Chrome Cast, Fire Stick, Apple TV...what can I use with the least headaches?

I have been running Synology Servers in my house for years and am very familiar with how they operate. They have a very mature OS and lots of add ins via the control panel. I run Plex and the proprietary Synology programs to access video and music. Recently I helped a friend with the purchase of MyCloud, she wanted something to backup picture and store her music and video files. As of now she is copying and pasting the videos to her laptop to watch them.

I would like to help her find a standalone solution for this. Something that is simple, low maintenance and reliable as her kids will be using it also. Is the Chromecast, FireStick, or Apple TV and plug and play solution? If not any other suggestion?.

Thanks in advance

Any DLNA client will be able to stream from the My Cloud. Others will be along to expound on the virtues of the devices you mention. I use a Roku and it works great at streaming content to a TV from the My Cloud.

Once the My Cloud is active on the local network one can use any computer to stream content to the computer either by using Windows File Explorer or Mac Finder to open the file and play it with what ever media player is the default player on one’s PC or by using DLNA client software. Mapping the drive/share to the computer helps one quickly access My Cloud content.

What kind of videos are they; mp4. mkv, ISO, “other”? Are they copy-protected? How old are the kids? Does your friend have any mobile devices like smartphone or tablet?

I have a WD MyCloud, a DL2100, Chromecast, a Fire Stick, a WDTV, and Roku. I would select a device with a real remote; kids especially need one. Chromecast has none. The Fire Stick has a remote, but both devices kind of s**k (i.e. you get what you pay for) compared to WDTV and Roku which have a remote.

If I had to choose just one of these devices, I would choose a Roku, and I have given them as gifts, too. The Roku has a nice PLEX app for those who use PLEX, and for those who don’t, the Roku has an app called Roku Media Player. In addition, the Roku has more streaming apps to select from, as well as connection to Netflix account.

I may modify my comments based upon your answers to my questions.

All mp4s ripped from original disks and converted with hand break. No protection. Kids are teenagers. All have iPhones.

I have a few chromecast and agree they are average at best. Just bought a fire stick but haven’t messed with it yet. I use popcorn hours in my house but that’s overkill for her. I’m glad to hear u suggest the roku, I was kinda of thinking that might be a good solution. If I just wanted to buy one to mess around with and let her try does it matter which model I get?

A generic Android media box, running Kodi, plugged into the TV’s HDMI port?

Cheap, and Kodi is able to access MyCloud as either DLNA or SMB, is well-established, and has good file support. And is free.

Plain vanilla Android, so full access to Play Store, rather than the restricted subset of a ‘smart Tv’ or Roku.

Kodi is available on many platforms, including Android, PC, MAC, Linux, iOS, etc.

http://kodi.tv/download/

Going the Android (or unused PC route) for Kodi is a good option for those who are technically inclined. For those who are not and who are simply looking for a plug and play box, the AppleTV, Chromecast or Roku might be a better fit and less hassle. All depends on the end user’s needs. Each device has its plusses and minuses. One, if they didn’t want to use Kodi, could go the full Plex client/server route if they so desired.

Since an Android media box is essentially a tablet without the screen, it can be as simple or as technical as you want. Simple: use apps for catch-up tv, or pay-to-view streaming services (Amazon prime probably not, due to Amazon’s weird policy of what appears to be trying to force you to buy an Amazon fire thing, rather than running on mainstream Android devices).

Okay, I may be technically minded, but I have not had to fiddle with the setup of Kodi at all; install it, tell it where videos are, and off it goes.

And if kids are involved, they will be able to provide technical support, IME…

I use Plex. It requires a ‘computer’ to be running and act as the media server. The benefit of Plex is that it can play on almost anything. You can use Chromecast, xbox 360, Playstation, roku, android, apple tv, or any browser to play content.

You get a beautiful interface that is simple to use. Very easy to set up and add media to it.

The problem isn’t necessarily the Android box, its getting Kodi onto that box if that box didn’t come preloaded/installed with Kodi. For a non technical person sideloading Kodi may be a bit daunting or confusing. In looking at the direction for side loading Kodi to the Fire TV from this link which proclaims to install it in “a few simple steps”, I know people who would be calling me for help by step 2. Like I said some will want simple plug and play. Simplicity is what made devices like the Roku so popular. They’re easy to setup and typically don’t require “sideloading” anything to access the My Cloud. Don’t get me wrong, I like Kodi (and Plex which we really haven’t talked about). But I do understand that as much as I like Kodi and Plex, they are not for everyone, there may be simpler solutions that may appeal to others. :grinning:

@blackcows

OK, based upon your reply, I will stick with the Roku idea, although you will need to add the free Roku Media channel and perhaps something else like PLEX on Roku. Another advantage of Roku is the Roku app from Apple store will cast one’s media on iPhone/iPad directly to Roku to show on TV. Real simple.

My daughter asked for a new Roku this Xmas to replace her gen1 version. She has a Roku 2 as her current “best one” in another room. Anyway, I sent her the Roku3, although the top model as of this fall is the Roku 4 which uses wireless AC and can show 4K video; neither of which she needs, so she got last year’s top model, the Roku 3. I prefer to get the top models of any given Roku; the price diff is negligible. .

Costco sells the Roku 3, as well as an Apple TV. At Costco I saw the new Apple TV costs $200 – more than twice as much as the Roku 3, and likely not as good or versatile. A Netflix subscription is a must with these streaming players. Go to roku.com to compare models.

On Android, there’s no need for side loading. Download the .apk file, and double-click it. Done.

Actually, just checked the Play Store, and Kodi is available, so installing is as easy as any other app.

ps. I don’t consider Amazon fire etc to be Android; too much Amazon stuff in the way…

Thanks so much for the replies. I agree Kodi is cool, I have used Popcorn Hours for years and it seems like I spent more time making things pretty than actually watching movies :smile:

Bought a Roku 2 this am and thought it was so cool I just bought 2 more tonight :blush:

So I’m running the Roku with Plex via my Synology server, love the interface and the ease in selecting movies. I don’t think I can add Plex to the MyCloud. I know it runs twonky, using the Roku media player with Synology Media I get no cover art. Is that a limitation of the server or the player? Ultimately I would like to know if there is any easy way to get cover art via MyCloud and Roku?

Plex is NOT officially supported on the single drive My Cloud units. The more expensive multi drive My Cloud units do support add-on programs including the My Cloud. There are at least two ways to get cover art to show via the Twonky Media Server on the My Cloud. First way, create a single JPG image file called “folder.jpg” and place that file in to the media folder on the My Cloud and Twonky should use that image file as the cover art for ALL media file in that folder. The second way to get cover art and other information to display on DLNA clients (like the Roku Media Player) is to embed the cover art and other information into certain media file’s metadata tags.

One can use free metadata tagging programs like MP3Tag and MediaMonkey to embed metadata and cover art into certain media files. The MediaMonkey program offers the capability of tagging files via data retrieved from the Internet. The Roku Media player will display, on screen, a portion of the text one enters into the media file’s “Comments” metadata field. That is particularly helpful for people to read on the TV screen so they can decide if they want to watch that media file or not.

Haven’t used the Plex channel in a while on my Roku so I don’t remember if it will even access the Twonky Media Server on the My Cloud and how it deals with metadata in media files on the Twonky Media Server. The Roku Media Player channel will (from what I remember) access the Plex Media Server’s embedded DLNA server to show content served up by the Plex server.

I couldn’t get Plex to access Twonky, when running on a Sky NowTV box, which is essentially a cut-down Roku. Which was a shame, because Plex did look beautiful.

I do use Media Monkey to tag my mp3 files and am have used MetaX to tag all of my video files so they have complete information including cover art. I don’t have Twonky on my Synology but did try using the Synology DLNA server an d didn’t get cover art with Roku Media Player. Maybe I just didn’t wait long enough for it to populate. I will try it this am and see what happens.

See my reply to your question over in the ‘[FAQ] Twonky DLNA Media Server Setup & Use. That reply contains a pic taken of the Roku interface on my TV showing the album art, title and comments metadata being shown from files stored on a WD My Cloud and accessed via the Roku Media Player channel on a Roku 2 XS. Typically the DLNA client will only show what the DLNA server parses from the media file the media server catalogs. One other way, at least with Twonky to get album art to display is give the artwork image file name the exact same name as the movie file (similar to using subtitle SRT files on Twonky). For example:
Superman.mp4
Superman.jpg

Bought a Roku 2 this am and thought it was so cool I just bought 2 more tonight :blush:

Cool. Glad I and others recommended Roku, and the Roku 2 was a good choice; especially when you buy three! As I said, that is the model I have (I like that it has analog audio out) but I bought my daughter her second Roku as a 3-model, because it was on sale before Xmas and the 2 wasn’t. It has some features she might like on the remote as well.

Anyway, what took you so long to get a Roku; you just needed to talk to us, I guess :wink

PLEX: I have installed it on my MyCloud DL2100. Works fine, but still trying to like it on Roku. I find it overkill on the graphics, as well as too much remote-hopping for the amount of music I have. Don’t watch my mp4 files on it since they are for the iPad and they are small frame size for that and look bad blown up on the big screen TV. I prefer to watch movies from ISO or MKV files using my WDTV.

Anyway, I just looked at my PLEX music files (direct copy of my iTunes Music folder) and I see lots of album art; much is embedded art (from my eMusic service downloads) and my CDs; some art I had to add. I’m not sure where the art came from; my files or did PLEX download them all from Gracenote or something like that? Anyway, there is a lot of album art showing up…

Yes the Plex media server is downloading album art and other metadata on media. There is a setting within the Plex server where you can set or change where it downloads that data from. Typically it is from free websites though and sometimes that data can be wrong forcing the user to go in and edit the wrong information. See this Plex link on agents: https://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/200241558-Agents

The main limitation with Plex on the My Cloud units that support the Plex plug in module is the apparent lack of transcoding. Transcoding is one of the biggest features for Plex.