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Old 2009-04-21, 13:57   Link #1
Logos
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set-top streaming boxes

Hi:

I've been itching to watch all my torrents on my HDTV lately and since my 360 and PS3 don't support MKV I've been looking into other options right now these are my top 3:

Popcorn Hour A-110
http://www.popcornhour.com/onlinesto...0&category_id=
reviews
http://hardwarebistro.com/index.php?...ia-Tank-Review
http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/accessorie...9298605,00.htm
http://www.engadget.com/2008/08/12/p...-on-treatment/

VuNow VN1000HD (Not really an option since I don't live in the US)
http://www.vunow.com/index.php?page=...mart&Itemid=22

WD TV - HD Media Player
http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?DriveID=572

Has anyone tried these?
Right now I am leaning to the Popcorn hour as it is network capable and if I put a HD in it I can use it as a NAS as well to copy files from my laptop over to it. The WD looks like it would work well but I have to attach an External HD to it and it is not network capable.
My biggest concern is that while they supposedly support MKV they may not work well for the anime we generally torrent.
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Old 2009-04-21, 14:04   Link #2
martino
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I'm not sure how the streaming works, however if the file is located on the box itself, and decoded using the box's hardware then there is a high chance that most of the MKV files you download won't work. And that's because:
1) Most of these boxes support up to H.264 Profile 4.1, (IIRC) and most encodes are done at 5 or above.
2) Softsubs. I don't think I have heard yet of a box that supports ASS subtitles. (Please surprise me if this is no longer true.)


EDIT: I haven't found information on what profile the WD TV can play up to, however their list seems to note that they support ASS too, however this is making me quite sceptical, as to what extent.
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Last edited by martino; 2009-04-21 at 14:16.
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Old 2009-04-21, 14:25   Link #3
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Ok now I am a bit of a newb when it comes to this but my 360 would play anime avi and mpeg4s with subtitles so as long as I keep to something like that I should play those fine. I;m going to try the popcorn web community to and see what they say.
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Old 2009-04-21, 14:38   Link #4
martino
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Yeah, AVIs with Xvid and MP3 should work fine, as long as they are encoded with hardware compatible settings, so no GMC and no QPEL and not sure what else was there.
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Old 2009-04-21, 15:55   Link #5
SeijiSensei
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Many files in the AVI container and encoded with XviD and MP3 play on the PS3 already.

Why limit yourself to a set-top box when you can just buy an inexpensive computer and connect it to the TV? Many HDTVs have a VGA connector; if yours does, that's an easier solution in my mind, and a much more flexible one as well. After you invest in a hard drive for the Popcorn Hour box, it's going to run about the same price as a small desktop computer.

One other option worth considering is an Atom-powered "netbook" like the Acer Aspire One. I installed a copy of smplayer on a friend's Acer and played a 720p MKV file. It had a bit of problem with the OP because of its higher bitrate, but the program itself played fine. Not only will it play your videos, but you get a nice little notebook as well!
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Old 2009-04-21, 15:59   Link #6
chikorita157
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PS3mediaserver should be able to transcode all your video files be it MKV or AVI into a playable format for PS3, and it's open source. It works on any platform since it's written in Java, but the only drawback is that you need to have your computer on to stream.

http://code.google.com/p/ps3mediaserver/
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Old 2009-04-21, 16:13   Link #7
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My problem is that I want to move my xbox and my ps3 out of my media room.
1 because the 360 is to loud
2 my brother is moving out soon and I wont have the PS3 anymore.

I was looking for a cool little solution that didn't make allot of noise and could be seamless with the rest of my HT. I could build a media server PC but my problem is that I would loose impulse control and end up buying/building something more than I need that would be too expensive and sound like a leaf blower (I hate my xbox sometimes....).

Also the great thing about the Popcorn Hour is that it has HDMI 1.3 and I have some hard drives lying around I am not really using. Besides I could pick up a Terabyte internal drive for like $100-$120. This thing is ready out of the box to be integrated into my Home Theater. I could spend allot of time and money making something that will but out 1080p, remote ready and be able to output 5.1+ audio in dts or dolby digital.

ON the other hand I build a HT computer and it's really easy to update codexs and formates so I don't have to worry about firmware updates that will allow me to do that........

FYI by installing the HD to the system and hooking up to a network the HD of the box can show up like a network drive on my laptop. Would make it really easy to copy files. NAS would be nice.....
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Old 2009-04-21, 16:25   Link #8
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It would be better off getting something like a Nettop which is affordable and will be fine with 720p video or building your own HTPC and install Linux and installing Boxee or XBMC (which Boxee is based off), which is a free media center program that will play all the popular formats including MKV, Xvid, etc.
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Old 2009-04-21, 18:09   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
Why limit yourself to a set-top box when you can just buy an inexpensive computer and connect it to the TV?
Ditto. Just control your urges, hehe. You can build a silent PC to meet your needs and have waaaaay more flexibility than the set-top boxes will give you.
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Old 2009-04-22, 07:48   Link #10
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I got this reply from the popcorn forums:

he H264 profile could be an issue. What's the point of encoding video at that profile anyway? Where are you getting video that exceeds Blu-ray specs? ;-) Anyway, HIGH@5.1 will play. Everything above that is a gamble. Of course, if there were any features used during encoding that actually require a higher profile, you can always re-encode the video to something reasonable.

SubStation subs are supported. To what extent I dunno, as I don't have any to test. There are several advanced features in that format. The only guarantee that I'm aware of is it will render the text. You may lose color, format and placement though. Someone with experience may want to jump in here . . .
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Old 2009-04-22, 15:59   Link #11
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Logo, I have a popcorn hour A-100 and its very similar to the A-110 so my experience with the unit is very similar to the unit you're looking at. For starters, the popcorn hour will support any hd file that you download from animesuki. 720p files encoded with x264 and using mkv as container will play perfectly fine with no slowdown at all.

As for substation alpha, it's a mixed bag as the format is supported to some extent. Fancy fonts, sub placement and effects are not supported. If there are more than two lines of sub displayed on screen one of them will be displayed while the others will be cut off. If there are two character talking at the same time and there are subs for both conversation, one of them will be cut off. If there is a song karaoke there will be no effects nor fancy fonts. There is a group of users who are asking for proper ASS support so we don't know if this will be fixed in the near future.

Personally, I'm not to worried about this, I've had very little problem with ASS (mostly with Macross Frontier, displaying songs lyrics and dialog at the same time is a b*tch). The unit is silent, it can be used as a NAS, there is a torrent client integrated in it, you can watch online video through it, and the best part is that it can play almost every file in existence (It plays 1080p files with no problem!). However there are some issues with the popcornhour in general. First the interface is a bit slow, it may get really hot if you install an internal hdd and the music playback is horrible. These are things that I can overlook so all in all, I'm very pleased with my purchase and you can't get anything that can perform all of these task at the price they're selling it.

Also, I would avoid netbooks as the atom processor cannot handle hd files very well. Other options is to build an htpc (for a higher price) and use boxee or xbmc. I don't know if boxee can still be used in appletv. There are also rumors that boxee will release a box of their own so that would be a very good option.

heh, this thread got me out of hiding.
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Old 2009-04-22, 17:10   Link #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nojevo View Post
Also, I would avoid netbooks as the atom processor cannot handle hd files very well. Other options is to build an htpc (for a higher price) and use boxee or xbmc. I don't know if boxee can still be used in appletv. There are also rumors that boxee will release a box of their own so that would be a very good option.

heh, this thread got me out of hiding.
Not necessarily true. I played 720p video on a Intel Atom self-built computer and didn't have much problems... With 1080p however, you will have problems playing smoothly, mainly because most comes with GMA 950 which don't do well with 1080p video, but nVidia's Ion platform supposed to fix that problem since it uses a Geforce 9400m which is more capable with 1080p video.

I'm pretty sure the current AppleTV can still be used with boxee.
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Old 2009-04-22, 18:09   Link #13
martino
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The CPU matters more than the GPU. In fact, very few H.264 videos encoded in the fansub scene can be played with GPU accelerated decoders, because there are stupid profile restrictions on them and so on. For Blu-ray sure, it would help. Fansubs, it's like a lottery.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Logos View Post
he H264 profile could be an issue. What's the point of encoding video at that profile anyway? Where are you getting video that exceeds Blu-ray specs? ;-)
Simple. Why not have better quality if you can?

Anyway, that's strange because the specs on Popcorn's website say something different. Personally I'd go for the HTPC. You get so much more for your money, and can always upgrade without having to replace the whole package.
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Old 2009-04-22, 18:18   Link #14
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beware of hardware decoding capabilities as well
ati > vc1 & h.264
nvidia > vc1 only
1080p decoding @ >25Mbps can be tricky even for middle end c2d
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Old 2009-04-23, 09:57   Link #15
Logos
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Yeah I have heard about it not liking files encoded above 25mps. I've been reading about the work arounds for it and it should be fine. Also buying something with an atom processor is fine but getting it to work properly with my 42" plasma, my HT receiver and Harmony remote is another issue. Anything I was looking at building that was going to use an IR remote with a "cool" and silent case was going to cost me $600+. I also like how it can be used as a torrent client. Now maybe I don't have to leave my laptop on all day.

Anyway I purchased it today. I started pricing out a (edit: self built) HT PC and even a basic one was going to cost me allot more than what the popcorn is going to do for me considering what I want to do with it and where I am going to place it. I also purchased an Western Digital 750GB Caviar Greenpower to cut down on the heat and I found it on sale for $90 so I thought why not, I'll use that old 320GB drive for something else down the road.

So when I get it I'll try this out and let you guys know how it turns out. I am downloading the Blueray burns (in MKV) of Macross Frontier right now to try out.
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Last edited by Logos; 2009-04-23 at 10:27.
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Old 2009-04-23, 19:03   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirJeannot View Post
beware of hardware decoding capabilities as well
ati > vc1 & h.264
nvidia > vc1 only
1080p decoding @ >25Mbps can be tricky even for middle end c2d
This CUDA-based player supports h264.
http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=141104 - DGAVCDecNV 1.0.13: GPU decoding on Nvidia
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Old 2009-04-26, 10:48   Link #17
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Originally Posted by Eviltape View Post
This CUDA-based player supports h264.
http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=141104 - DGAVCDecNV 1.0.13: GPU decoding on Nvidia
thanks for the hint!
I was using mpchc as well, and it seems to be using dxva to hardware offload h.264 and it seems to work, even if it's not 100% offload.
w/o > 15% avg load (using fma brotherhood ep1 720p h.264 for testing)
w/ > 1% avg load
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Old 2009-04-26, 11:05   Link #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirJeannot View Post
beware of hardware decoding capabilities as well
ati > vc1 & h.264
nvidia > vc1 only
1080p decoding @ >25Mbps can be tricky even for middle end c2d
nVidia Geforce Series 8 : decoding full hardware for H.264, MPEG (1&2) and WMV, decoding partial for VC-1.

nVidia Geforce Series 9 : decoding full hardware for H.264, MPEG (1&2), WMV and VC-1.

http://www.nvidia.com/page/purevideo_hd.html
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Old 2009-06-21, 22:13   Link #19
Logos
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So I did get it and have been using it for a few months now.
I have to admit I love the thing, it's almost exactly what I wanted in a nice little box that will play almost everything no matter what.

Cons:
- Has a problem with ASS support. Not that it doesn't play it (I have yet to find on that it doesn't) but the fact that it doesn't support multi on screen dialog properly. If there is a subbed song in the background while character's are talking good luck reading it fast enough to figure out what is going on........still that is the ONLY problem with sub titles.
- Has a problem reading some files. But their forum help is great and usually I just have to re encode them using MKV mux or something.
- Wireless sucks. Don't buy the wireless option or you'll regret it. It does not have the processing or ram to deal well with wireless network. There is a new box called the C-200 or 100 that has double the processing power and ram with built in wi-fi that should be better. I am a bit pissed that they came out with a box that's twice as good with the ability to use an internal blue ray player only 2 months after I got my A-110. Also the new model is only $50 more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH! FUCK!......calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.........oh well I still like it but anybody looking at these buy the new one, same software with 2X better hardware.....should be fricken awesome!
- Built for what windows would call a "Power User". Ie. you have to have some networking and computer knowledge to set it up. It comes with a quick start pamphlet and that's it. They expect you to use their forums.
- On my Panasonic plasma I get better contrast in my picture using component cables over the HDMI. Well I am using that anyway because of my HT receiver and I still get 720p so it's fine.
- Plays music fine but it's player leaves allot to be desired and it is a bit finicky. There is a beta player you can download and use but I haven't gotten up the never to install and try it yet.
- Streaming works great but the best transfer rates can only be achieved using FTP. Using FTP I can get 7 Megabytes per second wired or 3 Megabytes per second wireless. Not great but it works.

Pros:
- Small
- Robust
- Built in remote works great and it works flawlessly with my Harmony remotes.
- NO NOISE other than the harddrive once in a while. You can't believe how awesome that it.
- Like i said before it will play anything including dvd iso files. The only files that had problems where fine after a quick re-encode.
- Great subtitle options even with that problem with ASS subs.
- There are 10 ways for it to network to my laptop. I actually use them all cause I'm geeky that way.
- Even with the slow network speeds streaming works great between both my laptop and the box as long as it's wired. Streaming HD content Wirelessly stutters to much to be worth it.
- I love the flexibility this adds to my HT!
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