Archive:X86 hardware

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Computers and appliance devices with an x86 processor (a "desktop class" computer with a "normal" Intel or AMD x86/x86-64 based CPU) are the usually the most power-full and most stable option for an dedicated Kodi powered HTPC (Home Theater PC) / media center computer.

Using standard x86 computer hardware provides a great amount of flexibility and can be made from spare parts, old laptop/desktop computers, or new dedicated hardware, and as such are also by definition upgradable.

1 x86 HTPC (Home Theater PC)

HTPC (Home Theater PC) (or Home Theatre Personal Computer) in the traditional meaning is a dedicated "media center" computer is a convergence device that combines some or all the hardware capabilities of a standard personal computer with an operating system and media player software application that supports video and audio playback, and sometimes can also offer video recording functionality. With the term "media center" referring to specialized media player application software such as Kodi which is designed to offer a nice 10-foot user interface for a lean-back experience.

HTPC and other convergence devices integrate components of a home theater into a unit co-located with a home entertainment system. An HTPC system typically has a remote control and the software interface normally has a 10-foot user interface design so that it can be comfortably viewed at typical large screen television viewing distances. An HTPC can be purchased pre-configured with the required hardware and software needed to add video programming or music to the PC. Enthusiasts can also piece together a system out of discrete components as part of a software-based HTPC.

2 x86 HTPC hardware

Traditional HTPC in the classic sense means using standard or optimized desktop computer hardware to build a dedicated media center computer, but usually fitted into a purpose built computer chassi case that is design for being a HTPC / media center, however today most people looking to build a new HTPC usually go the route of just buying a Mini-PC instead.

2.1 Mini-PCs

Some people think that using desktop-class (x86) computer hardware parts to make-up a HTPC means having a huge ugly, noisy computer case next to your television set, but today this could not be further from the truth. The rise of the mini-PC (miniature personal computer) over the past few years have not only given a small option, but these small options are often powerful and budget friendly as well.

2.2 Desktop PC hardware

Using desktop PC hardware to build a dedicated HTPC usually means building your rig from scratch, and as of 2015 as well as the past 10-years the desktop PC hardware scene for HTPC purposes is still dominated by Nvidia GPU based hardware if you wish you use a Linux OS, or AMD GPU based hardware if you wish to use a Windows OS, but Intel CPUs with integrated GPU is quickly gaining a broader audience for both Linux OS and Windows OS builds.

You will basically need to build a custom rig with a GPU (graphics controller) that can at least hardware decode all H.264 files that you want to play. If you are looing for a multi-purpose machine for gaming as well then the CPU and GPU will also need to to meet the requirements for playing your types of games at the resolution you want, but then the question about which computer hardware to buy really become a complete different discussion.

For most dedicated HTPC purposes the difference between desktop PC hardware and a Mini-PC is however slight. The real benefit with using desktop PC hardware for media purposes is that it is upgradable, but if you just have a good 1080p television you really like then the recommendation will normally be to just buy a Mini-PC.

Here is a good starting point for the quest of building a HTPC from desktop PC hardware:

3 OSes

Kodi for Linux is primarily developed for Ubuntu Linux. Third-party packages for most other Linux distributions are however available, and it is also possible to compile Kodi media center software application from scratch for nearly any Linux distribution. Linux supports full hardware decoding with most graphics cards. Linux is generall the best way to get a fast, free, and "appliance" feel for an Kodi powered HTPC.
Kodi for Windows runs natively on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. 1080p playback can be achieved on Windows based computers either via software decoding on the CPU if it's powerful enough, or by hardware accelerated video decoding. Kodi for Windows supports several MCE remotes out-of-the-box, among others.
Kodi for Android is a full port of the complete Kodi application to Google's Android operating-system. With the Android NDK (Native Development Kit for Android) Kodi runs natively under Android as a Native Activity application. The main goal for the Android port is to have Kodi working on inexpensive Android set-top-boxes. And whole Android smartphones and tablets are not the main target platforms they do have limited support as well.

3.1 JeOS implementations for Kodi

JeOS is the abbreviation (pronounced: Juice) for "Just Enough Operating System" as it applies to software appliances and embedded operating system are very easy too install and use implementations of Kodi for appliance usage on dedicated devices. Hiding a powerful combination of a Kodi and an almost hidden operating system for bare metal installation, a good JeOS implementation can make Kodi installation look, feel, and act just as any commercial set-top box or professional Smart TV media player, with many even offering automatic OTA (Over The Air) updates.

There are several of these JeOS (Just enough Operating System) Linux distributions out there made by third-parties that are specifically designed to make Kodi into an software appliance, these include LibreELEC, OSMC, GeeXboX, XBian, Buildroot, and a few more.

These JeOS implementations for Kodi are all separate independent projects on their own, all aiming to provide the best complete media center software suite. These include a pre-configured version of Kodi and some pre-installed third-party addons/plugins as well as various custimizations or special extensions. Most of these JeOS implementations are extremely small and very fast booting Linux-based distribution, that are primarily designed to be booted from USB flash memory or a solid-state drive. JoOS are usually highly optimized distrobutions that takes it a step father and specifically targeted minimum set-top box / Smart TV appliance or single-board computer hardware setup based on low-power ARM SoC or Intel x86 processor mini-computers.

4 External Links