Looking for the new "God Box" - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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Looking for the new "God Box"

I'm looking for a solution that will allow me to record OTA, stream Netflix (and others) in HD, and stream from other internet sources. A single box which hooks up to my tv and can also stream to remote clients.

The candidates:

1. TiVo Roamio
$350USD (Amazon dot com, will ship to Canada); possibly lower on a sale. This gives you one of the best WAF around. Single box, single remote, single interface. 1TB drive included, lifetime guide data, quad ATSC tuner. Need a TiVo Mini for remote clients. Problem: it will not do general internet steaming (e.g. HGTV.ca) or non-US subscription services like Crave (and Netflix Canada is not enough by itself).

2. Tablo. $280CAD for a 2-tuner solution or $370 for quad, plus $90 for USB drive (1TB, at Costco). Guide data is extra ($6/month or $60/year or $180 lifetime). Don't think it has HDMI out so everything is a remote client. Would need something like a Mi Box 3 (under $100 online) to stream to a Tv; you can get a cheaper Android TV box but this one will stream Netflix HD.

3. Mi Box 3 plus USB ATSC tuner. Nougat has support for ATSC tuners and recording OTA. Not many tuners officially supported (think it's just a matter of testing). Tuner runs $65-100 but all of the "supported" tuners are single (only watch/record one show). Also need to add USB drive and probably a better remote/keyboard. Not sure how streaming to remote clients works. If you need Netflix HD on a second tv you will likely need a second Mi Box. Not sure where the EPG data comes from, if it's free or what is the cost. Runs Android TV, which is Android optimized/customized for streaming/TV.

4. Wetek Play 2. $180CAD at BestBuy dot ca and I believe that includes the ATSC tuner module. The tuner is single. Trying to find out from the company if they have plans for a dual or quad tuner. Like the Mi Box it will need a USB drive; don't know about EPG data, either. Because they don't require Nougat built in support for ATSC tuners and recording, this one is probably a little ahead of the Mi Box solution (it runs WeOS which is based on Android).

That's pretty much all I have. Anyone have any other suggestions, corrections, clarifications?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 03:47 PM
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Building a home theater PC (HTPC) is another option. A good quality budget build would cost about the same as the first option. Add Kodi and a remote for WAF. HTPCs are the ultimate in flexibility and are easily updated with the latest apps and web services. I use a HDHomeRun tuner since they don't need a lot of rewiring with RG6. HTPCs generally last a lot longer due to their open architecture and more powerful hardware than most media streamers. They do take a little more work but it's better than buying a new streaming box every 2 years because the vendor stops providing support.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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One cannot simply buy a HTPC. You pretty much have to build it. Also I am not at all a fan of Kodi. I find its interface very complicated. And if that's my experience, then I can almost guarantee it will fail the WAF.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 07:04 PM
 
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@wprager

It is not a single box solution and it isn't cheap, but have you looked at Plex with HDHomerun tuners? With the Plex Pass, you now get a PVR solution from the HDHomerun tuners. There are Plex addons for streaming, and any DLNA client can stream live TV from the HDHomerun or from the Plex server. Anything that runs Plex also has a Netflix client and Crave TV through the web interface. The interface is not much different from most of the other solutions and you can also integrate any videos that you might have on DVD or recorded for watching again (if you have kids or grandkids). Plex also lets you stream from your server to other locations, although I have never needed that feature.

It sure would be nice to have a single box that does everything, though.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 09:19 PM
 
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I'm no expert but my TiVo Roamio certainly scores high on the WAF. Netflix along with a host of other apps is built in and is a piece of cake. I understand it also supports PLEX but I know nothing about PLEX.

$350.00 Canadian --all in-- sounds like a bargain to me. I paid more like $6-700.00 Canadian for it a few years ago and the same for an earlier TiVo Premier and have never felt I overpaid for either one of them.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-28, 11:40 PM
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It sounds like 2 or 3 devices may be needed I doubt you will find one device that does everything well. Something like a TiVo or other OTA PVR that does TV well would be a start. Then add something like a Roku player or Apple TV player for streaming content.

I'd stick with DLNA compatible devices wherever possible. That allows streaming of content on one device (such as an OTA PVR or Plex server) to cheaper DLNA devices such as a Roku player.

Plex is a good solution but it is at least as complicated as an HTPC with Kodi to set up. Plus it requires a compatible PC, NAS or other device for installation.

An HTPC does not require Kodi. It takes some effort to set up but other media players can be used. It can also be used as a PVR media server. NextPVR is probably one of the simplest TV PVR programs to set up. The biggest issue I run into with it is getting the playback CODECS installed and configured correctly. Note that an HTPC is little more than a standard PC in a HTPC case with some added software. Any local PC shop can put one together easily. Low power AMD APUs excel at HTPC duty so it doesn't need to be expensive.

Another solution may be an Android TV box. Anyone who has an Android phone will be familiar with the interface. (Apple iPhone fans need not apply. Stick with the Apple TV box.) Android won't record TV well but it has an excellent variety of streaming apps. It can also stream live or recorded TV from a DLNA TV server.

A TiVo Roamio at $350USD (close to CAD$500 at today's exchange rate) seems a bit pricey, especially since it needs extra TiVo boxes to watch recordings on other TVs. TiVo makes excellent devices but also charges a hefty premium.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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@MapMaker ,

The $350 is USD (that's why I mentioned Amazon dot *com*). The prices on Amazon dot ca are ridiculous, but dot com will ship this item to Canada. Better yet, if you have relatives/friends in the US, ship there and save on taxes.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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@geode ,

I've dabbled with Plex and an not a big fan. It's not the easiest to set up. I believe there is a server app for Android as well (I installed it by accident when trying to install a client to stream from the Plex server I had on my PC).

I am a fan of Android and Xiaomi, pretty sure I will be getting a Mi Box sooner or later, no matter what solution I pick (there is a TiVo app to stream from your TiVo to an android device so that could be used instead of a TiVo mini at the remote TV).

Ideally I would like a dual (or quad) USB ATSC tuner for a Mi Box. Well, maybe "ideally" isn't right. I still don't know where the EPG data comes from on this setup.

The HDHomerun Extend gives me a dual tuner but at around $200 is quite pricey. I realize that gives me the flexibility to stream live tv over WiFi to any other device, but that is also an issue. Who controls the tuners? If my Mi Box "wants" to record something on Global but another device wants to stream CityTV, who has precedence? With a USB attached tuner the box it's attached to controls the access (via the s/w that runs it).

Mi Box 3 ($95) + HDHomerun ($200) + 1TB USB drive ($90) = $385 total. Similar in price to a dual tuner Tablo with plus a drive. The answer on the EPG data source (free or not) could be deciding factor between these two choices).

Just got the reply back from Wetek confirming it's a single tuner and no *immediate* plans for a dual. Their plug in tuner modules are quite cheap (half or less what a USB ATSC tuner goes for) so that would probably be the best priced option.

If TiVo had an app for Crave TV and steaming videos from internet sources (primarily HGTV.ca for my wife, but also others like CBC, CTV, etc.) I'd order one right now.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 10:15 AM Thread Starter
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Re: TiVo being pricey. I could ship it to a friend who has a beach cottage in Maine. He could use it there then bring it back across the border. Used, so perfectly legit. $350USD is $471CAD, or just under $417 plus taxes. That includes a 1TB drive, lifetime guide data and probably the best UX (User Experience - a gender neutral way to say WAF).

But in Canada Netflix is not enough and you pretty much need CraveTV (I would recommend alternating between the two).

We need TiVo s/w ported to Android.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 11:24 AM
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The HDHomeRun allocates tuners on a first come first served basis. However, it will only work with devices that have the HDHomeRun software or app installed. The third device trying to use a dual tuner HDHomeRun will be locked out. If that's undesirable then the cheaper HDHomeRun Connect has an extra advantage in that respect by being unavailable to the HDHomeRun Android app. Two HDHomeRun Connects can be purchased for just a little more than one HDHomeRun Extend and provide 4 tuners.

A HDHomeRun Extend is not necessary for recording. It is necessary for streaming to some devices since they will not play MPEG2 well. Contrary to what is advertised, newer Android devices will play HDHomeRun Connect MPEG2 content over wi-fi with the right app. I've done it with an Android TV box and Kodi. (There's that K-word again. ) On the fly MPEG4 encoding is another option but then we are getting into things like a Plex server. An HDHomeRun Connect is quite a bit cheaper if you can live with the limitations of MPEG2. I had a HDHomeRun Extend but sold it due to a few issues with playback of MPEG4 transcoded content with older devices. Watch for HDHomeRun tuners to go on sale. I got good discounts on Newegg a few years ago.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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From my understanding, the Extend uses MPEG4 encoding, which allows it to stream HD over WiFi. Although people say that they can stream HD over WiFi with the Connect (MPEG2) I don't think that solution scales (e.g. two HD streams plus someone watching Netflix on their tablet).
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-05-29, 01:47 PM
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A good AC router will easily handle several MPEG2 streams, especially if the 5GHz band is used. The bigger limitations are the devices' wi-fi capabilities and ability to decode MPEG2 content in hardware. Another limitation is wi-fi signal strength. Since MPEG2 requires more bandwidth, it will drop out sooner in weak signal areas.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-06-01, 10:55 AM Thread Starter
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I want to get the Mi Box but feel like I would be taking a giant leap of faith. No idea where the guide data is coming from. For all we know out may not work in Canada. All the "supported" tuners are single. I can get a Hauppage dual tuner for just $60 (openbox/clearance) but have no idea if it would work.

Also, in case anyone is thinking of trying this, the Mi Box has one USB port so you will need a USB hub of some type (tuner, drive, maybe wireless dongle for an air mouse/keyboard).

Lastly, there are different flavors of the Mi Box. Not all of them run the Android TV OS, so be careful which one you get.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-06-01, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, well, lost the chance to get the dual tuner for $60. Three left when I first posted, all gone now.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 2017-07-13, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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More recently I've started seeing USB ATSC tuners sold at around $20-25 range. These are marketed as "watch TV on your phones" but an ATSC tuner that plugs into a USB slot on an Android phone -- well, doesn't that sound exactly like the $80+ tuners I mentioned earlier?

Also, recently read an article claiming that the MeCool M8S Pro+ will stream Netflix in HD. The Pro+ is actually a cheaper version of the Pro (it doesn't have Bluetooth or dual-band WiFi router), but it ships with Nougat. Unfortunately no Bluetooth means you need a USB port for the remote dongle (assuming you want to use an air mouse). Good thing it has 2 USB ports (the Mi Box has one), but as it does not run Android TV I am not sure what you could do with a tuner anyway (watch live tv, maybe pause, but probably not record).
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