HD playback with XBMC & an Acer Aspire Revo

IT

HD playback with XBMC & an Acer Aspire Revo

by Ryan Boyles
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HD playback with XBMC & an Acer Aspire Revo

Until recently, I had been using my PS3 to stream various media to my HDTV. It worked fairly well, but lacked two really key things: A good media center interface and support for some media codecs (mkv, ogm, ogg, some xvid, etc.) So, I decided that if I’m going to replace my PS3 for my media playback needs that I will need to find something that will take care of those two issues as well as be lower power than the PS3. I soon stumbled upon a guide from LifeHacker for building one using Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and an Acer Aspire Revo. After ordering a Revo and going through their guide, I quickly ran into some issues. Stability was a major problems as well as media playback of certain codecs. I looked around the XBMC forums for a bit and discovered that the newest version of XBMC, 9.11, apparently fixes those issues. So, I went about upgrading my little box, but this only caused more issues with stability. I dug deeper, trying to find an answer, when I stumbled onto a small post on their forums pointing out that the standard installation of XBMC works with the Revo without needing to include updated NVidia drivers in the installer. This led to the creation of this guide for installing XBMC 9.11 onto an Acer Aspire Revo for full 1080p playback.

Requirements

  • Computer (duh)
  • HDTV with HDMI input (not required, but what’s the point of 1080p playback without a suitable tv?)
  • Acer Aspire Revo (or other suitable machine)
  • USB drive with atleast 2 GB of space
  • Some basic computer skills

Software Required:

Downlod XBMC Live

For this install, we are going to want to use the Live version of XBMC. This will allow us more flexibility with the Revo as well as use it for booting any machine into XBMC without installing it to the machine.
Navigate here and select the Live version on the far right. After downloading, unzip the file, outputting an iso file.

Install XBMC Live to flashdrive

Since the Revo does not have a disc drive, we’ll need to create an installer that uses a USB flashdrive. Unetbootin will allow us to quickly and easily create a bootable USB drive that the Revo can use to install XBMC.
  1. Open Unetbootin and select the Diskimage button
  2. On the right of the Diskimage, click the … and select the XBMX 9.11 ISO that you downloaded
  3. In the “Drive” selector, select your flash drive.
  4. Click OK. This will let Unetbootin extract files onto the flash drive and make it bootable.
  5. When complete, just close out of Unetbootin.

Preparing the Revo

Now that we have a bootable USB flash drive with XBMC, we need to allocate more memory to the GPU on the Revo so that we can maximize video playback performance.

  1. Plug the USB flash drive into the Revo and turn it on.
  2. Hit the “Delete” key at boot up (labeled “Del” on the included Revo keyboard). This will take us to the BIOS configuration.
  3. Go to the Advanced section and make sure the iGPU memory setting is set to Manual with 256MB selected (Alternatively set it to 512MB, if your machine has 2 or more GB of RAM)
  4. Make sure to Save & Exit the BIOS

Installing XBMC

The Revo is now set with the right amount of graphics memory needed for playback of HD content… Now we just need to install XBMC onto the built-in HDD

  1. Restart the Revo
  2. Press F12 during boot up, and select to boot from the USB drive. It will now boot into XBMC Live that is on the USB flash drive.
  3. Scroll down and select “Install XBMCLive to disk”
  4. After a little bit, this will present you with a list of possible devices to install to. The built-in HDD will be the only option.
  5. Press the number for the built-in HDD. NOTE: This WILL delete the existing Windows partition on the built-in HDD.
  6. Follow the rest of the installer, setting an administrator password, etc. It should all be very straight forward.
  7. After installation, the machine should restart and boot directly into XBMC.

Tweaking XBMC

Now that XBMC is installed on your Revo, there is only one step that remains. We need to tweak XBMC to take advantage of the Revo’s graphics processor via VDPAU (Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix). VDPAU will allow XBMC to offload processing of video onto the Revo’s graphics processor, which is what allows for smooth playback of even full 1080p video. We will also need to adjust the audio output so that XBMC knows to use the Revo’s HDMI port for audio.

Changing Render Method

  1. Go down to the System menu item and press right
  2. Select the Settings option
  3. Scroll to the System item and select it
  4. Scroll to the Video section and then scroll to Playback
  5. Change the render method to “VDPAU”

Changing Audio for HDMI

  1. Scroll to the Audio section
  2. Change the output to Custom and enter “plug:hdmi” as the output type

Finished

Now the Revo is complete and will playback even full 1080p video without issues. Running through with this tutorial, I have not ran into any issues with playing back any media in any codec on my XBMC. For a media source, I use a Intel® Entry Storage System SS4200-E with Windows Home Server (WHS) installed with 5.5 TB of space on it. (if there is any interest, I’ll create a guide for installing WHS to this device) If anyone tries out this guide, let me know how it went for you and if I need to make any adjustments to this guide.

More About the Author

Ryan Boyles

Software Engineer
Checkbox for default program is disabled in Open With Recently, I started running into an issue with Visual Studio, solution files (.sln), and project files (.csproj). For the various ...
HD playback with XBMC & an Acer Aspire Revo HD playback with XBMC & an Acer Aspire Revo Until recently, I had been using my PS3 to stream various media to my HDTV. It worked ...

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