Should I build a NUC HTPC?

snakyjake

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Jan 22, 2014
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My plan is to have a capable media server (i.e. Plex Media Server) in the backroom, and stream video to Plex Media Player to a device connected to my TV. For the player device at the TV, I'm thinking of building a compact and silent device, and came across Intel NUC.

I also want the ability to just play video from a NAS, which means the decoding would be done at the HTCP, and want a capable Intel Iris video processor for HEVC and 4k

What would be the optimal Intel NUC kit, board, chassis to play 4K, current HDMI, and fast enough to display on the TV?

For a chassis, I've been looking at Streacom ST-NC1. But upon further reading, it seems like every Intel NUC is designed differently and needs a different chassis model.

For the mainboard, I want something capable and not struggle with 4k HEVC video.

Thoughts to get me started?
 

PigLover

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Jan 26, 2011
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FireTV as Plex "client". Hands down easiest, most stable option out there. And a fraction of the cost of the NUC build you just described.

FYI, FireTV is also the best option if you prefer Kodi as the server, though loading the Kodi app is a bit more involved. Plex is up on the Amazon app store while you have to "sideload" Kodi.
 
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nkw

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Aug 28, 2017
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The FireTV suggestion will work. Also consider a Chromecast or Roku as a Plex client. I received an e-mail earlier today that the Roku Plex client now supports the Plex live tv feature if that floats your boat. No reason to use a NUC if you just want to view media stored on Plex Media Server.
 

bitrot

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Aug 7, 2017
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It depends on your demands, e.g. if you want proper 3D support, HDR Support, or bitsreaming of HD audio formats (Atmos etc.) to your home theatre setup. If that’s the case, investing money in a Intel NUC or other potent HTPC hardware can make sense, as most of the popular media players do lack in one or more of those “special requirements” areas. Or to put it differently: the more of a AV nerd you are, the more potent your media player needs to be.

But it’s not just a question of hardware, there actually are a number of really great Android based ARM powered boxes that cover most of the features. The software is at least as important, and when it comes to the client side, Kodi is by far the best. Unfortunately, it does not work flawlessly with Plex as a backend (using the third party “PlexKodiConnect” plugin for Kodi). Kodi Integration with Emby is considerably better, as the Emby developers themselves have coded it. Plex does offer a official Kodi plugin, but it’s a bit crap, as it ruins one of the best things about Kodi - the adaptability.
 
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fractal

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Jun 7, 2016
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I put my muscle at the back end and put a minimal unit at the front end. Towards that end, the FireTV is a good choice.

If you insist on having your front end do transcode from native, then you are looking at the high end of the NUC line to handle 4K.

With that in mind, I pushed the muscle to the back end.
 

bitrot

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Aug 7, 2017
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It’s not about doing transcoding on the frontend, but the client supporting most / all formats natively so transcoding isn’t necessary, no matter where the transcoding happens (in case of media servers like Plex, always in the backend). Transcoding always implies a loss of quality.

The mainstream clients like the FireTV do support most audio and video formats natively, but not all of them. Depending on how much of a AV nerd you are, how important audio and video quality is to you, how good your AV gear is etc., investing more money in the client can make sense, although there are affordable clients supporting most “exotic” formats natively, too.

Here is a list of recommended Kodi clients from the official Kodi forums to give you an idea:

START HERE - Pick the Right Kodi Box (updated September 2017)

As you can see, no client hardware supports everything out of the box, despite from the software standpoint, Kodi pretty much does. It’s the most mature media client software there is, supporting every kind of format.
 

Blazer

New Member
Jul 25, 2015
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another option is ' Vorke V1 Plus '
was looking for mini pc as well and settled on the vorke, added a 250gb msata and a 250gb ssd, memory is upgradable as well, dx12 and the store has the kodi app, just working thru it but seems ok so far.
 

JSchuricht

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Apr 4, 2011
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I strongly encourage you to look at other solutions than the NUC. I have two 7th gen Kaby Lake NUCs as dedicated HTPC's that I purchased as upgrades to support 10bit HEVC decoding. There are two big issues on the 7th gen NUC that ruin it as a HTPC. Intel has been unable to fix either of these issues in the 5 months users have been suffering and seems to have given up.

I did have a 6th gen NUC before this with a Club 3d DP to HDMI adapter to support 4k 60hz which worked great. The catch was it didn't have the power to decode 10bit HEVC in CPU and the GPU didn't support it. I just started researching replacements for the 7th gen NUC's, the MSI Cubi 2 Plus is high in the running right now but I don't have any hands on with it yet.

1) The IR receiver doesn't always work if you use CEC to turn the NUC on.
IR receiver not working on NUC7i3BNK after startup |Intel Communities

2) The NUC makes the screen flash. 4k 60hz seems to be more frequent but I have seen it even with 1080p. Enabling HDR can make the audio choppy which actually got worse on the last display driver for me.
NUC7ixBN Screen Flashing (screen turns on and o... |Intel Communities