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Cheap HTPC Linux/Win box?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by GimmeSlack12, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. macrumors 603


    I'll be moving into a new place and, unlike my studio apartment, will not have my iMac easily able to reach my HDTV. I'm thinking of my options and I don't think I'm going to be getting a Mac Mini as I had used once upon a time (which worked out great but it was only a G4 and can't do 1080p files).

    So... I was thinking about a small Linux box (or even a Winbox) to run as a HTPC. I just need the thing to be strong enough to run 1080p movies and, preferably, have digital audio out. Is getting something like this under $500 possible?

    EDIT: I have no idea why I thought Plex was available for Linux, but apparently it's not.
  2. macrumors 65816


    If you still want to go with a linux/windows box I suggest any of the ION/ION2 based nettops and XBMC. I recently picked up a JetWay Mini-Top, which is ION2 based, and am running XBMC on it right now. If you don't want to mess with it an ION based systems are better and less hassle to get working as they have been out longer. The JetWay is ION2 based and I am having trouble getting HDMI audio out to work right now.

    I got the JetWay, which has just about everything built in, for around the 350 mark and it is playing back all the content I can through at it right now. Granted i can't hear the audio but the 1080p video that is playing on the machine is flawless.
  3. macrumors 6502a


    You could find a 2009 Mac Mini for around $500 I'm sure. With it you could run Plex, which IMHO is much better than a PC with XBMC. I would highly recommend spending a little extra money and going with Mini+Plex.
  4. macrumors member

    what's the reasoning behind this?

    - Plex vs. XBMC is a wash. I prefer XBMC and I'm a mini user. All in all they are extremel similar.
    - Atom vs Mini is a tad more complicated. An Asus 1012B is as quiet as a mini, but is less well rounded. But if all you want is XBMC it's just as capable.

    It's not just a little extra money, it's more than double the money.
  5. macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Plex + Hackintosh = Heaven :D
  6. macrumors 68020


    I recently picked up a Zotac HD-ND02 and installed XBMC on it. It connects to and plays everything from my NAS. It works beautifully and the GUI is extremely attactive. There are quite a few little nettops with very similar specs as this Zotac and I doubt they differ in performance much. The can often be found for less than $200. Other than that, you'll need some RAM and maybe a hard drive (or a decent sized SD card) to install XBMC.

    Prior to going with the Zotac and XBMC, I was using an Asus O! Play to playback all the stuff from my NAS. It worked fine and played everything I threw at it. The O! Play can easily be found for under $100. What it lacks that XBMC possesses is a pretty GUI and other little niceties like movie synopsis and the ability to view trailers to movies in your library. If that stuff doesn't matter to you, this box does a nice job of playing all sorts of content at an extremely reasonable price. Plus, it doesn't require any work and/or tweaking to get up and running.
  7. macrumors 603


    I just know that I can get what I want for way less than a used Mini. Believe me, I'm well aware of what my Mac options are. That's why I'm asking for PC advice.

    Both the Jetway mini-top(s) and the Zotac are very much what I'm looking for.

    My past experience with having an HTPC is that it has to be "Dead Simple" for anyone to want to use (like my gf). My old Mini G4 ran Front Row with Perian and was a great setup and so easy to use, but then I got an HDTV and .mkv's took over. The G4 had to go.

    Thanks for the advice guys! I'm moving into my own condo in another month and am going to try and ditch Comcast TV for good, I just need a sure thing so that my girlfriend doesn't get frustrated using it.

    I'm not against this idea but need advice on something that's around $200.
  8. macrumors 68020


    It seems you've already decided on going with a nettop. If you decide to go with XBMC, let me know and I'll try to provide as much help as I can from my experiences in getting my setup going.

    In regards to your girlfriend being frustrated, as I said earlier, XBMC's GUI is very nice and everyone I've show it to has found it to be attractive and easy to use.
  9. macrumors 603


    Cool. I'll let you know when the finances are available for getting one of these things.
  10. macrumors member

    The best choice is probably the ASUS 1012EB as it seems to be the quietest (affordable) solution.

    The best way to get XBMC on an Atom is to use the preconfigured live cd (can be used on USB stick^^)

    Dutch site of the developers of this distro: http://www.xbmcfreak.nl/downloads/
  11. macrumors 68020


    Yes, when my Zotac is sitting flat on a table, the fan has to work harder to get air because the ventilation holes are on the bottom. If you stand it up, or lie it upside down (which is how I have mine), it's virtually silent. I can only hear the fan when I put my ear next to it.

    I don't know how the other nettops are when it comes to noise...
  12. macrumors 68020


    Is that distro specifically made for Atom/ION computers? Do you know of it includes audio over HDMI fix? Thanks for the info!
  13. macrumors newbie


    Yes, the xbmcfreak live is geared specifically for atom/ion setups and does fix the audio over HDMI issue.

    Since installing their build, I have never had to tweak audio or video settings. It is a set it and forget it solution.
  14. macrumors 68020


    Wow. That's fantastic! Thanks for the info. I'll give it a go the second I have a bit of free time.
  15. macrumors member

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/ is a pretty good source.

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/asus-eeebox-ion is their review of the 1501. The 1012 is the same except no DVD player (completely depends if you need that or not).

    Zotac's are very quiet, but can run a tad hot and are having some fan control issues (according to the reviewers). In general they are a fine choice. Another good choice is the Acer Revo 3600. Popular, but definitely not the quietest are the Asrock solutions, though some tinkering can quiet those down as well. They are cheap and decently specced (for a nettop^^)
  16. macrumors 603


    Thats funny you bring that site up. My real estate broker's brother runs SPCR and I was just on the phone with him the other day about an acoustic project I had in mind (I'm an acoustic consultant by trade). I talked to him briefly about his semi-anechoic chamber he made in his basement.

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