A space for discussions about AV gear and other topics of broad interest to Toppy users

Moderators: General, Technical

Post Reply
Darucla
Frequent contributor
Posts: 1547
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:09 pm

Chromebox and Openelec.

Post by Darucla »

For anyone interested in using a media player, I can recommend the Chromebox/Openelec combination. The Chromebox is basically a mini PC with a small mSATA drive fitted. I have an HP model with Celeron 2955u and 4GB RAM, but I believe the Asus, Acer and Dell models are pretty much the same. I bought mine recently from DSG online for £150. This is a lot more expensive than importing direct, but I am a little fed up with zero consumer rights on such purchases.

Still, after doing the required mods to install Openelec, reasonably simple (I am an Arts and Social Sciences person, not particularly IT skilled, and I managed to follow the on-line instructions), it is a really capable unit. The closest to an appliance type feel that I have found with such an item, it runs extremely smoothly. There is never the sense that it is running on the edge of its capabilities.

It plays everything I have tried so far. It handles all frame rates without a hiccough, including 23.976 and 24, and all audio formats, including DTS-MA HD and Dolby TrueHD (in pass through mode, but it will downmix for those without AVRs) plus it converts the AAC 5.1 sound that is broadcast on UK terrestrial HD TV to PCM 5.1 which my AV receiver can handle.

I have kept the original Chrome OS, and can dual-boot the box. It will also, via USB (4 USB3 ports), run Windows 8.1 and presumably 10, although there is currently a problem with sound out via the HDMI currently with Windows, so you need a USB soundcard if you want sound. I should stress that I haven't actually tried Windows on the machine, as it's not a requirement for me. It should run Linux as well.

This really is the most solid of all the media players I have tried and I have three different Popcornhours and a couple of little Android boxes. I am really writing this as some of the newer Android devices are the same price or more in the UK, and really, from reading the forums about them, they are just a world of pain to run at the moment. I don't think any of them will properly handle HD audio for instance, despite apparently being 4k ready, and framerate switching is problematic too. The Chromebox represents a much better investment IMHO.

There are possibilities of using the device as a PVR also, although again, this is something I neither require nor have tried.

I am fairly sure that this will outperform a Raspberry Pi 2, it certainly makes the original Pi that I have look like a toy. It is now my primary device for all media watching.
YorkshireJumbo
Frequent contributor
Posts: 864
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 5:45 pm

Post by YorkshireJumbo »

Sounds interesting. Do you play files through it using WiFi and where do you store the files? Can it play .rec files, or do you need to convert them to MPEG2?
YJ - You may have speed, but I have momentum
Black Panther since Sep '05, Caps replaced July '10
WD10EZRX and Turbosat adaptor added May '16
New Noiseblocker XR1 fan added Mar '21
F/W: MS6 Recommended F/W 12/9/2009 -Sy+U+Uu
TAPs: MS 6.6 Suite, UK OZ Surfer
Darucla
Frequent contributor
Posts: 1547
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:09 pm

Post by Darucla »

It has built-in wireless N and an ethernet port. I prefer wired as a general rule for media streaming, especially HD. I have been collecting films and Tv shows for years, and have them physically stored on PCs, with USB drives attached, as well as older media players like PCH, which also have USB drives attached. The neater and more conventional way would be to have an NAS or two. Currently about 5000 films and probably more than 10,000 TV episodes. It probably verges on an illness, but really derives from being a film and tv academic.

It plays everything I have tried on it. As it uses Kodi, it can play rec files, although I generally edit them and convert to a more common file type, either TS, Mkv or mpg. I have used Videoredo for years to do the editing/remuxing.
YorkshireJumbo
Frequent contributor
Posts: 864
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 5:45 pm

Post by YorkshireJumbo »

Thanks for that. The reason I asked it that I have a couple of terabytes of old recordings, so I know the feeling :)

Do you have to do anything clever to access files on the PC, or is the box able to access networked folders on a Windows machine?
YJ - You may have speed, but I have momentum
Black Panther since Sep '05, Caps replaced July '10
WD10EZRX and Turbosat adaptor added May '16
New Noiseblocker XR1 fan added Mar '21
F/W: MS6 Recommended F/W 12/9/2009 -Sy+U+Uu
TAPs: MS 6.6 Suite, UK OZ Surfer
Darucla
Frequent contributor
Posts: 1547
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:09 pm

Post by Darucla »

The box should just access the network, and be visible on the network as well, including auto sharing of USB attached drives. I don't know if you are familiar with Kodi (formerly XBMC), but it's fairly simple. You can try t on a PC first. You just point it to your files on the network or USB drives on the box itself, and it scans them all in and collects metadata from the internet. (I also run Plex Media Server, with the PlexBMC client and Amber skin, so I can get the same library on all devices in my house, but this is not necessary).

The only difficult bit is the conversion of the Chromebox to run another OS, and I managed it. After that, It updates easily (twice since I've had it) with no added trauma. I haven't felt the need to use the Chrome OS apart from checking that I could stlll boot to it if required, but that seems trauma free also.
Post Reply