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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > Device to play video and audio from MacBook Pro or external drive to TV

Device to play video and audio from MacBook Pro or external drive to TV
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Jan 23, 2014, 08:38 PM
 
I’m looking for a device or devices will allow me to
a) play any video file (MPG, MKV, AVI, MP4) and
b) play music from iTunes
directly to my TV (through an HDMI port) from either my MacBook Pro or an external drive.

Is there any device or combination of devices that will allow me to do this without having to start playback from my MacBook? I have an iPad and iPhone (in case those are relevant as devices that can start playback).
     
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Jan 24, 2014, 03:24 AM
 
Cheapest way to do it is probably an AppleTV and massaging those video files that do not comply. MKV are easily converted to MP4 using an app like Subler (it only changes the container, so it's fast). AVI files don't officially work, but for some reason they do play on occasion - if not, you can use something like Handbrake to get it into an MP4. Roku 3 does the same thing, but since it also won't support AVI natively, it doesn't add much of what you need. There's the Boxee Box, but Boxee has been purchased by Samsung, and the last software version is 2+ years old now. There are a few DLNA streaming boxes, but these days such features are found mostly included in TVs or other boxes, so I'm not sure if there are any good ones.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
zgall1  (op)
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Jan 24, 2014, 09:33 AM
 
Thanks for the suggestion. It seems like it would be quite a bit of work to get everything playing properly in this setup and the fact that the conversion tools for each file type aren't the same make it a bit more tedious.

Is there anything that can play all these video files natively? I'd be happy to purchase that device even if it can't play music from iTunes.
     
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Jan 24, 2014, 09:52 AM
 
There's WD TV, although the reviews seem to be all over the place.

You can convert everything using Handbrake if you like - just put your entire library into the queue, pick the preset for AppleTV and go - but takes longer since you're re-encoding stuff that is already in H.264.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
zgall1  (op)
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Jan 24, 2014, 09:59 AM
 
I just bought the WD TV on Amazon. Going to check it out and see if it works for my purposes. Can always return it if any problems I read about in the negative reviews pop up.

Thanks for the help!
     
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Jan 24, 2014, 03:05 PM
 
OK, great. Check back in and tell us how it works out.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Jan 28, 2014, 10:38 AM
 
Roku, with Plex client. Plex Server installed on your computer. It does not actually use iTunes, but it does play all your music and your movies and could be a good option - will also work for any connected devices like iPad/iPhone, as long as the computer is running.
Mankind's only chance is to harness the power of stupid.
     
zgall1  (op)
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Jan 30, 2014, 01:01 AM
 
I got the WD TV Live today and I will be returning it tomorrow. The software is absolutely broken. It hung within the first hour of using it when trying to play an AVI file to my TV and I can't get it to work. Based on the number of complaints I read online while trying to troubleshoot it, this seems like a common complaint.

Trying Roku with Plex next.
     
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Jan 30, 2014, 02:26 PM
 
It's been awhile since I've used it, but my last experience with Plex is it's much better than it has any right to be.

I'm only not using it now because I have a Mini hooked up to the TV, and it gets used as an actual computer, so I just use OS X.
     
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Jan 30, 2014, 09:37 PM
 
Plex server on an always on computer on the LAN, Plex iOS/Android app for a remote, and Chromecasts for the TVs is a pretty awesome setup, assuming you have decent wifi signal at each TV.

Add the iTunes channel to Plex server and you should be good to go
     
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Feb 3, 2014, 12:21 PM
 
I also found the WD TV to be crap - terrible laggy interface.

I also have a Mac mini hooked up to the TV via HDMI - the mini has Plex server and client installed. For the most part, a dedicated Roku box will be perfect for your needs. The only real issues with the Roku are:

1) Plex interface on Roku is not quite as good as on the computer client;
2) You get limited output capabilities on the Roku, particularly with audio. This was the deal-breaker for me; I listen to a lot of high-resolution audio files and require a separate USB or optical digital audio out capable of playing 24-bit audio, but the Roku only does audio out via its single HDMI port, which in my instance runs directly to the TV. Very unfortunate, but I realize I'm a niche market in that regard.

You should definitely give the Roku 3 a try (get the latest-model version as it is slightly more powerful I understand). Combined with Plex it is the best way I could find to do what you're looking to do.
Mankind's only chance is to harness the power of stupid.
     
   
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