Simple way to watch HD movies on my TV?
December 21, 2011 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I want watch on my TV the videos that are on my computer. HD (720p) format. Video streaming of content not necessary. What is the easiest and cheapest way to go about this?

Actually, I already know how to do this, but I want to know even more. Currently I am using this Buffalo LinkTheater player, which involves me copying video files on my computer via a USB flash disk, and walking it over to the player in the living room. The walking part is no problem, but the copying is rather annoying; it's slow as hell, and takes up to ten minutes to copy a multi-gig video file.

So, what are my other options? My TV is 720p HD (not 1080p), and I would like a way to more easily watch videos from my computer. Is Apple TV the way to go? Roku, Tivo...I only vaguely know about these. Hell, a modified XBox? I should add I don't have wifi at the house, but I may get that in the future.
posted by zardoz to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I bought a roku and recently installed roksbox ($15). It does everything I want. You do have to install a web brower on your server/host computer to stream, but they walk you through it. Also with a roku you can hookup any USB device that has your files on it (thumbdrive, iPod, etc...) through the USB device channel and watch that way as well.

I really like my Roku and prefer to use it over my samsung smartTV. It's girlfriend friendly, small and inexpensive (>$100). Now that I have roksbox, it's basically all I need.
posted by kookywon at 2:19 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

If the videos are in iTunes, AppleTV is the easiest best way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:19 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love, love, love my Mac/Tivo/PyTivoX combination. If you have that combination of hardware (I have a "TivoHD" and a mac), pyTivoX is just great. It can do streaming OR download and it's dead simple to set up.

If you don't have that, AppleTV might work OK, although I don't know how good/bad AppleTV is about allowing you to freely stream your stuff.
posted by Betelgeuse at 2:20 PM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: Videos are not in iTunes. I'm hesitant to use AppleTV just because of the tight control they have, but that leads me to another question: can I do this with a jailbroken AppleTV?
posted by zardoz at 2:21 PM on December 21, 2011

I also have a Roku and Rocksbox sucks. You have to run a web server on your computer and make XML files for you to see any metadata. If you don't use the XML files, you navigate your stuff via web directories. And it costs extra money.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:21 PM on December 21, 2011

I should add I don't have wifi at the house, but I may get that in the future.

Oh. Well that's yer problem right there. How do you expect to get the files from the computer to the TV other than SneakerNet then? Can you run cable from the computer room to the TV room?
posted by Rock Steady at 2:21 PM on December 21, 2011

If control is what you want, get a laptop off eBay and hook it up to the tv. There is no open source media players.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2011

If you have a Xbox, you can stream videos to it over your network.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

re: Apple TV

If you put the videos into a format that iTunes understands (mainly meaning not .mkv), you can drag them into iTunes and play them on an Apple TV. I've ripped a bunch of my DVDs this way and it works very nicely since iTunes keeps track of what episodes are still unplayed. Handbrake has a preset for Apple TV and Apple TV 2. RipIt is a great Mac App also that will import a DVD when you insert it and then eject it when it's done. iDentify is also nice for looking up the movie/show's metadata.
posted by davextreme at 2:24 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry, I didn't see that you don't have wifi. No chance of streaming over a wired setup?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:25 PM on December 21, 2011

Another possibility: a Boxee Box. You could probably set up your thumb drive as a media source folder on the box, and play files directly off of it, removing the need for copying.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:31 PM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, no wifi. I'm thinking of running an ethernet cable running from my computer to the [whatever], but I don't know if that's just fantasy. I suppose the player would have to have a hard drive, or...?
posted by zardoz at 2:31 PM on December 21, 2011

Out of the current crop of boxes that are out there, the one I like best for viewing downloaded content is the Boxee box

I prefer the Roku for most other streaming however. Last time I tried it Roksbox it choked (I believe on the size of my library).
posted by bitdamaged at 2:34 PM on December 21, 2011

Apple TV will stream almost anything, and yes, the jailbroken version will also stream stuff...

You can even start it in itunes, pause it and pick it up at your tv...

You can also get a boxee box to stream.
posted by empath at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2011

We have a Western Digital player. We have a server upstairs with all the movies on (which could just as easily be your laptop in your example) and watch programmes and movies from there.

It works really well and is a pretty robust way of doing it. We're very happy with it (especially as it was a gift).
posted by Brockles at 2:58 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not get a really large USB laptop drive and just keep all your movie files on it permanently? You could set it as the target folder that you "save" your movies to, then it's just a metter of unmounting and walking it to the TV it when you want to watch stuff.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:03 PM on December 21, 2011

can I do this with a jailbroken AppleTV?

Yes. You can install XBox Media Center (XBMC) on a jailbroken AppleTV 2. Mine has played just about anything I have been able to throw at it. I found jailbreaking and installing XMBC to be straightforward, but I do computer stuff for a living. If you are considering this route, I would suggest reading some of the tutorials that are out there before spending any money.

The original AppleTV is supposedly even easier to install XMBC on, and you can swap the WiFi hardware for true HD output, but the hardware is out of production and significantly more expensive used than a new AppleTV 2.
posted by indyz at 3:05 PM on December 21, 2011

I use the Patriot Home Box Office Media Player and it works fantastic. I have a shared folder on my laptop that I drop movies I want to watch on. The media player is physically connected to my wireless router (I used an Apple Airport Extreme). The movies stream flawlessly to the media player and from it to the television. It comes with a nice remote control that is easy to use. The only pain with it at all is that you'll likely need to update the firmware when you first get it.

It plays both 1080 and 720 without a missing a beat and handles everything (with the newest firmware) from avis, mkvs, and flvs without a problem. Although playing backwards is a bit funky on mkvs and flvs.

One nice thing about them updating the firmware is that it's getting better all the time. I liked it when I first got it, and the interface has gotten better since. Really, about the best $100.00 I've spent on a computer/tv accessory.

Oh, and you'll still be able to walk over a USB key if you want.
posted by bswinburn at 3:17 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

How old's the TV? Recent TV's can be connected to a network and you can stream to them via DLNA. This would require running a lead from your TV to the router (or, alternatively, buying a WiFi connector if one is available) and running software on your computer (serviio is quite reliable and runs on a number of platforms)
posted by gadha at 4:40 PM on December 21, 2011

As mentioned upthread, Xbox 360 can play movies from your PC over your home network, wifi or not. Works great for me.
posted by General Tonic at 5:01 PM on December 21, 2011

Best answer: Apple TV --> Jailbreak --> XBMC. This is quite simply the best, cheapest option period as long as your reasonably tech-savvy enough to perform the jailbreak and installation. An old chipped XBOX with XBMC won't do well with HD content, and a Roku will cost you more, as will a 360 (which also will give you headaches related to format and streaming needs).
posted by drpynchon at 6:46 PM on December 21, 2011

The specs for the Buffalo device you're already using say that it can play stuff from a Samba server (which is basically just Windows-compatible file sharing, which most systems can easily be persuaded to to) via an Ethernet cable. Why not just wire the Buffalo box to your computer and see what happens?
posted by flabdablet at 7:33 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use the Java PS3 Media Server with my computer and PS3 both connected via ethernet to the same router. It required a bit of setup but works really well for me (caveats: they are physically located right next to each other, and also I had a PS3).
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:04 PM on December 21, 2011

Why not just try hooking your Buffalo to ethernet?
posted by Good Brain at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I figured it out, mostly. Long story short I did in fact hook it up to the network via an ethernet cable and it streams directly from my computer. Looks a bit awkward, but whatever.
posted by zardoz at 2:03 AM on December 25, 2011

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