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START HERE - Pick the Right Kodi Box (updated March 2020)
I have been looking for a new media player and so far it seems like a complete mess since I last had a self built HTPC. Now I would like something that is zero effort, ideally like a modern WD media player that is plug and play. Essentially:

- 8-bit 1080p/720p/576p/480p x264 + x265 decoding with proper framerate support
- No 3D, no 4K, no netflix, no streaming, local playback via USB HDD only
- 5.1 or 2.0 aac, mp3, dolby digital or dts
- No fancy audio tracks
- Cheap
- Little to no setup or ongoing maintenance

As I am in Australia where shipping costs a bomb and everything else is marked up at least 20% it seems even more challenging. All the Android tv boxes on the local ebay that are sub $100 seem shifty with no support and I don't particularly want the whole Windows thing again. Looking at the Nvidia Shield for around $300 imported . . . . . any cheaper recommendations?
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RPi3 or imported WeTek Core. Though you will run into HEVC playback issues eventually with higher 8-bit bitrates when trying to decode HEVC on the RPi3. The WeTek Core is the most integrated solution with very fast Air delivery to Aus. even when using standard shipping.

The other outsider is the 10-bit HEVC ODROID C2, that is receiving some love from the LibreELEC devs. It's a fast little bugger with a few rough edges like no DTS audio passthrough currently in LibreELEC, tho 5.1 DD/AC3 passthrough works. Get one of those direct from Korea from the HardKernel website. eMMC 5.0 flash storage recommended.

Another option is the value packed HEVC capable Intel Cherry Trail's like the Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus. You can even boot straight into Kodi and bypass windows these days. There are OpenELEC images now becoming available for these devices as well.

These cheap ARM devices will need a proper power supply if you are connecting a 2.5 inch USB drive. Even then you will likely need an externally powered HDD to be on the safe side. Generally USB 3 HDD's are more power efficient. Also imported stuff will need a Aus. to USA power plug adapter as is always the case.

As a side note you can very easily turn all three devices into a TV tuner OpenELEC / LibreELEC Kodi PVR solution just by adding the old dirt cheap Play TV DVB-T dual tuner found on EBay.

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(2016-04-22, 04:35)wrxtasy Wrote: RPi3 or imported WeTek Core. Though you will run into HEVC playback issues eventually with higher 8-bit bitrates when trying to decode HEVC on the RPi3. The WeTek Core is the most integrated solution with very fast Air delivery to Aus. even when using standard shipping.

The other outsider is the 10-bit HEVC ODROID C2, that is receiving some love from the LibreELEC devs. It's a fast little bugger with a few rough edges like no DTS audio passthrough currently in LibreELEC, tho 5.1 DD/AC3 passthrough works. Get one of those direct from Korea from the HardKernel website. eMMC 5.0 flash storage recommended.

Another option is the value packed HEVC capable Intel Cherry Trail's like the Tronsmart Ara X5 Plus. You can even boot straight into Kodi and bypass windows these days. There are OpenELEC images now becoming available for these devices as well.

These cheap ARM devices will need a proper power supply if you are connecting a 2.5 inch USB drive. Even then you will likely need an externally powered HDD to be on the safe side. Generally USB 3 HDD's are more power efficient. Also imported stuff will need a Aus. to USA power plug adapter as is always the case.

As a side note you can very easily turn all three devices into a TV tuner OpenELEC / LibreELEC Kodi PVR solution just by adding the old dirt cheap Play TV DVB-T dual tuner found on EBay.

Much appreciated. I'll pass on homebrewed ARM bits and looks like the WeTek Core it is. Roughly converts to $150 AUD, less than half the Shield. Is it all plug and play? Poking around it looks like its ready out of the box . . . also you think will there be a hardware revision with 90x Amlogic chipsets in future?
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Yes plug N play for the WeTek Core, apart from the power adapter needed for Aus. Runs well out of the box.
You may even find you like OpenELEC better with the dual boot setup on the Core, if you don't need all the Android stuff.
OE runs a bit quicker and smoother.
Even then it just a flash of a microSDHC card and insert into SD slot and leave it there permanently to bootup into OpenELEC.

There is a cheaper AML S905 WeTek Hub in the pipeline too, which I'm currently testing. Its a 10-bit HEVC decoder and can run the Kodi GUI in 4K at 60Hz over HDMI 2.0. It a little bit quicker again than the WeTek Core but the remote control will not be a RF Wireless one with an Accurate Air Mouse function.
No idea on the release date for that one, see the seperate WeTek S905 product thread.

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I had a m8s clone (had been rubbish) which had kodi on but this week, so I am now looking for a new box. So recommendations would be great. Main usuage is Kodi and not really much else as my tv does Netflix, Amazon etc.

Things that are a must:
4K
3D
HD Audio Pass through
HDMI 2.0 and CEC
Good Hardware Support
Good Kodi/Openelec Experience

At present I am looking at either Minix NEO U1, Wetek Core/Play, Nvidia Sheild(although a bit expensive) but will consider other options
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I had a number of the WDTV boxes in the house for years. Worked great but often froze and needed to be hard rebooted which was a pain. After looking around I ended up with one of the cheap android boxes, had problems, then got the NVidia Shield and it's been exactly what I was looking for. Family LOVES it much more than the WDTV. Glad we switched.

(note that you'll want to use the SPMC branch off of kodi as it is optimized for the Shield)
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(2016-04-22, 12:07)donovan2123 Wrote: I had a m8s clone (had been rubbish) which had kodi on but this week, so I am now looking for a new box. So recommendations would be great. Main usuage is Kodi and not really much else as my tv does Netflix, Amazon etc.

Things that are a must:
4K
3D
HD Audio Pass through
HDMI 2.0 and CEC
Good Hardware Support
Good Kodi/Openelec Experience

At present I am looking at either Minix NEO U1, Wetek Core/Play, Nvidia Sheild(although a bit expensive) but will consider other options
Wetek Play doesn't do 4K, 3D, HD Audio or HDMI 2.0... It's an older box that is close to end of life.
Wetek Core does 4K at up to 30p via HDMI 1.4, it doesn't do 3D Frame Packed output.
In fact none of the boxes on your list do Full HD 3D Frame Packed output, which is required for full quality 3D. (Only a couple of solutions do)

The new S905 boxes should do most things on your list other than Full HD 3D, though HD Audio pass-through has yet to be seen on them.
The Shield does most things on your list other than Full quality 3D.
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(2016-04-23, 09:23)noggin Wrote: The new S905 boxes should do most things on your list other than Full HD 3D, though HD Audio pass-through has yet to be seen on them.
Ahem, 7.1 HD Audio Passthrough works already on the S905 MINIX U1 and I'm assured it will also be on the upcoming AML S905 devices from WeTek such as the Hub when running Android Lollipop. You really need to go and look at the MINIX U1 forum to do some pre-reading of any problems this device has.
No OpenELEC on the U1, but you will get OpenELEC on the upcoming WeTek Hub. However I doubt you will get 7.1 HD Audio passthrough with OpenELEC on the Hub, just the regular 5.1 AC3/DTS passthrough.

Full 1080p / Frame Packed 3D is just a marketing gimmick unless you have a Home Projection theatre system to get the full immersive 3D experience IMHO. A small TV does not do 3D justice, unless you sit really really close. I would certainly not limit my Hardware options just to get Frame Packed 3D.

Very little 10-bit 4K content available at this present point in time (apart from Netflix/Amazon) as well due to copy protections on the new UHD Bluray discs that have yet to be cracked. You cannot even home Rip bought UHD discs.

A Shield will run rings around a MINIX U1, for not that much more cost when spread out over a number of years of ownership, especially if purchased in the cost competitive USA.

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Hello all.

I am in the market for a media player for a family member.

Since I originally set up my own XBMC box back in 2012, there has been a huge surge in products for installing XBMC/Kodi on. Back then it was either buy a net top PC, and ATV or make a self build HTPC. I have a Acer net top PC running Openelec and it works perfect, playing every MKV/video file I throw at it.

I want to be able to repeat this performance on one of these modern devices, but I've absolutely no idea where to start. I've had a read of the OP but the discussion of file types and codecs etc has me confused.

Simply put, I want a device that can play high bitrate MKV files, such as 4gb TV episodes or 12gb movie files, without issue. No 'unsupported file type' errors, no glitches such as episodes randomly stopping, or pressing rewind or forward taking you back to the beginning/end of the file. Just smooth, issue free playback. It just has to be user friendly and work for this very specific purpose.

It doesn't need wireless capability, streaming, apps etc, just 1080p/5.1 high bitrate MKV playback from an attached 1TB USB HDD. It doesn't even necessarily have to be Kodi, a quality regular media player that is user friendly would be acceptable.

They currently use a Bluray player but it's very sketchy in what it plays and how well it plays these files.

I am in the UK, my budget is around £40. Is this possible and if so, could you provide a recommendation please? My head is spinning reading up on all the devices and now I find that many devices have fake reviews.

Thanks a lot for any advice.
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Sharpey,
How about this one?
https://www.adafruit.com/products/3055?g...fgodxO4FFg
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(2016-04-25, 07:24)deaded Wrote: Sharpey,
How about this one?
https://www.adafruit.com/products/3055?g...fgodxO4FFg

Thanks for the reply.

I have thought about the Pi but always saw it as a low tech solution, but this was when it first came out, I'm guessing it has improved?
Does Kodi genuinely run smoothly on it, even with a skin like Aeon Nox?
Do you still have to buy codecs for it?
Is video decoded by the hardware?

Sorry for all the questions.

Most important to me is glitch free playback of HD MKV files (some have DTS 5.1 soundtracks), if it can do that then absolutely I would look at getting one. Ultimately I can't get a device that doesn't run smoothly as it is not for me, but for a technophobic family Smile
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(2016-04-25, 08:00)Sharpey Wrote:
(2016-04-25, 07:24)deaded Wrote: Sharpey,
How about this one?
https://www.adafruit.com/products/3055?g...fgodxO4FFg

Thanks for the reply.

I have thought about the Pi but always saw it as a low tech solution, but this was when it first came out, I'm guessing it has improved?
Yes - both Kodi and the hardware have improved. The latest Pi3 has integrated WiFi and Bluetooth and rather than a single 700MHz core based on an old architecture it now has a 1.2GHz Quad Core Cortex A53 SoC (now 64 bit - though current software is still 32 bit) It runs OpenElec/LibreElec incredibly well.

The original Pi was a nice novelty, the Pi 2 became a perfectly sensible Kodi box. The Pi3 is even better.

Quote:Does Kodi genuinely run smoothly on it, even with a skin like Aeon Nox?
I don't run Aeon Nox so can't comment. However Confluence and Estuary are incredibly fluid (though you may see a drop in rendering fps when the Pi 3 is playing back video)

Quote:Do you still have to buy codecs for it?
If you want to play MPEG2 or VC-1 then although some software decode is now possible, it is definitely sensible to pay the £3.60 for the pair of codecs.
Quote:Is video decoded by the hardware?
MPEG2, VC-1 and H264 are hardware decoded (the VC-1 and MPEG2 licences enable the OS to use the hardware decoders).

HEVC is decoded with a combination of CPU and GPU-compute decoding (not via the hardware VPU). As a result the Pi3 will decode almost all 720p and many, but not all, 1080p HEVC files.

Quote:Sorry for all the questions.

Most important to me is glitch free playback of HD MKV files (some have DTS 5.1 soundtracks), if it can do that then absolutely I would look at getting one. Ultimately I can't get a device that doesn't run smoothly as it is not for me, but for a technophobic family Smile

DD/DTS will either be bitstreamed over HDMI, or will be decoded to PCM 5.1. HD Audio will be losslessly decoded to 5.1/7.1PCM (other than the handful of 192kHz 5.1 tracks)

The Pi 3 happily plays full quality un-recompressed Blu-ray rips (so 40Mbs video streams with HD Audio) and has no problems with proper 23.976p output. It also handles 3D MVC decode and 1080p Full HD Frame Packed output - which is very unusual. I use Pi 3s as secondary viewing location players and they are excellent.

It really is very good indeed. And for the money it's amazing. (There are a couple of other very low cost solutions appearing - but the Pi 3 definitely has the most stable and most polished experience at the moment, and with multichannel PCM audio and 3D MVC+FP output it's close to impossible to beat in those regards).
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Fantastic post Noggin, that's cleared up a lot of things for me.

I am going to read up on it further now as I''ve never put one together, we'll see how I get on.

Regarding the paying for codecs, how does that work with Kodi? I thought Kodi has everything bundled in?

Thanks again.
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(2016-04-25, 14:37)Sharpey Wrote: Fantastic post Noggin, that's cleared up a lot of things for me.

I am going to read up on it further now as I''ve never put one together, we'll see how I get on.
There's no real putting together. You flash a uSD card with OpenElec or LibreElec on a PC and then insert the uSD card in the slot in the Pi. It's worth getting a decent PSU (most issues with the Pi are power related). The Pi Foundation supplies are excellent. You can chose the case you like - I have the Pi Foundation and Pimoroni Pibow cases for mine (NB the Power/Activity LEDs moved between the B+/2B and the 3B so it's worth checking you are buying a case that works for the model Pi you buy). Note that, like the Pi Zero, the Pi3 doesn't have a sprung uSD card slot (like the A+/B+ and 2B), so removing and inserting a uSD card in some cases can be a little more fiddly ( tape tab on the uSD card or a pair of tweezers or fine pliers helps, and you don't normally have to pop the card out very often, as you can upgrade Libre/OpenElec in-situ)

Quote:Regarding the paying for codecs, how does that work with Kodi? I thought Kodi has everything bundled in?

Every Pi has a serial number in it's SoC which is available via a number of routes. You enter that serial number on the Pi Foundation website when you buy the codecs. You are then emailed an enabling licence code for each codec which is tied to that serial number and which you enter in the config.txt file on the Boot partition of the uSD card (You can do this either by remotely logging in to your Pi or buy taking the uSD card to a PC and manually editing config.txt in NotePad or similar. There is also a Kodi add-on which helps with this - though I don't think I've used it). These licences are read by the Pi's boot loader(s) I think and enable the hardware decoders for MPEG2 and VC-1. (H264 is enabled by default)

Kodi includes software decoders (which require CPU power) and has code that will use hardware decoding (on the Pi you have a choice of OMX or MMAL routes - but both use the licensed codecs). The hardware itself is enabled by the licence keys in config.txt.
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(2016-04-23, 10:30)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2016-04-23, 09:23)noggin Wrote: The new S905 boxes should do most things on your list other than Full HD 3D, though HD Audio pass-through has yet to be seen on them.
Ahem, 7.1 HD Audio Passthrough works already on the S905 MINIX U1 and I'm assured it will also be on the upcoming AML S905 devices from WeTek such as the Hub when running Android Lollipop. You really need to go and look at the MINIX U1 forum to do some pre-reading of any problems this device has.

Ah - had missed that. I stand corrected. Looks like a couple of S905 Android boxes claim HD Audio bit streaming now. (Though not PCM 5.1/7.1 - which makes FLAC and AAC multichannel a bit boring)

Quote:No OpenELEC on the U1, but you will get OpenELEC on the upcoming WeTek Hub. However I doubt you will get 7.1 HD Audio passthrough with OpenELEC on the Hub, just the regular 5.1 AC3/DTS passthrough.

That's a real shame. I do hope that gets sorted, along with the ongoing issues with interlaced DVD playback.

Quote:Full 1080p / Frame Packed 3D is just a marketing gimmick unless you have a Home Projection theatre system to get the full immersive 3D experience IMHO. A small TV does not do 3D justice, unless you sit really really close. I would certainly not limit my Hardware options just to get Frame Packed 3D.

Sorry? I cannot agree with subjective statements like that. I have a 49" UHD Passive 3D-capable display which delivers 3840x1080 resolution to each eye. 960x1080 HSBS and 1920x540 HTAB 3D look dreadfully soft on it. The only 3D I would consider watching would be 24p Frame Packed Full HD. Anything less looks soft and is uncomfortable to watch.

If you want to watch 3D on a 3D-capable display, then Frame Packed 3D Full resolution content is the only content worth watching in my opinion.

I live, some of the time, in London. I live in a relatively small flat. Viewing distance on a 49" display for 3D is fine, and gives me a pretty immersive 3D experience. We don't all have huge living rooms, and some of us have great eyesight...

If 3D is important to you, it's important to you. Just because you don't care for it wrxtasy doesn't mean that others don't, and it doesn't mean they are victims of marketing gimmickry. I have a 3D TV, I have 3D content. I want to watch it in a convenient manner. Currently the Pi 3 is the most convenient way I have of watching this. It also plays all the content I have in my library (including stuff the Core won't/can't play...) with the exception of some 2160/60p and 50p HEVC stuff - which is test content and not really something you watch that often. I have no HEVC content other than this as I source all my content myself (DVD or Blu-ray discs I've purchased are losslessly ripped, TV recordings are left in their native H264 or MPEG2 format) Stuff I master myself from broadcast quality sources I master to H264 at a decent bitrate.

If HEVC and/or UHD were important to me - I'd undoubtedly end up with a two-box solution at the moment. There is no current universal box for everything.
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