusively use now.

Also, realize that sometimes episode information is wrong and this isn't your fault, or the media manager's fault. It's the fact that either your source labeled it wrong (if you got it from "the internet"), or the show is aired out of order. Many new shows are aired out of order (I have 0 clue why as it ALWAYS alienates the audience yet Fox especially loves to do it, and there has never been 1 case in which airing a show out of order boosted ratings) as well, so if you're adding a new show, head to a site like thetvdb.com and see if the air order matches the DVD order. For a show like Firefly, it was aired out of order terribly. You'll probably have a DVD order of it, but if you use a program like filebot , it will name all your episodes based on airdate order and none of the episode names will match up with the episode content. To fix that, simply switch the naming scheme to DVD order when your show is in DVD order to get the right episode titles.

Tried to give you info, but there really is just so much you'll have to learn for yourself about media managers. You're in for a treat.

Here are a couple of screenshots of my library so you can see what a media manager can do for you.






Edit: With Plex apparently you only get certain skins based on your device as shown above by Poofy. Forgot about that. Not sure why they don't allow custom skins on devices like the Roku but that's why I didn't go with Plex. Personally, I'd pick up a FIreTV and sideload XBMC onto it, but it requires setup/some type of work and most people would rather get something like Plex where it's minimal customization but usually minimal effort to set up.
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Edit: With Plex apparently you only get certain skins based on your device as shown above by Poofy. Forgot about that. Not sure why they don't allow custom skins on devices like the Roku but that's why I didn't go with Plex. Personally, I'd pick up a FIreTV and sideload XBMC onto it, but it requires setup/some type of work and most people would rather get something like Plex where it's minimal customization but usually minimal effort to set up.
If you are staying $100 or less Roku 3 plus Plex. If you just want the best experience possible then its an Intel NUC plus XBMC.

I think Android XBMC devices are kinda the worst of both worlds, as you don't get the power for the best XBMC skins and plugins but you also don't get the other streaming options a similar Roku 3 can provide.

I see Plex+Roku 3 as the Toyota Camry of local media solutions: cheap, reliable, and will get you from point a to b in your movies.

XBMC + NUC is like a Ferrari: more expensive, less turn-key, but will amaze your friends and make them super jealous.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
I've gone through a few things trying to find something that will do what I want, and they all seem to have issues. Is a dedicated HTPC my only option? I'd prefer something ~$100. Here is my list of wants:

- Have all the usual Netflix/Hulu/etc with a nice and fast GUI.
- Play movies (AVI,MP4,DivX,H264, etC) stored on network (NAS, Computer) or USB Drive
- Be controlled by Harmony remote and have a nice interface I can navigate through for any apps like Netflix, Hulu, etc as well as movies and audio stored on network devices. I don't want to navigate through all the folders, a nice list and search function would be great. Maybe some categories.

I use to use Playon to do this from my PS3 but it sucked, I had to go down through 10 folders and often times had to restart the service to get things to show up, plus some movies would get blocked by the PS3. I now have an HDMi going from my PC to the Receiver, but have to control it from my pc, and the HDMI audio out never works right and I have to reboot my computer each time I want to watch a movie (Tried every driver I can, still doesn't work). I've looked at a Plex server, but it seems like i'll still run into the same issues with the PS3.

This seems like it should be easy, but I can't seem to find a good solution. Apple TV is interesting, but needing to use iTunes and not being able to view things on my NAS without iTunes seem stupid.

Will the Roku3 do this? I can't find any info on streaming content from a computer.

Raspberry Pi?

I know the Fire TV wont work with a Harmony remote, that was stupid of them.

Am I going to need to bite the bullet and build something like a NUC with WMC?
You don't need Plex.

Get a WDTV Live or WDTV Live Hub and just set up the Media Library from your network shares.

Been using my Hub for more than 2 years this way.

The only issue that you may run into is the GUI is slightly sluggish as your media library gets bigger. Otherwise it 100% fits all of your needs.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
If you are staying $100 or less Roku 3 plus Plex. If you just want the best experience possible then its an Intel NUC plus XBMC.

I think Android XBMC devices are kinda the worst of both worlds, as you don't get the power for the best XBMC skins and plugins but you also don't get the other streaming options a similar Roku 3 can provide.

I see Plex+Roku 3 as the Toyota Camry of local media solutions: cheap, reliable, and will get you from point a to b in your movies.

XBMC + NUC is like a Ferrari: more expensive, less turn-key, but will amaze your friends and make them super jealous.
Android+XBMC has changed a lot actually. I have done a lot of testing on my phone with Gotham on Android. Frodo with Android? Not the best thing really. Gotham + Android? Works very well and most popular addons do work.

I just wouldn't recommend Android + XBMC to a first time XBMC user. But if you're spending $100 on a Roku, XBMC+OpenELEC style devices are also easy to do at close to $100.
If you're willing to order from China, you can get a NUC style x86 device for $130. Then just load up XBMC and you're good to go.
Android+XBMC though has come a long way. The Ouya was decent, FireTV is almost there already and it's been a few weeks since it's release and XBMC team has worked day and night (100+ page thread it's the fastest moving thread I've ever seen on XBMC's site) to get that device working as fast as possible.

But my Samsung Galaxy S3 + XBMC? That's what I've had the most experience with. I'm running Ace skin right now and since moving to Gotham Beta which has the majority of Android optimizations on it, it's been amazing. With Frodo my S3+XBMC wasn't much and it just was frustrating. With Gotham, Playback is great, fast, responsive, whole platform has improved.

I still think Plex is probably the best choice becuase like you said, setup is so easy with Plex. But if you're a tech person willing to set up and work for a bit, XBMC gives you so much more especially with flexibility.

Tons of users here were making fun of the FireTV and saying Chromecast+Plex is all you need but there is no way I really can enjoy using Plex after using XBMC. It's just a huge compromise to me after how much I can do to my XBMC. This is just my latest clean installation too, I have to add back a ton more addons, skin customizations (I used to have separate sections for HD/SD movies) as well as splitting my Anime away from my regular TV shows which is something I definitely have to do lol. Plex is ok, but I love XBMC.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
You don't need Plex.

Get a WDTV Live or WDTV Live Hub and just set up the Media Library from your network shares.

Been using my Hub for more than 2 years this way.

The only issue that you may run into is the GUI is slightly sluggish as your media library gets bigger. Otherwise it 100% fits all of your needs.
I love posts like this.
"I don't want to navigate through all the folders, a nice list and search function would be great. Maybe some categories. "

That's straight in the OP.
You then recommend an option that makes him do exactly that. Navigate through folders.

Then to top it off, the GUI is sluggish as well. Then even better, to add insult to the OP, the price is the exact same as the Roku 3.

Why even respond to the OP if you don't want to help him out with his needs?
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
I love posts like this.
"I don't want to navigate through all the folders, a nice list and search function would be great. Maybe some categories. "

That's straight in the OP.
You then recommend an option that makes him do exactly that. Navigate through folders.

Then to top it off, the GUI is sluggish as well. Then even better, to add insult to the OP, the price is the exact same as the Roku 3.

Why even respond to the OP if you don't want to help him out with his needs?
Never used one, huh?

The Media Library Feature let's you bypass all of the folder stuff.

Get your facts straight before posting stupid things, or at least try to comprehend my post.

Plex is nice if you need it. He doesn't.
 

LoveMachine

Senior member
May 8, 2012
491
3
81
Pretty much only use Hulu to watch TheDailyShow and ColbertReport.
Just a quick note, tential. Check the video add-ons in XBMC. DailyShow is available, and not a single commercial, unlike Hulu. New episodes might be delayed a bit more, though.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
Just a quick note, tential. Check the video add-ons in XBMC. DailyShow is available, and not a single commercial, unlike Hulu. New episodes might be delayed a bit more, though.
Just downloaded it to try.
Do seeking functions not work? I can't seek forward. I also can't go backwards.
But I was instantly greeted by this Bundy guy's extremely raciast views right away lol. Good looks. Good for casual viewing I guess but is disappointing that I can't seek for when I miss what he says.

I really gotta look through the Video Addons section more.

Edit: Tons of addons I just ignored I don't know why. With Aeon MQ 5 it's so easy to customize it all to exactly how I want. Just tossed TwitchTV, Colbert, Daily, Youtube all in a nice Internet Videos tab. Wish Addons had a little better interface with XBMC but soon.......
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
Android+XBMC has changed a lot actually. I have done a lot of testing on my phone with Gotham on Android. Frodo with Android? Not the best thing really. Gotham + Android? Works very well and most popular addons do work.
Agreed, it works pretty well now with hardware decode and all. The problem is there isn't an ARM GPU or CPU combo that can run AEON at 60fps or Flash on the CPU at 1080p (for pluggins) so any Android XBMC device is a second-hand citizen. Heck, a GT 520 can't run AEON at 60fps, as I had to upgrade my HTPCs to GT 430s and above to get a perfectly smooth UI last year.

If you are going to do XBMC, I think spending the extra for a NUC is well worth it. XBMC is the premium option so why cut corners?

Never used one, huh?

The Media Library Feature let's you bypass all of the folder stuff.
Until as you admit your media library gets too big. Heck the WD Live I have won't even LOAD my library at all, it hangs trying to get into Media Library mode. Oh, and if you have more than one station have fun keeping the libraries in sync.

I like suggesting Plex instead because you really can't outgrow Plex (or XBMC). The WD Live kicked ass in 2011 when there were fewer options, but nowadays its non-local streaming options are very limited.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
Agreed, it works pretty well now with hardware decode and all. The problem is there isn't an ARM GPU or CPU combo that can run AEON at 60fps or Flash on the CPU at 1080p (for pluggins) so any Android XBMC device is a second-hand citizen. Heck, a GT 520 can't run AEON at 60fps, as I had to upgrade my HTPCs to GT 430s and above to get a perfectly smooth UI last year.

If you are going to do XBMC, I think spending the extra for a NUC is well worth it. XBMC is the premium option so why cut corners?



Until as you admit your media library gets too big. Heck the WD Live I have won't even LOAD my library at all, it hangs trying to get into Media Library mode. Oh, and if you have more than one station have fun keeping the libraries in sync.

I like suggesting Plex instead because you really can't outgrow Plex (or XBMC). The WD Live kicked ass in 2011 when there were fewer options, but nowadays its non-local streaming options are very limited.
I agree. Ultimately, OP would be happiest investing in an HTPC running Plex or other server software in the background. It won't be the cheapest option, though. Maybe OP needs to distinguish his pecking order of needs/wants.

By "Stations" do you mean more than one NAS/Server? I hadn't run into that, so I just ask more out of curiosity on that one.

I wasn't sure how big OP's library was. With the Hub, The GUI was nice and quick in the Media Library till I started approaching 700+ titles. Even so, at over 1000 titles, it's not as fast as my PC or laptop browsing XBMC but it is hardly a problem or slow enough to cause any real aggravation.

He specifically asked for NetFlix and Hulu and both are there. So I just gave him the least expensive option that fits his criteria. If he's gonna run Plex, why doesn't he just get a Chromecast and save $50.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,612
315
126
By "Stations" do you mean more than one NAS/Server? I hadn't run into that, so I just ask more out of curiosity on that one.
Like multiple TVs in the house. Do the whole stop in one room finish in another trick, or have advanced status management.

I wasn't sure how big OP's library was. With the Hub, The GUI was nice and quick in the Media Library till I started approaching 700+ titles. Even so, at over 1000 titles, it's not as fast as my PC or laptop browsing XBMC but it is hardly a problem or slow enough to cause any real aggravation.
My comment wasn't really fair, my library is so big I had to tweak my MySQL configuration to handle it all with XBMC...

He specifically asked for NetFlix and Hulu and both are there. So I just gave him the least expensive option that fits his criteria. If he's gonna run Plex, why doesn't he just get a Chromecast and save $50.
You are correct they are both there, but the Roku app for Netflix (for example) is much better than what the WD Live or even an Apple TV has. Just got more love/updates.

Chromecast is also a good option if OP has a mobile device to drive the display, but he wants it Harmonized so that means a Roku.
 

Riverhound777

Diamond Member
Aug 13, 2003
3,360
59
91
Thank you all for the feedback. I went ahead and ordered a Roku 3, should be here tomorrow! I figure I'll see how it works, and if down the road I still want a HTPC I can always stick the Roku in the bedroom.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
121
Thank you all for the feedback. I went ahead and ordered a Roku 3, should be here tomorrow! I figure I'll see how it works, and if down the road I still want a HTPC I can always stick the Roku in the bedroom.
In the future an HTPC isn't very expensive either. I'd link the site that many are using to pick up cheap x86 NUC like devices but I'm not sure if we're allowed to link to Chinese sites like that. For $150 though you can get an HTPC with the specs you'll need to do HTPC work (So don't expect to do fast anything on it but HTPC tasks will be smooth and video playback would be smooth. Wouldn't use it to run 40 tabs of tabbed browsing while running a virus scan or something).
 

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