A while back I promised to keep my HTPC series of posts updated, but I didn’t have a chance to live up to that promise. Work has been busy with a new exciting project, and then life also happened!
I’ll try my best to maintain a steady stream of posts over the coming weeks. Starting with this one: Raspberry Pi as a Home Theatre PC. It’s decent, and above all, it’s cheap!
A Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It’s mainly being used by researchers because of the low cost, but also by some very creative people who use it to create automatic garage door openers, attach it to a weather balloon to do measurements and so on. If you want to see some véry creative projects, head on over to ArsTechnica and see some of the most creative concoctions created with a Raspberry Pi!
However, I had a different idea for the RP: use it as a Media Center at home! I wanted to install an XBMC media center in my bedroom, since I’m tired of watching movies and shows on my tablet. Since the Pi uses almost no power (it can be plugged into a USB port of your TV, it doesn’t need an extra power source) it would be a cheap way to achieve this…
Building the Pi in 3.14 minutes
There aren’t much components you need. I assembled my Raspberry Pi with the following components:
- Raspberry Pi B+ model (most recent model)
- 8GB SD Card (this is where you install the OS)
- Wireless dongle (the Pi supports an ethernet connection, but I wanted to go wireless so I had to buy a separate dongle)
- Transparent B+ case
- Power cable
- HDMI Cable
I have to admit, the Raspberry Pi is by far the easiest PC I ever put together. It literally took me only a couple of minutes to assemble all components and have it up and running!
Installing the Media Center software wasn’t that hard either. Time to give this bad boy a try…
As I indicated above: the Pi uses very little power. Therefore I plugged it into my TV’s USB port and hooked up the HDMI cable from the Pi to my TV. The great thing about the HDMI interface is that the Pi is being controlled through this cable as well:
I don’t have to start up the Pi myself. As soon as I power on my TV, the Pi detects it needs to start, which it does. I don’t need a separate remote to control it either, your HDMI cable transmits the buttons you push on your TV remote down to the Pi. In layman’s terms: you use the TV remote to control the Pi (note: your TV needs to support HDMI-CEC, although practically all TV’s support this the last couple of years).
I have to admit, the little thing cost me only 70 euros. It runs a full version of XBMC which connects to my home network and allows me to watch my whole video library, stream music to it, watch my pictures on it, and so much more. Furthermore, it does so via WiFi and while using a single remote. This means no extra cables or remotes which clutter the room 🙂
Now there is a downsize the the RP too: it isn’t a very powerful computer, so don’t expect to use it to be a replacement for your laptop or home computer. It runs a very tiny Linux version with Media Center software specifically created for it. Don’t expect it to do anything else.
But if all you want is a Media Center which simply works, you might want to consider this tiny piece of hardware!
I have to say, I’m impressed.