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Used laptop specs for hdmi?
#1
I was down at the local pawn store and saw some decent laptops for $150 or $200. Is there any chance I'd be able to repurpose instead of the $500 build recommended here?  I saw one ASUS laptop with unknown processor, but a Windows 8 logo underneath and 4GB of RAM, HDMI port, and USB 3.0 port.

I didn't think to write down the model to look up the specs.  I'm thinking I could hook in a large USB 3 hard drive and replace the OS with Ubuntu.  Is that a bad idea?
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#2
@blindaim, not a bad idea at all. Laptops typically consume about 20Watts of power (similar to a low power home server consumes) and yet they are powerful enough to do a lot of things on demand.

The only caveat is that some latops don't support Linux/Ubuntu well. I have had an ASUS laptop with Ubuntu before. I had wireless issues with it: http://www.htpcbeginner.com/how-to-fix-w...-pangolin/

Ethernet worked great. I also had good success with powerline adapters.

If wireless (N or above) does not work well and if the laptop does not have a gigabit port then USB 2 or 3 wont make a difference for network sharing. In this case your bottleneck becomes your network speed.

Another problem people have encountered is the difficulty of getting audio output through HDMI on Linux systems.

Just a few things to watch out for. These are not a problem for Windows systems.
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#3
Quote:Another problem people have encountered is the difficulty of getting audio output through HDMI on Linux systems.

Ooh, so is that for ASUS laptops or all PCs running Linux in general?
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#4
@blindaim, all PCs running Linux. But I am not saying it won't work. It may need some manual configuration.

You may not be able to test HDMI audio out, but you may use a Linux / Ubuntu Live CD to boot up the laptop and check if everything works in Linux before you buy it. Again, to test hdmi audio out would need a hdmi device to receive audio.
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#5
A live CD is a good idea, since you said it was at a pawn shop a lot depends on how accommodating they are, but if you walked in with a live CD and an HDMI cable they would probably let you hook up to one of the TVs there to test it out and see if it'll work.

My first media center system was a laptop that I had gotten for free because it had a broken screen. I just removed the screen and used the VGA out to set it up and the s-video out to my TV (pre HDMI days). They're well suited to the task, especially since you don't need a lot of the portability options. Another thing to think about is that depending on the model you may be able to boot off an SD card instead of the internal harddrive. With laptops the three things that tend to fail most often are the harddrive, the screen or the motherboard. So if you keep an eye out for broken laptops there's a good chance that one persons "broken" is perfectly usable for your needs.
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