Internet streaming media box
12-12-2013, 06:28 PM
Post: #1
 sylvandb Junior Member Posts: 13 Joined: Dec 2013
Internet streaming media box
Was finally able to upgrade my 'net connection to something reasonably able to stream video and want to pick up a simple box to attach to my TV (via HDMI or component). I already have a MythTV computer, but want something easier to 1) setup and maintain, 2) for wife and kids to use.

Was thinking about Chromecast - cheap but no Amazon Prime streaming and really not impressed with its current selection and functionality.

Looks like the best alternative is a Roku, probably a '3' for as much future-proofing as reasonable. It does not stream youtube, but it looks like going into developer mode and side loading a channel will work. I like that the '3' has dual-band WiFi, ethernet, more ram, and faster processor.

I'm considering current support, ease of use, future support and maybe hack potential...

Strong for or against these or other choices?

Any other thoughts?

sdb

P.S. Had to come up with something to break in the off-topic forum!
12-13-2013, 03:26 AM
Post: #2
 Howard Owen Member Posts: 86 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Internet streaming media box
My Roku 2 has worked well for me. It has a nice search feature that covers all the services you are using. So if something is free on Netflix, but costs on Amazon Prime, you can tell. Roku also seems to be neutral in the media platform wars, so annoying service exclusions may be less likely.
12-13-2013, 03:43 AM
Post: #3
 Katie Wasserman Super Moderator Posts: 636 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Internet streaming media box
I've had a Roku 2 XS for a year or so. It's been totally reliable and they've even upgraded the firmware a few times with new features. The remote control is pretty cool when playing their free Angry Birds but I really haven't much use for the motion control aspect of it. One nice, not-so-well-know feature is that the box not only operates via the bluetooth-linked remote but also accepts IR remote input. So a universal remote can control the box too. Built-in memory is limited however and you can only load a few dozen channels at a time, but it's very easy to swap them out or plug in a micro-SD card.

-katie

12-13-2013, 04:11 PM
Post: #4
 CR Haeger Member Posts: 275 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Internet streaming media box
I purchased/installed Chromecast on what was formerly my basement "smart" TV. It works as advertised, supporting Hulu+, Netflix, Youtube, Pandora, Songza and a few other apps.

My teenage daughters figured out quickly how to cast from their handheld devices and this lets them and their freinds play "VJ" which is nice.

I do sometimes use the Google Cast app from a Chrome browser. Its nice in that it will cast whatever Chrome tab you have open to the TV. They also have a BETA that allows the Desktop/other programs to be screencast from your PC.

For $35 its been useful this year. Best, Carl 12-13-2013, 06:17 PM Post: #5  Jeff O. Member Posts: 194 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-12-2013 06:28 PM)sylvandb Wrote: Any other thoughts? We have had a couple of Rokus for a few years and are quite satisfied. The only point of this reply is to advise that if you do get a Roku, when you sign up to activate it, they will ask for a credit card. If you want to be able to make purchases, fine. I did not and did not care to give them my CC info. I was able to get them to activate the Roku account without CC info by using their online support or online chat feature. Dave - My mind is going - I can feel it. 12-18-2013, 04:19 PM Post: #6  sylvandb Junior Member Posts: 13 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box Thanks to all for the ideas and considerations. A Roku3 is on the way, and yesterday's announcement of official YouTube support is a nice surprise. However unless the Roku turns out to be the bee's knees, I expect a chromecast is in my future. That little stick has impressive specs and functionality! The tip about the credit card is very good to know. I had been a bit uncomfortable with only the 'PIN to purchase' option, given the usage/users I expect for this box. 12-18-2013, 06:06 PM Post: #7  Jeff O. Member Posts: 194 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-18-2013 04:19 PM)sylvandb Wrote: A Roku3 is on the way, and yesterday's announcement of official YouTube support is a nice surprise. Hopefully that YouTube support will extend to earlier devices. (we have a Roku2 and/or a 2S or/or an XS, or something(s) like that, I forget exactly.) (12-18-2013 04:19 PM)sylvandb Wrote: However unless the Roku turns out to be the bee's knees, I expect a chromecast is in my future. That little stick has impressive specs and functionality! Well, I'm not sure how bee's-kneesy it will strike you, but I think it will perform as advertised. But I agree the Chromecast looks like it might be a worthwhile add-on. It’s only$30, after all. (But will they require a credit card? Hmmmm.)

(12-18-2013 04:19 PM)sylvandb Wrote:  The tip about the credit card is very good to know. I had been a bit uncomfortable with only the 'PIN to purchase' option, given the usage/users I expect for this box.

I hope they don't give you any guff and will still do that for you. My recollection is that I tried to activate, it asked for a credit card, I got mad and did on-line support, the representative said I had to give CC info, steam started coming out of my ears, then the representative said something like "do you want me to get a supervisor so you can activate without providing credit card info?" After being warned that I would not be able to make purchases (“aw, shucks!”), they let me activate.

Dave - My mind is going - I can feel it.
12-18-2013, 07:44 PM
Post: #8
 Howard Owen Member Posts: 86 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Internet streaming media box
(12-18-2013 04:19 PM)sylvandb Wrote:  However unless the Roku turns out to be the bee's knees, I expect a chromecast is in my future.

It's not so hard to see in my future for $30.00. The advantage Roku has now is the number of channels it supports. It was there early on and is platform agnostic. So you could get Amazon, for example, from the start. The result is the largest number of channels of any box out there. Google tries to make up for terrible channel support by allowing you to stream anything you can view in Chrome. Of course, then your computer is right in the mix. One of the main points of a device like a Roku is to cut the (metaphorical or actual) cord with your computer. That works better in a living room where the desktop may be upstairs, or with a laptop that may or may not be there full time. There's also that nifty search feature. Finding out that the classic film Amazon wants two bucks for on a rental basis is free on Netflix is quite nice. It's also great to know whether or not a given title is even available anywhere. It's ironic that the Sultan of Search is being beaten at this by a little company like Roku. Having said all that, I hate the user interface on Roku. I'd like more computer-like input, such as voice recognition for example. Moving a pointer through an alphabetic grid sucks. But that's the inevitable consequence of cutting the computer out of the loop. The remote control interface is also likely to be perceived as easier to use by someone who watches a lot of TV. Regards, Howard 12-19-2013, 12:04 AM (This post was last modified: 12-19-2013 12:08 AM by brouhaha.) Post: #9  brouhaha Member Posts: 142 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-12-2013 06:28 PM)sylvandb Wrote: a Roku, probably a '3' for as much future-proofing as reasonable. It does not stream youtube, Please don't tell that to my Roku 3! I don't want it to get the idea that it shouldn't stream YouTube for me! (12-19-2013 12:04 AM)brouhaha Wrote: Please don't tell that to my Roku 3! I don't want it to get the idea that it shouldn't stream YouTube for me! Hah! Roku just announced official YouTube support today. I've been using the unofficial YouTube channel on several Rokus for years, and while the UI wasn't great, it generally worked fine. 12-19-2013, 02:13 AM (This post was last modified: 12-19-2013 02:14 AM by sylvandb.) Post: #10  sylvandb Junior Member Posts: 13 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-19-2013 12:04 AM)brouhaha Wrote: Hah! Roku just announced official YouTube support today. Yesterday, actually, as ack'd by my post above made this morning. On similar hints I researched several of the unofficial ways of getting youtube, as well as doing local streaming. That flexibility, the ready availability of the dev kit, the open source channels, all contributed to my decision along with the generally positive feedback here and elsewhere. Frankly, I've tried and binned several streamers over the past nearly two decades that were supposedly optimized for local media as well as Internet. I'm under no illusion that the Roku will be perfect... But it is a well established product and I'm hoping and expecting my family will like it for what it does well. (I have a few terabytes of media currently online. Several hundred CDs are in FLAC and mp3 and should be good or cheaply transcoded. Video is more troublesome with 200-300 DVDs stored mostly as unencrypted VOB files (in DVD-ready directory structure). The Roku's limited variety of acceptable file formats is the biggest annoyance I am currently expecting, but I may be able to rig up the pieces to transcode on the fly behind my http server feeding the Roksbox channel.) 12-19-2013, 07:58 PM Post: #11  Howard Owen Member Posts: 86 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-19-2013 02:13 AM)sylvandb Wrote: Video is more troublesome with 200-300 DVDs stored mostly as unencrypted VOB files (in DVD-ready directory structure). The Roku's limited variety of acceptable file formats is the biggest annoyance I am currently expecting... What about Plex? It's closed source, and wants you to create account, but you don't have to in order to stream local content locally. It does transcoding on the fly for any device with a client. That includes Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows and Linux. Roku has a Plex channel that works great. I don't know about raw VOB format, but it may be worth looking into. Regards, Howard 12-20-2013, 01:10 AM Post: #12  RNav Junior Member Posts: 5 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-19-2013 02:13 AM)sylvandb Wrote: (I have a few terabytes of media currently online. Several hundred CDs are in FLAC and mp3 and should be good or cheaply transcoded. Video is more troublesome with 200-300 DVDs stored mostly as unencrypted VOB files (in DVD-ready directory structure). The Roku's limited variety of acceptable file formats is the biggest annoyance I am currently expecting, but I may be able to rig up the pieces to transcode on the fly behind my http server feeding the Roksbox channel.) My original Boxee Box is still going strong. Plays everything, including ISO's with VOB files. Too bad they abandoned the format and sold out to Samsung. I recommend building a mini ITX media pc... will be my next project. You can then play any media format, stream web media, run XBMC, etc. R Nav Clinton Twp, MI 28c 28s 48sx 49g 50g 17bii 33s 35s Prime wp34s DM42 (daily user) 12-20-2013, 07:28 AM Post: #13  Howard Owen Member Posts: 86 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-20-2013 01:10 AM)RNav Wrote: I recommend building a mini ITX media pc... Then there's this. Regards, Howard 12-20-2013, 05:22 PM Post: #14  sylvandb Junior Member Posts: 13 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Internet streaming media box (12-20-2013 07:28 AM)Howard Owen Wrote: (12-20-2013 01:10 AM)RNav Wrote: I recommend building a mini ITX media pc... Then there's this. Already have the mythtv box. That is where I would put the transcoding should I decide to do that. (Plex does sound interesting, I'll put it in a VM and see how it does.) Rather than miniITX or raspberry PI, if I were going to rebuild my media PC today I would go black. Way more oomph, still under$50.

The "tiny ARM PC" space is getting really crowded... In addition to the 'board' level products, there are a whole lot of 'stick' products (like the chromecast). Usually running android, but many of them support a full-blown linux as well. Now that TI is mostly exiting/ed that space, Allwinner and other Chinese firms look to be picking up the slack and seem to be really opening up "open source" support. Broadcom is going to be busy.
01-04-2014, 02:31 PM
Post: #15
 John Smitherman Member Posts: 84 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Internet streaming media box
I am pleased with my Roku LT and Chromecast. Also, I hear good things about the Western Digital and the latest Apple TV.

John
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