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Chromebox as an HTPC

Sunburn74

Diamond Member
Oct 5, 2009
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Hi. Was trying to find reviews of chromebox's potential as an HTPC but haven't been able to. Most reviews barely have any benchmarks at all. Is there anyone here using the chromebox as an HTPC for streaming media?
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
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A Chromecast (I assume that is what you mean as a Chromebox is just a neutered NUC) works fine if you have a Plex server.
 
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Sunburn74

Diamond Member
Oct 5, 2009
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I was mostly trying to get a first hand account of how it performs from seasoned anandtech posters. I read the review before I posted; it was a little thin on video performance details.
 

DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
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I was mostly trying to get a first hand account of how it performs from seasoned anandtech posters. I read the review before I posted; it was a little thin on video performance details.
I have no personal experience with these boxes, someone might chime in later. But it seems that some of the models actually come with i3 processors. Depends on which generation they are from, but the IGP on Haswell and even on ivy bridge can handle pretty much everything. I would be concerned about the OS though, for example, if you want to install Plex, will Chrome allow it? Or does Plex have a installer fro Chrome?
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
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I was mostly trying to get a first hand account of how it performs from seasoned anandtech posters. I read the review before I posted; it was a little thin on video performance details.
I don't think anyone buys a Chromebox to use it as a HTPC, at least not out of the box. Chrome OS is a web browser, which is fine if your idea of a HTPC is playing Youtube vids (that is covered in the review). The Chromecast is the out of the box HPTC-replacement offering from Google.

But it is trivial to use the Chromebox hardware for a HTPC. I mean, the Intel HD GPU it has is well known. Throw XBMCbuntu on that bad boy and it is as good as any NUC I have (which in my opinion means the best set top box you can buy for local playback).

It has a decent amount of value in that sphere if you don't want to deal with putting together a NUC barebones.
 
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Sunburn74

Diamond Member
Oct 5, 2009
4,095
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I essentially will be using it for streaming 1080p web videos:
Netflix
Free Hulu
TNT sports
Espn sports
Amazon prime movies

I don't have a video collection at all and for DVDs/Blu-ray I have a PS3. My concern was that the entry level celeron chromebox wouldn't handle 1080p web streaming well.

I did eyeball a NUC, but it seems overkill for me when I already have 2 desktops in the house, a high end laptop, and 2 tablets. I really just need something for web streaming on a large HDTV. I do have a chromecast, but honestly the darn thing only works well when you're using a chromecast supported app or webpage. For everything else, it really struggles, is very choppy, and just not worth the hassle.
 
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DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
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Chromecast issue is expected for unsupported app, its because you computer is sending uncompressed feed over your home router to the chromecast, ofcourse it will be choppy.

For the following things you WILL need a computer with a full blown OS and browser, I would not trust any of these elcheapo devices, save the headache and get a NUC or similar.
Free Hulu
TNT sports
Espn sports
Amazon prime movies
 

DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
15,368
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Which chromebox are you planning to buy, can you post a link to the exact model? Hulu Amazon and ESPN, all in my view are pretty resource intensive when ran though browser. In my experience these low powered machines shutter a bit while streaming through browser, with apps they are OK
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
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If you are going to want to watch sports via ESPN3 its worth getting a full NUC with Windows just so you can use hotspot shield to get around any contractual blackouts in your area. That is my sneaky way of getting the games I want.
 

Sunburn74

Diamond Member
Oct 5, 2009
4,095
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I don't watch that much sports. Just big games like Monday night football, Sunday night football and the NBA playoffs all of which can be streamed online in 1080p. Ive been watching them via my chrome cast but the performance can be lousy. My laptop works fine but it's a hassle to set up and when I'm not home my wife can't use it.

My question is more the streaming ability. Will it be choppy and poor quality? For someone with purely web streaming needs, does the chrome box work?
 

DesiPower

Lifer
Nov 22, 2008
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I was reading it user reviews on Newegg and looks like its has enough power for what you are trying to do. Many people were doing the same thing and nobody complained at all. Also one dude also got rid of Chrome OS and intalled Ubuntu+XBMC. I say go for it, it should be fine.
 

mvbighead

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2009
3,793
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Considering people use Raspberry Pi as front ends, this unit seems ideal. I'd imagine you can load OpenELEC onto it with one of the Intel builds and it'd be solid.

Now I'm considering it instead of a Raspberry as it has enough storage and a bit more horsepower than Raspberry so it should provide a smooth experience.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,613
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Considering people use Raspberry Pi as front ends, this unit seems ideal. I'd imagine you can load OpenELEC onto it with one of the Intel builds and it'd be solid.
Sure. Nothing beats XBMC on x86 for local playback if that is the direction you want to go.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
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Considering people use Raspberry Pi as front ends, this unit seems ideal. I'd imagine you can load OpenELEC onto it with one of the Intel builds and it'd be solid.

Now I'm considering it instead of a Raspberry as it has enough storage and a bit more horsepower than Raspberry so it should provide a smooth experience.
I'd be interested to know how this turns out. I'm using a RaspPi with OpenELEC in the bedroom and I've been satisfied with everything but I've been looking for something with a little more power to make browsing more smooth before I replace my WDTV Live Hub with an XBMC station.
 

mvbighead

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2009
3,793
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I'd be interested to know how this turns out. I'm using a RaspPi with OpenELEC in the bedroom and I've been satisfied with everything but I've been looking for something with a little more power to make browsing more smooth before I replace my WDTV Live Hub with an XBMC station.
There are some forums that have talked this point out, and it seems to be mostly positive.

This thing, at least to me, is an Intel NUC with disk and memory included. And while it is only 16GB of disk, that's still plenty of something like OpenElec or a small linux distro. Heck, I'd imagine Windows 7/8 Embedded would work too.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
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There are some forums that have talked this point out, and it seems to be mostly positive.

This thing, at least to me, is an Intel NUC with disk and memory included. And while it is only 16GB of disk, that's still plenty of something like OpenElec or a small linux distro. Heck, I'd imagine Windows 7/8 Embedded would work too.
I don't even need/want the internal storage, I'd just boot to XBMC from a flash drive or SD card.
 

mvbighead

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2009
3,793
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I don't even need/want the internal storage, I'd just boot to XBMC from a flash drive or SD card.
I had been considering that myself. However, I suspect even this tiny 16GB SSD would have a pretty good performance benefit over USB. So anything loading from the disk should be smoother than if I were to do the same USB drive.

All in all, yeah, I think for most of these types of systems, a USB drive is the best and cheapest option. But as this has a mini SSD built in for just a few bucks more than a comparable NUC, it seems like a very, very good deal.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
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I don't think anyone buys a Chromebox to use it as a HTPC, at least not out of the box. Chrome OS is a web browser, which is fine if your idea of a HTPC is playing Youtube vids (that is covered in the review). The Chromecast is the out of the box HPTC-replacement offering from Google.

But it is trivial to use the Chromebox hardware for a HTPC. I mean, the Intel HD GPU it has is well known. Throw XBMCbuntu on that bad boy and it is as good as any NUC I have (which in my opinion means the best set top box you can buy for local playback).

It has a decent amount of value in that sphere if you don't want to deal with putting together a NUC barebones.
Nope. Lots of people buy em. It's cheaper than buying a NUC barebones.

Purchasing a ChromeBox, then installing OpenELEC or XBMCbuntu is quite popular on HTPC forums.

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=185329

This really is one of the worst forums to get tons of HTPC users on. avsforum and xbmc have far more htpc users. There are other forums as well that just aren't coming to mind (freaktab for android devices for example). FireTV got barely coverage on annadtech forums. On XBMC forums is 150+ pages on that thread. So I suggest looking at other forums to get more HTPC userbase knowledge than just anandtech.
 
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poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
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Nope. Lots of people buy em. It's cheaper than buying a NUC barebones.

Purchasing a ChromeBox, then installing OpenELEC or XBMCbuntu is quite popular on HTPC forums.
Exactly why I said "out of the box," IE with Chrome OS. I even go on to talk about how it can provide good value for the hardware in what you quoted.

I feel like you are implying I am giving bad advice and I don't think that is fair. My title on the XBMC Forum is "Resident Hardware Guru" and I have used XBMC on every major platform. I average making a new XBMC HTPC even six months and I try to keep up on all XBMC hardware developments.

FireTV did have a long thread on this forum just not in this subsection:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2376419

Personally I never mention it because I don't like XBMC HTPCs based on second-citizen platforms. With a decent x86 NUC you get better interface performance than any other small box option (like a FireTV, Pi, jail-broken AppleTV, etc.) with the ability to have the highest possible pluggin compatibility. I can't speak for why it is otherwise not mentioned on this sub-forum.

I agree with you that overall if you want a more varied set of opinions it would be better to ask the question on a more focused forum, but I do feel that many of the people here can at least express a helpful opinion if you don't even know where to start.
 

tential

Diamond Member
May 13, 2008
7,363
641
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Exactly why I said "out of the box," IE with Chrome OS. I even go on to talk about how it can provide good value for the hardware in what you quoted.

I feel like you are implying I am giving bad advice and I don't think that is fair. My title on the XBMC Forum is "Resident Hardware Guru" and I have used XBMC on every major platform. I average making a new XBMC HTPC even six months and I try to keep up on all XBMC hardware developments.

FireTV did have a long thread on this forum just not in this subsection:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2376419

Personally I never mention it because I don't like XBMC HTPCs based on second-citizen platforms. With a decent x86 NUC you get better interface performance than any other small box option (like a FireTV, Pi, jail-broken AppleTV, etc.) with the ability to have the highest possible pluggin compatibility. I can't speak for why it is otherwise not mentioned on this sub-forum.

I agree with you that overall if you want a more varied set of opinions it would be better to ask the question on a more focused forum, but I do feel that many of the people here can at least express a helpful opinion if you don't even know where to start.
Nope not at all did I mean that you don't have HTPC knowledge. You're one of the users here that has a TON of HTPC knowledge that I instantly recognize.

I was referring to the OP that if he wants lots of HTPC users anandtech isn't the place. We both post on XBMC, so he'd get both of our user knowledges already plus a ton of people who only look at HTPCs. It's just my huge pet peeve. I'll always recommend avsforum, xbmc, or whatever forum that is more specialized in knowledge for other tasks. That's why I mentioned the FireTV. It got 8 pages of coverage here, and MOST of it was people saying why the Chromecast was infinitely better for HTPC use.

We both agree on the FireTV though I think for the most part (I like it a little more but it's still second class and x86 is king).

I just missed that "out of the box" part but in no way am I trying to imply you don't know your HTPC stuff. I just was trying to show a userbase of people who are using the ChromeBox to both of you in case you had missed that thread on XBMC, and to show OP since he probably hadn't seen it at all.

That said, I don't think OP is trying to use this for an XBMC type media center if I read his followup posts correctly. He doesn't have a video collection (Blasphemy.....) and wants to use it for
"Netflix
Free Hulu
TNT sports
Espn sports
Amazon prime movies"

If it wasn't for that "Free Hulu" part, I'd recommend a FireTV as I think it has apps for the rest of that stuff or even a Roku or something. But well, I think we're both partial to x86 (My HDTV is literally a place I can not move from all day with the power of the internet+live TV+1000s of hours of HDTV recordings), and it's hard for me to say "go away from the Chrome Box" if a person already was willing to pay the pricepremium to get x86. That Hotspot shield is a good look too. I've had ESPN3 blackouts in my area before and it's the WORST. For that alone, I'd go x86. Nothing is worse than not being able to catch a game.

Also, if you already have a cable subscription, don't pay for a cable box+DVR. Just get a TVTuner and get a cable card (free from comcast and 3 a month from verizon). Then you can just stream the channels to your HTPC as well if you have an issue with the app. I just got my setup done in XBMC and can stream it to any PC in the house now. In fact, I should be watching the Pacers game as I type this on my PC in the kitchen.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,388
22
81
So, my questions would be whether I should look at an NUC or Fire TV to replace my WDTV Live Hub. If the Hub did Amazon and handled large libraries a little more smoothly I wouldn't consider it.

My needs are:

Local Media Streaming (95% of the time) using XBMC
Amazon Prime Streaming
YouTube

I really don't foresee any other needs. My concern is just how smoothly XBMC is running on the FireTV right now.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,613
315
126
You can always get a smoother interface by running a lighter XBMC skin. For you maybe the FireTV is a decent option if you are willing to nerd a little.
 

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