Need a smart TV but no budget? While there’s a good chance you already have the hardware that can make your TV smart, one low-budget kit can make all the difference.

Yes, it’s the Raspberry Pi, a versatile minicomputer that can do everything from learning how to code to smart TV.

5 things a smart TV has to offer

Before jumping to the «how», think about the «what». If your Raspberry Pi can replace smart TV functionality, turning a so-called dumb TV into a smart TV, what can you expect from it?

Applications for Smart TV

  1. Ability to play media from a USB stick or external hard drive. This is possible through the USB port on Smart TVs. On a Raspberry Pi, you must have a spare USB port to do the same.
  2. Stream video from online sites such as Netflix and YouTube. The Chromium browser for Raspberry Pi can play the Netflix library, or you can install the Kodi add-on for Netflix.
  3. Remote control from a mobile device. For example, if you’re using Kodi on your Raspberry Pi, this can be set up using a client app on your Android or iPhone to control the software remotely. Otherwise, you can set up an infrared, Bluetooth, or wireless remote control with an optional USB dongle connected to it.
  4. News and weather. A smart TV should be able to receive news and weather data and present it to you when you turn on the TV.
  5. PVR support. If you need to record a TV show, connect a USB TV card and a hard drive.

While these features are not possible on all Raspberry Pi smart TV projects, they are certainly available on the most popular option: Kodi.

1. Use Kodi to Create a Media Center

OSMC runs on Raspberry Pi Zero
Image Credit: David Marsh via Flickr

If you haven’t seen Kodi on an Android device, Amazon Fire Stick, or even a game console yet, now is the time to try it out.

There are several Kodi images available for the Raspberry Pi, each offering pretty much the same experience:

  • Openelec
  • LibreElec
  • CMSN

How you install them depends on your level of experience. LibreElec is one of several operating systems available in the NOOBS tool. for example, making it the easiest install. Alternatively, you can download your preferred image and burn it to your Pi’s microSD card.

Kodi can also be installed as part of the retro game center project Or you can also install Kodi manually:

sudo apt update sudo apt install kodi 

Once installed, you will be able to access video and audio content over the Internet using add-ons. These are applications that present content of your choice. For example, Kodi has a YouTube add-on. Remember, however, that since some add-ons are illegal, you should stick to the ones available in the official Kodi add-on repository.

Kodi also offers weather reports so you can check if you’re missing sunlight while watching YouTube.

2. Stream media across your network with Plex

Plex Media Software on Raspberry Pi

RasPlex, a Kodi alternative, allows you to stream media over your home network. This dynamic client/server uses your Raspberry Pi as the client and Plex as the server.

For the server, you will need a PC (Windows, macOS or Linux) or NAS. You can even install a Plex server on your Raspberry Pi

The RasPlex software is installed using proprietary microSD card recording software using the tool on the RasPlex website.

Once everything is set up on the Plex server and Raspberry Pi, you will be able to browse and watch TV shows and movies on your TV. Pretty smart!

See the Complete Guide to Installing the Plex Client on Raspberry Pi.

3. Cast Android Media to Raspberry Pi TV

One popular low-cost smart TV approach is to use the Google Chromecast. But if you have a Raspberry Pi, you don’t even have to go that far!

Google Chromecast works just like Miracast and other HDMI wireless technologies. Just an application window or the entire mobile desktop is transmitted wirelessly to the TV. From here you can launch apps, games in big screen mode, stream videos, etc.

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

4. Build a fully smart TV with PiTV

So far, we’ve bypassed the dynamics of Smart TVs. If you are looking for something that provides a typical Smart TV experience with an interface display, weather, date and time, then PiTV is your solution.

Requiring some additional applications, this project by Donald Derek has been tested on models up to and including the Raspberry Pi 2. Node.js and are used for server-side scripting and enabling remote management to work. Meanwhile, the project also requires Chromium , omxplayer and YouTube downloader .

Powered by Raspbian, the Raspberry PiTV project has a nice user interface and is well worth a look.

5. Android TV on Raspberry Pi

The last option is to ditch the standard Raspbian-based Raspberry Pi distributions and opt for Android instead.

By installing Android on your Raspberry Pi, you can set up the operating system to play media files through your TV. It’s like having a big screen version of Android at home!

Android TV is a version of Android designed for set-top boxes, but you don’t need it for the Raspberry Pi. Follow our guide to install Android on Raspberry Pi and go from there.

5 Ways to Create a Raspberry Pi Smart TV Solution

If you have a Raspberry Pi, it’s likely that you used it as a smart TV at some point. After all, the various ports of Kodi are some of the most popular disk images outside of Raspbian. And if you’re using a Raspberry Pi 3B+, you’ll love one of the best Kodi options available.

We looked at five options for building Smart TV from Raspberry Pi:

  1. Cody
  2. Plex
  3. Wireless HDMI
  4. PiTV
  5. Android TV on Raspberry Pi

Happy just using Kodi? Here’s How to Set Up Your Raspberry Pi Smart TV with Netflix, Amazon VOD, and Plex

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