HOW TO: Build the Ultimate Media Player for Under $50


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Our Verdict

Raspberry Pi


Raspberry Pi is an almost perfect single-board computer which can be turned into an awesome media center

 
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The Raspberry Pi is one of the most exciting things to happen to computing in a long time.

The Pi is essentially a low powered credit-card sized $35 microcomputer that plugs into your desktop monitor or television via the onboard HDMI port. The new model, Pi 2, offers ample computing power for the money with a quad core processor and 1GB of RAM.

You can hook up a regular mouse and keyboard and just use the Pi as a low-cost desktop computer for browsing the web, word processing and watching HD video. Or you can be a bit more adventurous and turn the Pi into a retro arcade console – there are literally dozens of ready-made Raspberry Pi projects that you can get up and running with just a few clicks.

 The Pi 2 can turn into a full fledged media centre

 The Pi 2 can turn into a full fledged media centre that enables you to play your personal curated collection of music, TV shows and movies.

However, where the Pi 2 really comes into its own is as a full fledged media centre that enables you to play your personal curated collection of music, TV shows and movies. We’re not talking about just any run of the mill media player either. With the help of the Linux based OpenELEC platform, the Pi 2 can run the most powerful and infinitely configurable media player on the planet, Kodi (formerly known as XBMC).

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to get Kodi setup on your Pi 2 in under 15 minutes.

Things you’ll need

Rasberry Pi circuit board

Besides the circuit board, there are a few additional things you will need before you can get started.

Remember with Raspberry Pi 2, all you’re getting out of the box is the circuit board so there’s a few additional things you will need before you can get started. The good news is that most of these are fairly common inexpensive items so chances are you will have most of these lying around anyway.

  • A 5 volt micro-USB cord capable of drawing at least 1200mA from the wall. Any micro-USB tablet charger should work just fine.
  • A USB keyboard and mouse initially for setup. Thereafter, use your smartphone with the Kodi remote app installed.
  • A microSD card of at least 4GB – 8GB or higher recommended. Greater storage will give you more flexibility to install additional add-ons and a larger cache for video.
  • A HDMI cable.
  • A monitor or television to connect to.
  • An Ethernet cable or USB Wi-Fi adapter. Wired Ethernet is recommended for optimal performance especially if you plan on streaming large video files over your network.
  • (Optional) A case to shelter the exposed board to avoid potentially damaging it. You can pick up the official one for about $10. There’s also plenty of after-market options such as the sleek and stylish Flirc case.
FLIRC case
Ideally, you should use a case to shelter the exposed board and avoid damage.

Install Kodi on your Pi 2

First thing you’ll need to do is download the latest build of OpenELEC from their website http://openelec.tv/get-openelec. You’ll need to scroll down to ‘RaspberryPi Builds’ > ‘ARMv7 Builds’.

OpenELEC Downloads page
First off, download the lastest build of Open ELEC

Once that’s done, do the following on your Windows PC:

win32diskimager
Then, you need to Run the Win32DiskImager
  1. Extract the downloaded image using 7zip.
  2. Insert the microSD card into your PC. It should appear as a new drive letter.
  3. Run Win32DiskImager.
  4. Hit the browse folder icon and select the image file that you just downloaded.
  5. Verify the destination drive letter is correct under Device, then click write.
  6. Once completed, eject the microSD card from your PC and plug it into the Pi.
  7. Plug in your keyboard via the onboard USB port and turn on the Pi.
  8. Follow Kodi’s brief setup screen.

Mac users should follow the installation steps outlined here (note that it requires use of the command line).

Configure Kodi

Kodi will scan your library of content

Kodi will scan your library of content, pulling relevant metadata and cover art.

  1. From Kodi’s main interface navigate to VIDEOS > Files > Add videos > Browse. Select your network drive or USB drive that contains your media and select OK.
  2. Kodi will now scan your library of content, pulling relevant metadata and cover art. Depending on the size of your library, this might take a few minutes.
  3. Change your settings level to expert by going to SYSTEM > SETTINGS. Scroll all the way down to the bottom and highlight the SETTINGS LEVEL: Standard. Press enter on the keyboard or OK on the remote until it shows SETTINGS LEVEL: Expert.
  4. If you have your television connected to an AVR then be sure to change the audio output to 5.1 or 7.1 as Kodi will be configured to two channel stereo by default. Go to SYSTEM > SETTINGS > Audio output > scroll right to Audio Channels. Next, check ‘Enable passthrough’. Also enable Dolby Digital (AC3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC3), DTS, TrueHD, DTS-HD if your AVR supports it.

Remote control options

There are several remote control options available for Kodi

There are different remote control options available for Kodi. There are a lot of different remote control options available for Kodi. If your TV supports CEC (most HDTVs do) then you can simply use your TV remote to navigate Kodi which is handy if you plan on sharing the Pi powered Kodi viewing experience with family members.

For the best experience, I would recommend downloading the ‘Official Kodi Remote’ app for your iOS or Android smartphone which not only acts a full featured remote control but also allows you to browse your library of content (complete with cover art) directly from your smartphone. And since it operates over Wi-Fi, you won’t need to worry about direct line of sight limitations normally associated with regular infrared remotes.

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