The Raspberry Pi Zero makes a great, super cheap Kodi box

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has another insanely affordable computer that you can make things with. The Pi Zero costs a ridiculously low $5 and is every bit as accessible, if a little more limited, than its bigger brother.

Just as we did with the Raspberry Pi 3, we made a little Kodi box out of the Pi Zero and frankly, it's amazing something this cheap can do such a thing at all.

More: How to install Kodi on the Raspberry Pi

Pi Zero and Pi 3

If you're not familiar with the Raspberry Pi Zero, naturally its hardware isn't up to the level of the Pi 3. Here's what you're looking at:

  • Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
  • 1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
  • 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
  • A micro-SD card slot
  • A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header

Installing Kodi on the Raspberry Pi Zero is as easy as on the Pi 3, but due to the small size and limited connectivity, you will need a couple of extra bits of equipment to get it going:

Pi Zero

None of these are very expensive and you may even have some lying around. Some places sell handy little kits for around 10 bucks, with everything you need to get going with the Pi Zero. Something like the PiHut Zero Essentials Kit is a good place to start.

Once you've got the equipment you need, installing Kodi is exactly the same process as we've covered in our full guide. We went for OSMC again, and the only thing that's different is that you select Raspberry Pi 1/Zero as the device you're installing to when you burn the image to your microSD card.

There's absolutely no difference in how OSMC looks or behaves on the Pi Zero compared to the Pi 3, but things are much slower to load. That's the only negative here to running the Pi Zero as a Kodi box compared to the Pi 3. Because there's less horsepower overall, menus and streams take longer to load than on the more powerful sibling.

OSMC

But if you're OK with waiting a little longer for things to load, then you're in for a treat. The crazy small form factor of the Pi Zero means it's even easier to stash away out of sight — I have mine fixed to the back of the TV below the HDMI ports. And it has the same capability to use with a physical remote or your favorite app on your Android phone.

The added bonus is that it's actually really portable. The Pi 3 isn't exactly large, but the Pi Zero can literally fit in any pocket. Throw a couple of cables in a bag and you've got a Kodi box on the go for a $5 basic outlay.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is also a tremendous way of dipping a toe into the Raspberry Pi world. The Pi 3 isn't that expensive but it's still more of an outlay than this little $5 circuit board. If you've never tried and you want to give it a go, then pick up one of these little guys. You won't be disappointed.

See at Adafruit

19 Comments
  • Awesome thanks for sharing this information. It's crazy how many people there still are that are clueless to what a Raspberry Pi is and how much it can do with minimal effort and money.
  • Looks cool. But how do you control the thing, is there a remote or an app in the play store?
  • I have the Pi 3 and use a wireless Logitec keyboard and wireless mouse through the USB ports. I have it connected to my TV or monitor though the HDMI port. Works great.
  • There's several apps that you can use on your phone to control Kodi. Yatse is my fav.. Also not sure if the Zero is HDMI CEC compatible but the Pi3 is, so if your TV/AMP are HDMI CEC compatible, you can use your existing remote.
  • Just can't pay $10 shipping for a small $5 product
  • Have to agree. Rejoicing about the extreme low cost is absurd when the real world price ends up being 3x more expensive.
  • Rofl...but you can over pay for everything else you buy....keep in mind that generally every consumer electronic device you buy is nestled within a mark up for advertising/marketing costs and overall profit producing. The Pi is so much greater than an Kodi-hub to pirate movies or stream anything else that should technically be paid for. Unfortunately, folks seem to use that as the main marketing point of it here. It's well worth it for those that are actually looking and something of a bit more substance like run power a smart mirror: https://hackaday.io/project/13466-raspberry-pi-smart-mirror
    or tons of other cool things: https://www.hackster.io/raspberry-pi/products/raspberry-pi-zero
  • This is true. Glad I know someone near a MicroCenter where you can get these for $5 out the door, with super cheap domestic shipping. I'd just say to do a Pi3 on Amazon. It's $5 more than the Pi3 direct from Adafruit or whatever, but usually free shipping if you have Prime.
  • I thought about using one of the various maker boards out there to act like a media server for our car, but I don't like dealing with Linux and the slow load times. I ended up choosing an Acer Chromebox CXI2-4GKM with a Rii i8+ keyboard. Though it's more expensive, it's an awesome combination and it's linked with my Google account, so I can do so much more and do it FASTER. I installed the Plex app and use a WD My Passport 4TB HDD to store the media. Works like a charm.
  • How well does something like this work as a completely stand-alone product? I mean, can you load the SD card up with movies/shows, then take this little box into a hotel room, plug it into the room TV and a power source, and start watching shows with your phone working as a remote via wifi-direct (not needing wlan infrastructure at all) or some such like that?
  • yes you certainly could. i do that with pi 3. however i do use bluetooth keyboard.
  • That's awesome!
  • I'm glad you showed that: yes, it is possible to do this. But finding a Zero for $5, and then adding the other necessary parts (MicroSD, network, control, cables) really adds up. By the time you reach the final cost for assembling this little product, you might as well have purchased a dedicated device for media streaming, like a Chromecast.
  • Well, part of the fun is DIY. However - I ordered one of these from Microcenter (pickup in store). By the time I got the power supply, microsd, nic,cables,etc (they had a kit) it was $25! I ended up buying a Pi 3 for $30
  • I was in California and got the Zero in-store from MicroCenter for $5. I can repurpose some other hardware, but am still missing the network part. So it still means more money.
    I get the DIY. It's fun to tinker, which is why I have a Zero and a 2.
  • I tried Chromecast, I had an absolutely HORRIBLE experience. I clicked "cast" from my phone, quit the app, put the phone back in my pocket and sat down to eat dinner. It played some absolutely God-awful infomercial instead of what I had asked it to play. I don't even know how long it was because it was still playing when I was done eating dinner. I turned off the TV and disconnected the Chromecast. I would have simply smashed it with a hammer, but, I held hope that I could put a custom ROM with adblocking, so I stuck it in a drawer. Without ad block, Chromecast is GARBAGE, worse than useless. I don't ever want to see an ad again for the rest of my life after THAT experience!!!
  • LOL, you didn't even name the app you had such a bad experience with. It's unlikely that you can recreate your story.
  • Too bad none of the Rasberry Pi devices support HDMI pass through of Dolby True-HD or DTS-HD MA codecs. If it wasn't for that limitation I'd be using a RP3 instead of an HTPC / Nvidia Shield.
  • It is too weak for Kodi. Laggy and slow. Orange Pi One is much better.