Black Friday approaches, sales abound. Time for Xmas nerdling dreams!
November 20, 2014 10:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a cramped S.F. bedroom, with enough room for a king-sized bed, but little else. I would like for my partner and I to be able to watch torrented and streamed programming in comfort whilst on the bed, ideally on something more robust than a Roku. Like a real PC... preferably Windows-based. A reasonably sized display. 12" or larger. Swivel-mounted to the wall (recommend hardware for this please!) Perhaps a touch interface. Ideally with a real wireless keyboard / mouse solution. Possibly even something a graphics tablet can be hooked up to. The ability to be hooked up to the network and store away a ton of shows. Hardware that is off the floor, and not overheating and gathering dust under the bed. The ability to handle some relatively undemanding gaming. Low power usage. Can any of you recommend the best hardware to make this happen? Extra points if you can point to parts of the solution that are either advertised or likely to be advertised as on sale for Black Friday.
posted by markkraft to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you explain why don't just get a TV? A SmartTV will stream material (i.e torrents) from your computer or from various online services (netflix, hulu, youtube, CinemaNow etc.) using your WiFi. Some have full browsers, if you want to get on the web. If you have a tablet, there are tablet remotes (apps) you can use with some of these, which gives you a full touch screen keyboard. TVs can handle games. If you get a 3D TV, they even have dual-gamer modes (you see one thing (your character) and the other person sees another (their character)). No hardware on the floor. LEDs are low power usage. In addition to the full browser, they can load apps like FB and Twitter and Weather and things like that.

I assume there's a reason you want a computer instead of a TV, though, so it would be helpful to know what advantage you see in a computer-based solution.

Consider heading on down to BestBuy and checking out what they have. Most stores like this have 30 day price-mathing policies, so (ask first, but you can probably) buy what you want now and then if you find it cheaper there or anywhere else on BlackFriday get the difference refunded (if it's on sale at BestBuy) OR get the difference +10% refunded (if it's on sale somewhere else!). BestBuy is just an example, this should work anywhere that does pricematching. But again, ask first about how their policy works.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:38 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would first recommend seeing if Hulu Plus, Netflix or other streaming services fit your viewing needs since you would be supporting the content creators. I haven't looked at it in a while, but the other option is going the Plex, VPN+Torrent or Usenet, Couch Potato, SickBeard route. Plex minimum processing requirements. If you're going to transcode only one stream, then a Core i3 should be more than enough.

You can get a small mini-itx box that's easy to mount to the back of a monitor or under a table.

For mounting a monitor or tablet, I have personal experience with ergotron arms, and they're fairly reliable.
posted by palionex at 10:40 PM on November 20, 2014

Oh, and take a look at this reddit link for pc components, and this for others who are asking similar questions.
posted by palionex at 10:43 PM on November 20, 2014

Seconding If only I had a penguin..., I was going to recommend a TV with a chromecast or potentially that new Amazon thing if you guys are already Amazon Prime subscribers (or Apple TV if you guys already have a lot of buy-in to iTunes). With a chromecast, you can use either your phone or a PC to stream content to the TV, and the ability to stream your browser screen to the TV is in beta testing.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on November 20, 2014

Response by poster: I have tried streaming content in the past with a Roku. Generally, it sucked. It lacked a lot of the control I need to play things like subtitled shows from overseas, didn't support file types, required file conversions in some cases... and there was also bugginess with the streaming in addition to all that.

Hulu, Netflix, etc. suck at foreign subbed television, which is a big chunk of what I watch. I do use Amazon Prime, but it has its limits. I like computers because they are more powerful for what I do. I don't bother with cable anyway, so a smart TV is basically little better than a display + Roku.
posted by markkraft at 10:43 PM on November 20, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, and I have tried Plex + Roku, for example. Very disappointing. with poor control over subtitles, and about a dozen other buggy and incompatible things that made it a poor option. I don't expect other streaming solutions to be much better, really.
posted by markkraft at 10:55 PM on November 20, 2014

If foreign netflix would give you what you want, is $5 a month and lets you change your country instantly, as often as you like. I'm not saying you should do that instead of your preferred solution, but that maybe you should see if it would meet your needs. Anyway, a SmartTV will let you play material you've torrented. No need for add-on/plug-in solutions.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:59 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know how you would mount it, but it sounds like you want one of the windows ultrabook/tablets. I have the original lenovo yoga it does all you are asking and some light gaming. Bonus you'd have a laptop you could move.
posted by dstopps at 3:47 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a home-built with wireless keyboard/mouse combo + semi-smart TV (can't use the built-in Netflix and YouTube streaming, because the TV remote died and I haven't gotten a replacement yet), so I get the allure of a more powerful system. Also, by having a full computer, our setup is pretty simple, storing and playing media right there with a direct HDMI connection to our TV.

But if you already have a computer and you just want to get content to your TV, Gizmodo has a review of Chromecast, Fire TV stick and Roku stick, including a review of "mirroring," which goes beyond the app-specific support and gets into what you want. It also covers games, but mostly to say "Amazon has native games as apps." If you're mirroring your computer, you can see whatever your computer is playing.

It sounds like the Amazon Fire TV stick is a bit kludgy for mirroring, while Chromecast sounds a bit more solid, though there are still details to be worked out.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:56 AM on November 21, 2014

I have a Samsung SmartTV that's a couple of years old that does an awful lot of what I think you want to do. If you don't want to use a Roku, it will do DLNA streaming from a local computer or NAS. I believe it has "apps" for Netflix, Hulu, etc.

Have you considered a low-cost VPN service that masquerades as a U.S. location?

For mounting, you almost certainly want some kind of VESA adapter / mount. Shop around - prices vary widely.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2014

We're big fans of the WD TV Live boxes, and it + a smart TV should do what you need.
posted by evoque at 10:21 AM on November 21, 2014

For mounting, see the last item here:

For a PC, those Intel NUC's would nicely bolt to the back of the TV.

For a keyboard, those eraser mouse keyboards mean no mouse to find.
posted by at at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2014

« Older Getting "you" back after a relationship ends   |   Why are the ages of cars always mentioned in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.