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Tvix, Popcorn hour, WD TV, Boxee Box, Apple TV, other devices ???

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Hi folks, once again I turn to the forum for advice.

 

Basically I've got an Tvix media harddrive, its about 3 / 4 years old, 320gb and conects to my tv via a compenent cable. Its old, doesnt have HDMI, the UI is ugly and its not that capable with all the codecs (including subtitles) so Im looking to update.

 

What Id like is a new media hardrive thats a little more capable with the various available codecs including mkv (if possible) and most importantly has a nice UI with covers, description and ratings etc. I also need to be able to add the covers, descriptions easily as last time I looked Tvix it was a bit of a laborious task.

 

Internet connection isn't needed I live in Spain and in general we're stuck in dark ages content wise (Im English and I'd kill to have access to the iplayer, Id happily pay a premium for the privilege too :( ), Im also able to rent movies / content on my xbox anytime I want. Ideally Id like there to be a built in harddrive (or at least the option of) because a separate one isn't the nicest thing to have and streaming from my mac isn't practical all of the time, wi fi file transfer would be cool but again its not essential.

 

Ive looked at the new tvix, popcorn hour, wd tv, boxee, a hacked apple TV but Im lost. Some are exspensive (popcorn hour) and most have no harddrive, although that said I do have a 500gb mini wd hardrive, can it get power from the various units (especially the wdtv) via usb as that would be ok?. Budget well up to €200 / €250but Im open to suggestions.

 

Thanks for any help in advance

James

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As far as getting access to iPlayer, there are several companies offering VPN access to a UK server that you can route your internet traffic through, so iPlayer thinks you're in the UK.

 

Anyway, I have a Mac Mini under my TV, running Plex - I couldn't be happier with it. I've got an older mac mini that needed a separate input on the TV for the audio, but the current model seems to be built to be put under a tv with it's HDMI port. It's a little on the expensive side, but you can add storage as you need it, and it will always be able to play the latest video file as you have a full mac under your tv!

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I would loveeee a mac mini with plex on but I think its just too much, £599 / €699 thats pricey but if I was given the money tomorrow Id buy one, might still buy one, main reason not to is my lovely girlfriend would have a fit.

 

Thats also why I was interested in the boxee box as some people run the boxee as their media centre software of choice. For €230 + a €75 500GB USB hardrive thats a saving of around €400 not bad really.

 

Ive read some reviews of the boxee box and they say its OK but not as good as it could have been, with future updates it could get better. However nearly all of the negitives were related to the browser, internet content etc so if I was mainly going to use it to play back my media library from a hard drive it seems like it might be a good choice ???

 

Ive checked on the net and you can hook 1 USB powered hardrive up to the boxee box so thats good enough for me.

 

So far it seems like the cheapest all in one solution thats capable of playing back my media library without too much hassel, athough there have been reports of lag with audio. The other thing Im completely confused about is whats the difference between the boxee box and hacking an apple TV with something like aTV flash and putting boxee on it ?

 

Its all too confusing...

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I tried to live with boxee for a while. really, I tried. it's a confusing mess to the point that I'd rather have a hodge podge of apps and a desktop interface then to keep using it. that said, I didn't use it from a couch position using a remote control. that might have been a big part of it's failing with me. another problem, and this isn't boxee's fault, is that my media consumption doesn't justify dedicating a TV, couch, speakers, and room to the event.

 

the Mac Mini doesn't have to be a new Mac Mini. in fact I'd hate to see one purchased specifically for being a TV when older hardware could do this job just as well. you'd want an Intel version because the G4 is right on the edge of having enough power to deal with modern video. but more specifically it won't run NetFlix streaming.

 

if you want to be clever about a purchase then a older MacBook or MacBook Pro can do this job easily. the machine that I'd look for is one that has a damaged screen. most people will have written off the Mac as unfixable because of the cost. you don't care. physically remove the screen so there's no conflict with where menus get drawn. while you've got the Mac apart install a giant hard drive so you have lots of room for media. and if you want to get the most space remove the DVD replacing it with another giant hard drive. the DVD could get re-cased or you could go with a better drive. you could recover some of the costs of the project by posting the internal DVD on eBay or other local tech exchange.

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Hi John

 

I get what your saying but my case is probably different to yours. Im English and I HATE Spanish TV, I watch the news now and again and thats it. Its horrible having to watch Lost in Spanish as often there's no original version available and in general shows get here late or never air. Spanish made content is just laughable and just to add to my problems I live in a really old building so TV signal is shockingly bad.

 

Nearly all my Media consumption is through that Tvix. There's no Netflix, Lovefilm, iPlayer, in Spain so outside of those options I can download from itunes or my xbox. But more often than not all I want to do is watch an episode of the apprentice (love that show) or some other program just like I would back in the UK.

 

The Tvix interface is old and looks like something from the 80s so I reckon Boxee would be a massive leap up having never tried anything better. Also I've recently had a massive amount of playback problems with files so I want decent codec support.

 

Lastly one of the most important things is that it has to look nice otherwise the girlfriend wont accept it in the house but that doesnt rule out an older mac mini. The main reason I mentioned the new mac mini is because of the HDMI out with obviously makes things very easy to work with.

 

Im aware that my case is very specific hence the sub title that Im not that interested in internet content (although it would be a welcomed bonus). In the end I think it comes down to a mac mini or boxee box, I dont do PCs so a netbook running Boxee is out. One is the prefect solution and the other is cheap and ready to go.

 

In conclusion right now Im swaying towards a Boxee Box as it seems to fit my specific needs quite well for a reasonable price. Ill probably wait until the beginning of January and make my final decision then, meantime Im going to check ebay for Mac Mini prices and see how they fair.

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Thought Id update this thread and say that I ended up going with the Boxee Box.

 

I checked many reviews of the Boxee Box before hand and despite some people commenting on various tiny playback issues with certain files it seemed that for my needs it was the cheapest and best option.

 

Well it came last week and since then I can say overall Im pretty impressed. It has handled every file I've put on it without any problems and as far as a media playback device goes its excellent. When staring it for the first time, I logged into my account and choose the option to playback my local files (this is down to user preference, if you choose to mainly playback internet content the system will present you with a slightly altered interface)

 

It managed to get around 90% of the correct information for my films and series first time around (tried around 100 files to begin with), the ones it missed were by in large were the more obscure titles. I also named a series without and spaces between the words and it couldn't identify it like that. I went through and corrected the problems which was easy enough and that was pretty much it. I can imagine that if Id put 500 movies on there you might need to spend an hour or 2 correcting the various problems.

 

Id read some comments that cover art is not stored on your harddrive so it has to load it each and every time. I was worried that this would be an issue as I have several 100 films but Im pleased to report that with a fairly slow internet connection they load quickly and you barely notice it.

 

The I tried out the internet content and overall thought it was awful but thats more to do with where I live (Spain) than anything else. Revision 3, Engadget etc are there but they make their living from being available on the most sources possible so that was no surprise. Other than that the free films were odd titles with 1 or 2 decent ones thrown in for fun, a search of tv shows bought up some clips of the various shows I searched for but if I wanted a 3 minute clip then I wouldn't search shows would I. The apps that I tried worked fine, although it feels like a work in progress in most cases and the browser is awkward and frustrating to use. So overall a nice try but still lacking.

 

I think that for the folks in the USA if they have a decent netflicks and Hulu intergration then that wwould be all kinds of good, for the UK if they can get the iplayer to work well and maybe the ITV and channel 4 content on there as well then that would be amazing, but in Spain, well its never going to be anything but bad.

 

Overall as a media playback device its amazing, I've added my wish list of updates below and if they can include them then it will take this player to another level.

 

My negative comments would be:

• Some of the cover art is missing and there is no way to add this yourself.

• Some of the information is missing from films, running time or director. Again there is no way to add this yourself

• There is no way to see additional info, cast, year made etc All of this is avalible in imdb (which it uses)

• No way to identify HD and SD content, or if its 480, 720 or 1080.

• No way to identity by sound source if its standard, DTS, Dolby etc

• It doesnt store cover art.

 

These comments have been made numerous time on the boxee forum and the team seem to be working hard to add new features, hopefully those new features will include the points above.

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