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Need a smart TV but don’t have the budget? While there’s a good chance that you already own hardware that can make your TV “smart” Save Money on a Smart TV with These More Affordable Options Save Money on a Smart TV with These More Affordable Options Read More , one low-budget piece of kit can make all the difference.

Yes, it’s the Raspberry Pi. Although it has some limitations The Raspberry Pi Home Theater: What You Can And Cannot Do The Raspberry Pi Home Theater: What You Can And Cannot Do If you’ve been following our recent articles about the Raspberry Pi, you’ll know that it can be set up as a media streaming client with a dedicated XBMC build and you should also be aware... Read More , the Pi can be used to make your TV smart.

Raspberry PI 3 Model B 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM Raspberry PI 3 Model B 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1 GB RAM Buy Now At Amazon $34.00

5 Things a Smart TV Should Offer

Before getting down to the “how,” consider the “what.” If your Raspberry Pi can substitute the functionality of a smart TV — thereby making a so-called dumb TV into a smart TV — what should you expect from it?

smart tv bluray

  1. The ability to play media from a USB storage device or external HDD. This is possible via a USB port on smart TVs. On the Raspberry Pi, you should have a USB port spare to do the same.
  2. Video streaming from online sites like Netflix and YouTube. The Chromium browser for the Raspberry Pi is capable of playing the Netflix library, as long as you have a Netflix subscription.
  3. Remote control from a mobile device. If you’re using Kodi on your Raspberry Pi, for instance, this can be set up with a client app on your Android or iPhone to control the software remotely.
  4. News and weather. A smart TV should be able to pull news and weather data and present it to you when you switch on the television.
  5. PVR support. If you need to record a TV show, this should be possible via an external storage device. A Raspberry Pi can do this with a USB TV card.

While not all of these features are possible with all Raspberry Pi smart TV projects, they’re certainly available in the most popular option: Kodi.

1. Use Kodi to Build a Media Center

If you haven’t already seen Kodi on an Android device or an Amazon Fire Stick — or even your game console — then now is the time to try it out.

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Several Kodi images are available for the Raspberry Pi, each offering largely the same experience:

How you install these depends on your experience level. LibreElec is available as an option in the NOOBS tool, for example, making it the simplest installation. Alternatively, you can download your preferred image and write it to your Pi’s microSD card.

openelec

Installing an operating system on a Raspberry Pi How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi Here's how to get a new OS installed and running on your Pi – and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More differs on Windows to how it might be done on Linux How to Set Up a Raspberry Pi in Linux How to Set Up a Raspberry Pi in Linux Setting up a Raspberry Pi need not be difficult, even if you use don't use Windows. Today we show you how it's done in Linux. Read More . MacOS is similarly straightforward Getting Started With Raspberry Pi On The Mac Getting Started With Raspberry Pi On The Mac Apple users can get in on the Raspberry Pi game pretty easily, but there are a few different ways to image a microSD card using your Mac. Read More .

It’s also worth mentioning that Kodi is installed as part of the RecalBox retro gaming center project. Oh, and you can also install Kodi manually:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi

Once installed, you’ll be able to access video and audio content from across the internet, using add-ons. These are apps that present content of your choice. For instance, Kodi features a YouTube add-on. Remember, however, that some add-ons are illegal What Are Kodi Boxes and Is It Legal to Own One? What Are Kodi Boxes and Is It Legal to Own One? With Kodi boxes becoming increasingly popular, we set out to explain what Kodi boxes are and offer you a definitive answer on their legality. Read More . For the best results, stick to those available from the official Kodi add-on repository.

Kodi also offers weather reporting, so you can check whether you’re missing sunshine while browsing YouTube.

2. Stream Media Across Your Network With RasPlex

An alternative to Kodi, RasPlex enables you to stream media across your home network. This is done in a client-server relationship, using your Raspberry Pi as a client, and Plex as the server.

plex server

For the server, you’ll need a PC running Windows, Mac, Linux or FreeBSD. If you don’t have a PC or laptop, a NAS box 10 Reasons Why You Should Store Your Data on a FreeNAS Box 10 Reasons Why You Should Store Your Data on a FreeNAS Box Which company should you entrust your sensitive data to? Want to access your media across all your devices anywhere in the world? Here's why FreeNAS might be the right pick for you. Read More (with an x86 or x64 type CPU rather than an ARM processor) will do. The lack of ARM support for the server is why you cannot run the Plex Media Server directly on the Raspberry Pi.

The RasPlex software is installed using its own custom microSD card writing software, which can be downloaded from the website.

Once everything is setup on your PC/NAS and your Raspberry Pi, you’ll be able to browse for and watch TV shows and movies on your TV. Pretty smart!

See our full guide to installing RasPlex on your Raspberry Pi The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex Read More for the full details.

3. Stream Media From Your Android Device

One popular low-cost approach to making your dumb TV smart is to use a Google Chromecast How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast If you own a brand new Chromecast but have no idea how to use it, let our easy-to-follow guide help you get started in mere minutes. Read More . But if you own a Raspberry Pi, you don’t even need to go this far!

Google Chromecast works in much the same way as Miracast and other wireless HDMI technologies. Simply, an app window or entire mobile desktop is streamed wirelessly to a TV. From here, apps can be run, games played in big screen mode, video streamed, etc.

Raspberry Pi users can use the MiracleCast on Raspberry Pi 3 project to get a similar result. Once set up, it’s possible to cast the display of your Android phone or tablet to your TV!

Or for a more straightforward implementation, take a look at the Raspicast app on Google Play.

4. Build a Total Smart TV With PiTV

So far we’ve skirted around the smart TV dynamic. If you’re looking for something that delivers a typical smart TV experience, complete with an interface display, weather, date, and time, then the PiTV is your solution.

Requiring a bunch of applications (Chromium, omxplayer, a YouTube downloader, and more), this project by Donald Derek is quite in-depth, and has been tested on models up to the Raspberry Pi 2 5 Things Only a Raspberry Pi 2 Can Do 5 Things Only a Raspberry Pi 2 Can Do The latest edition of the pint-sized computer is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that there's 5 things you can only do on a Raspberry Pi 2. Read More . Node.js and Socket.io are employed for server-side scripting and ensuring you have a working remote control.

Running on Raspbian, in theory it should be possible to use with Kodi with this set up via the instructions at the start of this list. With such a slick user interface, the Raspberry PiTV project is one you’ll definitely want to take a look at.

What’s Your Favorite Raspberry Pi Smart TV Solution?

If you own a Raspberry Pi, it’s pretty likely that at some point you’ve used it as a smart TV. After all, the various Kodi ports are some of the most popular disk images beyond Raspbian. And if you’re using a Raspberry Pi 3 The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth The Raspberry Pi 3: Faster, Better, with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Today, the Raspberry Pi foundation announced the release of the Raspberry Pi 3. It's the most significant update to the popular line of low-cost computers yet. Read More , you’re going to enjoy one of the best Kodi experiences available.

And if that isn’t what you want, the PiTV project brings the complete smart TV experience to the Raspberry Pi. Easy to set up, we’re surprised it isn’t more popular!

Have you got a project you’ve developed or spotted one we’ve overlooked? Share your links below in the comments.

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  1. KwaK
    August 31, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Out of curiosity, how about the remote control? I'm about to dive into this and remote control seems to be the only part I'm in the dark with. Anyone got good suggestions on a simple solution for a Raspberry Pi (preferably compatible with model 3) which would allow a simplified "TV remote" to be used, or an easy to understand Android app. Having full sized keyboard and mouse support is nice to have for a miniaturized HTPC ... but it becomes a hurdle when you have to teach "Computer 101" to the elderly or have to interrupt your flow of work because the cartoon the kids were watching suddenly "disappeared" somewhere because someone accidentally (or out of curiosity) clicked on the "minimize" or "cycle desktops" button.

    • KwaK
      August 31, 2017 at 6:54 am

      Clarification - not necessarily looking for a IR adapter and some linux-based OS disrto software that let's you use pretty much any remote control. Just looking for something preferably cheap and simple to hook up to Pi. Other than that, I'm sure VNC and SSH will suffice for fixing or maintenance of such a media box.

      • Mike F
        September 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm

        You've got several remote control options. If your TV has full CEC remote support, the Raspberry Pi can use your TV's own remote. Or, with Kodi, you can use Kore or Yatse remote apps. Kodi also offers web-based remote controls natively with add-ons, so you can use your phone's web browser if you don't want to install another app. Or you can buy an inexpensive Bluetooth remote. There are some really good ones that have both standard remote functions as well as mini keyboards and trackpads for full computer-like experience in a small, handheld remote.

  2. Phate
    August 30, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    You can run plex server on a pi. Mine run on my pi3 pretty well

  3. Rajkumar
    August 30, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Fire stick will reduce the hassle to nil. @ 40 bucks
    But for hard experience rasppi is necessary to oil the grey matter.

    • Nicolas
      September 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      and avoid the bloated crapware and other pernicious spyware slipped in by these big corporations :) No gray matter involved in that decision making.