RoadTest: Raspberry Pi 3B+ Media Center Kit
Evaluation Type: Workshop Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, etc.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: The wireless controller would sporadically loose its connection to the Pi for a few seconds.
The Raspberry Pi 3B+ Media Center Kit is a kit which allows you to turn the included Raspberry Pi computer into a media center for your entertainment system. It comes with all the pieces necessary to assemble the media center and get started streaming videos right away. It includes the Raspberry Pi 3B+, a plastic case, a SD card pre-loaded with NOOBS, a power supply, a HDMI cable for connection to your entertainment system, a wireless keyboard/mouse/remote control, and "Getting Started with Raspberry Pi" booklet.
I received the kit and unpacked everything you see here from the kit box. Looking over the Raspberry Pi 3B, I don't see any notices on ESD sensitivity. Maybe it's in the fine print of the included booklet? At any rate, I proceeded with caution to install the RPi in the plastic case. One of the biggest obstacles I encountered during setup was actually getting the case open. It's wasn't clear how to open it and it didn't include any instructions. With a little patience, I was able to get the case open and install the Raspberry Pi inside before closing it back up. I found the best way to get the RPi installed was to slide the long connector edge in first and then snapping the board down. The case does include holes for placing the ribbon cables in case you wanted to add a display or a camera or some GPIO to the Pi itself. It also offers a mounting feature for the camera, feet on the bottom of the case, and a nice grate to get airflow onto the board.
I was pleased to see that the included power supply was rated for 2.5A. I attached the prongs for use in the US and plugged it into the Pi.
The kit came with a SD card which was pre-installed with NOOBS and the Raspberry Pi Recovery System. So, I went ahead and plugged the SD card into the Pi and then connected the included HDMI cable from the Pi to my television set.
After plugging the power supply into the wall and selecting the proper input on my television, the start-up screen appeared for setting up the OS. It allowed me to set up a WiFi connection and choose to configure either the Raspbian OS or the LibreELEC OS. I chose the later since I wanted to use the Pi with Kodi as a dedicated streaming media center.
Once the configuration was complete, the RPi rebooted into LibreELEC and brought up the Kodi main screen and a setup wizard. From there I was able to configure the WiFi network and add applications for things like Youtube, NASAtv, etc.
Within 30 minutes of opening the box, I had installed the Youtube app and was watching my favorite Youtube channel, Franchise Kicks.
The first night that I used the Raspberry Pi 3B Media Center Kit, I had some problems with the connection. It frequently stopped and had to buffer the video feed. Luckily though this did not continue and I didn't see this again. I imagine it was probably my internet connection rather than the RPi.
Over the next couple of months, I used the media center on a regular basis for viewing videos on installing drywall, taping and mudding, and various other home improvement topics. I installed several applications including the Comedy Central app and got a few laughs. I also enjoyed watching James Veitch detail his adventures in emailing spammers. The Raspberry Pi Media Center Kit is quite impressive for what it can do. The only issue I really had with it was that on occasion, the wireless keyboard/controller would loose connection to the Pi and I would be temporarily unable to control the Media Center. Usually it would only last a few seconds and I just pressed the button a couple more times and it came back to life.
Overall, I would recommend the Raspberry Pi Media Center Kit to anyone who wants to build their own media center. It's really not all that difficult, the software is well featured and works seamlessly.