Media Center: Modded Raspberry Pi vs. PC (under $400)

Got a friend that wants a media center for his multi-zone setup at home so he asked me what he should get. He was about to get a pre-bulit Dell for $900 but for what he wants/needs it to do, thats overkill. I didnt get all the details but he has a 4-zone A/V receiver: main is a 10.2 channel setup in his man-cave, then 5.1 living room setup, TV and a dual-voice speaker in kitchen, and last zone is all his outside speakers.

I was going to recommend a SFF build around $350 but then he brought up the Raspberry Pi and I have absolutely no experience with it lol. From searching around a bit, it seems like that would be all he needs but Im wondering what limitations he might have with it.

A couple of questions: I was going to set him up with bluetooth controls from his phone, can that be done with the Raspberry too? Can the Raspberry use any HDD? What mods would need to be done?

I'd greatly appreciate any advice, thanks in advance.

The PI is not going to be a good media center..

  • Need gigabit ethernet for connecting to storage (or usb3 for extern hdd)
  • not enough gpu power for 1080p @60 and certainly not enough power for 4k.
  • You'll spend as much on essential accessories like powered usb splitters you may as well just build a mini ITX machine.
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Thats pretty much all I needed to know lol, thank you.

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Honestly for normal video playback and stuff, I usually recommend getting Rokus. Roku 3 has no lag whatsoever, is great for streaming home content and netflix/hulu, and the Roku4 does 4k.

Sure, its not a "super techy look what I made" solution, but its cost effective and works almost flawlessly. (youtube app can be "meh" sometimes)

Two words: Asrock Beebox. It's been around for a bit, it's really nice (and inexpensive, runs about $120ish now).

Yeah, couldn't get the RPi2 to play 1080p 60Hz videos, at least there are a trillion different usages for this pi, I will think of something.

Now I use a Gigabyte BRIX with a crappy CPU for a Media PC, does it's job, gotta get some power draw measuring tool to see if my new mITX computer has a low enough TDP to serve as a media box PC.

It was $99 when I got it, $170 if you count my RAM and HDD of choice.