element14 RoadTest: Raspberry Pi Media Centre Bundle

While on my blog, it’s been fairly quiet over the past week or so, it was not in vain. Careful readers may have picked up on a leak earlier in the list of CID and CSD values which included an entry for the Raspbmc SDHC 4Gb card … oops!

Anyhow, I was chosen as one of five RoadTesters to review the Raspberry Pi New Year’s Party Pack for element14 Community. Interestingly, if memory serves me correctly, this is the first RoadTest to be offered to Australian and New Zealand residents only. The RoadTest itself was shipped out extremely quickly, with the parts arriving on the 18th December 2013, well packed as normal.

I was delighted to see that this time, it was dispatched from element14’s Australian warehouse in Chester Hill – just less than five minutes walk from my place. Inside, aside from the goodies was this hand-titled envelope:

RT-Letter

I like it when someone puts in the effort to pen something by hand! It’s too easy to type! As you can see, I was so excited that I ripped it open like a savage before I scanned it …

RT-Letter-Party-Pack

This time, I even get a letter with a colour letterhead. The submission was due today, and so I was busy last night getting it all up and online. It was a bit of a marathon effort – it’s not easy doing a RoadTest when you might not be able to walk to the TV and plug the damn thing in because your ankle’s busted! Not to mention, the need to try and film a video on my own in that condition. Having lost a few days to Christmas and New Year, family circumstances and the lack of motivation which comes from pain and being bedridden, time was not on my side this time.

As a result, I didn’t quite deliver as much as I had hoped, but it’s still a substantial effort on my behalf. If you’ve ever thought about building your own Raspberry Pi based media centre, do consider reading my RoadTest where I cover the parts of the bundle and user experience and also my Blog post on their Raspberry Pi Projects area covering customization and configuration.

I hope you find it informative and enlightening. I’d just like to thank element14 for selecting me as one of the lucky recipients and for their support of the greater electronics and electrical engineering community as a whole.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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2 Responses to element14 RoadTest: Raspberry Pi Media Centre Bundle

  1. drew says:

    Hi. An impressive review on the elements14 site. Your posts are always a good read. Your photos are very good. A post on how you do them would be interesting.

    In terms of media players, I appreciate the Raspberry Pi media player is more about learning to use computers.

    I have been playing with media players for years, with a number of versions of Windows Home Theatre and many packaged ones, with Popcorn Hour being a favourite for a couple of iterations.

    However, I have been using the Western Digital Live players from generation 1 to the current generation 3. There is virtually nothing they won’t play and they are cheap. They work very well on a wired network to any number storage locations, as well as their attached USB drives.

    The biggest advantage of the WD (in folder, not library mode) is the ease of use with a remote. I run a home theatre amplifier and a big TV, requiring three remotes. The system needs to be simple as possible for others, especially my wife, to use. My experience is that the computer-based players are too complicated for others to use.

    • lui_gough says:

      Thanks for the kind words Drew!

      I agree – “wife acceptance factor” and aesthetics sometimes are the difficult things to achieve with the flexibility of Open Source software and hardware without significant time investment. I do agree that in recent years, commercial products have gotten better at doing what we want at a good price. As such, given that I was pretty much put to task of reviewing the bundle – I thought it would be good to “toss in” a few suggestions of “life after a media centre” because the Raspberry Pi is a much more flexible unit (and for others, they may find it unsuited to their needs as a media centre).

      I do remember when the Popcorn Hour came out, but I never got one in the end. Played almost everything networked and local, and if I remembered correctly, even had an internal hard disk? Instead, I was saddled with an older Networked Media Player from Zensonic (the Z400) which I did do a short post about here. It cost me a pretty penny! It was a standard-def player loosely based on the initial DNLA specification and had headaches of having a “compatible” network server, needing live transcode of many formats due to limited support and virtually no sane ability to forward or rewind without crashing. It didn’t even get acceptance from me before being packed away as a “nice try, but not quite there”.

      Early adopters such as myself are very thankful that we’ve managed to escape that “phase”. I’ve met a few players which will “almost” play everything – even my new Philips 3D Bluray Player is a DNLA client, with SMB client, USB port for local storage and I’ve managed to get .MP4, .MKV (with H.264+Dolby) and .AVI (DivX+MP3) playing just fine on that. The interesting thing is that many of the players just aren’t too clear on what they will and won’t deal with.

      I suppose I do love the ability for XBMC to suck in almost anything – ISOs for example, if you’re intent on replicating or archiving “perfection”, not having to re-containerize or transcode is a nice touch.

      – Gough

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