Good Box for Linux?


Cal J Harris
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Hi I'm in the market for a cheap Linux Bo and from what I see it seems these Android TV boxes are the cheapest.

 

I basically want a system I can just muck around with about, but also one that has working WiFi, can play 1080p video in H264 and H265 and can surf the web/play YouTube without much issue. I'm not interested in the boxes Android capabilities, I'm interested in if it can run a desktop Linux with things above. Essentially Wifi, Hardware decoding of H264/5 video and acceptable video playback on the Internet.

 

Considering a raspberry pi with all the needed things costs more than one of these boxes it is a very nice alternative, but in a sea of a million differently branded boxes which one or which chip is best. I don't really need allot of onboard storage either but the more ram the merrier.

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Armbian is a community driven open source project. Do you like to contribute your code?

There is a reason that the android TV boxes are so cheap.  They generally lack support by the manufacturers for main line linux especially for the items on your must have list (wifi, hardware video decoding/encoding).  In my opinion cheap should not be your deciding factor in what you choose to purchase as you might find that a regular SBC (raspberry pi or other, that has known support of the features you are looking for) may be the best fit and best supported option for you needs.  But if you want to explore and try things out, the android TV boxes are fun to work with, and if you go in understanding that something you want won't work well on the box you end up with, you are approaching these boxes with the right expectations. 

For example I have four different types of boxes and wifi doesn't work on any of them.  But since I primarily use them as servers it works for me to use wired ethernet.

I am sure that boxes exist that meet all of your criteria, but they are not likely to be the cheap boxes and you will need to spend a bit more money to get what you want and spend a lot of time researching.

One final comment about the cheapest boxes is that identically labeled boxes with the same external markings can contain very different internal hardware.  My example is that I have two different TX3 mini's one has emmc for internal storage (which is what it is supposed to have) and the other has nand, unfortunately mainline kernels don't support internal nand storage so I ended up not being able to use the second box in the way I had intended.  But the manufactuer of the second box was able to save a bit of money by using components that cost them less and for most people using these for their intended purpose of Android wouldn't know the difference.

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