I cut cable last month and may be the only person alive without a Netflix account. I was in dire need of some entertainment options. We own a wall of DVD’s. A relic of the 2000’s like my copied-from-radio mix tapes pay homage to the 1990’s. It is time to go full digital.

There is a lot of speculation on the internet regarding the Raspberry Pi as a home theater PC. Some say its too slow, others that it wouldn’t run 1080p. The experiment was $35 for the unit, plus another $10-40 for parts that modern homes usually already have laying around (HDMI, SD card, cell phone charger). Assembly, Openelec/XBMC installed on the SD, slight overclock on the PI, and a little stubborn SMB tweaking took an afternoon.

The NAS in its natural habitat.

The NAS in its natural habitat.

The results were great. Menus are responsive, and there are a lot of great add-ons you can find right in the UI. Also, it streams 1080p without drama. I bought and built a second one for the bedroom and an external harddrive that runs off the RT-N66U router I own as a poor man’s NAS. Even though the NAS only supports USB2.0 both Pi’s are capable of streaming 1080p at the same time.

It  isn’t perfect though. There is no support for Netflix, something I did not realize going into this project. They said last year they plan to move to HTML5 but in the meantime, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video are supposedly available. I’ll update in another post if I decide to try it. Also the Youtube add-on is very simple, and very slow to pull data. Menus are limited to 50 videos which take up to 30 seconds to load.

I had debated how in depth I wanted to get about this project, and the website itself. Maybe I’ll turn this into a page, and elaborate on the install a bit. I’ll take feedback, if anyone is reading this!