Raspberry Pi 3 or Raspberry Pi Zero: Which should you get for your Kodi box?

Terrible puns aside it's a legitimate question. We've established before that the Raspberry Pi Zero makes a fine Kodi box, albeit sacrificing ultimate power for size and a much lower price.

The question is, though, if you're wanting to construct your own Kodi box, which would you be better off buying?

Raspberry Pi Zero

Neither of these two are exactly computing powerhouses, but there is still a fairly sizeable gulf in the hardware — as you'd expect when one costs just over $5 and the other $40 (though we'd recommend buying the Zero Starter Kit for just over $25, which includes the necessities). Processor and RAM aren't necessarily the biggest concern when you're building a Kodi box, though, as evidenced when we've looked specifically at the Pi Zero. The only really noticeable difference is that things are a little slower to load across the board.

What the Raspberry Pi 3 has to its huge advantage is what else is on that board. You have built-in internet connectivity, full-sized USB ports, and a full-sized HDMI output. What this means is that you can buy a Raspberry Pi 3, throw in a microSD card, plug in the necessary power and display cables and you're off and running.

With the Pi Zero you can't do this. To even output to a display you need to either buy an adapter or source a microHDMI to full HDMI cable. You'll also need a Micro-USB to USB adapter as well as a Wi-Fi or Ethernet dongle to plug into it to get online.

Raspberry Pi 3

Now, none of those are expensive accessories, but unless you're the sort of person who has such things available already, it negates one of the most attractive parts of using a Pi Zero over a P3: price. With everything else you have to buy you're getting closer to the $40 asking price of the Raspberry Pi 3, dollar by dollar.

Couple that with the performance benefits of getting the bigger box, and you're probably at a fairly clear conclusion: Get a Raspberry Pi 3. It's also easier to get hold of than the Pi Zero, which goes out of stock in some regions frequently.

There is one great case for using the Pi Zero, though, which should be considered. If you're building more than one box and plan to kit out multiple rooms in your house, then on cost alone it starts to make much more sense. Even with a case on, the Raspberry Pi Zero is a tiny little Kodi box you can easily fix to the back of any TV.

See Raspberry Pi Zero Starter Kit at Amazon (opens in new tab)

But if you're only doing it the once, go for the Raspberry Pi 3. It's an easier experience all round.

More: How to install Kodi on the Raspberry Pi

See Raspberry Pi 3 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

  • Amazon Fire Stick
  • Exactly what I was thinking. Why not just spend $30-40 for a Fire TV Stick that comes with a voice remote and runs Kodi beautifully. Oh, and it also does a whole lot more.
  • The Pi can do much more than this. Depending on what you're doing, you could use the Pi as a downloading device, as well as using it as a security camera when you're not home watching things on it.
  • Yeah, I get that it can do much more than that. I'm talking about building a dedicated Kodi box with one. That makes no sense.
  • Neither. Get a Fire Stick or a Mi Box. Case closed. This is a waste of money for Kodi.
  • I agree.... Waste of money for kodi only but if you like old retro games and like kodi why not do a pi3 with retropie and also have kodi installed. https://retropie.org.uk/
  • I just recently created a homebrew Amazon Echo with my Raspberry Pi 3. It was a fun little project that didn't take too long and wasn't particularly difficult. As a Plex guy with an already amazing Plex server setup, I'm not that interested in this project. I'm glad it's out there, but I'll pass and look for some other projects to try next.
  • Unless you want a RetroPie as well I would go with a mi box or fire whatever like others have suggested. Both will do a lot more
  • I own a Pi2, two Pi3s (and a p3 official screen, plus case), several Pi zeros... and I own a bunch of Android boxes (and 2 Amazon Fires and 6 Roku Boxes). When it comes down to a family proof system, Roku wins (but has fewer cool features that I like)... Amazon Fire comes in a close second (more features that I like, family resists it a little bit - mainly because we need another remote) and Rpi solutions are a total family unfriendly route. For about the same money, you can just get an android box that does it all when it comes to Kodi, Netflix, Hulu and Plex. The Pi's are still sitting here waiting for a killer app, right now, it's emulation (makes a great emulator station). Someone please come up with a killer app for the Pi's - otherwise, it's just me enjoying them. Roku is drop simple - Amazon Fire is just about the same (if I forced everyone to use it, they wouldn't complain) but rPI is a really hard sell for this purpose. My wife is all about a rPi based car - all about an rPi based emulator - but zero support about an rPi based media center. Let's keep the tech stuff on the tech side, when we make it universal, it'll be great.
  • It's insane to see how people FORGET that the FireTV and stick are NOT sold in more than 3 countries. Sheesh, get a map and see how big the world outside US is.
    So pointless recommendation if someone does not have the option.
  • Really? Insane is the adjective to use here. Okay folks when ever you want to make a comment please remember to check the political landscape of every country in the world as well as their distribution of available technologies so as not to offend anyone on the spectrum.
  • Ok Donald...now SIT!
  • It's not about not offending anyone, it's about not making stupid comments. The RPI's are sold on a good number of countries, to say it's "pointless" and a "waste of money" to use it as a dedicated Kodi box because the Fire TV or Roku exists is just plain ignorant. The closest thing you can get for about the same price as the Pi is an android box, and that can turn out really well or extremely wrong. I didn't want to deal with potential problems so I got a Pi 3 plus a few accessories for about 50 euros and I absolutely love it.