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Topic # 120851 16-Jun-2013 07:46
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Hi there,

I'm looking for a basic HTPC on behalf of my sister to replace an aging (and failing) PC that carries out the same duties. Ideally, budget at or around $500; second-hand is ok. Her husband died last year and he was the tech-oriented one in the family.

I've read through a number of threads here, but most relate to people putting their own HTPCs together, whereas I am after a ready-made (or close-to-complete) solution, partly to ensure minimal maintenance into the future.

Essentially it is only needing to run XBMC to play videos off a hard drive - not to record TV etc.

Other aims are ideally small form factor and (not surprisingly!) quietness; IR capacity is needed as well (ideally to work with the Harmony remote).

Hard-drive wise, she's happy to keep media on an external HD (has a 2GB drive we'll stick in an enclosure if need be) so it doesn't need a large internal drive.

My preference at the moment is to go with a Mac Mini, as we currently use ourselves; I'm thinking - to keep costs down - an older model (Core 2 Duo 2.0 2009 model as a minimum); the same spec works well even with HD content.

However, I thought I better check to see if there are any options that I've not considered.

The Intel NUC looks appealing, however 1. it doesn't seem cheap by the time all components are added and 2. I haven't come across many offering it built up (or nearly complete). However, do you think one can be put together for these purposes for around $500?

Media players like the WD Live aren't a goer as she's wedded to XBMC (as would I be...). I thought about an Android media player running XBMC (as I do understand a PC for just these duties could be argued to be overkill) however 1. it seems so early on in development so not guaranteed compatibility and 2. I've read it doesn't feed through discrete surround sound (DD etc). Unless there are players that don't have these issues that someone knows of?

Anyway, are there any other options people can suggest? Obviously, she's ok looking second-hand
Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

Cheers
Jonathan
 

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  Reply # 837480 16-Jun-2013 07:58
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several options on trademe eg:

http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603391116.htm

i have used an xtreamer ultra (d525/ion 2) for xbmc duty for 2 years now, plays 1080p content happily and it has not missed a beat.

i believe the zotac box above will be better than what i have so it will be suitable for the duty you describe

cheers and good luck


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  Reply # 837485 16-Jun-2013 08:42
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I use a Raspberry Pi with raspbmc to run XBMC. In the past few months it's gotten much faster, it runs things as well as my PS3 used to - perfectly. It cost $50 or so, I had a power supply, $10 for a case, $15 for a windows media center remote (I think) remote from ebay, I have it on the network playing videos from my PC. I also have it connected to a MySQL server on my PC, I figured it might be a bit faster, and I have multiple XMBC instances. I got my harmony remote to work ok with it, but the cheap remote works better, I'll fix it one day.

It's a cheap option, and a good option, but it takes a bit more fiddling around to work.

If you don't want to do that buy a dedicated box that runs XBMC, there are heaps in the $100 - $300 range. Or an Android stick that plugs into the HDMI port and runs Android XMBC.




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  Reply # 837513 16-Jun-2013 09:45
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can I tag in this thread - i'm looking for an htpc that can play everything able to kind of multitask (eg copying files etc while playing blu ray) with the LOWEST POWER CONSUMPTION

I currently use a laptop but the laptop is 135W (peak)!

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  Reply # 837522 16-Jun-2013 10:03
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The Intel NUC looks appealing, however 1. it doesn't seem cheap by the time all components are added and 2. I haven't come across many offering it built up (or nearly complete). However, do you think one can be put together for these purposes for around $500?
 


Yes the Intel NUC is generally quite pricey...But building one for $500? Don't the barebone models retail for $400?

I got my NUC from Playtech completely built with Windows 7 for just under $1000. Not as cheap as I imagine you're looking for but it was probably the best deal I had seen in NZ at the time I purchased.

http://www.playtech.co.nz/afawcs0140076/CATID=854/ID=19446/SID=91734/idPlaytechNZ_OrderDetails=/idOrderDetailsSession=/customise.html



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  Reply # 837524 16-Jun-2013 10:06
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@joker97: might be worth starting a new thread, sound like your requirements are a bit different to the OP. Having said that, are you looking to build or buy something prebuilt? And plain bluray playback or 3D bluray?



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  Reply # 837528 16-Jun-2013 10:22
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Thanks for the ideas.

My brother-in-law had been keen on the Raspberry Pi, and it would have been exactly the kind of device he'd have loved around mucking about to get it working properly, however I don't think my sister would have the skill and patience to set it up and fix it if/when it went wrong.

Re Android devices running XMBC - is it not correct, as I've read, that they won't transmit the discrete audio like Dolby Digital and DTS? That is a deal-breaker for me, and I'm not sure about risking purchasing one on hope it gets sorted soon.

Re 'dedicated boxes' - are there options in the cheap end (under the $300 mentioned) that don't run Android, and can do the whole hog with both audio as well as video?

Re NUCs - yep, clearly out of my intended budget; saw this one on TM which seems relatively good-value - http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-602958080.htm

The idea of one of those small energy-efficient computers (such as linked to on TM above) does appeal; are they decently fast for running Windows? I recall my little netbook with an Atom processor that was/is dreadful, however these processors I'm sure are greatly superior; plus, of course, the video supports HD. I saw another Zotac box on TM but I noticed it states the HDMI output is 720 only, so I guess one has to be careful...

Thanks again for any further ideas!

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  Reply # 837594 16-Jun-2013 12:58
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You could pick up a Celeron NUC with a 60GB SSD and 2GB RAM for $500.
Well I could sell you one at that price anyway. :)
You would still need an OS so Windows will cost more but I think they can run Linux OK.
I'm going to get one for myself to replace my Asus EeeBox that struggles a bit with some 1080p videos.




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  Reply # 837605 16-Jun-2013 14:05
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CYaBro: 
You would still need an OS so Windows will cost more but I think they can run Linux OK.


XBMCbuntu is brilliant and would run beautifully on celeron NUC I'd think.

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  Reply # 837620 16-Jun-2013 14:45
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  Reply # 837660 16-Jun-2013 16:01
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driller2000: several options on trademe eg:

http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603391116.htm

i have used an xtreamer ultra (d525/ion 2) for xbmc duty for 2 years now, plays 1080p content happily and it has not missed a beat.

i believe the zotac box above will be better than what i have so it will be suitable for the duty you describe

cheers and good luck



I've now re-read that other thread on good/affordable XBMC solutions (http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=34&topicid=113410 ), but to be honest it just confirms my own thoughts re Raspberry Pi and Android devices - the latter not worth touching and the former would probably do if my sister was tech-able.

Thanks to the advice thus far, it's come down to a Mac Mini or one of these small PCs such as linked to above. This Zotac unit does seem good value, given that even with 4GB RAM and a 320 hard-drive, it's no more than $388.

Can anyone advise me as to whether the remotes that come with these types of PCs work with XBMC? I'm assuming some mapping may be required, but as long as it's possible to do it...

Would there be any other limitations with such a PC? They state it does 1080p and outputs 8 channel audio
over HDMI, so I can't see any problems...

Thanks once again for your help.

Cheers
Jonathan

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  Reply # 837675 16-Jun-2013 16:48
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Yes that type of PC will run XBMC.. Buy an MCE compatible IR remote + receiver off ebay, cost $20-25, will work with XBMC without setup.

That zotac box uses an older chipset, it's from a few years ago. Do they not sell the current models?
eg. http://techworld.co.nz/zotac-zbox-ad06-1800-p-45113.html

If wanting cheap then buy this a $50 HP Slim desktop
eg. http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603120866.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-602650690.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603453989.htm

XBMC Live (includes OS) $0
Add low profile HD 6450 video card $60
MCE IR Remote Control $25
Total Cost = $135.  Will have faster graphics than the zotac box someone linked.

(or) you could install XBMC Live (Linux distro), would probably make the existing XBMC a lot faster.




HTPC: Intel i3-2100 / 12GB RAM / AMD HD7750 / 480 GB SSD / 58TB Storage / MediaPortal / MadVR / Win10
AVR: Pioneer Elite SC-LX87 220W 9.2 Ch AVR
Speakers: Wharfedale Jade 7 Fronts / Jade 2c Center / Jade 5 Rears
Subs: iNuke 3000dsp 3000W proamp with 4x 15" JBL Sealed Subs
Display: Samsung 60" UA60H6400 LCD TV
Accessories: Gefen HDMI Detective with splitter




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  Reply # 837710 16-Jun-2013 17:53
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kiwijunglist: Yes that type of PC will run XBMC.. Buy an MCE compatible IR remote + receiver off ebay, cost $20-25, will work with XBMC without setup.

That zotac box uses an older chipset, it's from a few years ago. Do they not sell the current models?
eg. http://techworld.co.nz/zotac-zbox-ad06-1800-p-45113.html

If wanting cheap then buy this a $50 HP Slim desktop
eg. http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603120866.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-602650690.htm
http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-603453989.htm

XBMC Live (includes OS) $0
Add low profile HD 6450 video card $60
MCE IR Remote Control $25
Total Cost = $135.  Will have faster graphics than the zotac box someone linked.

(or) you could install XBMC Live (Linux distro), would probably make the existing XBMC a lot faster.


I've asked them if they have more recent models - thanks for pointing this out. But, even if the mobo etc are older, will that be a too big an issue for my sister's purposes? The one linked to, once HD and RAM are added, will be closer to $500, so quite a bit more costly.

My b-in-law was running Linix on the computer, but I'm not this way inclined (and maintaining it will be my responsibility), and my sister wouldn't know an OS if she fell over one...

Totally agree a second-hand PC like the ones linked to would be the cheapest option but 1. typically would need Linix due to relatively slow processor; 2. not terribly energy-efficient; 3. not the quietest; and 4. WAF is low.

By comparison, the options I'm looking at may be considerably more expensive but have none of the issues above. Personally, I love my Mac Minis and would be unlikely to move away from them (given they also operate as decent computers generally).

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  Reply # 837713 16-Jun-2013 17:56
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A R Pi really is simple. Plug it in, follow the instructions to get the OS onto an SD card, plug in the Windows Media Center remote receiver, plug in keyboard and hard drive, and off it goes. XBMC works best with a keyboard, but you can manage without. It isn't really difficult, same as any other XBMC solution really, and performance is fine even with 1080p. No way would I be paying $500 for something that works with the cheap little $50 machine - $100 max if you buy a case and power USB supply.




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  Reply # 837740 16-Jun-2013 18:22
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Raspbery Pi is not a good solution, (esp for someone who is not a tech-person) it's not fast enough to run XBMC at a snappy speed. Also the hardware decoding is pretty iffy.

If you were buying new I would say get the following
AMD A6-5XXX CPU
Cheapest FM2 Motherboard
2x2GB DDR3 1600 or 1866 RAM
MCE IR Remote from ebay
Cheap case with integrated PWR Supply (or re-use old one)
Re-cycle old HDD
Re-cycle old DVD Drive (if SATA)

If buying 2nd hand
Anything with PCI-E
HD6450 Video card $60
MCE IR Remote from ebay $25




HTPC: Intel i3-2100 / 12GB RAM / AMD HD7750 / 480 GB SSD / 58TB Storage / MediaPortal / MadVR / Win10
AVR: Pioneer Elite SC-LX87 220W 9.2 Ch AVR
Speakers: Wharfedale Jade 7 Fronts / Jade 2c Center / Jade 5 Rears
Subs: iNuke 3000dsp 3000W proamp with 4x 15" JBL Sealed Subs
Display: Samsung 60" UA60H6400 LCD TV
Accessories: Gefen HDMI Detective with splitter


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  Reply # 838117 17-Jun-2013 14:48
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Not sure if you are still looking for a htpc, there is an acer revo on trademe with xmbc running on it.

http://www.trademe.co.nz/computers/desktops/no-monitor/auction-604960071.htm

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