- Acer AspireRevo — This is a $250 nettop with an Intel Atom 230 processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB SATA hard drive, and an Nvidia ION LE graphics chip. The Nvidia ION is the important part here, as it’s powerful enough to handle HD playback.
- XBMC Live ISO — I used the XBMCFreak LiveCD, an optimized version of XBMC Live for NVIDIA users.
- Unetbootin — To create a bootable USB flash drive with the XBMC ISO.
- a USB flash drive with at least 2GB of space
- HDTV with HDMI input, of course
Download XBMC Live
XBMC Live is the XBMC Media Center with an embedded operating system (Linux distro). As mentioned above, I went with the XBMCFreak LiveCD but the official release is here. Download the file, unzip it to get at the iso file.
Install XBMC Live to USB flash drive
The Revo does not have a disc drive, so we’ll need to create an installer that uses a USB flash drive. Get Unetbootin and give it the XBMC iso, it will extract the files onto the flash drive and make it bootable.
Prep the Revo
Allocate more memory to the GPU to maximize video playback performance. In the system BIOS, go to the Advanced Chipset Features menu and set the frame buffer size to 256MB. Save and exit the BIOS.
Install XBMC to hard drive
- Plug in the flash drive and reboot the computer
- Press F12 during boot and select to boot from the flash drive
- Select “Install XBMC Live to disk”
- Choose “Guided – entire disk”
- Let the install finish, the rest of it should be pretty straightforward
- The machine will turn itself off after the install is complete
XBMC should boot up directly from the hard drive now. We’ll need to tweak XBMC to take advantage of the graphics processor via VDPAU — this allows XBMC to offload video processing to the graphics processor so you regular processor isn’t tied up. Enable this in Settings > Video > Playback, find the “Render Method” option and set it to VDPAU.
We’ll also need to adjust the audio output to use HDMI and, in my case, tell it that the receiver is not AC3-capable. Head over to Settings > Audio, and set the “Audio output device” to to hdmi, the “Passthrough output device” to hdmi, enable “Downmix multichannel audio to stereo,” and disable “Dolby Digital (AC3) capable receiver.”
That’s it, the Revo is finished, though you might have to play around with the video resolution or the zoom settings on the skin, depending on your TV. In my case, video playback was fine but the XBMC menus overlapped the edges of the screen, so I had to set the skin to zoom out about 8%.
My next step will be to prep my media collection in order to get XBMC to correctly identify everything. By default, XBMC can scan your library and scrape the internet to pull info (and DVD art, album art, fan art, etc) about your media. But it’s better practice to use a media manager to write nfo files into the individual folders that the media is stored in, so if your XBMC installation gets corrupted you can quickly rebuild your database. I’ll be looking at different media management apps in the next little while.