Best Home Web Streaming Setup
February 16, 2013 12:40 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to create a great streaming setup for my living room. Exact requirements inside

I'd like to be able to do the following things in my living room:
-Watch blu-ray discs and DVDs
-Watch Netflix
-Watch Hulu plus
-Watch Amazon streaming (If possible)
-Listen to Pandora (large, full screen interface if possible)
-Stream Video files from my desktop
-Stream iTunes music and video from my desktop or iOS device (essentially airplay)
-watch and record live cable tv (nice bonus, not required. I watch most of my tv after the fact anyway)

My main option I've been considering is building a home theater PC running windows 7 and XMBC with a USB tv tuner, which can do most but not all of the above. The setup I had in mind would cost about $400. I can wire anything in the living room to my home network by ethernet.

However, I'm sure there are other ways, devices, or combinations of devices that can do the above. What do you guys think?
posted by nickhb to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
First off, as far as I know, nothing but an Apple device or a PC running Apple software will be able to do iTunes content, so that restriction changes the nature of your setup.

Everything else except for the live TV can be covered by most modern Blu-ray players; the functionality to stream from a local network server is called DLNA, you'll need it on both the client (Blu-ray player) and server (PC, or a NAS, which is what I use). I have a Sony player about two years old (I don't have the exact model number in front of me and am too lazy to go downstairs to look at it) and it does all of those things except TV and iTunes.

For the server, I use a D-Link DNS-320.

As for "cable" TV, I have had a Dish Network DVR for many years, and while it's not as cheap as a roll-your-own DVR solution, it Just Works, which is always nice.
posted by Hatashran at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2013

You can actually stream from a Mac to an Xbox - I've had decent performance with this little widget, but I only use it for audio. You might consider a jailbroken AppleTV running XBMC or Plex, which lets you do all sorts of crazy stuff.
posted by jquinby at 1:10 PM on February 16, 2013

gah, this is where 'little widget' was supposed to go.
posted by jquinby at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2013

Airfoil will let you stream music from I think any audio app on OS X to an Apple Airplay-compatible device.
posted by zippy at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2013

Here's Airfoil. Runs on OS X and Windows, works with any audio source.
posted by zippy at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2013

I love love love XBMC. It'll play music from your iTunes library, play Hulu, play Amazon, play a bunch of stuff from network sites that most people think aren't streamable to a TV because Roku and ATV don't handle them, and so on. No need to sell you, I guess.

With the latest version, you can even do live TV from one of many live TV backends. I have an HDHomerun Prime that works very well as a tuner device. The HDHR just recently got the capability of HTTP streaming TV channels using DLNA, so XBMC will handle it natively now. No recording that way, though.

I have a system much like what you're contemplating building (but running Ubuntu rather than Windows) that sits under my TV in my entertainment stand. I've got about 6TB of storage space in it at present. If I were doing it again today, I'd buy a Pivos or wait a couple of months for Ouya and use that to connect to the TV and put a NAS device on the network somewhere else in the house.

I have a TiVo and a PS3 which are both capable of streaming Netflix, so it isn't a problem for me that XBMC can't handle it.

I do not like DLNA streaming for my (downloaded) video library, though. Before building the XBMC box I did that with my PS3 and was constantly having to fiddle with remuxing files and possibly reencoding audio into a format the PS3 would play. Most Blu-Ray players and standalone boxes like Roku, WDTV, and the Seagate one have similarly limited format support. I like XBMC because it will play almost anything without having to mess around with the files to get them to play.
posted by wierdo at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

AppleTV + AirParrot on your PC. Plays anything and everything.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:28 AM on February 17, 2013

XBMC is now an airplay receiver. (Video and audio), as well as serve as a PVR. I can't comment on Netflix / Pandora.

I'm not sure which of the things you mention that your home built HTPC wouldn't be able to do...
posted by defcom1 at 6:00 AM on February 19, 2013

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