Minimum system requirements for streaming PC

So according to my research the only way to get Hulu on my projector in my living room is to actually have a PC there. What’s the cheapest I can get by as far as building one for that purpose. I’m probably looking at an ITX setup to not have a big tower chassis on the media rack, but what processor, memory, etc do I need just to stream 1080P video from Hulu, Youtube, etc. I know a cheap laptop might be ideal from a space point of view, but only the newest and most expensive ones seem to have HDMI or DVI connectors.

[del]I’m not doubting your research, but why not just get a Roku?[/del]

Ah, apparently Rokus give you Huluplus. My bad.

That was actually my bad too. I bought one because they have “watch Hulu on your TV” all over the place only to find it won’t work. So back it goes. Apparently it can’t even do Youtube videos of all things.

Have you trolled Newegg and TigerDirect’s outlet/refurbished pages, because it’s definitely not just the latest and greatest laptops that have HDMI out. Also consider a small form factor refurb (big businesses and stuff are turning them back in all the time) and put a decent video card in it, since that will handle most of the processing.

Instead of building another PC, I picked up a used 2ghz MacMini to feed my pj. $250

If there is hardware x264 acceleration, you need almost nothing - the AMD E-350s or Atoms you see in many integrated small form factor boxes are enough.
IE, something like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856173035
plus a 64gb or 128 gb SSD (or 2.5" notebook hard drive), will do the job.
Hell, a Rasberry Pi (because it has video acceleration) is enough to do the job, although much more difficult to setup, and obviously less powerful overall than the Zbox type system:
http://www.howtogeek.com/119924/build-a-35-media-center-with-raspbmc-and-raspberry-pi/
(hulu plugins: http://forum.stmlabs.com/archive/index.php?thread-1404.html)

There are multiple models of Roku. You just need the right one.
Here’s an article with a few different media streamers;

Nonsense. I was looking at cheap netbooks (around £200) a few months ago, and most of them had HDMI ports. Netbooks are, I believe, designed to handle streaming media, which does not really take all that much computing power by today’s standards. However, you would presumably get more computing power for you buck from a larger form factor system. One pays for the tight packing of components.

Is there some reason, though, why your current computer and a suitable cable will not do the job? I watch streaming media over HDMI on my TV, fed from the same (not particularly high powered) computer I use to visit the Dope, surf the web, play games, and do work. If I do not need sound for whatever computing task I am doing, I can even be streaming video to the TV at the same time as I am doing something else on the computer.

Consider a Chromebook. They’re $250 and they seem to play youtube/hulu just fine. Netflix is “coming” if that’s an issue for you.

You can use Plex to stream free Hulu from your PC to a Roku box.

I have thought of that option. I did check Microcenter today, but they didn’t have any of the cheap corporate off-lease stuff

That does look like what I want, I have a used notebook drive laying around but windows will cost another $100, but it seems to be a good way of doing things.

I ordered the best Roku player and found it would not do Hulu. I can’t see any references to any devices in the list doing Hulu either. They’re all for Hulu Plus.

HDMI does not like to go long distances, nor does USB. There’s the matter of getting the HDMI signal as well as a keyboard and mouse several rooms over, or else bringing in my laptop into the living room and wiring it up every time my sister wants to watch Hulu.

I would prefer a device that doesn’t use my main PC, but I’ll consider this as an option.

Your arrangement is perfect for a remote control KVM.

The device connects to the remote PC and communicates wirelessly with the device you connect to the HDTV. That device also has ports for mouse, keyboard, USB, etc.

It’s just like having the PC right there and you stream all of the media over the air. Pricing is reasonable at $130 (on sale apparently at the egg)

However video resolution only goes up to 720p. If that is an issue, I know there are other similar devices that do the full 1080P.

I’ve seen gadgets for converting HDMI to Cat 5 and back for $14.49 and for $600.00+

Do the cheaper devices actually work?

Good luck getting it to work.

http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/topic/55189-hulu-wont-play-on-roku/
http://forums.plexapp.com/index.php/topic/54484-hulu-app-not-working-on-roku-lt/

I’ve never tried anything like that except when I had direct tv and I would play shows from the dvr over the network to my pc. That seemed to work ok over a gigabit network.

But I checked the ratings for HDMI. For regular 1080p, it looks like the bitrate is around 5gigabits per second. That might be on the high side for Cat 5/5E cable. You might have to go with Cat 6 and get a higher speed router, but I don’t know.

My guess is that you could probably get away with it if you run cable just for the video, but who wants to do that. Personally, I’d be happy with 720p since that’s what I watch most stuff in anyway. Yeah, it’s not as crisp as full 1080p, but meh, I’m not really paying attention most of the time anyway.

As to cheap vs expensive units, just read the reviews and see what they say. There will usually be a couple where it’s clear the person knows their shit and gives some really helpful guidance.

The gadgets I’m looking for are for a direct connection, not over an ethernet so their wouldn’t be a router in the path. Some of them use one Cat 5 cable and some use two.

OK, that sounds about right then. Would you want to share a couple of links?

I did run a cable for a KVM extender, but that was pretty bare bones and I never did actually get it up and running. I’ve never seen anything that used 2 paired cables. That’s pretty serious stuff when you consider that each cable already has 4 twisted pairs.

After dropping the subject for a while sister asked again about getting YouTube and Hulu on our projector. I noticed some $99.00 off-lease computers at Microcenter, they’re Pentium "D"s with 2 GB of Ram. No HDMI output though. Any of these stand out to people as being suitable for streaming video?

I’ve researched this topic for hours and Roku really is the best solution, if you can cough up the monthly fee for Hulu Plus. Or you can stream regular Hulu to it through a PlayOn proxy running on a computer.

In terms of the PC, I think those technical specs would be borderline but might work, but regular upkeep would be a total PITA compared to a Roku or its ilk – you have to worry about keeping the thing updated, free of malware, not falling asleep, the input devices (i.e., a keyboard or remote) awake when you want to change the volume or switch the channel, change the font size so web pages are even readable when you browse for content, find a flat place to leave your mouse or learn to use a Bluetooth airmouse, worry about browser updates that break stuff, deal with codecs and HTML5 changes, turn it on and off every time you want to watch something, etc., etc. You also have to manually click every video several times to make it full screen, change it to 1080p, wait for it to rebuffer, rewind to where you left off, etc. Personally, I’d really try to steer you away from that… tried it for a few weeks before giving up in frustration and getting a Roku. In my case Hulu wasn’t as important to me as Netflix, though, so YMMV.

If Hulu support isn’t a dealbreaker, your list of alternatives also increases dramatically. Other good options (all of which require Hulu Plus instead of vanilla Hulu) are: Chromecast, Apple TV, an Android tablet or iPad, Xbox 360/One, PS3/4, Chromebook. All of which would require far less maintenance, electricity, and generalized cursing than a Windows HTPC would. There’s also Google TV, but the disastrous reviews across the board steered me away from that in the face of its better competitors.

Oh, and as for the HDMI, it doesn’t really matter that much at vanilla 1080p (as opposed to 4K or QHD or 3D, etc.). If your projector accepts VGA or DVI input along with analog audio, just go ahead and use that. You can buy cheap cables from monoprice and they should work perfectly fine up to 50 feet or so.