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Raspberry Pi HTPC? Is it even a good idea?

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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 03:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Right now I'm using a 2008 Gateway brand Desktop for my HTPC. Its running windows 7. I mainly just watch movie files I have on the hard drive, but occasionally I'll watch netflix using their plugin for Windows Media Center. Sometimes I'll play some music on it, when I'm cleaning house. From time to time I will also use Firefox to check something on the web real quick. So any replacement would need to be able to do those 4 tasks. This computer does the job well, but is bulky.

So I would like to find a VERY inexpensive replacement, and since everyone seems to be using a Raspberry Pi for everything these days, I figured I would ask if its up to this task. Not sure if it is, due to the 1080p video requirement. Right now that is being handled by a GTX-620 video card. Also, I'd like it to have some form of on screen keyboard. Can the RP handle all of this? And what OS should I install on the PI to do all these things? To sum up, the pi would need to be able to:

1. Play back 1080p video files

2. Play music

3. Browse and watch netflix

4. Be able to connect to my wifi (I have no cable running to the computer now, it just uses a wifi card)

5. Play music

6. Use Firefox and have an onscreen keyboard

7. Use a wireless mouse


Good idea, or bad idea?

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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 04:50 AM
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I tried setting up KODI on a Pi 2. Everything was pretty slow, especially navigating the menu system. I ended up just sticking with an actual HTPC (MrDVR in sig).

BTW, I use a Logitech K400 keyboard. Small, light, functional and has a built in touchpad.

If you're going to dump on someone's ideas, at least have some good ones of your own.
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 04:53 AM
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I've been using the Raspberry Pi for years since the orignal has been released. Generally, it's a excellent HTPC but you do need to be aware of somethings. It largely depends on what operating system you use. For a HTPC, you will want to use OSMC or OpenELEC which both run Kodi out of the box and are excellent with a buttery smooth 60FPS on the menus. If you want a more desktop like environment, then something like Raspbian will be best.

1) It can easily handle 1080p video. The original Pi was able to and the newer 2/3 will handle it without breaking a sweat. On my Pi 2, both CPU and GPU usage are surprisingly low when playing a full 1080p movie.

2) It can play music.

3) Netflix is a bit of a tricky one. I have never used the service but as far as I'm aware it is not capable of using Netflix, though don't quote me on that. There may or may not be a plugin to use it, though it's not official.

4) The newest Raspberry Pi 3 has WiFi/Bluetooth built in. The older ones can connect to WiFi via a USB adapter.

5) It can play music.

6) No support for Firefox unless you choose the Ubuntu Mate OS (which is bulky and at times slow). The official distribution, Raspbian, has a browser which is fairly light weight though at times slow and is not as capable as Firefox.

7) It largely depends on what wireless mouse you use. The majority of them should work and I have used a few with no issues.

Having used both a PC and a Raspberry Pi as a HTPC, I personally prefer the Raspberry given it's small size, power consumption and silent operation although all I use it for is to stream media from my desktop to the raspberry on the TV.

If you already have a capable HTPC PC and are able to fit it somewhere, it's probably not worth buying a Raspberry.
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 08:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twirlz View Post

I've been using the Raspberry Pi for years since the orignal has been released. Generally, it's a excellent HTPC but you do need to be aware of somethings. It largely depends on what operating system you use. For a HTPC, you will want to use OSMC or OpenELEC which both run Kodi out of the box and are excellent with a buttery smooth 60FPS on the menus. If you want a more desktop like environment, then something like Raspbian will be best.



6) No support for Firefox unless you choose the Ubuntu Mate OS (which is bulky and at times slow). The official distribution, Raspbian, has a browser which is fairly light weight though at times slow and is not as capable as Firefox.

7) It largely depends on what wireless mouse you use. The majority of them should work and I have used a few with no issues.

Having used both a PC and a Raspberry Pi as a HTPC, I personally prefer the Raspberry given it's small size, power consumption and silent operation although all I use it for is to stream media from my desktop to the raspberry on the TV.

If you already have a capable HTPC PC and are able to fit it somewhere, it's probably not worth buying a Raspberry.


Hmm... yeah the no FF bit may be a deal breaker. Not sure. As long as you can search google, and go to gmail, and perhaps bookmark a web page, then I should be fine on their little oem browser. However, that does make me wonder if a more capable OS might be a better idea. What was that linux distro that was supposed to focus on being very lightweight... was it Mint?

Or perhaps windows XP?

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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 08:43 AM
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Why not just build a tiny PC like i did? Cost me 100 bucks total.

http://www.microcenter.com/product/430774/Athlon_5350_2GHz_Socket_AM1Boxed_Processor
http://www.microcenter.com/product/446589/AM1B-ITX_AM1_Sockets_A_-_E_Quad_Core_mITX_AMD_Motherboard (free bundled with CPU)
http://www.amazon.com/Linkworld-Electronic-Home-Theater-Media/dp/B0077635W0?ie=UTF8&psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820156044&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-PCPartPicker,%20LLC-_-na-_-na-_-na&cm_sp=&AID=10446076&PID=3938566&SID=

Gonna cost you 30-40 more if you dont live near microcenter but thats still under 150 bucks.

This will do all you want and more. Only stutter ive found is playing 4k youtube videos in chrome but edge is better, everything at 1080p it does not flinch at.

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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 09:44 AM
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Netflix is working on switching to HTMl5 for there DRM so it's possible to work for Linux in the future, I believe right now it kinda works if you use chrome. About Firefox, you should be able to use that on any distro with the pi besides openelec. It sounds like one of the Amazon fire sticks would be good for you, they can do everything besides have a web browser. Although they might I've never looked or heard if they do.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 09:58 AM
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I'll agree with cones on most of that but I personally would spring for the full size Fire. I have a Firestick and am less than impressed with how choppy Netflix and Hulu can be on it. Wifi signal is fine and the picture is clear, it just isn't smooth as it should be at times. I also have a RPi3 and can vouch for wifi, wireless mice and keyboards all working well on it. Have not tried running 1080p video out onto a tv yet though as I've been using the official 7" touchscreen only. It works great with that but no go on firefox. I use the Iceweasel browser and can get to anywhere I need to be with that so far. I'm not sure I'd use it as my go to HTPC. Personally, my feelings are if you already do Amazon Prime and also subscribe to Netflix or Hulu just go with the FireTV box. You won't regret it.
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhotonFanatic View Post

Hmm... yeah the no FF bit may be a deal breaker. Not sure. As long as you can search google, and go to gmail, and perhaps bookmark a web page, then I should be fine on their little oem browser. However, that does make me wonder if a more capable OS might be a better idea. What was that linux distro that was supposed to focus on being very lightweight... was it Mint?

Or perhaps windows XP?

Yeah the default browser is capable of all the basics. Sadly the Raspberry cannot run desktop Linux distributions, only ones which have been developed specifically for the device. Most of which can be found here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/

The best OS for HTPC is either OpenELEC or OSMC but sadly they don't have browsers. Raspbian does, but it does not have a HTPC style interface. I'm pretty sure you can put Kodi (the HTPC user interface) ontop of Rasbian, but the performance wont be great.
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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Cavey00 View Post

I'll agree with cones on most of that but I personally would spring for the full size Fire. I have a Firestick and am less than impressed with how choppy Netflix and Hulu can be on it. Wifi signal is fine and the picture is clear, it just isn't smooth as it should be at times. I also have a RPi3 and can vouch for wifi, wireless mice and keyboards all working well on it. Have not tried running 1080p video out onto a tv yet though as I've been using the official 7" touchscreen only. It works great with that but no go on firefox. I use the Iceweasel browser and can get to anywhere I need to be with that so far. I'm not sure I'd use it as my go to HTPC. Personally, my feelings are if you already do Amazon Prime and also subscribe to Netflix or Hulu just go with the FireTV box. You won't regret it.

I have three fire tv sticks and one 4k box, I can't say the TV sticks really ever get choppy. Maybe once in a blue moon will it stutter, but that doesn't happen often. Plus I stream everything on 5ghz. I also have Kodi sideloaded and it works great for all my local media.


Amazon Prime is a great service, and the Fire TV devices are the best way to get Prime Content. It also has the same interface everyone knows and loves on the consoles and most TVs.


Though I did have to modify one of my fire TV sticks with heatsinks because it was overheating. This can happen with some sticks, and it is recommended to just send it in. But I didn't want to go through the trouble when I could toss a couple of RAM heatsinks on the thing. Never had a issue after that.


I would easily get a fire tv stick over the Pi.

As either way you are going to be using Kodi, might as well get the legit Netflix and prime apps.
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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-05-2016, 06:06 PM
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Why would you buy a fire tv over building a HTPC? Forget my case suggestion go here:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129185

Bit more expensive but you can fit a legit PC inside of it. Windows 10 installs only limit you to wallpaper customization and a water mark which im personally ok with. For well under 200 bucks you can build a legit PC that can do leaps and bounds ahead of what a fire tv can (steam in home streaming, a blu ray player, file torrenting with a VPN list goes on and on).

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