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Ask Slashdot: What's Your Preferred Media Streaming Device? 226

New submitter bkr1_2k writes: Way back when, I had a PC dedicated as a media server using MythTV. That died and I didn't bother building a new one. Consumer electronics caught up and I recently bought an Apple TV (3rd Generation) to use for streaming my media library. I am, unsurprisingly, finding flaws with it. I'm looking for alternative devices that allow me to stream from my media server directly, without the need for a middleman app like iTunes for the Apple TV. I don't need a ton of streaming services (we have Netflix and Amazon Prime but don't use anything else). I primarily want to use this for streaming my own music and movie libraries over my home network, preferably with a user interface that lets me browse those in a fashion that doesn't force me to scroll through my whole library to get to the title that starts with the letter "Z" (A very poor design choice in the Apple TV). Nor do I want any voice controls since they all suck, in my experience. I would prefer an 'open' device that I can update at will with add-ons, but it's not a requirement. What are the current options out there? Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast. Anything else that might fit my needs better? Last week, we asked a similar question: "What's your preferred music streaming service?"
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Ask Slashdot: What's Your Preferred Media Streaming Device?

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  • by DugOut ( 824998 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @04:42PM (#52421899) Homepage Journal
    • Roku's interface sucks balls for large media collections. It's better than Apple TV's sounds, but not by much. You can filter by first letter of name or (not and) by genre.

      At least Roku media player and Emby player for Roku both suck big wet donkey balls.

    • Use this setup myself. Little unwieldy for big collections on the Roku interface itself, but I LOVE the server and the ability to stream it almost everywhere. Have had it running for a few years now, and I haven't found anything that I prefer.
    • Here here. $30 Roku, plus a PC you already have on 24x7 + Plex. I have mine running on a PC i made for my media center. It has Plex Server, Plex Client, and a few things like game emulators on it I use. I storage all my media on a WD DL4100 NAS array. Depending on your media size you can do simular NAS array setup or do local storage. They have Plex for just about every device now. It plays nice and fast local, and will stream and convert to lower bitrate and resolution over WAN.
    • I love my roku, in my usecase i use it more than my firestick, but i think in his case, a firestick loaded up with KODI would be the better option along with the plex server. much nicer interface
    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      I use this myself. The interface leaves something to be desired, but it works. I have a large media collection on my main PC + Netflix and SlingTV. All work. Plex also works well over my VPN so I can stream to a tablet ot laptop when travelling. You can use paid PLex to do this, but I use free plex since I already have an openvpn setup and a static IP.
      • How do you get recordings onto your PC though?

        • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
          You really need to ask that?

          Most of my media is legally owned music. The movies/shows are mostly a few that cannot be had on existing streaming services. Items I want for long term get purchased and ripped (even thought the act of ripping is of questionable legality).

          I will redbox or netflix DVD them if I can, then rip to watch at my leisure. Barring that I will torrent them. Do I feel bad, no. These items only get watched once or twice, just like a rental, and I try to rent them to make sure that t

    • I agree here. Roku can stream across the network with its own media player. You can even use Serviio with it, but lately I've had issues with compatibility. My TV's native player is better, but I may reconsider Plex even though I think Serviio is a lighter weight. The new Roku streaming stick is $35-50 depending on where you look and works very well.

  • The Zune (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft Zune. Brand fucking new, state of the art technology.

  • Raspberry Pi & OSMC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by uncle slacky ( 1125953 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @04:45PM (#52421935)
    Raspi with Kodi (OSMC is good) does it for me.
    • I've got Kodi+Genesis on a Fire Stick, but that has (wireless) bandwidth problems. I've been told a (wired) Fire TV is better. I've also been told the update to Genesis, Exodus, is miles ahead.

      But I'm still a fan of a dedicated PC with a decent ($50-$150) graphics card, a long HDMI cable (monoprice!), and a wireless keyboard/mouse.

      • Absolutely Exodus is crazy-good on the RP2 with Kodi.

        The only problem is the need to occasionally reflash the microSD because something happens to the database and it screws up 1Channel, Exodus, SALTS and all the other video plug-ins. Bit of a pain in the backside but worth the irritation when you consider the results you get.

    • Does netflix work?
    • by Zmobie ( 2478450 )

      This is what I'm working on now. I'm exploring different options for OSs now to make it more robust (Chromium will probably be great once they iron out the implementation and Google finishes getting their Android app support put into it). Very open and if you shop around you can easily get into it for under $100 (hell, $50 if you're very crafty).

      The other thing I am looking into now is the system-on-a-sticks from Intel. They have a surprising variety of hardware and even multiple OSs. Some come preloade

    • If you want to retain the usual Raspbian (Debian derived) command line interface and use the box just like any other Debian/Ubuntu box, there is no need to install a media specific distro like OSMC or OpenELEC.

      Just install regular Raspbian, then install Kodi as you would any debian package:

      $ sudo apt-get install kodi

      If you want kodi to start automatically and take over the HDMI port, then add this to crontab:

      @reboot sleep 45; /usr/lib/kodi/kodi.bin --standalone -fs

      The delay is to give you some time to kill

    • I second Kodi (used to be called XBMC).

      While I did try it on a raspberry pi, I found it was just too slow. Get an old laptop with HDMI out. Wire it up to your file server and you're ready to rock. I've looked at getting a remote, but I opted instead for a backlit wireless keyboard (with a touchpad on it). []

      Also, if you have those Phillips Hue lights, you can easily get Kodi talking with it; mood lighting with certain kinds of movies is truly amazing.

  • I use a Roku 3 with the Plex app, talking to a Plex server running on my home file server. It's worked great for me.

    • by markana ( 152984 )

      Likewise. Very easy for the family to use - even preschoolers can navigate to their videos - over and over again (note to self: need to "lose" those Dora episodes.... :-) Add a HDHomerun tuner and tvheadend for OTA capture feeding into Plex. And lots of disk space.

  • Playstation 4 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mcb ( 5109 )

    I use my PS4 with Netflix, Amazon Prime, MLB At Bat, rented Blurays and Plex Media Server (for my local content). Works flawlessly. Only complaint is no support for 5ghz wireless.

    • Xbox One and even 360 are pretty great streaming devices too. Nice thing about consoles is that they have regular automatic updates and you know they're going to support the software for years to come (though they might start winding down 360 in a couple years). Downside is that it's much less hackable than the alternatives. Xbox One does has that developer mode that might let you side-load apps, but I haven't heard anyone really using that yet.

      • by Teckla ( 630646 )

        Xbox One and even 360 are pretty great streaming devices too.

        Had an Xbox 360 for years:

        • Netflix audio lagged video enough to be a problem (no audio lag issue on other devices)
        • Had to pay Microsoft a monthly subscription fee to use Netflix (wtf?)
        • A bit too easy to bump things on Xbox 360 controller causing undesirable results
        • Updates were a pain (very slow downloads, very slow update process, it "wrecked" many evenings)
        • No Blu-ray (I guess because at first MS was backing HD-DVD?)

        Done with Microsoft. Wouldn't want another Microsoft console. Fool me once...

  • For your movies, TV series, photos, and music try the Plex Media Server []. It has clients available for many platforms, it will index your media types and fetch metadata from online sources. It's a little particular about the file naming convention in order to match the metadata, but that's manageable.
  • by MikeMo ( 521697 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @04:50PM (#52421991)
    Apple TV Gen 4 meets all of your criteria. Don't forget that it supports pairing a keyboard, and you can also control it from an iPhone or iPad if you have one of those. Now with the app store, there are lots of add-ons, including MythTV and Plex, which opens up the world.
  • It sounds like you should have never dumped the MythTV setup to begin with.

  • LG TV
    XPlay app for streaming from Plex
    Netflix app for streaming from Netflix
    TV app for streaming from DVB-T

  • by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @04:59PM (#52422081) Journal

    I've got an Apple TV 4 which has a native Plex client and that works really well. I've also set up (with a bit of fiddling) PlexConnect on the Plex server which allows you to replace the Apple Trailers on an ATV2 or ATV3 with Plex too without any jailbreaking. That works amazingly well too. This way I still have the benefits of iTunes for renting movies and for my iTunes collection, but also Plex which is a much more flexible media server with clients for lots of other platforms.

    • by mattyj ( 18900 )

      Not sure why people bother with a Plex 'server' any more, it's not needed on an ATV4 with something like VLC or InFuse (my personal favorite) that plays media directly from a network mount. No transcoding necessary for pretty much any media I throw at it. Then you can be pretty much platform-agnostic on your media storage device (NAS.) Been using this setup since the ATV4 came out and am very happy with it. I don't even bother to compress my media any more. 40 GB bluray rip? No problem.

      When Amazon got whine

  • I made the mistake of buying a Samsung smart TV based on the recommendation from Consumer Reports. It works fine as a TV, but the SmartHub feature is terrible. Some of it's "features" are:
    • UI Lag
    • Daily updates that display a popup message in the middle of the screen while watching TV. "SmartHub has updated. Would you like to open SmartHub now?"
    • Some days, its WiFi driver crashes and it's a PITA to get it back up and running. (Hint: don't change the settings while the driver has crashed, this will only mak
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      Not to mention the banners taking up the top 20% of the screen for 2 minutes after turning on the TV for a couple of months telling you that Samsung is ending one of their services soon. The reason they are ending it is that they have no customers, so noone actually needs to see that message.
  • If they hadn't scrapped DVR functionality (after selling me a tuner with the promise that it was in the works) and if they had a Golf Channel or a Playstation Vue app, it would be perfect (for me). Right now, it just falls short of everything else out there.

  • Two versions to choose from.

    I'v been using it for nearly 20 years now. It also records TV but I've never used it for that. Just for accessing my own stuff from my HTPCs.
    Work well with a MCE Remote.
  • File server running Plex Media Server on the backend. On the frontend install the plex client on any of these: xbox one, xbox 360, roku, raspberry pi, HTPC, android TV, Nvidia Shield, on and on and on and on...
  • Does anyone have any good recommendations for a device that can mount NFS (I guess smb/cifs would be okay too) that also supports a wide range of media formats? Currently, I'm using a Boxee, and it still mostly works, but it's getting long in the tooth. I may need to build my own custom XBMC device as the eventual replacement...
  • - Amazon Fire in the living room with Kodi side loaded. Had a cheap Chinese android box with Kodi but random Chinese developers aren't as good as Amazon with keeping their device bug free. (Studding problem).
    - The TV also has a built in DNLA app which isn't terrible. With MiniDNLA I can play all of my media files and channels from the HD Homerun.
    - Projector's HTPC is a 1.8 GHz single core celeron with Nvidia card that I've had since ~2011. It runs FreeBSD and Just Works. Half the time I take the time to lau

  • I've been running LibreELEC/Kodi pre-alpha nightly test builds by Milhouse on an Asus Celeron Chromebox. [] []

    I'm very happy with the performance. I also have a Popcornhour C200. Kodi on the Chromebox runs circles around the Popcornhour.

  • I have it hooked up to a schiit dac and it is hooked up to my stereo.
  • Open a folder and click on video. Yeah, real difficult.

    We also prefer a real desktop w/Browser too.

  • No, I'm serious. We use a PS 3 (several years old and 1 drive replaced; otherwise works fine). The Netflix and Amazon TV apps work fine. We tend to search for new shows on the laptop to put it in the recently watched list. We have a Chromecast too, mostly for playing Youtube clips.

  • You can use pyTivo to watch your external library on a Tivo.

    • by nbvb ( 32836 )

      Plex. Plex runs on the 'modern' TiVos (i.e. Roamio / Bolt) and does a splendid job streaming media from the Plex server running on my Synology NAS.

      TiVo is about as perfect a central media device as I've seen. It's not perfect, but a helluva lot better than ANYONE else's.

  • My TV already has a Plex client built in so I just have Plex running on an old computer + my TV.

  • For Netflix, Amazon Prime, and streaming your own media, I recommend the Amazone FireTV stick + Plex. It's what I use for exactly that use case, and it works well. The FireTV stick is usually cheap and every so often Amazon runs a sale.
  • Subsonic fulfils all my needs (mostly audio), and has a fine Android app (also iOS but I've never seen that one), a nice-looking, built-in web app, and is supported by other third-party music players (I use Clementine). []

    I know you asked for a "device", but if you have a net-enabled device that can run Java, this is a pretty solid option. It was easy to set up (unlike Ampache, which I tried which was pretty useless). YMMV

    • by J053 ( 673094 )

      To stream audio, I've been using Logitech media player (aka Squeezeserver) for years - works with every media player I've tried (at least any that can open a URL), and there are "controller" apps for IOS and Android.

      • Too bad the original squeezebox line has been discontinued. I still buy some used ones every once in a while. The whole family depends on them. I think they are great.

  • Atari 2600 (Score:5, Funny)

    by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @05:46PM (#52422475) Journal
    Stream most video and Netflix on my Atari 2600. Things look a little blocky and there's alot of frame drops, but it looks okay. Movies look kind of like Frogger or Pac-Man.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Prove it. Show us the detailed instructions to do that. I know ASCII and ANSI can be done from computers. :P

  • On the main TV I have a new Apple TV, problems abound at first but as seems to be the custom with Apple sh*t a few updates later and it's pretty smooth. The trick I found is to embrace the Siri interface. Pretty quick and easy to get around once you get used to it. On other TVs or while traveling I use chromecast, it's pretty slick but of course I can't stream amazon prime to it. I'm really resisting getting yet another device to stream Amazon, I'm hoping at some point they let it stream on either Apple or chrome. I can stream my laptop browser to chromecast while watching amazon prime, but sheesh.

    Would love to cut the chord, the only thing keeping it is the fact that my father in-law wouldn't know what to do with himself if he couldn't watch sports when he's here.
  • I am using 2 WDTV boxes to access 1 NAS box in my basement so anybody can watch whatever they want from the same share. As I don't do any online streaming or watch anything through the Internet, I've never seen the need to invest in any of the newer technologies. The WDTV works beautifully via network (as my MXQ Android box is so cumbersome via network, I abandoned it). I'd like something newer and more flexible, however, I don't have capital to really invest in any technology when I won't really benefit
    • I switched from 2xWDTV to 2xFireTV + Kodi about a year ago for our two TVs. It's a huge upgrade dude. I highly recommend it.
  • Hockey-puck sized Android desktop (optimised for keyboard+mouse) device. Works a treat. Couple it with a PLEX server running on some other computer+storage on your home LAN and you're golden. I use an Iotech bluetooth keyboard with mouse pad - any good BT keyboard should work fine.

  • No way either Apple or Amazon, each favor selling you their own content over letting you find it elsewhere. Roku isn't perfect but may be the best choice you have if you want an off-the-shelf commercial product.

    Kodi is interesting, and you have more content available with a PC option than a media appliance option, but convenience fails when you need to use a mouse and keyboard, so look for options that help you get past this. Also, expect the usual Linux BS when using a Linux based Kodi appliance (such as

  • I was looking for a Squeezebox replacement since my device died and they stopped making it. I really didn't want to build out a dedicated PC or Raspberry solution just for audio, so was making do with Roku for audio (it acutally has a surprisingly large number of audio streaming services - it even covers my local FM radio channels).

    Tried the first Chromecast - and it was largely a "meh" experience. Video was grainy and choppy and audio sounded quite substandard. For example the same youtube audio or interne

  • I saw another person mention this setup. I've run WDTV, mythtv, several windows media boxes, xbmc, and other I can't remember how many others since the late 90s.

    FireTV + Kodi blows them all out of the water. I also have the Logitech Harmony Hub + the cheap remote and they work great together. By far the snappiest UI, and easiest to use of any media box I've had previously. Very flexible because it's kodi (I typically either use a streaming service (prime/netflix) or play media off a SMB share on my netwo
  • Roku has been mentioned many times, but one thing I like in particular with the Roku (and that is unique, as far as I know) is that you can do a media search for something like a video rental and then compare prices from several different providers - Amazon Prime vs Google Play vs others. Overall it's been a very solid experience.

  • Server: -2.5TB server in the basement - Plex Media Server Living Room: -Samsung Smart Blu-Ray player w/Plex client Bedroom: -WDTV Live (DLNA to Plex Server) Roaming: -Chromecast with Plex app on phone
  • Roku has thousands of channels available, and over 100 are not focused on shoving someone's religion down your throat.
  • Yet another vote for Plex. I have a server running on an old Mac Mini, I stream it to my phone, or my laptop, or my Vizio TVs, or Rokus, or whatever the heck. Very easy.

    Interface still has issues, but is continually changing and occasionally improving.

  • Roku3 in the bedroom and a HTPC in livingroom. Roku3 is going away as soon as I can build a 2nd HTPC. Roku is great no problems with the hardware. The BIG issue for me is on PBS, Youtube and Twitch apps. The ads are 100% unacceptable. Pre roll ads work ok. But mid vid ads lockup and crash the ROKU. The ads bother me so much that I am willing to spend $600 on a new HTPC JUST to get an Ad blocker.

  • by krray ( 605395 ) on Thursday June 30, 2016 @07:22PM (#52423113)

    Device? Depends where I am and what I'm doing I suppose. A Mac mini is the cat's meow IMHO. It is my main device for watching "TV". It also makes it trivial to stream anything any way I want to my other devices.

    Other devices would be something iOS. iPad's, touches, and iPhone's depending on location / use there. VLC usually going back to my library directly (or live TV).

    I've used Plex for management, but really don't anymore. Too much database corruption problems with it. Easy to do though as it's just another avenue to scan libraries.

    Connected to the Mac via bluetooth I primarily use a numeric keypad with most of the keys re-programmed / re-purposed -- depending on the APP [BetterTouchTool].

    One key is space (play / pause pretty much across the board). 0-9 tunes the TV for EyeTV, whereas I decided "6" changes the aspect ratio for VLC.

    Across the top where function keys -- now APP keys:
    EyeTV Netflix Sling VLC iTunes
    Other keys programmed differently, but universal for function, ie: one key is "G" (guide), another now says "F/S" (FullScreen on/off), etc. +/- channel up/down in EyeTV, but will play next/previous song for iTunes. No function in Sling. So on and so forth .... BetterTouchTool.

    That's the primary remote -- the secondary is a old iPhone pretty much running BetterTouchTool -- which allows you create custom menus on the display along with acting as primarily a mouse pad...

    Running a full blown Mac gives you WAY more options than just a AppleTV (tried it upstairs, meh), Roku, Chromecast, etc... The Mac wins in this case -- hands down IMHO. It helps that ssh / bash / unix is the under-pinning for remote access whether locally in the same room or from work... Of course my desktop there and at home are other Mac's. :)

  • I have been using Roku 3s for Plex but switched to the 4k fire TV box and like it. It doesn't need a fan like the 4k Roku box.
  • Amazon Fire TV with Kodi - works great

  • Kinda expensive, but understandably everything Just Works.

    10 years ago I would've messed around with Myth and STBs and the like but these days I just can't be bothered. We just use a wireless mouse to control it. If we need to type anything, we use a standard wireless keyboard, but we hardly ever need it.

    It's small, silent and unobtrusive, sits nicely in the unit under the TV and is compatible with pretty much every website and server there is. It's even wireless so I didn't have to bother cabling it.
  • Sound waves moving from the live band to my ears.
  • I have just finished my setup. I have an Odroid C1+ with Openelec.. runs Kodi. For live tv, I have an Xbox One TV tuner (hauppauge 955q) plugged into a Pi3 running tvheadend I compiled from source on top of Raspian.

  • There are a few people suggesting Kodi and such. That's all great and fine, but Netflix and Amazon Prime won't work on that Raspi Linux. Roku with Plex/Serviio. As far as proprietary platforms go, it is the most open one.

  • by houghi ( 78078 )

    A PC so I can use whatever I want. XBMC, MPlayer; mp3, Firefox (for e.g. YouTube) or what not.

    I have 4 screens connected to it. 3 screens on Display Port and those are standard terminals and 1 on HDMI. That is connected to a splitter that divides the single HDMI to 3 screens. 1 a 'normal' terminal, 1 a 24" TV and one a 52" TV.

    2 standard keyboards and mice and one keyboard/mouse.

    For now no need to have a seprate output for that one screen./ two tv output. I use it mainly to watch videos, but I can still use

  • I prefer to download or rip. My Amazon stick is nice, but both Amazon and Netflix have a habit of changing what is available. How many times have you begun watching a TV series only to have it pulled when you are partway through? In addition, local rips can be played with basically anything. A 32gb microsd in a pi with libreelec/osmc and usb keyboard is a fave. I like something which, when it comes to watching, I can just switch on and have work. I have toyed with a cut down openelec system which autoplays

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