From Pi to Chrome: In search of the ultimate digital media centre

11251124_10153306146325428_6130965258927541747_nSometimes a good idea simply doesn’t work out. When I went down the Raspberry Pi road last year, I initially bought the unit to act as a digital media gateway connected to the TV. Yesterday, the Pi moved from the living room to the office where it will double as a second computer.

For the last few months, Linda and I have been using my Samsung Chromebook to watch streamed content from Google Play and Netflix (and occasionally YouTube) in the living room. Although it means a larger device sitting beside the TV (and one not as easily hidden from view), it also means a simplified user experience and, quite frankly, a lot less frustration.

Y’see, Raspberry Pi isn’t equipped with the native ability to stream the video codecs Netflix uses. Instead, a workaround is required. For that, I bought PlayOn software, installed it on my desktop and then pointed the Kodi software on the Pi to it. This worked, for sure, but I noticed frequently that Kodi simply couldn’t find PlayOn. A Pi reboot was typically required.

ChromeOS doesn’t suffer from the same problems. I didn’t make a habit out of watching Netflix on my Chromebook prior to connecting it to the TV, but it’s perfectly capable of handling all streamed video codecs and services without issue. No more frustrations.

The processing limitations of the Pi also sometimes make it less than ideal for high-performance applications like video. For the most part, it works fine, but here and there, I experienced performance problems. Not that the Chromebook is sporting a high-end processor, but in comparison, the Pi makes the Chromebook look like high-end gaming rig.

My Chromebook really took over the Pi’s media centre responsibilities months ago, but I still held out some hope I’d go back to using the Pi for that purpose. But with a better alternative, it’s “good-bye, Pi; hello, Chrome.” (And I’m left wondering if I should invest in a dedicated Chromebox for the living room.)

Not that the Pi is being retired entirely. It’s now part of my office setup, which should make it much easier to get back to my coding exercises and experiments.

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