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Cheap tablet for Plex WiFi streaming?

Discussion in 'Home Theater PCs' started by Josh Steinberg, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I know almost nothing about the current crop of tablets.

    I just set up a HTPC running Plex, and on a lark I tried installing the client on an old iPad Mini from 2012ish that my wife got for free ages ago. We’ve never used it for anything else - between our TVs, laptops and iPhones, there just hasn’t been any need for it.

    But lately I’ve been spending more time in our kitchen getting back into cooking, and I thought it might be nice to be able to have a small screen in here that I could use to watch sitcoms and other light entertainment while I’m cooking and cleaning. The iPad mini seemed like the right tool for the job, and in testing the idea, the concept works. I’d rather have a cheap tablet in here vs an expensive laptop (if a $200 toy gets ruined, that sucks - if a $2000 tool gets ruined, that’s a disaster). I have absolutely no desire to use this for any kind of computing or any other apps. I just want to stream stuff that’s already on my Plex server into here.

    Problems I’ve discovered with this specific iPad mini
    a) it’s a little on the small side - it’s workable but something with more real estate would be nicer
    b) it’s from 2012 and it seems to choke on a lot of the content being direct streamed.

    So I guess my question is, should I spring $300+ on whatever the cheapest latest model full sized iPad is, or is there something else that can do this task for less, but that won’t leave me wishing I had spent more for something better/more stable?

    All thoughts and opinions welcome :)
     
  2. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Hi Josh,

    My 3 cents; as you recall in your laptop suggestion thread, I highly recommended the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. I use mine all the time. And I ripped the entire Star Trek series DVDs with handbrake so the files are smaller and placed them all into the iPad for viewing without streaming. But I have streamed from iTunes on it. At 12.9”, it’s a marvelous screen size.

    I know this is a very expensive option. The new iPad 10.2” looks like a really nice option. It’s bigger then the old 9.7”. And if all you want to do is stream, then you could get the base model at 32gb for under $400. Without the sundries. With the sundries, like screen cover and or rear cover protection and keyboard, you’re probably over $400 a bit.

    I only can speak from the 12.9” and 9.7” experience. I do have an iPad Pro 10.5” too and it’s a great little option I carry with me at work.

    I read on it, post to the HTF, do my artwork, and when I travel, I read iBooks or use the Kindle app for books from there. And since it’s capable of using the Apple Pencil, you could draw, paint or scribble on it. And since you are already in the Apple environment, you can stream watch all your iTunes movies. I have the Plex app in my iPad but I still have not set that up yet. I plan to when I have some more free time.

    Again, I know this is a high end. But it seems like Apple has the market on tablets. I don’t even know if any android tablets are around anymore.

    Good luck.
     
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  3. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Thanks for the feedback, Nelson. Yeah, the iPad Pro is far too much for what I want to spend here. For a fraction of that price I could wall mount a smaller, cheap TCL TV with a built in Roku and call it a day. But I was hoping to avoid a wall mount production since I may not be living in this same place a year from now. I’m thinking more in terms of relatively inexpensive, lower cost solutions.
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Samsung Galaxy tablets are pretty decent. You can get an 8-inch model for $200 and a 10-inch model for $230. If you want to go really cheap, there are off-brand Android tablets out there for $100 or less -- although you'll be rolling the dice with those.
     
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  5. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  6. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I hadn’t thought of either - thanks Scott and Pete, will give myself some research homework.
     
  7. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    Maybe something more simple and direct since you already have the Ipad -- attach the Ipad mini to an external monitor or small cheap TV with HDMI port. I think the older Mini Charging Port also would work with Digital AV/HDMI adapter. If you have a small TV or unused monitor already it might make a $50 project


    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202044
     
  8. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Problem is that this older iPad Mini doesn’t seem to support what I’m trying to do - chokes on HD video from Plex, and HD streaming from iTunes purchases. So I don’t think it can be relied on to power anything.

    My kitchen is so tiny that I’d just prefer to avoid a scenario with wires and multiple boxes.
     
  9. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    Sorry about that, I missed or skipped that part of the post originally.
     
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  10. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    No worries David, anything you take the time to post is worth my taking a moment to think about it :)
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    $329 iPad. No need for a Pro for this purpose especially if cost is a priority. Also, use in the kitchen adds a little extra risk of accidents and liquid spills.
    If you’re not in a rush, watch for sales. Last year, iPads dropped to $250 during the holidays.
     
  12. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I agree with Dave, the 32gb 10.2 iPad at $329.00 is a great option and you might get some great deals with Black Friday coming soon.

    I’m still learning about the iOS 13 features on my iPhone X and I like a lot of the improvements. Plus things like lists and reminders and calendar appointments all synch up nicely between iOS devices as you probably know. I still get a kick out of how I can lay the iPad on the table and watch something on it like Poole and Bowman do in 2001.

    Maybe there are good used options and the refurb option is even better as they are under warranty. Maybe you could hint for a holiday gift? :)
     
  13. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I guess I’ll hold out for a sale or a refurb. Kinda bummed if $329 (which after taxes and all that Jazz is probably closer to $400) is the cheapest option. It would still be cheaper to buy a smaller TCL/Roku TV and wall mount it - which is far more trouble than I want.

    I guess I just feel silly spending that much on an iPad that will never be used for anything else. I’ll never use any of the iOS sync features. I’ll never use the camera. I’ll never use it for email or web browsing or messages.

    I saw Amazon has a Fire Tablet and at $150 the price is right, but it doesn’t seem like it supports Plex.

    Maybe the thing I’m looking for doesn’t really exist at the price point and functionality I’m hoping for. Scott’s suggestion of an Android tablet might be the most cost effective but I just don’t know that world at all.
     
  14. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Honestly, Android is very similar to Apple's IOS. If you can use an iPad or iPhone, you can figure out Android. I've been using both for many years -- every smart phone I've owned has run the Android OS.

    Since you will just be using the device to run Plex, it seems unnecessary to spend the premium price for an Apple device. Samsung makes excellent Android devices -- I prefer their phones over all the competition since Motorola was sold to Lenovo. If you shop around, you may even be able to find a refurbished Samsung Galaxy tablet for even less. Amazon has quite a few.
     
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  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    If video streaming is its only purpose, I can't argue with the idea of a $199 8" android tablet dedicated to the kitchen. I have no experience with android tablets but presumably recent Samsung Galaxy Tab devices will run Plex fine.
     
  16. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    That’s great advice, thanks Dave and Scott.

    I’m gonna run all this by my wife and see if she has any interest in using potential tablet (guessing answer is no but never hurts to ask). If she doesn’t have an opinion on it, I’ll start looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

    Although, just thought of this - I do have a good amount of digital stuff in iTunes that’s not in Plex. Maybe I should consider an iPad for ability to access that content as well. The iPad mini choked on streaming CSI episodes I had already purchased on iTunes but I’d probably watch them on it if I could.
     
  17. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    If it might integrate into your Apple ecosystem then the $329 iPad can't be beat. But just as a Plex client, presumably a cheaper android tablet would be good.
     
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  18. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I hadn’t thought about iTunes TV purchases until I wrote that - that might be the thing that pushes me in that direction.
     
  19. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    Yes, that definitely changes things.
     
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  20. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I appreciated you guys for both helping me better understand my options. I think I would have spent three months with decision paralysis otherwise :)
     
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