DIY Kodi TV Box
#1
Okay so currently I am using a FireTV Stick 4k however I noticed that 4k HDR streams with a bitrate of 60 MBit/s cause the player to buffer like every minute. The VLC player on the other hand can't even give me a smooth playback on the FireTV. When playing the file through VLC on my PC I am getting like 60% CPU usage across all 4x4.2GHz cores and 30% GPU Usage on my GTX 780. That is why I believe it is a CPU bottleneck and not a network issue. I can play it smoothly on my pc btw.. Question is: Is the high cpu usage caused by downscaling the image? Because both my monitor and my TV/AVR are 1080p right now. I am planning on upgrading the TV very soon though which is why I have the 4k content already laying around. So could there be a world where I don't need to do anything right now but to wait for the new TV because then there wouldn't be anymore downscaling?

If not:
I am thinking about using some old hardware to build a machine that is capable of playing this content without issues. I have a i7 with 4x3.6GHz laying around + a GTX 660. Would that work for a Kodi build that can run HDR, Atmos, 4k Content? In the future maybe even Dolby Vision once it is supported? What other possibilities do I have? I read the suggestion threads however I am still not quite sure what to use because in my head buying a already finished Android TV  box or similar will always come with less power for much more money than a DIY build right?
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#2
(2019-06-09, 18:20)Jalau Wrote: Okay so currently I am using a FireTV Stick 4k however I noticed that 4k HDR streams with a bitrate of 60 MBit/s cause the player to buffer like every minute. The VLC player on the other hand can't even give me a smooth playback on the FireTV. When playing the file through VLC on my PC I am getting like 60% CPU usage across all 4x4.2GHz cores and 30% GPU Usage on my GTX 780. That is why I believe it is a CPU bottleneck and not a network issue. I can play it smoothly on my pc btw.. Question is: Is the high cpu usage caused by downscaling the image? Because both my monitor and my TV/AVR are 1080p right now. I am planning on upgrading the TV very soon though which is why I have the 4k content already laying around. So could there be a world where I don't need to do anything right now but to wait for the new TV because then there wouldn't be anymore downscaling?

If not:
I am thinking about using some old hardware to build a machine that is capable of playing this content without issues. I have a i7 with 4x3.6GHz laying around + a GTX 660. Would that work for a Kodi build that can run HDR, Atmos, 4k Content? In the future maybe even Dolby Vision once it is supported? What other possibilities do I have? I read the suggestion threads however I am still not quite sure what to use because in my head buying a already finished Android TV  box or similar will always come with less power for much more money than a DIY build right?

VLC doesn't always use hardware acceleration for all codecs, whereas Kodi will usually do so if hardware acceleration is present, so VLC isn't a great test of video functionality on many platforms (as it is testing the CPU not the VPU video decode module in many cases with many codecs)  NB 10-bit h.264 (Aka Hi10 h.264) isn't a great codec for hardware acceleration and will fall back to software decode.  The only hardware decode solution currently able to play 10-bit h.264 is the Rockchip I believe. (This was a surprise!)

At the moment an Intel / AMD solution is probably not the best if you want UHD HDR replay.  There is some very basic HDR support in Windows - but it's not a polished solution and it's pretty expensive. Linux support of HDR on x86 platforms is currently close to non-existent I believe.

There are a number of ARM-based solution that have good hardware support in Kodi.  These are often sold as Android boxes BUT the key thing is that the best solution in most cases is to NOT run Android on them, but instead install CoreElec or LibreElec Linux distributions on them instead.  This can be as simple as putting in a MicroSD card with CoreElec on it and then booting with a recovery button held down or similar.  The two leading families are AMLogic and RockChip at the moment - with AMLogic support being far more advanced.  CoreElec on an S912 platform works well currently, and support for the new S922 SoC is going well.  RockChop RK3399 support is also continuing - but is a more recent development so has a few rougher edges (HD Audio support is still not there for instance)

The AMLogic platforms will play 60Mbs UHD HDR10 HEVC/h.265 content with bitstreamed DTS HD MA or Dolby True HD (or DTS:x / Dolby Atmos) audio with very low CPU loads (<10% per core?) as they properly use hardware acceleration.

The other approach is to run MrMC on the AppleTV 4K - which is a fork of Kodi without full Add On support (as they would breach the Apple App Store terms and conditions)  This will give you Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos in Netflix and Amazon (outside of the MrMC app)  The Apple TV has a very powerful ARM CPU that is also capable of 1080p 10-bit h.264 software decoding (unlike most ARM platforms)  10-bit h.265/HEVC is hardware accelerated on pretty much everything that supports HEVC/h.265 these days though (early Intel HEVC/h.265 solutions were limited to 8-bit)

There is no current platform that will play DolbyVision content effectively from within Kodi, but ARM platforms happily playback UHD HDR10 content with DTS:x and Dolby True HD+Atmos extensions in CoreELec / LibreElec, though work is still ongoing to output some metadata that may be required to improve picture quality on reduced-capability HDR displays in some edge cases (like projectors)  

The nVidia Shield TV is probably the only Android box that many of us would recommend as a good solution that actually runs Android.
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#3
(2019-06-13, 10:17)noggin Wrote:
(2019-06-09, 18:20)Jalau Wrote: Okay so currently I am using a FireTV Stick 4k however I noticed that 4k HDR streams with a bitrate of 60 MBit/s cause the player to buffer like every minute. The VLC player on the other hand can't even give me a smooth playback on the FireTV. When playing the file through VLC on my PC I am getting like 60% CPU usage across all 4x4.2GHz cores and 30% GPU Usage on my GTX 780. That is why I believe it is a CPU bottleneck and not a network issue. I can play it smoothly on my pc btw.. Question is: Is the high cpu usage caused by downscaling the image? Because both my monitor and my TV/AVR are 1080p right now. I am planning on upgrading the TV very soon though which is why I have the 4k content already laying around. So could there be a world where I don't need to do anything right now but to wait for the new TV because then there wouldn't be anymore downscaling?

If not:
I am thinking about using some old hardware to build a machine that is capable of playing this content without issues. I have a i7 with 4x3.6GHz laying around + a GTX 660. Would that work for a Kodi build that can run HDR, Atmos, 4k Content? In the future maybe even Dolby Vision once it is supported? What other possibilities do I have? I read the suggestion threads however I am still not quite sure what to use because in my head buying a already finished Android TV  box or similar will always come with less power for much more money than a DIY build right?

VLC doesn't always use hardware acceleration for all codecs, whereas Kodi will usually do so if hardware acceleration is present, so VLC isn't a great test of video functionality on many platforms (as it is testing the CPU not the VPU video decode module in many cases with many codecs)  NB 10-bit h.264 (Aka Hi10 h.264) isn't a great codec for hardware acceleration and will fall back to software decode.  The only hardware decode solution currently able to play 10-bit h.264 is the Rockchip I believe. (This was a surprise!)

At the moment an Intel / AMD solution is probably not the best if you want UHD HDR replay.  There is some very basic HDR support in Windows - but it's not a polished solution and it's pretty expensive. Linux support of HDR on x86 platforms is currently close to non-existent I believe.

There are a number of ARM-based solution that have good hardware support in Kodi.  These are often sold as Android boxes BUT the key thing is that the best solution in most cases is to NOT run Android on them, but instead install CoreElec or LibreElec Linux distributions on them instead.  This can be as simple as putting in a MicroSD card with CoreElec on it and then booting with a recovery button held down or similar.  The two leading families are AMLogic and RockChip at the moment - with AMLogic support being far more advanced.  CoreElec on an S912 platform works well currently, and support for the new S922 SoC is going well.  RockChop RK3399 support is also continuing - but is a more recent development so has a few rougher edges (HD Audio support is still not there for instance)

The AMLogic platforms will play 60Mbs UHD HDR10 HEVC/h.265 content with bitstreamed DTS HD MA or Dolby True HD (or DTS:x / Dolby Atmos) audio with very low CPU loads (<10% per core?) as they properly use hardware acceleration.

The other approach is to run MrMC on the AppleTV 4K - which is a fork of Kodi without full Add On support (as they would breach the Apple App Store terms and conditions)  This will give you Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos in Netflix and Amazon (outside of the MrMC app)  The Apple TV has a very powerful ARM CPU that is also capable of 1080p 10-bit h.264 software decoding (unlike most ARM platforms)  10-bit h.265/HEVC is hardware accelerated on pretty much everything that supports HEVC/h.265 these days though (early Intel HEVC/h.265 solutions were limited to 8-bit)

There is no current platform that will play DolbyVision content effectively from within Kodi, but ARM platforms happily playback UHD HDR10 content with DTS:x and Dolby True HD+Atmos extensions in CoreELec / LibreElec, though work is still ongoing to output some metadata that may be required to improve picture quality on reduced-capability HDR displays in some edge cases (like projectors)  

The nVidia Shield TV is probably the only Android box that many of us would recommend as a good solution that actually runs Android. 
Thanks for the explanation and all the details! So what do you think about getting a S922X standalone and then installing LibreElec onto it? Do you think that would be a good DIY solution instead of getting something like an already put together Android box? Or is it more expensive this way?
What do you think would be the best future proof build? Like continious support and capability to maybe at some point even pass Dolby Vision to the TV?

I am currently running Kodi on my Surface Pro 2017 and the processor seems to handle it fairly well especially because it has 10bit HEVC support. However this is just a temporary solution and I cannot test HDR yet because I yet have to buy a new TV for that (which is due within the next 3 months).

Oh btw.: Can you explain to me why everyone suggests gigabity ethernet even though for example the fire tv can get up to 400 MBit/s through WiFi and should be easily able to handle the 60 Mbit/s bitrate of an UHD Blu Ray? Do you think that this might be the issue I am running into on my Fire TV right now or do you think it is really a Downscaling/Playback related bottleneck. Can you actually suggest any 1 Gbit Ethernet Adapter for the Fire TV to test it out?
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#4
(2019-06-13, 18:53)Jalau Wrote: for example the fire tv can get up to 400 MBit/s through WiFi

"Up to..." Hardware manufacturers like to brag on the specs of their hardware. If there is one aspect of computing that can fail, then it is wifi speeds. Everyone's home situation/location is different, so results will vary. Cable ethernet has far less of such distractions, and is always the preferred network solution IMO.

On the other hand, gigabit ethernet solutions on low-powered Android boxes aren't always up to speed either. Only full-blown x86-64 PCs reach 110-115MB/s connections in my network.
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#5
(2019-06-13, 18:53)Jalau Wrote: Thanks for the explanation and all the details! So what do you think about getting a S922X standalone and then installing LibreElec onto it?
CoreELEC Kodi is where it is at for the AML S922X chipset in the ODROID N2 at the moment. That will cover 4K HDR and up to Atmos Kodi audio passthrough in a fast, snappy device:
https://coreelec.org

Quote:Do you think that would be a good DIY solution instead of getting something like an already put together Android box? Or is it more expensive this way?
For Kodi Leia - yes

Quote:What do you think would be the best future proof build? Like continious support and capability to maybe at some point even pass Dolby Vision to the TV?
An ODROID N2 for Kodi plus and Apple TV 4K for Apps. Make sure your Smart TV can do 4K HDR YouTube, which is really the only thing missing from the ATV 4K for Apps usage.
Trying to cover everything all in the one device is where people make mistakes and leads to sub optimal experiences with day to day usage and audio, video and Apps support.

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#6
(2019-06-13, 18:53)Jalau Wrote: Oh btw.: Can you explain to me why everyone suggests gigabity ethernet even though for example the fire tv can get up to 400 MBit/s through WiFi and should be easily able to handle the 60 Mbit/s bitrate of an UHD Blu Ray? Do you think that this might be the issue I am running into on my Fire TV right now or do you think it is really a Downscaling/Playback related bottleneck. Can you actually suggest any 1 Gbit Ethernet Adapter for the Fire TV to test it out? 

Oh - I'd assumed you were using a USB GigE adaptor for your playback on the Fire TV Stick. Nobody really uses WiFi for UHD Blu-ray or similar streaming - it's just not reliable enough. The '400Mb' WiFi figure is never reached in reality - cabled Ethernet is really the only reliable way of streaming high bitrate stuff. 

Yes - there is every chance that WiFi is your issue.
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#7
(2019-06-14, 01:46)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2019-06-13, 18:53)Jalau Wrote: Thanks for the explanation and all the details! So what do you think about getting a S922X standalone and then installing LibreElec onto it?
CoreELEC Kodi is where it is at for the AML S922X chipset in the ODROID N2 at the moment. That will cover 4K HDR and up to Atmos Kodi audio passthrough in a fast, snappy device:
https://coreelec.org
Quote:Do you think that would be a good DIY solution instead of getting something like an already put together Android box? Or is it more expensive this way?
For Kodi Leia - yes
Quote:What do you think would be the best future proof build? Like continious support and capability to maybe at some point even pass Dolby Vision to the TV?
An ODROID N2 for Kodi plus and Apple TV 4K for Apps. Make sure your Smart TV can do 4K HDR YouTube, which is really the only thing missing from the ATV 4K for Apps usage.
Trying to cover everything all in the one device is where people make mistakes and leads to sub optimal experiences with day to day usage and audio, video and Apps support. 

Thank you for your help! I really appreciate it.
Why not the FireTV for apps? I mean apps like Prime and Netflix run pretty damn well on it. Does it have any drawbacks?


@noggin 
Like will a combination of a normal USB to Ethernet + a OTG-USB Adapter (for the power supply) work? Because the Amazon official ethernet adapter only supports up to 100 Mbit.

Thanks everyone for your help. I guess I will go with the ODROID N2 once I got my new TV and will make sure to have all Apps covered with my devices.
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#8
(2019-06-14, 14:23)Jalau Wrote:
(2019-06-14, 01:46)wrxtasy Wrote:
(2019-06-13, 18:53)Jalau Wrote: Thanks for the explanation and all the details! So what do you think about getting a S922X standalone and then installing LibreElec onto it?
CoreELEC Kodi is where it is at for the AML S922X chipset in the ODROID N2 at the moment. That will cover 4K HDR and up to Atmos Kodi audio passthrough in a fast, snappy device:
https://coreelec.org
Quote:Do you think that would be a good DIY solution instead of getting something like an already put together Android box? Or is it more expensive this way?
For Kodi Leia - yes
Quote:What do you think would be the best future proof build? Like continious support and capability to maybe at some point even pass Dolby Vision to the TV?
An ODROID N2 for Kodi plus and Apple TV 4K for Apps. Make sure your Smart TV can do 4K HDR YouTube, which is really the only thing missing from the ATV 4K for Apps usage.
Trying to cover everything all in the one device is where people make mistakes and leads to sub optimal experiences with day to day usage and audio, video and Apps support.  

Thank you for your help! I really appreciate it.
Why not the FireTV for apps? I mean apps like Prime and Netflix run pretty damn well on it. Does it have any drawbacks?

Fire TV has some major limitations - it doesn't support frame rate switching in all apps (last time I checked Prime Video and Kodi switched frame rates, but pretty much every other app stuck at the system refresh rate whatever media it was playing) It also has major audio output compromises ISTR - not properly supporting HD Audio or multichannel PCM output? (Lots of stuff gets transcoded to DD or DD+?)

Quote:@noggin 
Like will a combination of a normal USB to Ethernet + a OTG-USB Adapter (for the power supply) work? Because the Amazon official ethernet adapter only supports up to 100 Mbit.

Thanks everyone for your help. I guess I will go with the ODROID N2 once I got my new TV and will make sure to have all Apps covered with my devices. 

Yep - USB 3->GigE adaptor + USB 2.0 OTG adaptor with power passthrough. USB 2.0 with a USB 3.0 Gig E adaptor still gets you over 300Mbs 'real' connection speeds ISTR.
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