DIY Entertainment

The 5 Best Raspberry Pi Smart TV Projects We’ve Seen

Christian Cawley Updated 23-04-2020

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”, one low-budget piece of kit can make all the difference.

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For under $50 you can turn a dumb TV into a smart TV with a Raspberry Pi. Here’s what you need to know about building your own Raspberry Pi streaming TV box.

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5 Things a DIY Smart TV Should Offer

Before getting down to the “how,” consider the “what.”

Your Raspberry Pi can substitute the functionality of a smart TV, making a so-called dumb TV into a smart TV. So, what should you expect from it?

  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 can play the Netflix library, or you can install a Kodi add-on for Netflix.
  3. Remote control from a mobile device. Kodi can be set up with a client app on your smartphone to control the software remotely. Otherwise, an infrared, Bluetooth, or wireless remote control can be setup, with a companion USB dongle connected to the Pi.
  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, connect a USB TV card and hard disk drive.

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

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1. Build a Raspberry Pi Streaming Box With Kodi

OSMC running on a Raspberry Pi Zero
Image credit: David Marsh via Flickr

If you haven’t already seen Kodi in action, now is the time to try it out. 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 one of several operating systems available in the Raspberry Pi NOOBS installer, making it the simplest installation. Alternatively, you can download your preferred image and write it to your Pi’s microSD card.

Kodi can also be installed as part of other projects, such as a RecalBox retro gaming center Install RecalBox on Your Raspberry Pi for Retro Gaming With Style We'll show you how to set up RecalBox on a Raspberry Pi 3 and why you should bother, even if you already have a RetroPie setup. Read More . Or you can also install Kodi manually:

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sudo apt update

sudo apt install kodi

Once installed, add-ons let you access video and audio content from across the internet. These are apps that present content of your choice. For instance, Kodi features a YouTube add-on.

Beware, however: as some add-ons are illegal, you should 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 Plex

plex library

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An alternative to Kodi, Plex enables you to stream media across your home network. This client-server dynamic uses your Raspberry Pi as a client and a system running Plex as the server.

For the server, you’ll need a PC (Windows, macOS, or Linux), or a NAS box. You can even install the Plex server on a Raspberry Pi How to Turn a Raspberry Pi Into a Plex Media Server Here's how to install Plex server on a Raspberry Pi, configure it, and start streaming movies, TV shows, music, and more. Read More .

The RasPlex client software is installed with custom microSD card writing software, using the tool on the RasPlex website.

Download: RasPlex client

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Once everything is set up, your Raspberry Pi Plex box will stream TV shows and movies to your TV. Pretty smart!

See our detailed guide to installing Plex client on your Raspberry Pi for the full details.

3. KDE Plasma Bigscreen: Open Source Raspberry Pi 4 Smart TV

Employing a modified KDE Neon distribution, this Raspberry Pi implementation of Plasma Bigscreen features Mycroft AI and libcec. So, as well as a smart TV, you get voice control (Mycroft) and compatibility with your TV’s existing remote (libcec).

As an open project, you can set up your own smart TV without worrying about privacy or censorship.

At the time of writing, the Big Screen apps are limited to YouTube, Soundcloud, and BitChute. Despite this, it’s worth checking out—building a Raspberry Pi smart TV has never been so easy.

Download: KDE Plasma Bigscreen

4. Cast Media From Android to Your Raspberry Pi TV

One popular low-cost approach to making your dumb TV smart is to use a Google Chromecast. 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.

Or for a more straightforward implementation, take a look at the Raspicast app on Google Play. Once you’ve done that, check our guide to setting up a Raspberry Pi Chromecast How to Make Your Own DIY Chromecast With a Raspberry Pi Want to save a bit of cash on a Chromecast? Here's how to make a DIY Chromecast with a Raspberry Pi and a mobile app. Read More .

You’ll be streaming media from your phone to your TV via a Raspberry Pi in minutes!

5. Android TV on Raspberry Pi

Turn your Raspberry Pi into an Android TV box

A final option is to abandon standard Raspbian-based Raspberry Pi distros and opt for Android instead.

With Android installed on your Raspberry Pi, you can then configure the operating system to play media files through your TV. It’s like having a big-screen version of Android in your home!

Android TV is a version of Android designed for set-top boxes, but you don’t need this for the Raspberry Pi. Follow our guide to installing Android TV on Raspberry Pi How to Build an Android TV Box With a Raspberry Pi Want to cut the cord and save money on TV? Build your own Android TV box! Here's how to install Android TV on a Raspberry Pi. Read More  and go from there.

While you can’t build a Roku box with a Raspberry Pi, Android TV is the next thing.

5 Ways to Build a Raspberry Pi Smart TV Solution

If you own a Raspberry Pi, it’s 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 4, you’re going to enjoy one of the best Kodi experiences available.

We’ve looked at five options for a Raspberry Pi smart TV build:

  1. Kodi
  2. Plex
  3. Plasma Bigscreen
  4. Chromecast substitute
  5. Android TV on Raspberry Pi

Happy just using Kodi? Here’s how to set up a Raspberry Pi Smart TV with Netflix, Amazon VOD, and Plex How to Watch Netflix, Amazon Video, and Plex With Raspberry Pi Here's how to watch Netflix, Amazon Video, and Plex on your Raspberry Pi to turn it into a legal streaming media center! Read More .

Related topics: Chromecast, DIY Project Ideas, Kodi, Plex, Raspberry Pi, Smart TV.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Steve
    November 26, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    RasPlex won't run on the 3 B+ so that option is out for me until they update it.

  2. Aarif A. Ahnaf
    July 6, 2018 at 8:05 am

    First of all, thanks to the author who is sharing this beautiful text with us. I have benefited greatly from reading this post. I hope to publish such a good post again on your website. Anyway, I liked Stream Media Across Your Network With RasPlex and it has done a lot of great work.
    best internet tv software

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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.