RasPlex is without a doubt the simplest way to turn any RPi into a super easy to use Raspberry Pi Plex client. It’s a fantastic and super affordable solution that could be used on every television in your home. When you compare the cost of a Raspberry Pi 3 at ~$25 to that of an Apple TV (or similar) at almost $200 it becomes clear why using the Raspberry Pi as a Plex client is a great idea!
RELATED: Make a Raspberry Pi Plex Server
There are numerous ways to get Plex Server content on your TV. Most every streaming media device (Apple TV, Rokuu, etc.) have Plex clients. Gaming consoles like the XBOX and Playstation have clients. Even many Smart TVs have clients these days. The former work well, but are relatively expensive if you don’t plan to game or use them for anything other than Plex.
The Smart TV clients seem to work fine, but generally are missing many features and don’t get updated near as often as RasPlex or gaming consoles do. This is simply because the user base is much smaller on those devices and developers spend more time on the most popular clients. RasPlex is based on a code-branch of Kodi and XBMC. The UI has been developed over years and is quite mature.
Setting up a Raspberry Pi Plex Client using RasPlex
Before we get started setting up a Raspberry Pi Plex client, let’s make sure you have everything you need. Here’s a quick parts list for this project:
- Raspberry Pi 3
- Raspberry Pi power supply
- Raspberry Pi case (case with fan)
- 32GB microSD card
- HDMI cable
- Remote control or wireless keyboard
Let’s talk for just a second about these selections.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
We chose the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. It’s the most powerful cost to performance ratio for this project. It supports full 1080P playback without stutter or frame drops. If you really want 4K support, you can step up to a Raspberry Pi 4., although beware that 4K support from RasPlex is not quite in place yet but should be worked out soon enough. For our case we chose fan-less. If you plan to put in somewhere without great ventilation you may want to step up to an RPi case with a fan.
We prefer a remote control that emulates a normal television remote. However, you could certainly use an XBOX or PlayStation controller as a Plex remote. They work great. The simplest solution of course is to just use a nice wireless keyboard. We here at The Geek Pub just don’t like a keyboard setting on the couch, and we don’t like game controllers, when we’re not gaming.
Of course, another great option is the official iOS and Android Plex apps. These have an inbuilt remote for all of your Plex clients across devices.
Installing RasPlex The Ultimate Raspberry Pi Plex Client
There are two ways to install RasPlex, what we consider the ultimate Raspberry Pi client, onto your microSD card. The first is download the image and use something like Balena Etcher to burn the image to your microSD card. The second is to use a RasPlex installer for your operating system. We’re going to use the latter as it really simplifies the process, especially for those new the Raspberry Pi and its ecosystem.
Head on over to the RasPlex download page and grab a copy of the installer for your operating system. After the download is complete, insert a blank microSD card into your PC. If its not blank (or your not sure), grab a copy of the official SD card formatter and format your SD card. It’s a good idea to always use this official formatter over the Windows quick format as it is specifically designed for formatting SD cards by the official SD Card Association.
Once your ready, double click the installer we downloaded and the process will begin.
The installer is a little confusing on one point. Under “Select your Raspberry Pi model”, the installer only lists “Raspberry Pi” and Raspberry Pi2″. There is no selection for Raspberry Pi 3/4 models. No problem! The image for Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and 4 are all the same. Just select “Raspberry P2” from the list and you’re golden.
For Step 2, click the Download button and select the location you’d like to save the image file to. The best place is most likely your Windows Download folder, but any temporary space should be fine. The file will begin to download. This process is downloading the the actual RasPlex image file.
Finally, in step 3, select the drive letter for your microSD card. In our case, the card is F:\ drive and shows as 59.48GB in size (we’re using a 64GB card just because we had a free one, but its way overkill). Now go ahead and click Write SD card and the process of burning the RasPlex image to your microSD card will begin.
Getting the Raspberry Pi Ready
With your Raspberry PI disconnected from its power source, make sure it connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard. Insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi and and connect the Raspberry Pi to power.
Setting Up RasPlex for the First Time
On bootup, RasPlex will quickly resize the SD card partition in order to make use of all available space. It will then reboot.
On the welcome screen, just click next.
On the next screen, Rasplex will ask you to select your wireless network. If you plugged your Raspberry Pi into Ethernet, this screen will be skipped. Enter your network information and click next.
The next screen will ask you to configure remote access. This will allow you to access your Raspberry Pi’s operating system files. If you don’t understand this, you probably don’t need it and can just click next. For those who want this access just tick the boxes before clicking next.
Next up is an important step if you really want things to look correct on your TV or monitor. It’s the screen calibration section. We highly recommend you do this. This process is very similar to the process used on the XBOX or Playstation where a bunch of boxes are shown and you’re asked to calibrate them to the corners of your screen. This will ensure the entire screen real estate is used and none of the media is clipped from the screen. Once you’re finished, just click next.
It should only take about 20 seconds and your Plex library should show up and be ready for you to start using. As you can see, I am browsing my Star Trek fan film library. RasPlex shows beautiful artwork, thumbnails, and a very simple to navigate user menu. It really is the best Raspberry Pi Plex client!
To test it out I played Star Trek Prelude to Axanar and it looks just stunning. All of the normal controls you’d hope to find are there, along with some advanced settings you won’t find on your “smart” TV. RasPlex even supports stereoscopic 3D movies!
That’s all there is to install RasPlex. It makes a fantastic Raspberry Pi Plex client for all of your TVs. It’s affordable, open source, easy to use, and reliable. It ticks all of the boxes most of us need!
If you run into any problems getting RasPlex setup, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out!