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Advice on Kodi Boxes, NASes, and Hard Drives- FireTVs, Chromeboxes, ARM Sticks, etc. - Printable Version

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Advice on Kodi Boxes, NASes, and Hard Drives- FireTVs, Chromeboxes, ARM Sticks, etc. - poofyhairguy - 2011-02-15 09:58


It has been a while since I posted this and things have changed a lot in HTPC Land. So I am going to break it down into categories:

[The "I Just Want a Cheap Android Stick That Allows Me to Have Kodi On a TV" Category]

There is a lot of competition in this space, but for this kind of stuff I like popular devices and I vote for the FireTV Stick. It has pretty much the exact amount of hardware Kodi likes with a gig of RAM and a dual core processor. You put a skin like Bello on there and you will impress people.

It can play a lot of files and is pretty much a HTPC in a stick. Pretty cool, and I like that you have other options like Netflix and Amazon for content. Here is how to get Kodi on there:


The downside compared to other sticks is a lack of a MicroSD slot with only 8GB of internal storage, so this is better as a network device. But it's remote is awesome, and is a much better option than other sticks unless you prefer to use a mobile device.

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 S805 based one that I use as my vacation device.

[The "I Want One Box to Do It All Including Netflix and Amazon, and Just Want The File To Play in My Livingroom" Category]

Run, don't walk, to the Amazon FireTV. 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 you are in the next category.

Note: Do not get a FireTV if you care about LiveTv or HD audio. If you care about those things, buy a smart Blu Ray player or a Roku for the Netflix and Hulu and look to the next category. 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, next category. Also if you have over 1000 or so movies I would look at the next category.

[The "I Just Want a Small and Quiet Kodi Appliance That Can Play All My Local Media" Category]

Get a Celeron Chromebox and put either Openelec or XBMCbuntu onto it. Seriously, the celeron Chromebox is quiet and has enough CPU power to blow through every non-4k 10 bit file I have. It is the perfect Kodi appliance, especially after all that work Intel did for Helix. 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.

If you need to play 4K stuff look at getting an i3 or i7 model, as the celeron one slightly lacks the CPU power needed.

[The "I Want The BEST Kodi Experience Possible. Period." 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. If you aren't doing that or something like that then don't build a box. Really. 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 had small children who made me go all in on the dying format that is 3D 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.


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.


In 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 (unless they are all WD Greens). 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.

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.


My favorite option, and the only one I use, is Unraid. You have to pay money for this software, but I think its very much worth it because its the only NAS software on the market which is pretty much designed for mediaservers. I don't have any affiliation with Limetech, but their software Unraid is strongly supported by some in the XBMC community because it has high compatibility with all OSes and all types of media.

Advantages of Unraid
-Allows you to mix and match drives of different sizes and makes into a single "User Share" of pooled storage (one big folder across drives)
-Allows you to pull the drives of the array out and read the data on them on another computer
-Allows drives to spin down if they are not being accessed, saving power and possible prolonging their life
-Unraid allows for the growing of the array in size by replacing one drive at a time with full use of that drive after addition and no data loss
-Unraid is easy to install, runs off a pen drive to save sata ports for data, and is configured by and easy to use web interface

-Unraid costs money for real versions
-Unraid's write speeds are pretty low without a cache drive
-Unraid's read speeds are slightly lower than the drives by themselves, but still more than fast enough for media
-Unraid is a dedicated NAS OS, meaning that it can't easily do other server stuff for you

In the end Unraid gives you a media server that is grown periodically as storage is needed, one cheapest disk available at a time, yet it can easily stream mutliple HD movies to multiple (I have tested up to 5) clients on your network.

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.

- 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

Wooooo!! Big Grin

Poofy is back! Nod 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 Shocked

- 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 Shocked
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. Laugh

- 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,
Best Served By:
-ION1/ION2 (Linux/Windows 7)

does that includes Nettops such as ZOTACs /REVOs/ SHUTTLEs ??

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

roger that!

- poofyhairguy - 2011-02-16 01:29

Added my Love and Hate List

- Superorb - 2011-02-16 01:48

Subscribed, great info here Smile

- 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?