Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

This topic was created by Le Adder Noir .

Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Right, apologies if this is in the wrong section (the question doesn't seem to fit neatly in any one category), but I'm looking for a bit of a steer on a project for a new house.

As the title suggests, I'm looking to build a NAS-based home media set-up. I live outside the UK, where TV media is, dare I say it, even worse than in Blighty, so most of our stuff is purchased online and stored on drives. Up until recently, I've been using my PC as a media hub in the lounge (using a mixture of internal and external drives), hooked directly to the receiver/amp and TV.

Now, it looks like I'm going to have a proper office, so I want to move the PC there, and use a NAS to store media that is accessible in the office, lounge and bedrooms. It's how I go about this that is causing me some difficutly.

In terms of the NAS unit itself, I'll probably go for an off-the-shelf unit, if only because getting parts where I am can be tricky and expensive. I'm thinking of Synology or QNAP.

The intention is to have fully wired broadband connectivity throughout the house, or at least fairly decent wifi.

The questions I have then are:

How to I get stuff from the NAS to the TV(s)?

Do I need separate media players for each TV and, if so, which ones would work best (files are a mixture of the usual, MP3, FLAC, MP4, MKV, AVI etc. and I'd prefer not to lose quality for HD files through transcoding or the like)?

WIll I be able to stream either different content or, more importantly, the same content to different devices simultaneously (sort of like the set-up on an aircraft entertainment system) and do I need some sort of programme for this?

How can I ensure my NAS is secure - i.e. read/write only from PC, read-only from certain devices, no access externally?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Personally I have 2 mini-itx systems both with built in CPU (AMD E-350). One in a mini itx case in the living room as a media center and one in a micro atx case with multiple HDDs in hidden away under the stairs serving as a NAS. The E-350 boards can be picked up fairly cheaply so are great for doing your own bespoke build NAS or running XBMC

Whether this or off the shelf NAS is better for you is really a matter of personal taste. One warning I would make is that be careful when picking an off the shelf NAS just because it has Gigabit Ethernet doesn't mean it can come close to that speed. Many of them have under powered ARM CPUs that simply cant handle that kind of traffic which can become a problem if you're streaming 1080p or higher video with HD audio.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

+1 On the GbE connection, because its true. But, I would ask you how much 'leccy your Mini-ITX AMD-E350 rigs are chewing though per hour. I'm not versed in Mini-ITX Wattages. But the "Off the Shelf" stuff is generally greener by design. Assuming that these Mini-ITX Rigs burn about what 200w peek? An off the shelf NAS is usually >40w. For something that has to run neigh 24/7, this is where your concern should be lying. As chances are these Devices are likely going to tied behind a Wireless Router. Which is as likely as not ONLY has 10/100 Base-T Ethernet... So, so much for having GbE then!

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Gigabit Ethernet on home routers is actually increasingly common. The recent models of BT HomeHub and both the Virgin Media SuperHub and SuperHub2 have it, as do many main brand router models Netgear and Asus notably have many models with Gigabit Ethernet.

As for power consumption, the E-350 isnt the most power efficient Mini-ITX option but it is one of the cheapest (except maybe the new AMD AM1 socket cpu/motherboards).

I've not measured it at the wall but on paper my NAS build should be using no more than 60-80 watts under full load on paper, the CPU is rarely under full load and with power saving settings and spinning the disks down when idle it still makes a nice option.

For even better results power wise, an Intel Celeron Mini-ITX build would be better but significantly more expensive.

The other advantage to a proper PC build as opposed to have the shelf is you can backup software of your choice, and run it from the server end rather than the client if you wish. As it's likely to be switched on 24/7 it can come in handy to remote desktop to from a smartphone while away from home.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

I have an old QNAP TS-439 PRO. As others mentioned Gb ethernet does not mean you'll be getting 125MB/s on your file access - RAID mode, hard drives, and processor all affect that. I get about 70MB/s write speed which is as expected given the data available on the smallnetbuilder website. I recommend looking there for off the shelf reviews and speeds. The device manufacturers (QNAP, Synology etc) are putting out x86 units these days (TS-470?) that can host VMs also.

If I were buying again I'd look at these, possibly a Synology as they seem to be a bit ahead and definitely more speed for the dollar than QNAP in my experience. Your alternative is to get an HP Gen8 Microserver or build something using a tower (mini or maxi depending on drive requirements) and install FreeNAS - just depends on whether you want the hassle. My QNAP is pretty lower power (CPU and electricity) - check out their comparison page for power draw on their units.

As for media streaming I make use of the Twonky Server on the NAS and a WD TV Live box hooked up to the TV. Plays anything you care to throw at it. Just make sure to turn off the UPnP setting in the MyQNAPCloud settings if you get a QNAP as it plays havoc with the WD and is a b*stard to diagnose.

Almost forgot to mention that the file security is taken care of on any system in a similar way (users, groups and shares) and these systems (QNAP, Synology, FreeNAS) all have app/plugin capabilities so they can be setup as RADIUS servers, DB hosts (normally MySQL), Downloaders (torrent, http(s), NZB / Sickbeard) and a whole host of other functions.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

70-80MB/s is actually really decent for a NAS box. I was thinking more about really poor devices like most of Buffalo's range that have Gigabit Ethernet but only give 10-15MB/s. Those are really best avoided.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

I have a similar setup in my house. Synology NAS. It's a few years old but can stream HD video to a single device no problem. The new ones are obviously better, they're really easy to set up and the OS is great. You can configure the security and prevent access from outside. Also, you'd be able to stream multiple videos at once, but may hit problems if streaming multiple HD films (router limitations, spec of the NAS if it's a lower end one, WiFi signal etc.)

You didn't mention if you had any games consoles, but if you have a PS3 connected to one of the TV's this can pick up the content on a Synology NAS no problem, although it (disappointingly) won't play mkv vids. I'd assume a PS4 will do the same thing.

In addition, I have my main PC upstairs in the office (connected through WiFi), and an old HP SFF PC hooked up to the TV in the front room, wired to the router. Intel Core2 Duo, 4GB RAM, low end graphics card with HDMI out, Win7 running XBMC on startup. Not the best spec but works perfectly well as a media player/ occasional browser. You can get some really smart looking, low power, compact media PC barebones setups if you're willing to fork out. It all depends on your budget really. A PC has the added benefit of being able to store files for playback if other devices are eating up bandwidth.

As others have mentioned, there are some cheapo Linux plugin devices that can play a host of media files, as well as RPi. These would be a bit less power hungry than a PC. Also, some smart TV's will pickup NAS content.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Myself, I've got a Synology 2-bay box and the telly has a WDLiveTV box strapped to it. Upsides are that the WD box has iplayer (and other) apps on it - I assume stuff like Chromecast et al will have a similar feature set.

With regards to file permissions - stear clear of a media server implementation with DLNA as (unless they've changed it very recently) that protocol doesn't support user permission schemes. I had my box all set up with folders for kids stuff for the sprogs to be entertained with, and then grown up stuff in different folders - the media server indexes the lot and presents all of it to anyone with permission to use the media server app. The media server does look good, though - it's just not good for a household with kids around as they soon figure out how to use the remote for the WD box (although you could hide it and use the phone/tablet app instead).

So instead I log in via the file-share option, which does preserve user rights - so kiddies can only read their folder, and I can go in and read/write anything.

Also, Synology do some apps to sit on your tab/phone of choice for remote access if you open up your home router a bit.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Can't recommend highly enough to AVOID buying a NAS.

All NAS have the following 2 features:

a) hugely overpriced for they do, and

b) performance so bad that you'd be faster getting a slug to sort your files by hand

The above features are rubbish, but people LOVE to say they have a NAS ("I've got a NAS man !") so the brainless should definitely go for the above features and drop £500 on a Synology ("ka-ching!, another sucker born every day!" say the people at Synology).

Alternatives are simple. i.e. buy a decent specced system like an HP Microserver, which are only £120 (compare that to a Synology even though it blows the Synology away in features / performance) it also features 4 easy-access drive bays, proper gigabit ethernet, almost silent, very low power, and you can run ANY operating system you want on them (from simple things like FreeNAS (then you can still say you have a "NAS"!, right up to Win Server 2012 or Ubuntu etc).

8-bay Synology's are £720 !!!

or you can not be insane and buy 2x HP Microserves to have 2x 4-bay, systems that are about the same size, but MASSIVELY better performance, and less than 1/4 of the cost ...

common sense and logic seldom come into play when people want to have a "NAS" though !! ;)

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

@adobob: Although something like a Gen8 microserver will no doubt trash most NAS devices in terms of performance, price, and functionality you need to accept that some people seriously couldn't give a flying f*ck for maintaining yet another box in their spare time and so something like the (kerching) Synology you mention fits their needs perfectly and they are happy to pay the associated "convenience premium".

However, the gen8 will set you back over £350 for the g1610T and is a fairer comparison to the DS412+ you seem to have priced. I sincerely doubt a N54L has massively better performance, in fact I'm pretty bloody confident it doesn't. I'd like to see the benchmark of a 4xHDD N54L against a Synology DS412+ that smallnetbuilder has benchmarked at 106MB/s. I think the N54L would be lucky to hit 70MB/s, ergo feature (b) in your list is a false assertion.

I work in IT and have built plenty of file servers in the past but these days I value my spare time just a bit more than back then. Other folks likely share this outlook.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

@Mark 65, you took something that I said that was factual (HP Microservers for £120) and then made up something completely unrelated to what I said (£350 for the Gen8, which I wouldn't touch for a storage system). Microservers cost between £79.99 to £150 depending up on the deal at the time.

Maintaining the 3x HP Microservers that I have is about as difficult as making a cup of tea (once every 3-6 months).

I do agree with the convenience factor of NAS, and that's fine, but HP Microservers are unbelievably convenient. In fact, probably more convenient than the Synology etc which have their app setups and all that. Plus, the unbelievably awful internal components of all of these NAS system cannot compare to a normal system. I'm interested, but I'd be pretty surprised if they come close performance wise (i.e. check out the *actual* specs on these NAS dogs-wrapped-up-in-expensive-shiny-covers).

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

Errr, the Gen8 is a microserver - the HP Gen8 Microserver - the replacement/upgrade for the N54L.

You also stated that the £120 unit (must be a N54L or lower) offer massive outperformance over a NAS. Given you were trash-talking the Synology for £500 (which would be the DS412+) I offered a simple comparison, N54L vs DS412+, and stated it highly unlikely a N54L could outperform it, whereas the Gen8 perhaps could thus making the £350 Gen8 the fairer comparison as there's no point slagging off NAS performance to then compare it with a device likely to give a lower performance is there? You were not comparing apples with apples and I merely corrected this so that readers get the facts and not what seems like your personal bias. NAS units offer a valid alternative depending on the needs of the individual.

"I'm interested, but I'd be pretty surprised if they come close performance wise"

The performance I gave for the Synology is for the benchmark off of the smallnetbuilder site, i.e. they tested it when they reviewed it in order to verify manufacturer claims. You can verify it's speed on a variety of RAID setups from fastest to safest. As an example the DS412+ hits 102.4MB/s on RAID 5 write performance - that's pretty bloody fast. A Gen8 using SSD caching which cannot, to my knowledge, be configured in a 4 bay from Synology or QNAP would offer vastly greater performance. Simple RAID5 HDD to RAID5 HDD I'd like to see but have had trouble getting benchmarks for the HP - faster processor is not the be-all if other components are not well matched.

"unbelievably awful internal components of all of these NAS system cannot compare to a normal system"? These devices are SME targeted and hot-swappable - which the beloved HP Microserver most certainly isn't. The more expensive 4 bays units (£500) also come with dual 1Gb/s ethernet. The microserver, especially the N54L is basically the same as one of these (without dual LAN) in that it's a prepacked spec and you're adding drives. The only freedom is really the OS. It does offer an expansion slot and may take more drives but that's by fiddling with the layout. I do not for one minute believe the internals of the HP would be superior for the given price than a NAS. I also know the actual specs, they are there on the review sites and the manufacturer sites for all to see.

"NAS dogs-wrapped-up-in-expensive-shiny-covers" - your personal bias is showing through and it isn't fair to give someone asking a genuine question an answer based upon this. The HP stands up on it's own merit without personal bias but Synology and QNAP offer valid NAS alternatives depending upon needs, budget, and desire to play with/configure FreeNAS vs the embedded offering. They will outperform a N54L, for example, but be similar price to a Gen8 Microserver when it is dual LANed. A Gen8 is better if you want to run ZFS (stack it with RAM) but is not hot-swappable (may be achievable with added card).

Give them the facts and let them make the decision rather than try to force your viewpoint upon them - I feel no need to trash-talk the HP to make the point that the Synology offers a valid alternative because I'd rather them make the right decision for themselves than try and sway them to any bias I may have.

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Re: Recommendations for NAS-based home media set-up

I picked up a pair of the N40L Microservers, nothing too powerful, but they set me back about 130 quid a pop at the time after cashback redemptions. Threw 4x3TB WD Red NAS drives at it (£140 each or so at the time, as they'd just come out, but a whole lot cheaper than the enterprise class drives I'd been looking at for the 24/7 usage) and 8GB of ECC RAM (not hugely expensive), throw a copy of FreeNAS on a 4GB USB stick which can be stuck in the internal USB port, and run the lot on raidz1, including torrent clients and the like (see http://www.freenas.org/ for full details of what it can do). Bit of tweaking and I can easily max the gigabit link out. Took the 2GB of RAM and the 250GB drive that it shipped with and put it in the other server giving it 4GB and 2x250GB, slapped a cheap fanless Radeon 5450 in it, and used it as a HTPC and Plex server/client on a basic Win7 setup, pretty much just works. Coupled it with a 3 quid Cyberlink infrared USB remote and a couple of USB extension cables so the remote sensor is somewhere reachable. Not all the buttons work, but the volume, play, pause, arrows and OK do, which suits me to a tee.

One thing to note - while you can run Plex (one of the best media server/clients I've had the pleasure of using, the client forked from XBMC a while ago) on the FreeNAS box, if it's a basic CPU unit like the microservers, it's going to struggle doing the transcoding to UPnP hosts such as consoles or TVs. My setup manages with one box doing the file serving and one box doing the transcoding, but it's borderline at times with 1080p content, but if you run the Plex server on the NAS and a Plex client on a box of some sort, no transcoding is necessary, so you can get away with fairly low CPU requirements on the server and client end. But if you want to transcode you'll want something with a reasonable processor in it. Same goes of course for most of the lower powered NAS boxes, many can run the Plex server, as long as you run a Plex client on the other side that doesn't require the NAS to do anything fancy to the video on the fly. Sending to Plex on an Android device etc usually means it needs to transcode, so it won't work too well on the lower powered CPUs, although you might get away with it for SD video.

Of course, if you can stick a client on the other end, the likes of XBMC are also an option, without messing about with the likes of Plex. I just really like the interface on the big TV, the media management, and smart transcoding to my tablet.

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just done this myself. :D

I was donated a old Duo Nas. I have just hooked up a Pi with XMBC on it to the telly and use that.

you can get an xmbc pi off ebay pretty cheap all ready to run.

If your running a smart TV just make sure your NAS supports DLNA. I havnt done this myself but if you buy me a smart TV I will be more than happy to try it for you ;) or check the following link.

http://www.readynas.com/?cat=36/

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Raspberry & XMBC is fine so long as you are happy with TV audio and not wanting to play anything using a "challenging" format without spending hours tweaking the software, but if you would like to output to a decent sound system you're better off steering clear of Linux systems in general - I've not yet managed to get any of them to deliver 5.1 audio properly for all formats that contain it. If you are content with XMBC limitations, you may as well get a smart TV set that can connect to your LAN and play your files directly.

I use a small cheap motherboard equipped with a good sound card and IR remote running Win XP and VLC freeware. VLC can be set up with an audio delay - necessary for many TV sets when using a separate sound system, and it won't barf if the BluRay you converted to MKV format to stream turns out to have Cinevia protection - which more and more media players honour (including the games consoles).

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Not a NAS but...

I have 3 dumb LCD TVs in the house hooked up to 2 media players, 2 chromecasts and an HTPC. The media players are AIOS boxes and are hardwired into the network.

The HTPC is homebrewed and sits in the basement about 12 feet below the living room TV to which it is connected by HDMI. The media software on the HTPC is MediaPortal, it's free, highly configurable and can do a lot more than most other offerings can. The PC is now relatively old, 7 years, and is a quad core (Q6600) based machine and it now has an SSD boot, I used to use a dual tuner in it but the upgrade to digital TV by my cable provider (spit) means I don't use it as a DVR anymore. I do however have an external USB 3.0 Disk enclosure with 4x4TB drives in it and this is where all my TVs get their content from. 8TB in storage and 8TB of mirrored backup. The content drives are shared over the network and are mapped in the AIOS's, Playon and the HTPC. In the background I run playon server through which I can stream Amazon VOD (I live in the US), Hulu, Netflix etc to my dumb TVs via the AIOS boxes.

Pretty much the HTPC is on 24/7 and this is why I went with an external disk enclosure rather than a NAS. The external disk enclosure (iView HFR2-SU3) replaced a couple of 4 drive backplanes I had in the HTPC case, these were very compact and ran very hot. The disk enclosure is much roomier and the drives run a lot cooler. The iView has some bad reviews around the web but that is for the RAID setup, I use mine simply as a disk enclosure and have not encountered any issues.

The AIOS boxes are now almost obsolete but they are a good indicator of the sort of thing available out there, quite simply I haven't had a legit video file that these things couldn't play, the quality of their output in 1080 actually puts my HTPC to shame.

One thing I have seen with NAS is that the disk read/write speeds on the affordable end of the scale suck! My USB 3.0 connected box will write at about 100 MB/s, makes backing up and copying new BRD images across less painful. My disk setup cost about $650, $150 for each of the drives bought on sale and $50 for the enclosure bought on sale also.

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Re: Not a NAS but...

Any reason its on 24x7? Most modern PCs will sleep to save 'leccy

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My current situation:

1. Fibre internet conenction 70 Mbps but runs at 40 Mbps. Good enough for iplayer and youtube etc.

2. Seagate GoFlex 3Tb nas. Nice and fast. Awkward share names (with spaces by default) limited to 5 usernames.

3 1. Gb connection to LAN Cat5E with

4. Two Sumvision media-players (1 per communal room).

5. Two Neuros OSD players that can record MP4 (though not HD) direectly to LAN/NAS

6. Firewall blocks any external communication to router, but allows internal/LAN connections.

My Future Situation.

1. HD processsing needs >= 2Ghz processors. I'll get Laptops or other devices to replace my media-players in the mid-term. Basically: All smartTVs and mediaboxes outdate soon and I want most content available via netflix, youtube and through players from NAS (music, oics,video, home-videos we own.). I want to be able to play Google+ as well on TV.

2. I may use Win or Linux for the media-players TVs. With a HD DVB they can record and play using PC-software.

3. The media-player laptops or PCs would need to be very silent.

4. I have occasionally played HD sources with a 7" tablet using HDMI from the NAS, bt I find that too fidgety and too dependent on which software package can play fast enough. Sttil I was pleased that it can be done. For relaibility Wired cannot be beaten and removes many risks, particularly when recording.

5. I just use AVidemux to crop films etc. It is usually just cropping things off, rather than advanced editing / manipulation.

6. I often use get_iplayer and some online stuff from Channel4/film4 etc. That would require a UK IP-address available to you. Is possible for a price.

How to I get stuff from the NAS to the TV(s)? Cat 5 E Ethernet for HD media to TVs, WiFi to tablets, Phones and some laptops.

Do I need separate media players for each TV and, if so, which ones would work best (files are a

mixture of the usual, MP3, FLAC, MP4, MKV, AVI etc. and I'd prefer not to lose quality for HD files through transcoding or the like)? I have found the Sumvisions to be excellent and accept almost anything. I mainly use AVidemux for transcoding. Sometimes handbrake, winff

Will I be able to stream either different content or, more importantly, the same content to different devices simultaneously (sort of like the set-up on an aircraft entertainment system) and do I need some sort of programme for this? I do not use mutlicasting/streaming like that. Dunno. I do have an infrared transmitter and 2 infrared headphone sets. So two people can listen to the same audio/video.

How can I ensure my NAS is secure - i.e. read/write only from PC, read-only from certain devices, no access externally? Write rights are necesary from most devices to create thumbnails. Since the mediaplayers can remember connections I just use a separate account for them. Kids can write & delete, or many apps will crash that try to create thumbnails. I solve this with a normal HD plugged in to the NAS to which I make backups. I deliberately block access from outside my LAN. Purely for security. If I really need something I can use Teamviewer to a laptop on the lan.

I would go for a NAS to centralize datamangement for the family and use PCs so all software can upgrade and grow to accomodate increasing cloud storage and use. Old hardware outdates too quickly I prefer a PC/laptop with wireless keyboard and HDMI-connection.

Hope this helps, good luck.

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Anonymous Coward

There is a plugin for FireFox that allows you to choose what country you want to "appear" to be in

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Anonymous Coward

Server - Get hold of an HP Microserver (if you can), load it up with HDDs, Google for and install Xpenology, install (amongst other things) Plex.

Client - use whatever Plex client comes with your smart TV, or get a couple of NowTV boxes and install the same.

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Seconded.

HP Microservers are often on special. Mine came with a deal for £100 cashback so it only cost £150.

I used the included 250MB HDD (it was a couple of years ago now) as a boot drive in the optical bay and dropped 4x2TB HDDs into the front drive bays. I installed FreeBSD and built a ZFS RAIDz pool which shares out the main /media dir via NFS and Samba. I also installed MiniDLNA server but TBH, rarely use that.

The two main TVs have a Raspbery Pi each running XBMC although the main TV, BluRay player, tablets and phones can all access the data via the shares or DLNA from either the server or the two Pi's. XBMC also gas an android app to use as a player or remote control.

XBMC also has the ability to store it's database remotely and share it between XBMC clients so "watched" files will still be shown as watched no matter which XMBC client you watched it on.

For backup, I added a USB3 card and a pair of 4TB external drives ZFSed as a JBOD and rsync the whole server every night.

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Thirded! This is precisely what I use.

An HP microserver works out cheaper and more powerful than any NAS devices, plus you get the benefit of flexibility due to it being a server.

I run Windows 8 with its built in software RAID. XBMC on that, plus a TeamSpeak server, plus a Torrent client fed by Google drive, and even a Minecraft server.

Try and find one with a cashback offer from HP, then bung a Radeon HD5450 low profile in there and you are good to go.

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Fourthed! Despite my earlier posts in favour of custom builds the HP Microservers are a fantastic choice but do cost a little more which is why so far I haven't bought one.

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Fifthed!

Yeah this number is creeping very high so it should suggest that we are talking sense. I have an HP Microserver running Unraid, which has the Serviio application on it. I have 4x2TB drives (one acts as parity) and a 250gb cache drive running over homeplugs to my network. Everything in the house can access it, and my Panasonic tv plays back MKVs natively over DLNA (unlike the matched Blu-ray and home cinema systems :( ). The tv in the bedroom is dumb, but is served by a WD TV Live player which is just as effective as the Panny for playback. The third TV (which is dumb) in the same room as the Microserver is naturally connected by VGA over a few feet and acts as a monitor when I need to access the HP. The HP runs 24/7 but spins down the disks when not in use so consumption is low.

Microserver ftw!

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another NAS + Pi + XBMC user

I use Pis and XBMC pulling files off a NAS too and it works really well, especially with a shared mySQL database (which could be running on the NAS) to sync all the media information.

What is really good about sharing the same database is that you can dump new media to the share, rename and grab metadata for it using MediaCompanion, then scan the share with XBMC on a fast PC, and new media is available to all the Pis immediately.

I am increasingly of the feeling that the Pis just don't have quite enough grunt though. The CPU is almost maxed out just running the confluence skin at 1080 (fine at 720 if you don't mind the TV resolution switching) and large BD rips can cause issues, especially ones with high bitrate audio where the Pi's relatively weak CPU has to do a lot of work. For those cases, I have an 7 year old laptop that can be hooked up to the HDMI port - fire up XBMC on that and resume the film from where you left off.

As for type of NAS, homebrew is an option if you have some technical skill and the rest are all broadly similar. I'd avoid the entry level NASes with feeble CPUs. Of the brands I only have experience with two; Qnap seem to update their gear for ages which is nice, whereas Netgear drop updates depressingly quickly, although the old Infrant support guys are excellent for when you hose your multi-terrabyte archive of pr0n^h^h^h^hholiday photos.

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Anonymous Coward

Home Brew

My setup ..

Broadband : VM 120MMbps

Router : Asus RT-AC66UA - Cat5e/Wifi 2.4Ghz/5Ghz

Server : Spare AM3 Mobo, Phenom II X4, 8GB Ram, 4TB RAID-10 for media, 1TB Raid-1 for general stuff, Windows 2012 R2 Standard

Media Server : Plex Server

Apple/Android : Plex apps or via browser.

PC : Plex Home Theatre

TV's : Internal media player or Chromecast

I can do multiple HD streams over home ethernet/wifi, watch at work over wifi and in car over 3G/4G.

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Drobo 5N + PLEX Server?

Minimum pain setting things up, easy to upgrade and you can start with any old drives you have to hand at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Synology / Samsung / Plex Combo

Here is our setup...

One point to remember with Synology and SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) you can start on a 4 bay unit, when you max that out, take out the 4 drives, move them into a larger unit (say an 8 bay) and just add an additional 4 new drives, the unit with a couple of clicks automagically expands the RAID with no hassle. For the record I have now done this about a dozen times for family and friends.

We have installed PLEX onto the disk station and now use Raspberry PI's with RasPlex and Mac Mini's with XBMC.

Now to the fun part.

At home we have a VM 150Mb cable connection. At my flat, I have BT Infinity on an 60Mb(ish) connection.

All the media starts on my Home NAS, I then use Synology Backup overnight to push the media to the other disk stations that we have as a family.

We use SickBeard and SAB on the home one. Everyone has a logon and adds the TV programs their. When it is downloaded it is then sync'd to all the other DS's we have set up.

Yes, some people don't want one show. But the trade-off is that we have now got 12 backups as we each have the same TV and Films etc.

We don't sync the music and photos and home videos etc. only when there is a family event to share do we put a tick in the box so it syncs to the other family member(s)

If possible use ethernet and not wireless. We had a lot of weird gremlins with WiFi that all went when we re-wired the whole setup to Ethernet.

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Silver badge

My setup

Syno DS214+, Chromecast, laptop with Chrome.

Syno DS214+ has a media player web page which plays based on what the computer has (codecs etc - VLC browser plugin works well), or if you are feeling particularly posh, get a chromecast, the Chrome browser and the VideoStream Chrome extension. Casts pretty much anything your computer has, by transcoding it on the fly on the PC. You can remote control currently playing content through your phone with the mobile app.

I'd suggest going for something with an Atom processor however - most Atom based NASs (and certainly the Synology ones) will transcode on-the-fly for DLNA devices.

Not that useful to you, but thought I'd share. I'm pretty pleased with my little setup, minimal fuss, works pretty well.

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Pint

Buffalo-based system

Similar situation for me, so I figure I'll just post my home/office (I mostly work from home...) setup.

Based around a Buffalo NAS/media box, 4 discs, RAID 0+1. The box, besides being a file server, also offers various media and streaming services, including iTunes media and various standards fit for "smart" TVs. Connected to my in-house network via gigabit Ethernet.

The upper floor is wired; I have an 802.11 ac wireless bridge to downstairs, which floor again is wired. Living room: huge Samsung TV (can get HD/3D video from the box on its own) with a 3D/surround theatre box underneath which is connected to the intranet. Sitting room: much smaller, cheap-o smart TV, also no player needed. Upstairs, one workstation has surround sound and 24" screens, so that works just fine with the VLC playing anything the NAS can throw at it.

The NAS box supports ACLs for access control; those can be set up on an inclusion (only the following are allowed...) or exclusion (everybody except...) basis. For backup, I have set the box up to automatically do its backups onto an attached USB drive, and to another, rather more basic NAS sitting in the basement, via Ethernet. That may seem excessive to some, but my primary NAS holds not only video and audio, but also all my work and customer data, which I'd rather not accidentally lose.

I have one workstation equipped with DVB-T reception and occasionally record broadcasts; those are saved as h.264 videos on the box and are therefore available anywhere in the house immediately after recording finishes.

That said, I think I'll sit back with a cold one and enjoy a movie...

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Happy

My Setup

I have the following which has worked well and reliably over the years:

Everything is hardwired in the household ; I distrust consumer-level wireless for throughput reasons.

Players

1 - Geexbox on a number of older PC's with a composite (read yellow connector) output to older TV's. Wireless keyboard for controls

2 - Patriot media players HDMI connected in all of the other rooms - these play virtually anything I have thrown at them excepting the occasional .MOV format

3 - VLC on the work and other laptop computers in the house

4 - A Playbook tablet (yes , I know but it DOES work) on a wireless connection

NAS's

1 - 5X Dlink DNS-323's configured as a JOBD ; offline image backups of each disk in the NAS

2 - 2X NAS4FREE (FreeNAS fork) ASUS P5GD1 -based computers

Note:

- the NAS"s has sufficient ACL's to keep the kids from erasing the collection

- I use multiple NAS's as the throughput on consumer level units like the Dlink (or Buffalo or etc.) tends to max out if the whole house is trying to view files from a single box, so I spread the theme category files around.

- I back EVERYthing up as I had a "hiccup " and needed to reformat the drive; fortunately only happened once and probably because of a power spike, which brings me to ...

- all of the NAS's and routers/switches are on UPS's

- File formats are either ISO or mpeg2

- 100 baseT is more than sufficient for networking

Have fun!

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Bronze badge

Re: My Setup

"100 baseT is more than sufficient for networking"

Nope, not really. Certainly good enough for lots of purposes but not for the short of patience if you frequently move large files (say 3GB+) around. Playing a 1080p MKV with DTS-HD audio over 100 BaseTX does not work well.

Given the cost of an unmanaged 8 port Gigabit switch, and the fact that most devices now have Gigabit NICs it's really not a great stretch to use it.

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Happy

My Setup

I have the following which has worked well and reliably over the years:

Everything is hardwired in the household ; I distrust consumer-level wireless for throughput reasons.

Players

1 - Geexbox on a number of older PC's with a composite (read yellow connector) output to older TV's. Wireless keyboard for controls

2 - Patriot media players HDMI connected in all of the other rooms - these play virtually anything I have thrown at them excepting the occasional .MOV format

3 - VLC on the work and other laptop computers in the house

4 - A Playbook tablet (yes , I know but it DOES work) on a wireless connection

NAS's

1 - 5X Dlink DNS-323's configured as a JBOD ; offline image backups of each disk in the NAS

2 - 2X NAS4FREE (FreeNAS fork) ASUS P5GD1 -based computers

Note:

- the NAS"s has sufficient ACL's to keep the kids from erasing the collection

- I use multiple NAS's as the throughput on consumer level units like the Dlink (or Buffalo or etc.) tends to max out if the whole house is trying to view files from a single box, so I spread the theme category files around.

- I back EVERYthing up as I had a "hiccup " and needed to reformat the drive; fortunately only happened once and probably because of a power spike, which brings me to ...

- all of the NAS's and routers/switches are on UPS's

- File formats are either ISO or mpeg2

- 100 baseT is more than sufficient for networking

Have fun!

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Bronze badge

Good thread

I'm working on this myself. I already have a 1GB ethernet set up with Netgear WNDR4300 wireless router and a few 1GB switches. TV's are 42" & 55" dumb 1080p flat panels with a Panasonic and a LG blue ray USB/network enabled players attached to them. Blueray layers read directly from a Playlater folder on my dev machine (largest hd lol) or I walk 'The Walking Dead' season around via USB, depending. Oh and the Wii and the Xbox 360 can read/play them too.

The .plan is to get one of those WD My Cloud 3TB NAS boxes to store all my media and to make available to any device in the house. That WD also has a USB port for external HD backups... remote abilities too. Just waiting on the extra cash.

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Why make it hard?

Just get a Buffalo link / Terastation, user level access control, DLNA for linking to the TV & Bit Torrent built-in for downloads. It's a single box solution, and it can back-up by itself to it's twin in the garage for when the house burns down, or dives fail. It will send you an email each day to say it's up to all working & backed up OK.

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Silver badge

Wouldn't say that I specialise in this kind of thing, buy over the years I have more than a passing professional and personal interest...

I've been through all the pain of many solutions, including a PC based file server, which while quick and easy to get going chews through 'leccy like no business. Most of the kit doesn't have to be expensive, however if you aren't careful it will get expensive very quickly.

You don't need gigabit ethernet for streaming, and as noted above, most of the kit just doesn't do it anyway. Wifi is a waste of time for streaming, while the headline speeds may seem good, the real speeds are never close and as soon as you get multiple devices connected (or neighbours with wifi) the performance rapidly drops below useful levels.

NAS: Currently I'm using a ZyXEL unit of some form, with pretty much most features turned off. Stick to the basics, ignore the "value added" functions and most commodity NAS devices will do the job. I chose this ZyXEL device because of its support for Linux and Windows sharing, and the reviews reported success with both (and it powers down to low power usage). It's a single 2Tb drive, while RAID of some measure might sound like a good idea, it's not usually useful and adds needless complications and power problems (it's not that I'm not a fan of RAID, just sometimes it's not always useful). Redundancy, backup? Easy? Buy a second NAS and that's your backup. If you're careful and upgrade regularly you can buy a new NAS device with extra capacity, copy the old content onto it and have an instant backup of when you last had the content. Unless you throw your devices about and are willing to replace a HDD drive every couple of years, you are considerably more likely to lose content through accidental deletion than HDD failure. If you're particularly paranoid, power the NAS through a reasonable UPS so you get both power level smoothing and a few minutes of battery backed up power (I do).

Playback: It's generally best to have a single playback system for each screen. This gives you maximum redundancy but also keeps the cabling and communications sane. While you could have a super playback system playing four independent streams, you will quickly suffer internal bandwidth issues but more importantly you have to both stream the video and audio content from this one box to each screen and feed IR remote control signals back the same distance. The further the distance the nastier both of these become. I'm currently using an Acer Revo box with a Microsoft media centre IR controller connected for each screen. These PCs are cheap (£200-£250), small and are pretty low power particularly if you fit an SSD or low power HDD to them. Many are effectively silent or fanless as well. On the software front I get the cheaper Revo devices that don't have Windows on them, wipe the junk they do come with and install a build of XBMC on them. In the past I've had annoyances with audio playback but these days the drivers are all just there and the Linux audio layers have matured sensibly.

Security: Fit everything into your own wired network. You can add usernames and passwords for sharing files and for a home system you really shouldn't need much more. XBMC supports content levels so you can protect minors from inappropriate content.

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Windows Home Server on an Acer Atom CPU here

My current setup -

Acer AH340 Microserver, WHS V1.1

1x1TB plus 3x2TB disks in the Acer

USB 3.0 PCI-E card in the one free slot

4 bay USB 3.0 enclosure with currently 3x2TB drives installed.

The WHS box also connects my weather station, serves as a test publish host for websites I develop, and runs the following media servers:-

SubSonic (for 250GB or so of audio files)

Serviio (for the 6TB or so of video media)

The above is limited by 2GB RAM limit, fixed CPU, and 2TB drive limit (able to be bypassed with a bit of hacking, but why should I)

Future Plans:-

HP Gen8 Microserver

WHS V2 or Windows Server 2013

DriveBender or similar to give WHS V1-like drive management

The Gen8 has 16GB RAM limit, replaceable CPU (up to Xeon CPU), dual GB Ethernet, built in USB 3.0, etc. I'll probably keep Serviio and SubSonic also.

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Simple

Synology (doesn't matter which model) and a boxee or roku.

Job done.

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My tested setup

After trying out multiple solutions, here's what I ended up with. I've tried to recycle most of my gaming PC setup and upgrade as "value oriented" as possible.

1. Zyxel NSA325 NAS with 2x3TB WD RED drives configured as a RAID 1 array. It runs file services for my entire network, a DLNA server and that's about it. This little NAS is dirt cheap, has decent software options and also THREE usb ports, one of each is USB3.0 and automounts any external drive you would connect to it. It's been running without issues for one a half years now with minimal downtime. It can also replicate folders to a remote FTP site which is pretty neat for a device available for about 150 EUR without any drives.

2. Single 40" dumb TV with an LG DP1 wired media player. Does 1080p videos brilliantly and is also a DLNA client.

3. TP Link 841 wireless AP handling connectivity and VPN services for the entire network.

4. Various notebooks, tablets and smartphones running VLC (for Windows) and Bubble UPNP and MX player (for smartphones and tablets) as media players.

5. Creative Extigy sound card working as a makeshift receiver for my Creative T6060 system. I connect both the LG DP1 and my set top box to it and it has a nice little feature called CMSS so I can listen to stereo sound from all the speakers in my system.

I don't do 3D or 4K television, so 1080p video and decent audio is all I need.

Soon to be replaced:

the LG DP1 is a nice little player but I need some more features (web browser, online video services) which I will get from a Samsung Smart Blu Ray player such as the BD-E6100 which you can get refurbished for about 100 EUR right now.

Also I find 5.1 audio a little over rated for living room media so I'll replace the Extigy and T6060 setup with a refurbished Onkyo or NAD receiver and a pair of multi channel tower speakers. And maybe a nice pair of headphones, AKG or Sennheiser.

I'd really recommend my setup, is good value and easy to set up and use, requiring minimal maintenance.

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QNAP TS-210 and WDTVLive

My setup is really simple and works really well. I have a QNAP TS-210 where I store all our media which is connected to our router in the office via GB Ethernet port. On top of the TV we have a WDTVLive set top box which has a pretty good interface and can connect in many ways either directly via network File system or to any DNLA media server running on the NAS box (Twonkey for example). The WDTVLive will connect via wifi but is a little slow for streaming movies and sometime it has problems so we use powerline networking which works much better.

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I am running a Iomega IX2-200D with 2 x 2TB disks. (Free at an industry event or would have been Synology 4 Bay)

Plex Server running on my gaming PC sharing the content.

Currently using the Plex App on the Samsung 2013 Series 5 TV (UA50F5500AM) but the Samsung WiFi implementation is a PITA so looking at mounting an Intel NUC (i3, 4GB, SSD) on the back via the VESA mount and running Windows 7 + Plex Client and having another Windows client available with a real keyboard and some big screen gaming (Intel HD graphics will be fine for what I play)

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Thumb Up

+1 for Synology

Synology's media player is straightforward to setup & the NAS is visible to DLNA devices. The interface has gotten smarter over the last couple of years, and now sports Digital TV compatibility etc.

As a bonus you get a stable local storage solution, painless volume upgrade path (expect 4TB HDD prices to fall with the introduction of 6TB platters) and a host of other nifty toys to play with.

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Anonymous Coward

MattyW79

Easier an simpler to simply set up a Home Theatre PC in a case that is both quiet, blends in with your stereo components and has plenty spare hard drive bays. I use a Fractal Define R2 mid tower. A current Core i3 will give you all the grunt you need for this type of setup.

Use either Windows or Linux for your OS, XBMC for the media centre functions, and Plex Server your your media streaming functions to other devices. There are plenty of plugins available on XBMC for media streaming services too. Sorted. Keep the solution simple eh.

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Been there...

I've spent a LOT of time mucking about with HTPC's etc over the years. What I've ended up with is this:

Players:

3 x Intel DC3217IYE (NUC) for the players

These are all running Windows 7 , with MediaPortal as the front end plus a variety of plugins. Wifi remote/Online Video's/MyTvSeries/Moving Pictures being the main ones, with the TV series and Moving pictures databases held on the NAS.

Codecs etc are handeled by LAV filters rather than FFDShow

Network:

2 of these are wired (1Gb) via a cheapo 8 port switch, the 3rd is using a Eximax USB wireless adapter. All 3 easily "stream" off the NAS without issue. I say "stream" since it's not really, it's just playing the file from the NAS.

I did experiment with XBMC, Openelec etc however I prefer the feature set of Mediaportal plus the TV server integration, plus I had some Windows 7 licences kicking about.. Openelec might be what you're looking for if you don't have the licences.

NAS/Storage

For the content I did originally have an old home brew NAS, using Intel board with a P4 in it, plus a few cheap SATA controllers and a realtek GE card. This had CentOS installed, 6 x1TB drives in software RAID and ran Samba for windows shares. It had no issues providing enough grunt to the 3 players.

However, this beast was massive, power hungry and I ran out of space so I moved to a QNAP NAS with 4 x 3TB drives (RAID 5)

Additional to this, I have an old CoreDuo running Windows 7 with 2 x dual DVB-T2 cards in it. This runs just the Mediaportal TV server service, meaning the 3 NUC's (plus a laptop) can view any channel they want over the network.

If I had my time again on the NAS front, I'd probably switch back to a "server" like the HP Microservers so I could combine the file sharing and TV server.

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Silver badge

Firstly with storage. I won't go into the DIY vs Off-The-Shelf NAS systems, probably a bit outside the scope of this post, however, since you asked, I'd lean towards Synology. By far the most important factor in storage though (whatever your option) is expandability. I cannot stress this enough, never, ever think that xTerabytes is enough. Buy or design around double or more the amount of drive bays you think you need right now, and expand later as required. It might get it a bit complicated if you want RAID 5/6, but at least you can deal with that without splurging out again on the NAS/PC cost. As far as the drives go, you need to lean towards the enterprise range of whatever brand you want. Don't be fooled into using desktop drives, or even bottom end "NAS" specific drives (like the WD Reds) they're cheapies - good luck if they last longer than 3 years. You're probably not going to get away with this cheaply (just on drive cost alone) otherwise it really won't last - or if you don't back that monstrosity up, you'll lose it too.

As far as the transport from NAS to TV goes, your wired ethernet/wifi will cover that, unless you mean hardware? DLNA might sound like a great idea, and the clients are built into every/most TVs, phones and tablets, but you're heavily restricted on file formats and codecs. I use either my laptop plugged into one TV, or a dedicated baby Atom box that is just a regular PC customised to behave like a media centre. This way, I get support for just about every audio and video format known to mankind, And I get Skype, and a REAL browser and just about any windows program out there, including my mapping software. Do NOT be fooled into the "my TV has a browser and skype too" argument - use them and see it's bollocks.

As per your question, you would need some sort of PC for each monitor. Be wary of the "transcoding" buzzword, most of what you think isn't really transcoding at all, it's merely "repackaging" (think DLNA transcoding). Real transcoding doesn't mean losing quality, and any PC wouldn't be fast enough to deal with it in real time anyway. Since you mention various formats, you automatically rule out DLNA too.

As far as multiple streams go, in your case, you're technically not streaming, but just reading the same stored video file from multiple clients. As long as your NAS, and network are fast enough to deal with that, it isn't going to be a problem.

As far as file/folder rights go, how you go about this would vary greatly depending on what DIY or off the shelf option you went for. Either way, both support login rights, where you restrict access read/write, read, or no access at all, down to username. I give read only access to the lounge room PC, because it gets mandhandled by various members of the family and other friends, and it's too easy for them to screw things up... The fact I use windows boxes to access the media makes this easy to sort out. Generic media boxes probably wouldn't work, have limited storage ability and DLNA isn't going to be suitable.

Lastly, and I found this to be by far the most important, you need a good, usable video/media menuing system. There are a few x86 "home cinema" menus available, (though I'm building my own). Having all your media listed A-Z is not an option, it's completely useless in fact. It's like having the world wide web with no search engine, just a list of alphabetically listed URLs. Billions of the things. You need to access the media easily, you need to have it sorted in a specific order (Such as TV series, or film sequels) you need to access more information if you choose, you need descriptions right there, you need search capabilities, you need to keep track of what you've seen or not. Some of us have 10,000+ video files in total, with no way of making any sense of it otherwise. Saving files on your NAS is REALLY easy compared to the database management, that by far takes the most work - because without it, you're sinking in a sea of files.

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plex hands down

My setup consists of

readynas pro duo with 4x 3tb hdd raid x (i love raid x as it will auto expand while running, and are hot swappable)

mac mini 2.5ghz (late 2012) as the server

then i have a number of devices that can access the server.

Now tv with plex hack works very well and is simple (just roku box but only £10) i have 3 of them currently.

I also have 2 google tvs by sony - these are fantastic devices that have the latest version of plex that allows the files to be indexed when the server if off line.

And lifetime plex subscription - this is a must if you want the added bonuses of sync and cloud sync.

Another forgotten device is google chrome, cheap and easy to use from your mobile phone, just open the app and cast job done.

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Anonymous Coward

I have not read all the other comments so this may have been suggested.

I personally use an 8 bay QNAP NAS and a combination of Raspberry Pi's running RASPBMC and Serviio for mobile devices.

Firstly the rasp pi's.

RaspBMC is a distro designed for media streaming and works great. Use a USB3 memory stick and a class 10 SD card in combination with the NFS on the NAS and you have a very fast interface on a device that can stream 1080p high bit rate films with no issues.

Then use serviio (either running on the NAS or a seperate PC) to serve and transcode your library for mobile devices. They can either access it with dedicated apps or through a web browser.

hope this helps

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Silver badge

Just one important note, touched on by John, above - find out what file formats your TVs support with DLNA.

All TVs (that support DLNA) will support MP3 but not all will support FLAC. Same goes for video formats - most will play MPEGs but not all will play XVid or MKVs.

You might also find that, unless you use identical devices (TVs, stereos, etc...) around the house, the interfaces will be different enough to be annoying.

For the above two reasons, I have found that a dedicated playback unit attached to each output device is just, well, better. Yes, it's more expensive but if you want a nice, seamless experience then you have to spend a bit extra.

This goes double if you want to synchronise playback in multiple locations.

So, I recommend dedicated boxes connected to your TVs and stereos. The question then becomes one of what software and devices to use.

In my opinion, XBMC is simply the most consistent option. It's not the most feature-packed but a major goal of the team has been to get it working on all manner of devices. This gives you great flexibility to deploy the right device for each endpoint - Android PCs, Pis, Apple TVs, cheap Atom/Ion-based linux boxes or full-on HTPCs. All will look the same and have the same functionality.

You can also use a tablet as a remote, which is very cool.

The main alternative I have used is MediaPortal. This is a fork of XBMC and is very cool in its own right, specifically its TV functionality, though it seems that recording TV is not a priority for you as you say the main reason for this is to play downloaded content. The only catch with MediaPortal is that it is Windows-only. That means that it can end up more expensive as each playback device must be a proper PC with a Windows license.

For media streaming on the cheap (provided you have DLNA-equipped TVs) then a NAS with DLNA functionality will work, though you would want to make sure all your media is in MP3/MPEG format for the widest compatibility. The downsides to this approaches are: cumbersome and inconsistent interface (usually), no synchronisation and lower-quality media. But, it's about the cheapest option.

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Silver badge

As a follow-up to my post, my point is that a NAS is fine for storage but the experience will be dependent largely on the front-end you use and certain features, like synchronisation, stopping and starting in different rooms and transcoding (if you use it) will require a 'server'.

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My rig starts with a Linux Server (AMD E-350 dual-core, 4Gb RAM, 1.5Tb disk mirrored). Fanless, silent and sub 40 watts power drain. Only the disk light lets me know it is running. I use SME server and have installed Serviio DLNA server, Sickbeard and SABnzbd among other things. Anything I have watched and wish to retain gets archived off onto an external disk - otherwise it gets deleted - I can re-download if I so wish.

For playback, I did use a Sony BDP-S390 Blueray with DLNA and Internet services (Youtube, iPlayer etc) that only cost GBP100 a few years back. Worked a treat. Now I have moved back to NZ, I'll need to remove the region lock as my DVD collection gets increasingly mixed. My new region-free Blueray player from NZ does not do DLNA and has pointless internet services, so I lost out there.

I also have a G-Box Midnight Android or XBMC capable device (using wireless N). This is currently running android, and runs DLNA content OK via 2player. The thing that does annoy me is that the AV socket with audio out is bloody noisy - I wanted to use it as an audio player directly to the stereo so my wife could send a playlist from her phone without having to have the TV on. Maybe when I get a Home Theater Receiver I'll be able to do that. I also have a Pi with XBMC, but I need to do a bit more work with that.

The whole system is tied together with a Logitech Harmony universal remote - slightly awkward to program, but allows multiple device control without switching, so is much easier to use for technically inept family members.

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