Recommendations for very basic media player

RC99

Novice Member
First time here so I hope this is the right place to post. I joined because this area is completely outside of my experience and I'm confused about the apparent huge range of media player options available.

Very simply, I need a media player I can attach to my daughter's Samsung PS42C450B1W TV. She's a technophobe and it's taken me months to convince her to accept one.

Currently, I have all family memories (videos and photos) stored and shared online. I need to look to the future for when I'm not around so my daughter and granddaughter will always be able to view them.

I've made a copy of both photos and videos and stored them on a 1TB Western Digital 'My Passport' 2.5" self-powered portable USB drive.

Now I just need a media player I can set my daughter up with. It needs to be:
  • Reliable
  • Simple to operate (She lives a 2-hour round trip away so support is limited)
  • Uncluttered remote control
  • Connections for USB (preferably more than 1), HDMI, wifi (and possibly RJ45)
  • Playback of family photos in mostly .JPG format (some .PNG but I can convert these), preferably with slideshow capability
  • Playback of .MP4 video files (all converted from now ancient S-VHS camcorder tapes so none of them better res than 720p)
  • Streaming not needed
  • Apps not needed
  • Remote access if possible (to update attached USB without driving there)
  • Cheap (I'm a pensioner of limited means)
I've been looking at the Xiaomi Mi Box S 4K Ultra HD android TV Streaming Media Player with Google Assistant & Chromecast Built-In because I've been reading around and seen recommendations... but it appears to offer far more than I (or my daughter) need.

From what I've seen so far, you folks live and breathe this stuff... so please recommend something that fits our requirements.

If I haven't provided enough information then just ask..

Thank you in advance and my apologies that the post is so long... I just want to get it right whilst I can.
 

next010

Distinguished Member
The Mi Box S is probably the simplest path, there are cheaper options but can be fairly basic so not all of your criteria.

Install an app like this on the Mi Box S, which can access photos/videos from cloud services like flickr/facebook/google photos etc. This allows you to keep the album up to date as from her end she is just using internet to access the cloud server holding the content, no need for USB drive.

You can use a USB HDD with the box but updating files on it remotely might be tricky, I've not looked much into this area on AndroidTV so maybe there is a simple solution someone else can propose.

You can install alternate launchers and replace the cluttered home screen on the Android box but I'm not sure if the Mi Box S allows this.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Recommend amlogic android box then install coreelac
 

The Dreamer

Distinguished Member
If you want the simplest, and most secure version of keeping your memories available, you should burn the photos/videos to DVD or Blu-Ray - preferably a re-writeable version, as these tend to be more secure than regular writeable media (they don't use a dye substrate, they use aluminium I believe, which is less susceptible to fungal rot) - though I think you can buy archival quality writeable storage, but I've never done so myself.

You could then make as many copies as you like for pennies, and could put them in a nice storage box. again for far less than a HDD and media player.

Your daughter and others can then use pretty much any DVD/Blu-Ray player to access your memories.

Some simple video-editing software even allow for the creation of dedicated slideshows, which would play like a regular DVD/Blu-Ray complete with menus etc.
 
Last edited:

The Dreamer

Distinguished Member
Further to my last - pretty much any DVD player will also be able to play from a USB HDD, so you may not need to buy anything at all for your daughter - assuming she has a DVD/Blu-Ray player already - most people seem to own these fairly common household items.

But still, a HDD isn't that secure for data long-term - I'd still be looking to burn some DVDs/Blu-Rays with the photos/videos on.
 

RC99

Novice Member
The Mi Box S is probably the simplest path, there are cheaper options but can be fairly basic so not all of your criteria.

Install an app like this on the Mi Box S, which can access photos/videos from cloud services like flickr/facebook/google photos etc. This allows you to keep the album up to date as from her end she is just using internet to access the cloud server holding the content, no need for USB drive.

You can use a USB HDD with the box but updating files on it remotely might be tricky, I've not looked much into this area on AndroidTV so maybe there is a simple solution someone else can propose.

You can install alternate launchers and replace the cluttered home screen on the Android box but I'm not sure if the Mi Box S allows this.
Thank you for your reply. It seems close to how I've thought things out. Her internet connection is very slow but OK-ish for limited viewing/transfer of photos. (I used the Google Drive app on my iPad whilst at her house. I want to remove the download lag by having local storage.) My tests of trying to download a 4.7GB compilation video file of her childhood from my Google drive to her laptop failed despite many attempts.... hence my wish for local storage and playback of video content.

I see her once a week at the moment and am always taking photos and tiny videos of granddaughter on my iPhone. It would be nice to edit the photos when I get back home then upload them over the internet to any media player in her home... but this is not essential. Edited mini-videos can always wait to my next visit.
 

RC99

Novice Member
Recommend amlogic android box then install coreelac
Thank you for your reply. I had to research this... it seems amlogic is a SoC used in different media players. (As I mentioned, I'm a complete novice at this stuff.)

I found 2 products on Amazon (only 1 of which is currently available) but reviews by verified purchasers of both didn't really inspire a huge amount of confidence in the hardware. Whatever I purchase needs to last... or is the market still too fragile? I just don't know.

I worked out what coreelac is. I think you meant coreelec. I used Kodi many years ago and thought it was a very good front end to my video collection. It appears that coreelec is still in its infancy so not the out-of-the-box solution I was hoping for.
 

RC99

Novice Member
If you want the simplest, and most secure version of keeping your memories available, you should burn the photos/videos to DVD or Blu-Ray - preferably a re-writeable version, as these tend to be more secure than regular writeable media (they don't use a dye substrate, they use aluminium I believe, which is less susceptible to fungal rot) - though I think you can buy archival quality writeable storage, but I've never done so myself.

You could then make as many copies as you like for pennies, and could put them in a nice storage box. again for far less than a HDD and media player.

Your daughter and others can then use pretty much any DVD/Blu-Ray player to access your memories.

Some simple video-editing software even allow for the creation of dedicated slideshows, which would play like a regular DVD/Blu-Ray complete with menus etc.
Thank you for your reply. Sorry but... I considered this and rejected it years ago for many, many reasons. I won't expound upon them but optical media is definitely not the way to go for our situation.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Incorrect on both counts. With amlogic box which are decent machines for £50 plus 8gb microsd card and coreelac which is stable and mature you get excellent results outclassing a htpc for cost silence and vfm.

Using S905X3 based player.
 

RC99

Novice Member
As an aside, I've been thinking about this issue for a long time. Before she passed, my siblings and I used to visit our dementia-ridden mother in her care home. Photos and videos on our phones and tablets brought a smile of recognition even when she could no longer talk or remember us.

There must surely be a market for a simple, reliable device with local storage that can show family memories?
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
As an aside, I've been thinking about this issue for a long time. Before she passed, my siblings and I used to visit our dementia-ridden mother in her care home. Photos and videos on our phones and tablets brought a smile of recognition even when she could no longer talk or remember us.

There must surely be a market for a simple, reliable device with local storage that can show family memories?

Picture frame?
 

RC99

Novice Member
Incorrect on both counts. With amlogic box which are decent machines for £50 plus 8gb microsd card and coreelac which is stable and mature you get excellent results outclassing a htpc for cost silence and vfm.

Using S905X3 based player.
My apologies. I fear I have offended you, which was not my intention. I just don't understand you. 'Using S905X3 based player.' means nothing to me. You make statements but offer no explanations to a self-professed novice.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Something like this, not sure what chipset is newer/better etc but this currently is receiving updates

Also I found android box picture processing can't be fully disabled picture quality is much better in core elac
 

RC99

Novice Member
Something like this, not sure what chipset is newer/better etc but this currently is receiving updates

Also I found android box picture processing can't be fully disabled picture quality is much better in core elac
Thank you for your reply. That box looks very interesting. I like that it has two USB ports (1 for temporary attachment of 'stick' when I visit and 1 for permanently-attached USB HDD) plus it's cheap enough for me to buy and install with the realisation I may have to throw it away if it doesn't do what we want.
 

RC99

Novice Member
Picture frame?
I bought one for my Dad. It was an expensive waste of money. I ended up attaching an old Acer Aspire One netbook running either Kodi or an early version of Plex (it was years ago so I don't remember) to his TV. The huge advantage was that I could remote in using TeamViewer and change the content on the 8GB SD card at will. He adored it. Worked fantastically for years until he passed and I still have the netbook. If only it had an HDMI port it would have been absolutely perfect. (Daughter's TV doesn't have Wi-Fi.)

Hmm... perhaps I'm overthinking this and there's a way to re-use this old netbook...

Thank you! I'm going to test it with a large capacity SD-HC card I have that's never used. This is a possible solution if I can work out how to connect it to her TV.

Update: Nope. Her TV, whilst old, doesn't have a VGA input port.
 
Last edited:

The Dreamer

Distinguished Member
Thank you for your reply. Sorry but... I considered this and rejected it years ago for many, many reasons. I won't expound upon them but optical media is definitely not the way to go for our situation.

Fair enough. But if your memories are valuable - then some form of backup should be implemented too. I know, from bitter experience, how easily a HDD can become unusable - it cost me a couple of years worth of photos of my boys - as I didn't have a backup!

My photos now, are stored on 3 or 4 HDDs & backed up to a collection of DVD RWs.
 

RC99

Novice Member
Fair enough. But if your memories are valuable - then some form of backup should be implemented too. I know, from bitter experience, how easily a HDD can become unusable - it cost me a couple of years worth of photos of my boys - as I didn't have a backup!

My photos now, are stored on 3 or 4 HDDs & backed up to a collection of DVD RWs.
Thank you for your reply. You are so right. I too lost an entire HDD of memories just recently... irretrievable.

I didn't mention it (irrelevant to my original post) but the "1TB Western Digital 'My Passport' 2.5" self-powered portable USB drive" is not the only one I have. It's just a pain to have to sync them so they're both up-to-date. Next time WD have a sale I may buy a third one but syncing will always be an issue. However, I don't want to go off-topic so I'll stick with "what's best for media playback?"... for the moment.
 
Last edited:

next010

Distinguished Member
if you don't mind diving into the deep end, another cheap option is get a Raspberry Pie 4 and load libreelec onto to it, this turns it into a fairly reliable media player.
  • Libreelec is a self contained linux OS that runs the open source media centre software Kodi (it boots right into Kodi and nothing else).
  • Kodi will play all your photos and videos from USB.
  • Kodi can use skins and customize its menus so you can hide away sections you dont want.
  • Libreelec can use HDMI-CEC to use TV remote as control.
  • You can also Flirc adapter to program any IR remote you want if CEC doesn't cut it.

To install libreelec you can use their own tool to write the software to a micro SD card, you will need a PC USB SD card reader.

The Pellucid skin for kodi can be installed via its addon section, its a great skin for simplifying the UI, I would install Kodi on your PC and play around with it and the skin, see if its something you think can work, if so the RPie 4 is a cheap solution to deploy it.

It would also be technically possible to set up an FTP server for remote access under libreelec but that is very complex, might not be the best idea for security reasons either.
 
Last edited:

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
if you don't mind diving into the deep end, another cheap option is get a Raspberry Pie 4 and load libreelec onto to it, this turns it into a fairly reliable media player.
  • Libreelec is a self contained linux OS that runs the open source media centre software Kodi (it boots right into Kodi and nothing else).
  • Kodi will play all your photos and videos from USB.
  • Kodi can use skins and customize its menus so you can hide away sections you dont want.
  • Libreelec can use HDMI-CEC to use TV remote as control.

To install libreelec you can use their own tool to write the software to a micro SD card, you will need a PC USB SD card reader.

The Pellucid skin for kodi can be installed via its addon section, its a great skin for simplifying the UI, I would install Kodi on your PC and play around with it and the skin, see if its something you think can work, if so the RPie 4 is a cheap solution to deploy it.

It would also be technically possible to set up an FTP server for remote access under libreelec but that is very complex, might not be the best idea for security reasons either.

Would you say pi with libreelex ia better than amlogic box I linked above? Since I know have hdmi I could use my pi as my Kodi box if it's better
 

next010

Distinguished Member
Would you say pi with libreelex ia better than amlogic box I linked above? Since I know have hdmi I could use my pi as my Kodi box if it's better

It depends on what your using it for, the OP only needs photos and mp4s the Pie 4 is more than enough for that, the Pie 4 with libreelec is a very good 1080p video player but its 4K H.265 video playback it still in development so not fully stable.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Ah HDR, 4k, DTS X, Atmos , h265 is a must, that android box does those without a problem
 

RC99

Novice Member
if you don't mind diving into the deep end, another cheap option is get a Raspberry Pie 4 and load libreelec onto to it, this turns it into a fairly reliable media player.
  • Libreelec is a self contained linux OS that runs the open source media centre software Kodi (it boots right into Kodi and nothing else).
  • Kodi will play all your photos and videos from USB.
  • Kodi can use skins and customize its menus so you can hide away sections you dont want.
  • Libreelec can use HDMI-CEC to use TV remote as control.
  • You can also Flirc adapter to program any IR remote you want if CEC doesn't cut it.

To install libreelec you can use their own tool to write the software to a micro SD card, you will need a PC USB SD card reader.

The Pellucid skin for kodi can be installed via its addon section, its a great skin for simplifying the UI, I would install Kodi on your PC and play around with it and the skin, see if its something you think can work, if so the RPie 4 is a cheap solution to deploy it.

It would also be technically possible to set up an FTP server for remote access under libreelec but that is very complex, might not be the best idea for security reasons either.
That is an outstanding reply! No, I don't mind plunging into deep or unknown waters. I've been tinkering with AutoHotkey and PowerShell for years so I'm not averse to coding... plus it'll keep the old brain cells working out... always a good thing.

The idea of creating a tiny, customised little media player that does nothing but show photos and play MP4 movies from an attached USB HDD via HDMI is EXACTLY what I want. What a fantastic project. Thank you!

I know nothing about Raspberry Pi 4 but I'm going to find out! I knew I had come to the right place.
 
Last edited:

RC99

Novice Member
I've just ordered a Mi Box S to keep things on track.

Due no doubt to chip shortages, only the lowest spec (1GB RAM) Raspberry Pi 4 is currently available so I'll wait whilst I research its suitability, especially about how to provision a simple remote control. I'm guessing though that this is ultimately the way to go.

Thank you to all who responded. You have all been very helpful.

Sorry but I don't know how to mark this as 'solved'.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
I've just ordered a Mi Box S to keep things on track.

Due no doubt to chip shortages, only the lowest spec (1GB RAM) Raspberry Pi 4 is currently available so I'll wait whilst I research its suitability, especially about how to provision a simple remote control. I'm guessing though that this is ultimately the way to go.

Thank you to all who responded. You have all been very helpful.

Sorry but I don't know how to mark this as 'solved'.

If you want to install coreelac check if the bootloader is locked or unlocked
 

JBA6

Active Member
@rccarguy2 the bootloader on a Xiaomi Mi Box S is locked so that rules out booting any alternative operating systems (please note the correct spelling of CoreELEC not coreelac). I use CoreELEC on an A95X Max Android box for all my local media playback duties which it does perfectly. My media library is stored on a 480GB SSD which is installed in a 2.5" USB 3.0 caddy and is plugged into one of the USB 3.0 sockets on the A95X Max. CoreELEC runs from a MicroSD card inserted into the card slot on the A95X Max. In my opinion setting up CoreELEC to run on one of these or a similar box can be challenging if you've not done anything similar previously. It is possible to by a Single Board Computer (SBC) with a pre-programmed card so it will run CorELEC (an Odroid N2+) but whether this would suit the OP's situation only he can say.

In my opinion the Mi Box S is not that well suited to the OP's requirements as it only has one USB 2.0 socket and no USB 3.0 socket(s). If I were to get an Android or CoreELEC box to suit his requirements I'd go for one with at least one reliable USB 3.0 socket if he wants to use it with an external hard disk drive.

Presumably the OP is going to install Kodi on his Mi Box S when it comes. As others have suggested, Kodi is available for a variety of operating systems including Windows, Mac OS and Linux so it'd be easy to try it on one of those first to see if it will work as he wants before installing on the Mi Box S. As others have stated, CoreELEC is a dedicated verion of Kodi running on a Linux foundation so trying Kodi on another platform first would be good experience regardless of which final solution is decided upon.

--
JB
 

The latest video from AVForums

Samsung S95B QD-OLED Review - A Quantum Leap for OLED!
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

PSB Speakers unveils Passif 50 loudspeaker
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Samsung Gaming Hub goes live
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Huawei unveils FreeBuds Pro 2 true wireless earbuds
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Sony unveils Inzone gaming brand
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom