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After years of leaving a home theater PC running 24/7 in my living room, I’ve realized that it’s basically become a glorified file server in recent years. So I’m replacing my (very) old Dell Zino HD with a $250 QNAP TS-251 network attached storage device that I plan to equip with dual 4TB hard drives.
It’ll be a more energy efficient solution that offers redundant storage (since system supports RAID 1 configurations so all data is mirrored between both drives). The Wirecutter recommends the TS-251, and after spending a few hours researching NAS options this weekends, I decided it was worth the $100 premium over the Synology DS216j which is slower and less versatile.
Anyway, I’ve got an Amazon Fire TV Stick plugged into my TV which we use to watch Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. When I want to stream local media, I use MrMC to stream from a network share drive… so once the TS-251 is set up, I’ll adjust the settings and stream from the NAS.
But… from time to time it’s still nice to be able to use a mouse, keyboard, and web browser in the living room for a group session of trivia games or karaoke. So I’m thinking my next purchase will probably be a PC stick. Fortunately, they’re about as affordable as ever.
Right now you can pick up an Asus VivoStick with Windows 10 and an Intel Atom Cherry Trail processor for just $105 after rebate. Or if you don’t need Windows, the Asus Chromebit is available for $20 less.
Anyway, that was way more exposition than I’d planned. The point is, I wouldn’t recommend either of these devices for a primary PC. But they’re nice options if you just want a fully functional web browser and support for a few apps on your TV. And they’re cheaper and less power-hungry than my Dell Zino HD.
Or maybe I’ll just plug a laptop into my TV from time to time. That works too.
Here are some of the day’s best deals.
- Asus VivoStick TS10 Win10 PC Stick w/Atom x5-Z8300/2GB/32GB for $105 after rebate – Newegg
- Asus Chromebit w/RK3288/2GB/16GB/Chrome OS for $85 – Amazon
- NuVision Solo 10 Windows tablet (pink) w/FHD display/Atom x5-Z8300/2GB/32GB for $89 – Microsoft Store
- Asus Transformer Pro T304UA 12.6″ 2-in-1 tablet w/Core i7-7500U/8GB/256GB for $849 – Newegg (coupon: EMCSBRRC2)
- Refurb Microsoft Surface Pro 4 w/Core i5-6300U/4GB/128GB for $400 – Newegg
- Lenovo Yoga 710 11.6″ convertible w/Pentium 4410Y/4GB/128GB for $350 – Best Buy
- Lenovo Yoga 720 13″ convertible w/Core i5-7200U/4GB?128GB for $630 – Best Buy
- Dell E310dw wireless B&W laser printer for $50 – Staples
- Logitech MK320 wireless optical mouse + keyboard for $25 – Staples
- Seagate 2TB portable USB hard drive for $60 – Newegg (coupon: EMCBRRC23)
- Google WiFi router for $119 – Google Store
- SanDisk 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive for $30 – Best Buy
PC & Mobile accessories
- Anker 20W stereo Bluetooth speaker for $45 – Amazon
- Anker SoundCore Bluetooth speaker for $25 – Amazon
- UE Boom Bluetooth speakers for $80 and up – Best Buy
- ZipKord 4,000 mAh power bank + Qi wireless charger for $15 – ZipKord
You can find more bargains in our daily deals section.
For the record, the QNap NAS can double as a PC (or rather, browser) if you use the HDMI port on it (ie: HDMI out to TV). It won’t play games, etc. obviously but you can use it to browse the web with a full on browser. If you go this route, I’d add some RAM.
I don’t do this with mine. I figure, no need to add stress to the already stressful work of streaming to like, 10 PCs in my household. I have an i5 NUC with 16GB for my PCing pleasure on my TV, but just saying, if you want to you can double up vs. buy something extra.
Thanks for the tip! I haven’t fully explored all the capabilities of the TS-251 yet (I plan to set it up later this week), but one of the reasons I chose it is because I know it has plenty of ports and support for third-party apps. Didn’t realize it had a browser.
I’ll definitely have to check this out and see how it functions for the handful of web sites we’re likely to use on a TV. I’m thinking eventually I might still go with a PC Stick or Chromebit just so I don’t need to keep the NAS right next to the TV (especially if we go for a ceiling-mounted projector). But this could be a nice short-term solution.
I’ve thought a retired laptop – maybe an otherwise decent one with a broken screen – might make a good HTPC. Could hang it from the VESA screws on the back of modern TVs. Fuel efficient, and most have more in/out options than sticks. More internal storage – good for recording / time-shifting tv. I see that HD episodes of the recent PBS Vietnam War series are using 8-9GB each – 85gb for the 10 episode series.
I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion with retired laptops. A full-blown tower HTPC is overkill, and the sticks still have too many compromises. But a laptop from several years ago is just fine for serving the TV.
There are other advantages. 1. They tend to be low power. 2. They tend to have fewer sleep mode issues. 3. They have a separate screen which can sometimes be useful for diagnosing problems. 4. They are small.
The biggest problem is probably fan noise.
Another option would be a Chromecast perhaps as then you can stream from Chrome on your laptop, or whatever.
I’m a little surprised Fire TV doesn’t support any version of a browser with keyboard/mouse. I don’t have one but I would have guessed off hand that something could be set up there.
Yeah, but casting is a inelegant, sluggish solution for non-video.
What I’m probably going to do for now is go with the NAS + Fire TV Stick for now, and buy the best PC stick I can find for $100 when we replace our TV (we’re trying to decide whether to replace our 32″ 720p set with a new TV or a projector).
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