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How to turn a Chromebox into a video-streaming workhorse

Jared Newman | Dec. 2, 2014
A Chrome OS desktop computer can be a powerful tool in a cord cutter's arsenal, serving up the full Web for under US$200. But it does take some finagling, and won't be for everyone.

Speaking of Windows, a full-blown PC offers a lot more power. For under $500, you can build your own box with plenty of storage, a DVD drive and a TV tuner. You can also use programs like XMBC to make the system more TV-friendly, and install whatever codecs you need to play music and video in any format. While Chromeboxes can play certain file types, and can use services like Plex to stream video from a networked computer, they're not really meant for watching a huge collection of downloaded videos.

The flip side is that Windows machines have a lot more overhead. Most of the hardware options are larger and more expensive, you'll be occasionally slowed down by mandatory software updates and pestered by unwanted notifications. And even if a Windows box lets you do more, getting everything set up can feel like more trouble than it's worth when you're just trying to watch some Netflix or Hulu.

Chromeboxes strike a happy medium between Windows-based home theater PCs and smaller streaming media devices. You get the freedom of the full Web that devices like Roku and Apple TV can't match, without the costs (financial and otherwise) of Windows. The living room Chromebox isn't for everyone, as it requires some tweaking, but it rewards patient cord-cutters with a wealth of Web-based video options.

 

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