Build the ultimate 4K home theatre PC using a Raspberry Pi 4 and Kodi
We love Raspberry Pi for how it’s helping a new generation of children learn to code, how it’s resulted in an explosion of new makers of all ages, and how it’s really easy to turn any TV into a smart TV.
While we always have a few Raspberry Pi computers at hand for making robots and cooking gadgets, or just simply coding a Scratch game, there’s always at least one in the house powering a TV. With the release of the super-powered Raspberry Pi 4, it’s time to fully upgrade our media centre to become a 4K-playing powerhouse.
We asked Wes Archer to take us through setting one up. Grab a Raspberry Pi 4 and a micro-HDMI cable, and let’s get started.
Get the right hardware
Only Raspberry Pi 4 can output at 4K, so it’s important to remember this when deciding on which Raspberry Pi to choose.
Raspberry Pi has been a perfect choice for a home media centre ever since it was released in 2012, due to it being inexpensive and supported by an active community. Now that 4K content is fast becoming the new standard for digital media, the demand for devices that support 4K streaming is growing, and fortunately, Raspberry Pi 4 can handle this with ease! There are three versions of Raspberry Pi 4, differentiated by the amount of RAM they have: 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB. So, which one should you go for? In our tests, all versions worked just fine, so go with the one you can afford.
Raspberry Pi Cases
Flirc Raspberry Pi 4 case
Made of aluminium and designed to be its own heatsink, the Flirc case for Raspberry Pi 4 is a perfect choice and looks great as part of any home media entertainment setup. This will look at home in any home entertainment system.
Official Raspberry Pi 4 case (in black and grey)
The official Raspberry Pi 4 case is always a good choice, especially the black and grey edition as it blends in well within any home entertainment setup. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hack the case to hold a small fan for extra cooling.
Aluminium Heatsink Case for Raspberry Pi 4
Another case made of aluminium, this is effectively a giant heatsink that helps keep your Raspberry Pi 4 cool when in use. It has a choice of three colours – black, gold, and gunmetal grey – so is a great option if you want something a little different.
Optional Raspberry Pi add-ons
Maxtor 2TB external USB 3.0 HDD
4K content can be quite large and your storage will run out quickly if you have a large collection. Having an external hard drive connected directly to your Raspberry Pi using the faster USB 3.0 connection will be extremely handy and avoids any streaming lag.
Raspberry Pi Fan SHIM
The extra power Raspberry Pi 4 brings means things can get quite hot, especially when decoding 4K media files, so having a fan can really help keep things cool. Pimoroni’s Fan SHIM is ideal due to its size and noise (no loud buzzing here). There is a Python script available, but it also “just works” with the power supplied by Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins.
Raspberry Pi TV HAT
If you are feeling adventurous, you can add a Raspberry Pi TV HAT to your 4K media centre to enable the DVR feature in Kodi to watch live TV. You may want to connect your main aerial for the best reception. This will add a perfect finishing touch to your 4K media centre.
Rii i8+ Mini Wireless Keyboard
If your TV does not support HDMI-CEC, allowing you to use your TV remote to control Kodi, then this nifty wireless keyboard is extremely helpful. Plug the USB dongle into your Raspberry Pi, turn on the keyboard, and that’s it. You now have a mini keyboard and mouse to navigate with.
Read more for free…
Looking to read the rest of this article? We don’t blame you. Build the ultimate 4K home theatre PC using a Raspberry Pi 4 and Kodi is this month’s feature article for the brand-new MagPi magazine issue 87, out today.
You can read issue 87 today, for free, right now, by visiting The MagPi website.
You can also purchase issue 87 from the Raspberry Pi Press website with free worldwide delivery, from the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, and from newsagents and supermarkets across the UK.
Just a gentle observation: That Official Raspberry Pi 4 case (in black and grey) looks suspiciously like an Official Raspberry Pi 3B/3B+ case (in black and grey). Was the wrong picture used by mistake, perchance? Or am I mistaken?
Wrong image. USB (and no USB 3) and Ethernet are the wrong way round…
Let’s hope it didn’t go to print it with the wrong image too… oh…
I reckon that you are correct, it is a Pi 3B/3B+ case.
I can’t see the USB 3 ports.
Hey, it’s the author of the article here. I’ve provided an update / explanation below. TLDR – good spot, but there wasn’t an image of the black / grey case for the Pi 4 available, so went with the Pi 3 option as it’s essentially identical bar a few layout changes on the USB-C and HDMI ports.
Unfortunately, the new Pi 4 case is FAR from identical to the Pi 3 case.
The case picture is for illustration purposes. It’s basically identical to the Pi 4 case, with exception of the HDMI cutouts and USB-C cutout. We’re assuming your going by the lack of blue USB ports (to indicate USB 3.0) to come to your conclusion.
Plus the fact the layout is incorrect. Not just the colour.
Left to right:
Pi 3 = Ethernet, USB, USB
Pi 4 = USB, USB(3.0), Ethernet
Does Raspberry Pi 4 support Dolby Vision or HDR10(+)? Without some kind of mainstream HDR video playback support, I find it hard to call this the “ultimate” 4K home theater PC, even if it is potentially a really nice one.
The Pi 4B doesn’t properly support HDR in any flavour currently. (It will decode HEVC UHD/4K HDR content – but can’t output it in 10-bit/12-bit correctly flagged HDR via HDMI – yet)
AIUI HD Audio passthrough and HDR video output are on the roadmap and the hardware is capable.
I’d expect HDR10 (which is static metadata and ST.2084 PQ EOTF) and is the basic HDR used by Ultra HD Blu-ray, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. to be supported in time.
I’d be surprised if Dolby Vision were ever supported due to the Dolby licensing model.
HDR10+ (which uses dynamic metadata) – not sue.
I have to ask, is there any chance of getting a Pi TV HAT for people in the USA?
It’s the Pi 3B/3B+ case in the picture. A quick google, and a check of some official stockists, reveals no pictures of the grey/black version of the 4B case. Does it actually exist? ??
Yes – https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/raspberry-pi-4-official-case?variant=29156995858515 – however, the stock image for the black / grey one doesn’t seem to exist, so rather than show the red / white one for the Pi 4, I found the black / grey one for the Pi 3 as I assumed people would prefer to see the colour of the case, rather than obsess about the layout that is not actually visible…
Hmm even though hardware video decoding doesn’t work on Raspbian yet?
Not sure what you’re implying here… I always test my guides in person whilst writing them. I can confirm that playing a 4K video file (encoded in H265) played just fine on my Pi 4.
Hardware decoding does work on Raspbian, and 4K video works just fine on LibreELEC
Yeah I tried raspberry pi for home theater, and by no means is the 4 at a point any normal person could use it for a media center. No Netflix is the first killer, but then as others point out the video decoding, and other functions like her really kill the deal. Nice read though.
Also the problem isn’t h.265 it is h.264 decoding(aka the one everything uses still) that can only do 1080 60fps on the pi 4
I tried this on my Pi 3. Why Kodi starts only in full screen mode?! How can I exclude it from startup?!
Raspberry Pi TVHat supports mostly European over the DVB formats and doesn’t work with the ATSC formats that we have here in the US. The only solution I think will work is the Haupagge USB receivers. Does anyone have any experience using these with the Pi and Kodi or Plex?
Does the Pi TV Hat fit nicely with the cases? It looks like the Flirc and official cover the GPIO pins so would be a no.
For the Aluminum heat sink case the screw holes suggest it could fit below one side of the case but that may lift the case away from the chips it’s trying to heatsink or make it unstable. Does anyone know?
The TV HAT certainly won’t fit in the official or FLIRC cases by default. I suspect a little light Dremel work might do the job with the official case, but the heat sink on the FLIRC case would intersect with the board.
The Flirc cases let you connect a ribbon cable to the header pins on the board that fits through a slot on the side of the case. So you could use it with the hat sitting outside the case in the end of a short ribbon cable.
I’d try the heatsink case first though; the hat might clear the heatsink if you added a booster to raise it up above the case.
did Kodi Is it suitable, and can we install it on your Raspberry Pi? And once we’ve done it, how do we turn it into a beating home media center? thanks
I have a raspberry pi 4 connected to my tv, hoping to use it for streaming. Unfortunately Britbox videos will not play with either Chromium or Firefox browsers. Works fine with an old windows laptop.
Where can a system already setup?
osmc.tv sells the Vero 4K. This is it already set up for you.
any case able to host the Rπ 4 with PoE hat?
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