Fanless livingroom entertainment
I recently made an effort to keep only fanless (or silent) devices in my livingroom. Including my media center / HTPC. This article will outline a few ways to achieve this.
Requirements for setup
- File/torrent downloading with decent storage.
- Playback of movies, music and images.
- Very low noise levels, especially when not in use.
- Spotify or similar legal music service.
- Play/control from smart phone.
- High Wife Acceptance Factor.
- Low maintenance.
Nice to have:
- Netflix, HBO or similar legal video service. (This is unlikely in my scenario, as they don’t support my OS of choice.)
The all-in-one HTPC
+--------------+ | | | | +----+ | TV | | | +-+ | | --- HDMI --- | PC | - - - |A| <- (Smart phone) | | | | +-+ +--------------+ +----+
This is the most common. A desktop or laptop connected to the TV. Preferably small and quiet. Either running media center software controlled by a smart phone over wifi, or running a standard desktop and controlled by a wireless keyboard/mouse.
- Easy to set up.
- You probably have the needed hardware.
- Flexible (you can use any app, browser, netflix compatability layer, etc).
- Low WAF.
- High maintenance.
- Often noisy.
- Large space requirements.
The raspberry pi
A raspberry pi is used instead of the PC, with Raspbian or similar.
+--------------+ | | | | | TV | +----+ +-+ | | --- HDMI --- | Pi | - - - |A| <- (Smart phone) | | +----+ +-+ +--------------+ | USB | +-----+ | HDD | <- (Or thumb drive) +-----+
- No fans, no HDDs (unless you add one).
- Small. Can be hidden anywhere. Can even be brought along on travel.
- You need some familiarity with the pi to set it up.
- Starting playback and navigation is slow.
- No support for netflix, HBO. Bad support for spotify.
- You need to add storage. A large thumb drive will do fine. If you use an external hard drive, you will have to power it by something else than the pi.
Problems that can be handled:
- Spotify app for xbmc is cumbersome => install mopidy instead, or use a separate pi with MusicBox for music.
Raspberry Pi + a good router
Same as above, but HDD is attached and shared from the router. This separates downloading from playback to improve performance and because the router will usually be able to power a 2.5” HDD.
This setup can also be solved by using an extra Pi instead of the router.
+--------------+ | | | | | TV | +----+ +-+ | | --- HDMI --- | Pi | - - - |A| <- (Smart phone) | | +----+ +-+ +--------------+ | | +--------+ +-----+ | Router | --- USB --- | HDD | +--------+ +-----+
Smart TV + storage
I’m not a fan of smart TVs for several reasons:
- They are usually slow and complex.
- They seldom receive software updates, and are therefore full of security problems.
- You can’t upgrade your “HTPC”, since it’s part of the display.
But if you have one, you can add storage to it to allow for a noise less livingroom.
+--------------+ | | --- USB --- Thumb drive or HDD | | | Smart TV | - - - Storage (router, Pi or PC) | | +--------------+
- You get some value from your overly expensive, over-engineered display.
- Very little cables, mess. High WAF.
- Codec support is limited.
- No automatic download of subtitles, like XBMC does.
- Use limited to what ever apps are available for your TV.
- Usually a horrible UI.