Best/Easiest/Cheapest way to stream video files from PC to TV
January 26, 2014 4:21 AM   Subscribe

I know this has been asked before, but I didn't see an answer that works for me. I currently use my XBox 360 to stream videos to my television over my LAN/wifi and I would like to find a better way.

Currently, this method works alright, except for when it doesn't. The Xbox only recognizes (mainly) avi and mp4 files (but not all mp4s for reasons that are beyond my understanding) and it doesn't support subtitle files. And then there are the times when it just stubbornly refuses to connect to the My Videos folder (probably a network issue, but I'm still holding it accountable). And then sometimes the video sputters and/or stops, but the file plays fine directly on the computer. The hell with this.

I have a laptop, so making it a dedicated streaming media server isn't a great option. I would be ok with buying a simple media adapter if that's what would get the job done, but I have very little knowledge in this area. I have a NAS, but I generally keep it off and only use it for backing up and archiving. All I'm really interested in playing is raw video files from my PC, without having to convert them to a single format or hard-burning subtitles onto the video file.

I know there is probably a simple solution, but alas, I need help finding it.
posted by JimBJ9 to Technology (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Plex, while technically a server-based solution, includes on-the-fly transcoding and external subtitle support (among many, many other features).
posted by jmfitch at 4:36 AM on January 26, 2014

The simplest solution would be to plug your laptop's video/audio-out directly into your TV. Does your laptop have HDMI-out?

Otherwise, Plex and a Chromecast is straightforward.
posted by jozxyqk at 4:44 AM on January 26, 2014

Plex + chromecast/roku is the usual answer here, and it's mine. That said, it currently has some weird issues around roku subtitle support - if that's a marquee feature for you, I think you might want to go chromecast, even though I find the roku a more flexible and useful gadget overall.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:33 AM on January 26, 2014

I've been really happy with the WD TV Live, as recommended here. It can handle just about any digital video format, including subtitles, and reads the movie collection on my computer over LAN/wifi with no problems. Really simplified the process of watching downloaded stuff on my TV.
posted by flod at 10:34 AM on January 26, 2014

Also advocating Plex and a Roku box. Just could not be easier to set up and it hasn't balked at any video file I've thrown at it yet (mp4, avi, mkv, etc.). Subtitles work fine for me, but you have to use external .srt files, Roku won't work with embedded subtitles on direct play. More about that here.
posted by katyggls at 5:03 PM on January 26, 2014

Plex is good for those happy with transcoding, another option is PS3MediaServer (works with more than just PS3).

I have noticed Roku and WDLive to be liked by Americans, presumably because they come with US-only services (netflix/hulu?). But are really not that good, ok for "bedroom" watching.

Outside US the popcornhour NMTs are quite popular, good quality, and plays all formats. (nfs/smb and upnp streaming of course). DTS MA and all that.

There are thousands of Android tv boxes, perhaps most notably Ouya. But they are still in the "bedroom" quality level.

Finally you can HTPC it, ie, some Linux/Window box with HDMI out, which could be your laptop. But you need to check the hardware is good enough if you care about video quality, and/or bitstreaming, DTS MA etc.
posted by lundman at 5:19 PM on January 26, 2014

Install plex media server on your PC and get a raspberry pi loaded with Your PC handles the transcoding and the PI is the frontend interface.
posted by defcom1 at 4:48 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait, even better, use plex and your xbox 360 I haven't tried it, but all it will cost you is a bit of time.
posted by defcom1 at 4:49 AM on January 27, 2014

Thanks everyone. There is a wide range of answers without a whole lot of a consensus, so I don't know that I can pick a best answer. I guess I'll take each one of them and analyze the benefits of each one before making a switch.

Thanks again!
posted by JimBJ9 at 5:54 AM on January 27, 2014

I second the WD TV Live, reliable and works with most any codec and format out there.
posted by aerotive at 2:13 PM on January 27, 2014

> Install plex media server on your PC and get a raspberry pi loaded with Your PC handles the transcoding and the PI is the frontend interface.

highly recommend looking into a raspberry pi!

when i was in your situation, i ended up going with a RPi but running OpenELEC -- that said, i use the hard drive and plug it into the RPi vs transcoding.

link to OpenELEC website
posted by knockoutking at 7:14 AM on January 29, 2014

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