HTPC vs Dedicated Streamers

I’m on HTPC ever for over 10yrs or so…
Previous streamers and network players hasn’t been as flexible and lacks an elegant the GUI interface for managing locally stored files on NAS as well as powerful enough CPU & GPU to play 4K smoothly.

My goto is KODI on Windows. However, there is still some challenges in terms of software bugs and maintaining versions and upgrades.

Lately I am seeing very promising streamers that are both powerful and with attractive GUI that makes it an attractive alternative to retire my HTPC completely.

Streamer experiences so far (last 3mths) are with 1st Nvidia TV Shield Pro where I started using its KODI app. It seems less buggy than on my HTPC though playback for some files does freezes up.

Subsequently Apple TV 4K. I switched over to ATV due to Apple Music… I missed having KODI on the Nvidia - thus, my HTPC has been revived…

My dilemma now,… I wanted to replace the ATV (for various reasons) and at the same time explore permanently retiring my HTPC.Another criteria is that I have a big collection of FLAC files (ripped from my over 500 CD collection) which I am using Jriver for lossless playback.

Any members gone down this road?

I was also a HTPC (XBMC/Kodi) user for a very long time, with a central MySQL database.
I have retired my HTPC about 6 years ago, and here’s my journey.

  1. Moved all my media from HTPC to my main workstation (SMB share). Main workstation runs the central Kodi MySQL database.
  2. HT: Replaced HTPC with RPi3/LibreElec (Kodi), playing off network, metadata @ MySQL database.
  3. Music: I am a foobar2000 user, moved the music playback to my main workstation. DAC connected via long USB cable. AVR connected via long optical cable.
  4. After a couple of years, replaced RPi3 with RPi4/LibreElec (Kodi), playing off network, metadata @ MySQL database.
  5. Itchy backside, decided to buy Z9X for fun. Z9X replaced the RPi4. I run ZDMC (Kodi port on Z9X) because I still prefer ZDMC (Kodi) over the native HT4.
  • Z9X has a music player MP6, which I don’t use.
  1. Discovered JellyFin. Ported my metadata backend from MySQL database to JellyFin. Installed JellyFin plugin to all Kodi front end. Super happy with JellyFin backend. The metadata scraping is super duper fantastic.

Hopefully my sharing gives you some ideas on how you may want to move ahead.

  • As you can see, I am quite locked into Kodi - because of the tight integration I have done with Kodi to my Yamaha AVR using Python scripts and Kodi customizations. From Kodi hotkeys, I can control Yammy AVR Volume, DSP programs, Input Sources, PureDirect.
  • On the stereo front, I’m pretty locked into foobar2000.

Thanks for sharing!

This is new for me. Is it just a DB backend replacement or can function as end-to-end solution replacing KODI?

I’ve never split KODI into front end-backend components before - what specific benefits in doing so? There seems to be some technical baggage in it as one needs to be SQL savy to some level in order to execute this competently.

I’ll look into JellyFin - recently my KODI playback has been sketchy, it keeps losing audio when playing back TrueHD + Atmos - it came back when I switch to the DD track. Also at times I lost video totally and it just hang a while making it necessary to kill the program. I see you are running the Linux version of it… I tried LibreElec a few months back - I find it a little sluggish and it’s version 18 not the latest 19.1

If I understand correctly, u are serving the media via Jellyfin and KODI is merely the frontend player. Does it means you are still using KODI skin and GUI navigation? Wouldn’t this make the solution more tedious to maintain the smooth integration?

I just downloaded and installed Jellyfin - pleasantly surprised to find an app on my Asustor NAS. Nice!
Using my iMac, I installed the Jellyfin MP - looks good. Will try later on my HTPC (Win10) which is hooked directly to the Yammy processor…

The critical factor would be play back smoothness, PQ, SQ and passthrough capability.

how is the performance of the Z9X?
Any performance and stability advantage over RPi4 or DIY HTPC?

Previously when I had a couple of Kodi clients with local database, when you’ve watched an TV show episode on Location1, goto Location2 the episode remains unwatched. To synchronize all locations, I went down the path of implementing the central MySQL metadata database, and configured both Kodi clients to use the central metadata database.

When I discovered JellyFin, I then replaced the MySQL metadata database with JellyFin (connected to all Kodi clients using JellyFin plugin).

I chose to use JellyFin in “Native Mode”, not “Add-on Mode” so as not to put on load on my workstation. In the “Native Mode” basically JellyFin functions as the metadata engine (replaces MySQL). When playback is initiated in Kodi, JellyFin will provide the network path, and Kodi will retrieve the media directly from the network share (no middleman). If one uses “Add-on Mode” then JellyFin will serve the media (which may result in transcoding), which I did not want.

JellyFin does have many clients that have been released or under development. I have used the IOS client and it is good. I suspect eventually I might move away from Kodi and just use JellyFin natively.

I have installed the JellyFin Android client into my livingroom TCL TV, it works very well.

For fun, I also tested streaming over to my in-laws LG TV (using LG TV browser) at another part of SG, the stream is very stable. It’s just that the TV browser is a bit clunky. Need to wait for the native WebOS Jellyfin client to come out, then test test again.

So far so good, Z9X has it’s own set of issues. I am very happy with its HD-SDR performance (including downscaling 4K stuff). It’s key feature is the Dolby VS10 engine, which I am not yet using. Goto the Zidoo support forum, you can see the good and the bad. All I can say is, Z9X is better than RPi4, but do your due diligence. :slight_smile:

Hopefully my sharing is useful…

Yesterday I gotten a loan unit of the Z9X to play around…(thanks to Econav)!
If I understand correctly the ZDMC port is based on the older 18.x version of KODI.
Have you tried side loading the latest Matrix version 19.1?

The “Poster Wall” function under their Home Theater 4.0 is very buggy… it keeps crashing and bringing me back to the home screen even while scrolling thru (not even playing any video files) :open_mouth:

I’m going to update the firmware to the latest 6.3.30 (with Google Play)…

I also noticed that the streaming apps lacks 4K!
I suspect the Google Play is from the “mobile” platform vs “android TV”.

Nice!!

Yes, correct. ZDMC that I am using is based on 18.9. I am using it daily.

Yes, I have Kodi 19.1 loaded, it doesn’t activate Zidoo native player.
@MarkSwift already said many times, Zidoo is not going to port Kodi 19. So sad.
@Mirror also avoiding the topic (when I tagged him to my post). Ha ha ha.
I can still hold out hope… ha ha ha.
I have been trying to hack it to work…(playercorefactory.xml)…with no success.

Debug log shows that Kodi cannot activate the player (Gallery3D):

2021-08-18 20:55:47.606 T:13623   DEBUG <general>: OnPlayBackStarted: CApplication::OnPlayBackStarted
2021-08-18 20:55:47.606 T:13623   DEBUG <general>: OnAVStarted: CApplication::OnAVStarted
2021-08-18 20:55:47.607 T:13623    INFO <general>: ExecuteAppAndroid: com.android.gallery3d
2021-08-18 20:55:47.609 T:13623   ERROR <general>: CXBMCApp::StartActivity - ExceptionOccurred launching com.android.gallery3d
2021-08-18 20:55:47.609 T:13623    INFO <general>: ExecuteAppAndroid: Failure

I suspect I need to hack it rooted. But I don’t have a lot of time to poke around inside Z9X software internals.

Looks like we have similar opinions about HT4. Others may find HT4 acceptable.

To me, HT4 CMI. I abandoned it within an hour of using after getting the Z9X. Painful. But I must say, successive iterations of HT4 has shown improvement. For me, HT4 has not reached the functionality where I can abandon Kodi.

On the other hand, I have tried JellyFin app on Z9X, it is actually quite good, and it actually can activate the native Zidoo player!!!, but the keyboard/remote functionality is an issue.

Good luck! I am still on 6.3.22G.
Zidoo didn’t release 6.3.30G for OTA update, so I’ll wait it out for the next OTA update.

IIRC, Netflix has blocked Z9X box.
I am still in the 1080p HD era, so not much I can comment about 4K…
Have some thoughts about minor reno, then upgrade my plasma to 4K OLED – maybe next year.

4K is where it shines for Zidoo Z9X…surprise you have been holding out on the 4K train.

Yeah I know. Originally I had the Z9X connected to my 4K livingroom TCL TV (which isn’t my HT rig). The Z9X did very well there. But wifey uses TV for mainly OTA and some streaming apps, which can be handled by the TV itself.

I decided to move Z9X to my HT room. The Z9X does quote well down-scaling 4K material to 1080p for my plasma. I still like my plasma colors very very much.

Wow - how old is your TV? I would have expected plasma to be phased out of SG by now.
I used to prefer the plasma visual output over the earlier LCD but the new generations of LED and OLED is now better.

I will try installing JellyFin, for a details my impression of the Z9X, you can read my comments in the dedicated thread Z9X assessment

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Me too. There’s certain image depth that is missing from LCD/LED TV. I still have plasma TV in my bedroom but I’m very happy with OLED TV in my living room.

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