Pick the Right Kodi Box (UPDATED FEB 2015) - Printable Version
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Pick the Right Kodi Box (UPDATED FEB 2015) - poofyhairguy - 2011-02-15 09:58
Right now is an exciting time for this space. In 2015 there are way more options at way better price points than ever before, and an elite Kodi experience is easily possible. To help everyone I am cutting this into categories. First up is the best one:
[The "I Just Want the Best Kodi Experience I Can Get in A Small Quiet Box in 2015" Category]
Get a Celeron Chromebox and put Openelec onto it. Seriously, the celeron Chromebox is quiet and has enough CPU power to blow through every non-4k HEVC file I have. It is the perfect Kodi appliance, especially after all that work Intel did for Helix that Openelec incorporates.
Even Live TV- the high water mark- works great. It has great GPU support in the current version, and can run every plugin or skin which is HUGE. This is the new Acer Revo. THE box. I am partial to the Asus one for its quietness. If you have a large library, you basically must buy this thing.
Here are the directions (thank you Matt and everyone):
I have done those steps from out of the box in less than 20 minutes. Just don't even bother dual-booting, go the stand alone install route and let Openelec be the primary OS. Wifi will work as will the Intel GPU.
If you must have something that is guaranteed future proof (aka can play all the stuff coming in 4k) or you are REALLY into Anime look at getting an i3 or i7 model, as the celeron one slightly lacks the CPU power needed to what is coming with the 4K Blu Ray standard maybe. But who knows really, we don't have that stuff yet and honestly it plays the 4k I have now.
I use my celeron Chromebox at my 4K viewing station. And I am using its 5GHz wifi to play everything! How about that for an endorsement?
Seriously if you care about an top shelf Kodi experience stop now and get a Chromebox. If you care about more than Kodi such as Netflix, or you want something cheaper than a Chromebox for a little worse experience than a Chromebox, then read on.
[The "I want a good cheap box that can properly play my 2D Blu Ray and DVD rips on my TV via Kodi." Category]
The Pi 2 is winner in this category. When you purchase the codecs it can play any Blu Ray rip you throw at it, and it provides a great value by de-interlacing old DVDs really well. The Pi 2 can give you proper 24p support unlike almost any Android box and it can run the interface well for a modest library.
I give the Pi 2 my full endorsement for playing ripped media properly.
The only restrictions otherwise compared to a Chromebox are it can't run every plugin, it won't run every skin as well, it doesn't have the power to decode really any HEVC and maybe some Hi10p stuff, and it can't bitstream HD audio (that is the big one). Oh and I personally wouldn't use it for 1080i live TV unless I really couldn't afford a Chromebox.
But for the price the Pi 2 really is the only thing I feel safe saying can just take on a hard drive of random Blu Rays. I am kinda picky and I would take a Pi 2 over any Android box any day on a primary viewing station. Anyone near its price doesn't get the support the Pi does, plus Android is a second-class HTPC OS currently. There are better Android devices than a Pi 2, but honestly if you are spending more on a Pi 2 then a Chromebox is probably what you should be buying.
One limit of both the Pi 2 and the Chromebox is lack of ten foot Netflix support. I don't think that is a big deal, but some people want just one box for everything even if that means sacrificing a Pi 2 level Kodi experience. That is the next category.
[The "I Want One Box to Do It All Including Netflix and Amazon, and Just Want The File To Play in My Livingroom" Category]
That box is the Amazon FireTV (the box not the stick). Sideload Kodi and add it to your home screen:
The benefits of the box over the stick is the extra power (which is nice for better skins) plus ethernet!
Note I am less of a fan of ALL the other ARM boxes because:
1. A ton of people are buying these FireTVs so they should have good community support for a while, unlike random ARM box
2. The Hulu and Netflix experience at ten feet on these is FAR beyond anything else running Android. If you don't care about Netflix and Hulu then you already should have bought a Chromebox or Pi 2.
Note: Do not get a FireTV if you care about LiveTv or HD audio. Also to be honest it might have trouble playing a pile of straight Blu Ray rips, as an interlaced VC1 file makes it wishes it was dead. Most blus aren't interlaced or VC1 thank goodness, and you can always fix it in Handbrake. But if you are just dumping blus into mkvs via Makemkv then again, Chromebox. Also if you have over 1000 or so more movies then you know the word: Chromebox. But this thing is my new family holiday gift.
You might need to force-kill SPMC (use it instead of Kodi) for full Netflix performance. Something like Llama or tasker could do that.
[The "I Want The BEST Kodi Experience Possible. Period. And I Demand it Be Future Proof!" Category]
This is still dominated by Nvidia+Linux (or Windows 7+AMD) in my opinion. But the difference between the best and a Chromebox is slight. You will need to build a custom rig, preferably with a GT 630 V2 GPU (aka the best HTPC GPU ever) or better to even make it worthwhile. That GPU plays all my h264 2160p files, and runs Aeon Nox at 4k perfectly at 60fps so I can recommend it also for older system you want to make into Kodi machines. Here is a good starting point for the quest of building a HTPC:
Honestly only freak shows like me who care that their interlaced VC1 files are played perfectly should be building a box for Kodi if you are starting from scratch. Or gamers. Like one of my primary systems is this overclocked i5 rig so it can launch Wii games out of Kodi. That needs more than a Chromebox, but none of that is Kodi.
The only REAL benefit just for media purposes is the upgradability. Soon we will have cheap Nvidia GPUs that decode the meanest HEVC like nothing, and that means a custom built box can accept that upgrade some day. But if you have a new nice 1080p TV you really like then just buy a Chromebox.
[The "I Care More About Playing 3D ISOs Perfectly Than Anything Else" Category]
Some people have niche needs, like playing ISOs instead of mkvs, and the VidOn Box is the only device that can do that and 3D frame packing properly. I personally wouldn't want one of these boxes, many of its limitations are simply unacceptable to me, but I guess if I went all in on the dying format that is 3D (I say that as an owner of three 3D tvs) then this would be my box. Here is a list of limitations so you can decide for yourself:
For 99% of people a Chromebox or Intel NUC is better for Kodi usage than any ARM box. Android simply has too many limitations, and every ARM box or stick lacks the single core performance you ideally want in a high end media box.
[The "I Just Want a Cheap Android Stick That Allows Me to Have Kodi On a TV" Category]
For a stick that plays nice with MicroSD or a USB drive there are a tons of options. I recommend something with a Mali 450 GPU as it has a great decoder built in. I have an mk808b Plus that I use as my vacation device and that I can recommend 100% for playing off of external media. Works with exfat and 64GB MicroSD cards, something not advertised. Plus it has a low-power CPU and not a tablet class one, which means it doesn't run super hot. It works well with pen drives or USB thumb drives and it can play all my 1080p h264 content, even the really high bitrate stuff. Heck it can even play a little 720p Hi10 files perfectly (the 4.0 profile ones). The limitations are a pretty poor wifi compared to say a Chromebox (it can do USB ethernet) and it won't run every skin. But for the price it is a great little stick, and it has a decent Openelec build.
OK, HOPE THAT HELPS!
[BASIC HDD ADVICE]
As far as hard drives go, I think any hard drive less than 3TB is a waste. When you figure out the slot costs and compare that to the small price difference between 1, 1.5, 2 and 3TB drives it is obvious that 3TB drives the only value worth pursuing. High Def data takes up a LOT of space, even single 3TB drives are nothing.
Never buy more than one of the same HD from a vendor at one time!!! If you do you might be buying part of the same batch and if its a faulty batch no RAID in the world can help you. Mix and match drives vendors when building an array to pull from many separate batches.
[ON HTPCS + NASES]
On the issue of local storage vs a NAS, I ALWAYS think a NAS-type device is better. HTPCs + NAS combo machines are a cheaper option at first, but the combined heat of 1080p playing GPUs and the working HDs means that either the box will be loud with fans, or you will be killing hard drives. Benefits of pure NASes include being able to use NAS specific OSes with special features (more on that later), the ability to easily have multiple clients, and the ability for your NAS to do other things for you in some cases. Plus nowadays with the Chromebox there is no reason to have a loud NAS device in the livingroom. NASes can work in a space that is more private.
If you must put storage space inside your HTPC, the only drives I recommend are WD Green drives. They are the only drives on the market that stay cool enough that I feel safe recommending them in HTPCs. WD Green drives (and all 2TB Green drives on the market) are fast enough to host full 3D Blu Ray 1080p rips, so save your power by going green. Try to limit it to about three or so though.
Which brings me to NASes. There are two paths on this: build or buy. I am a build it guy. If you are a buy it guy look at Synology.
As far as building a NAS goes there are many different methods. Many people use older hardware they have laying around, some build from scratch. The four most common custom NAS OS options are Linux software RAID 5/6 (Ubuntu), FreeNAS (ZFS), Windows Home Server, and Unraid. The latter two are pay for software, the first two are free. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you want to learn more about these different options in detail read this thread.
Personally I use Unraid because it is easy to grow an array.
What HD Brand to Buy
As far as what hard drives to buy, I have tried almost all consumer sub 6TB drives and all I can say is buy Hitachis. Seriously. The WD Black is the best Unraid parity drive out there, but for the data drives buy Hitachis if you can. Second to that for me for a fast drive is the 7200 3TB Seagates, I think those are a good value. Red drives have their benefits depending on the RAID solution you use.
- ion_man - 2011-02-15 13:48
Good summary, I agree with it. with regards to ION/ION2, the Linuxtech.net overview is very helpful to choose among the large choice of devices:
- bmcclure937 - 2011-02-15 17:34
Poofy is back! Glad to see you pal. To be honest, I was worried to not see you post for so long.
Don't scare us like that
- eskro - 2011-02-15 17:42
bmcclure937 Wrote:Glad to see you pal. To be honest, I was worried to not see you post for so long.
Poofy is back
Yay!! I was afraid too since his last post was on 2011-01-22!!
Glad to see you here Captain!
- Beer40oz - 2011-02-15 17:49
I am so happy! I thought something happened to you. Glad you are back.
- poofyhairguy - 2011-02-15 23:21
Thanks for the kind words everyone. I plan to add to this thread, so if there is something missing please let me know.
- eskro - 2011-02-15 23:25
poofyhairguy Wrote:if there is something missing please let me know.
(A). in GROUP 2, when u wrote,
Best Served By:
-ION1/ION2 (Linux/Windows 7)
does that includes Nettops such as ZOTACs /REVOs/ SHUTTLEs ??
(B). Also, what about the ATV1 & ATV2 ??
- poofyhairguy - 2011-02-16 00:21
eskro Wrote:(A). in GROUP 2, when u wrote,
Yep. Every ION based Nettop can play 1080p, even single core models (in Linux).
Quote:(B). Also, what about the ATV1 & ATV2 ??
I plan to add them as a special case.
ATV1's only real use is for those who have component HD TVs. I can say from experience that the lack of robust decoding for Broadcoms combined with the low amount of RAM makes any ION system better than any ATV1.
ATV2's have interesting limitations (720p output) and the require network storage. Their addition to the XBMC community is a big deal, but they certainly go in a class below ION systems.
- eskro - 2011-02-16 00:36
- poofyhairguy - 2011-02-16 01:29
Added my Love and Hate List
- Superorb - 2011-02-16 01:48
Subscribed, great info here
- Knighthammer - 2011-02-16 02:11
Here is a motherboard that I'm eagerly waiting to see how well it will do - http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=3681#ov One of the new AMD Fusion boards. I want to build a G2 type setup and I was thinking that this new board would be idea (if not a bit overkill). Thoughts?
- poofyhairguy - 2011-02-16 02:43
Another big update. Added tones of Newegg links, two sub-groups (with AppleTVs) and some refining. If anyone thinks I am off on anything (or I am missing a key point) please challenge me on it so this can be a good resource for people.
- spartan711 - 2011-02-16 02:57
What about AMD Zacate platform? One board solution.
Asrock e350- 110+shipping
Cheap Mini-itx case w/psu - 50
2 GB RAM - 20
Nice front end that bitstreams hd audio for under 200 bucks. Assuming of course, you have windows.
- xecutionx - 2011-02-16 03:53
Great thread. One question though: what's wrong with Samsung HDDs?