Current hardware recommendation for a dedicated LibreELEC box?

  • What to buy if looking for an out-of-the-box LibreELEC experience, that is capable of [email protected] / x265 / HDR / digital audio (*)?


    I have no experience with any SBC / Arm hardware and something bare-bone (without RAM/HDD/SSD) would be preferred, but I'm open to any suggestions.


    (*) I already have a HDMI audio extractor with optical output, a miniDP to HDMI adapter and an external USB soundcard at hands, so the box does not require a dedicated digital audio output.

  • Not LibreELEC yet unfortunately.

    Sorry, but I don't know what that's supposed to mean.

    HDR is currently still the problem factor.

    What exactly is the problem with HDR?


    But I'm not hung-up on HDR as long as this is just a software issue that is going to be solved at some point in the future.


    The question really is now to choose a proper hardware. I'm currently looking into the Intel NUCs, but there are so many variations of them and there is always the catch that any of the Intel Graphics at least up to HD 620 do not support [email protected] at the HDMI port, but only at the Display Port.


    Any idea which Intel NUC would be the cheapest to fulfill the mentioned requirements?


    And which SBC would be the most suitable (an ODROID or RPi4?)?


    At least the RPi4 is known to support [email protected], but on the downside none of the SBCs seem to be capable of doing hardware AES-NI, which is useful when OpenVPN is involved.


    I really whish there was a definite hardware recommendation for running LibreELEC.

  • What exactly is the problem with HDR?

    HDR comes in not one but many flavors, and afaict, different hardware manufacturers treat HDR differently.


    As a rule: don't try to buy the hardware that should last at least 5 years. there is no such thing. Technology goes fast. Two, three years ago HEVC was all the rage, now it's gonna be AV1, for which there is only scarce hw acc support right now.

  • HDR comes in not one but many flavors, and afaict, different hardware manufacturers treat HDR differently.


    As a rule: don't try to buy the hardware that should last at least 5 years. there is no such thing. Technology goes fast. Two, three years ago HEVC was all the rage, now it's gonna be AV1, for which there is only scarce hw acc support right now.

    AFAIK my ViewSonic PX747-4K accepts a HDR10 signal, but doesn't do much with it, so there may not be any real benefits anyway, but it's nevertheless nice to know that it's possible. Still unclear if the mentioned problem with HDR is not a software or hardware issue concerning the selection of a suitable box for running LibreELEC.


    As for the hardware-selection, I think it's better to choose something more than appropriate now than to speculate to replace it in just a few years again.


    My equipment is not that spectacular, it really just comes down to [email protected] (with HDR10 if possible) due to the used projector and digital 5.1 audio (AC3/DTS) due to the used audio system. Hopefully this will serve well for the years to come as I do not have any plans to upgrade anytime soon.


    It puzzles me that there is little to no information available on what current hardware would be best suitable for a dedicated LibreELEC machine, because people are obviously using LibreELEC and I can't be the only one having to decide on what to buy.

  • something bare-bone (without RAM/HDD/SSD) would be preferred, but I'm open to any suggestions.

    I can suggest one of the Asrock Gemini Lake ITX boards. J4105B-ITX or J4125B-ITX will do just fine. It can do [email protected] (native HDMI 2.0) and HDR already works with experimental LibreELEC GBM images.

  • What about Odroid C4? It seems good enough, while not as beefy as N2+, it's cheaper and it's also on the recommended list.

    Thinking ahead, one may choose the more powerful device now, in hope that it will fulfill its duty for some years to come. I'm not that convinced about "just enough power for now" solutions.

  • Thinking ahead, one may choose the more powerful device now, in hope that it will fulfill its duty for some years to come. I'm not that convinced about "just enough power for now" solutions.

    I am also a fan of this philosophy, but "pricier and beefier" doesn't always mean more future proof. Make sure it's really worth paying extra for it (maybe you already did, in this case I'm talking in principle), if they are more or less the same generation and the difference is in horse power (more ram, higher frequency), I'd buy the "just enough" one and then upgrade when some new tech comes along (as mentioned earlier AV1 is on the horizon, among other things).

  • I'd buy the "just enough" one and then upgrade when some new tech comes along (as mentioned earlier AV1 is on the horizon, among other things).

    I still haven't decided which way to go, I have tried to take a deeper look over the weekend, but the amount of info is just overwhelming.


    If it's true that Kodi devs removed all AMLogic specific code from Matrix, what does that mean for all the dedicated boxes and SBCs? Will they be stuck with Leia?


    My current favorite still is the ODROID N2+, but I'm not sure if that isn't a step back now that I have got to know Matrix from LibreELEC nightlies on my laptop.


    I've also looked into cheaper alternatives with AMLogic S905X3 and some Intel NUCs, as well as the ODROID H2+. A device with SPDIF out (like any of the Ugoos devices) would be nice, because then I could omit the HDMI audio extractor I am currently using.


    But maybe it's worth it to wait for the new AV1 capable AMLogic S905X4 devices?


    With the Ugoos X4 Cube with AMLogic S905X4 / Mali-G31MP2 / 2GB RAM / 16GB eMMC / SPDIF for expected less than 100 USD already around the corner, that device may be the most logical choice.

  • With these embedded devices its pretty hard to speculate on the future as for which is the best as there are basically 2 forks in the road going on.


    Projects like Kodi and LE are focused on following the future by moving into the mainstream kernel which represents a better method of supporting different hardware which goes outside just the perview of linux on embedded devices like the typical Android boxes, and in doing so has been removing pieces of code that were based on the vendors bsp's which tend to be done in a out of tree manner specific to themselves... In this case Amlogic is the mostly mentioned in this thread. Doing so has meant some pieces of the overall setup need to be either fixed or outright created and its mostly being done by various open source groups which takes time. hence some things at this time still need to be fixed.


    The alternative approach taken by projects like CE or AE or any of a number of other forks is to try and maintain the devices by using parts of the older vendor packages which has 2 basic effects to it... one is that basically a number of devices still currently work ok with the current Leia version while two being stuck on some older packages such as the kernel and some of its support packages. Currently running on older stuff like this seems like the better way as overall it pretty much works, but once Matrix is finally released who knows where it will leave any of these distro's that took this direction.


    There is just no way to know when or even if any of the issues will be fixed as overall things appear to be going in the right direction but its been a long road and the end still hasn't been reached yet.


    Its probably best to look to buy based on what your current needs require rather then try and make a purchase based on how long and good some device may be like you typically would when make a normal computer or laptop.


    The only way to avoid this whole mess is to basically just give up on trying to run a JEOS system like LE or CE and stick to running the Android version that came on the device as then whatever the devices abilities are can simple been seen by reading the spec sheet of the device to see if it supports the features you want.


    People need to remember... Companies like Amlogic Rockchip and others never intended for anything Other then Android to run on Their device which is what the device makers paid for in support and IP licenses. Its NOT until people try and run Linux that most of these issues really have any relevance... but if you really want Linux then its either pick a distro like CE which works but is vested in older vendor packages (which will eventually break) or pick LE and make sure to buy a device that is currently supported by LE for the time being.

  • buzzmarshall, thanks, an excellent summary of thoughts, which unfortunately makes my decision finding not any easier. :/


    In fact, this wants me go back to the idea to just run LibreELEC Generic x86_64 or any suitable Linux distribution with Kodi on top on some already available Intel hardware (like an Intel NUC) that's capable of software decoding AV1, or wait for Intel Panther Canyon NUC 11 Performance with Intel Core i5 or i7 Tiger Lake CPU that's capable of hardware decoding AV1.


    I'm not really in a hurry to make a purchase, because right now my laptop with Intel Core i7-10510U CPU will do as an intermediate solution, but a dedicated machine for the home cinema is desired in the long run. So a 11th Gen NUC may be my best bet right now.


    Considering the circumstances, CoreELEC obviously getting stuck on Kodi Leia (at least for the time being) is not what I have in mind anymore, and I just don't like the idea of using a vendor locked-in Android device.


    BTW Any idea which currently available (low power) Intel CPUs are capable of software decoding AV1 in [email protected]? That would just be for getting an idea for what to start with.

  • There is just no way to know when or even if any of the issues will be fixed as overall things appear to be going in the right direction but its been a long road and the end still hasn't been reached yet.

    I think in this case something like this will be useful to people trying to decide what to get (like Master One) :

    Allwinner Status Matrix


    Here one can track the support for things like DRM and VE(Video Engine or VPU). Unfortunately the only similar thing I can find for Amlogic is start [linux-meson]. Does anyone know of a matrix that more closely resembles the Allwinner one?


    Master One, if you really want [email protected], you want it to last you a long time and you can't wait - go with Intel (the beefier, the better), but if you want an Arm board with hw decoding - now is the worst moment to be buying. Devices are not out yet, so there is no official support, no mass adoption yet. If you're willing to spend so much money on an Intel board, why not buy a cheaper AV1less Arm board and upgrade when the time comes? Not to mention that those chips are much more power efficient than the intel ones.

  • if you really want [email protected], you want it to last you a long time and you can't wait - go with Intel (the beefier, the better), but if you want an Arm board with hw decoding - now is the worst moment to be buying. Devices are not out yet, so there is no official support, no mass adoption yet. If you're willing to spend so much money on an Intel board, why not buy a cheaper AV1less Arm board and upgrade when the time comes? Not to mention that those chips are much more power efficient than the intel ones.

    Although I really like the idea with a 11th Gen NUC, since it's unclear when they will actually be released (no mention on the Intel NUC Kits page yet), I'm not averse to going for a cheap (AV1less) ARM box in the meantime.


    So which one would you choose right now, that can be used with LibreELEC Nightly (Matrix) and supports [email protected] / HDR?

  • From my perspective pretty much all of the Arm based embedded devices when trying to run linux on them are all basically in the same boat when it comes to real gpu support, thou Allwinner and the Rpi4's maybe slightly ahead in some ways... Until some good open source drivers fill in the blanks which is the real unknown.


    Personally being pretty much self sufficient i have just stuck to building on the older S912 or S812 devices based on Leia as i basically am not that picky about a lot of things other then just being able to keep the family happy watching stuff off my local storage arrays.


    So far i have not played with any of the All winner devices so i can't say to much... I did look at the H2's being they are Intel based which gets one out from under the Arm gpu issues, but found them kinda of expensive when compared to some of the other better sbc or small computers as well as i had issues with both H2's i bought as they seemed to be poorly flowed at a board level which kinda surprised my for HK.


    Your right tho its not a easy decision to make as there are so many variables between the available choices...


    The other interesting thing is now that Nvidia has bought Arm it makes one wonder what twists we can look forward to as for help on the open source drivers most of these Arm based Gpu's on most of the Amlogic and Rockchip devices...