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Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - Printable Version

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Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - hdmkv - 2016-01-25

Updated January 28, 2016

Verdict: A- Based on build #0128

Overview:
I've been using Raspberry Pi2 as a secondary 3D box in my home theater as of March 2015, via Milhouse 16 & now 17 OpenELEC builds. Pi2 is fairly cheap (about $70 for a complete kit w/o a USB remote dongle or a keyboard/mouse combo; add another $20 or so for that). Thanks to terrific work by Kodi devs like popcornmix and others, it supports full 3D (decode & render), whether 3D MVC MKV's or 3D Blu-ray ISO's, and lossless HD audio via decoding & passing to your A/V receiver as multichannel PCM, natively via Kodi. It also supports proper framerates, namely 23.976 as found in most movie/TV content.

This is a mini-review of RPi2, the evolving kind as there have been nightly builds that fix, and sometimes, break, certain functionality. Figured I should review RPi2 at some point & now seemed like a good time as any other. I'll keep this post & thread updated.

watch gallery


Performance:
  • Having used RPi2 for almost a year, other than what it can do now, I wish it was faster, supported HD audio bitstreaming (passthrough), and did 4K fully. It's a tall order, especially 4K, but I'd be willing to pay up to $300 for such an amped-up RPi-like powerhouse box! I bet many other home theater enthusiasts would as well!
  • Without overclocking, RPi2 performs a little slower than Fire TV. Overclocked, it's almost as fast, but not as Chromebox- or nVidia Shield TV-fast as many of us would like. Anyway, overclocking is fairly safe, so do just it! Smile
  • MPEG2 & VC-1 hardware decode licenses, while optional for many, are really required for us picky home theater enthusiasts. It's well worth the approx. $5-6! Just do it if you need/use MPEG2 and/or VC-1!

A/V Tests:
  • Bitrate clips (Birds/Jellyfish): Up to 70Mbps smoothly; too many skips/drops w/any higher
  • AAC 5.1 = passed fine as multichannel 5.1
  • DD+ 5.1 = passed fine as multichannel 5.1
  • DD+ 7.1 = passed as 5.1; no rears (audio from sides instead)
  • Dolby TrueHD 5.1/7.1 = passed fine as multichannel 5.1/7.1
  • Dolby ATMOS = no, but 7.1 multichannel out of it passed fine
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1/7.1 = passed fine as multichannel 5.1/7.1
  • DTS:X = no, but 7.1 multichannel out of it passed fine
  • LPCM 5.1/7.1 = passed fine as multichannel 5.1/7.1
  • MPEG2 720p & 1080i (23.976 & 60fps) = fairly decent with s/w decode, but noticeably better w/MPEG h/w license
  • VC-1 (23.976 & 29.970) = bad with just s/w decode (slo-mo effect, audio cuts off); tested w/'3:10 to Yuma', 'Constantine' & 'Eagles Farewell Melbourne' concert BD rips in MKV
    - Night-and-day better w/VC-1 h/w license; 23.976 plays fine. But,
    - Audio synch issues w/29.970; see 'Eagles Melbourne' concert sample I posted to wiki, but, may need a full disc rip of 'The Eagles: Farewell I Live From Melbourne' HD-DVD and/or 'David Gilmour: Remember That Night' BD rip to appreciate. nVidia Shield TV plays these perfectly!
  • 3D MVC MKV's (1:1 rips via MakeMKV) play great w/chapter support, and 23.976 (my projector reports "23.97")
  • 3D BD-ISO's play great (1:1 movie-only rips via AnyDVDHD & tsMuxeR), but w/o chapter support, and at "23.94" as my projector reports (vs. "23.97"). What's also great is that overall 3D ISO performance has significantly improved as of the most recent Milhouse OpenELEC builds
  • Forced subtitles are supported

Annoyances to the Home Theater Purist:
  • No HD audio passthrough, no ATMOS, no DTS:X
  • Limited 4K H.264 & HEVC support (and the 70Mbps max headroom doesn't help for most 4K videos); so, basically unsuitable for 4K
  • Not as fast, as snappy enough as we'd like (like Chromebox or nVidia Shield TV)

Picture Quality: A (pure, unadulterated picture quality)

Support: The best there is on the planet, thanks to Kodi devs (Milhouse, popcornmix, et al)!

Wrap Up:
I love Raspberry Pi2, but it isn't perfect as a home theater box, not a dedicated one! For me, HiMedia Q5/Q10 remain the ultimate dedicated 3D & HD audio-capable boxes, even if they're also imperfect, including the less-than-ideal external player solution. See HiMedia Q5 vs. RPi2 pros/cons here, along w/recommended set-up for Pi2. But, RPi2 has always been a close second Kodi home theater box, especially as it's just such a seamless, integrated 3D & 2D Kodi solution. But, so far has left me wanting a bit more that it just can't deliver upon to be that primary, dedicated box. The ideal do-it-all box would be something like nVidia Shield with full MVC decode/render support, but alas, no such box exists, yet. Your thoughts?


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - ZwartePiet - 2016-01-25

I'll echo most of what you said, but my perception of "good enough" is probably much lower with my simpler setup. I wouldn't call myself a videophile, but I am trying to maximize picture quality for conventional size televisions (i.e. <65") at normal viewing distances (i.e. >8ft.). I view the Raspberry Pi as "democratizing" video quality and I've tried taking that spirit as I build the rest of my system. In other words, I'm trying to maximize value rather than absolute performance.

With that said, I'm not really interested in:
  1. 4K, because it's of no value for my anticipated max screen size/viewing distance.
  2. 3D, because I don't want to wear glasses to view content.
  3. HD Audio, because I'd rather have reference-quality stereo speakers than mediocre surround sound. My opinion is that HD Audio is a bit gimmicky anyways.

The only changes I'd make to improve upon the Raspberry Pi are:
  1. Faster CPU. It would be nice to have full-resolution fanart, absolutely no GUI framedrops/lag and YADIF 2X quality deinterlacing.
  2. Support for inverse telecining NTSC content (useful for Region 1 TV Shows on DVD)
  3. 100% bug-free stability. In a perfect world, I don't want to ever be reminded that I'm running opensource software on third party hardware. It should act like an appliance.
  4. Looser power requirements. The biggest downside to the Pi's "use your phone's charger" feature is that it usually isn't reliable, especially if you want to overclock.
  5. 16GB of embedded high-speed flash. As a dedicated HTPC, I don't have a need to swap out the boot drive, so might as well integrate/lower cost.
  6. Lower power consumption. While the Pi uses <3W and costs $'s per year to run, it's on 24/7 and cheaper is better.

Don't get me wrong, I remember the pre-Pi days very well and am grateful for what it has done to our hobby. There's always room for improvement, however, and those are the areas I've found to be most important.


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - movie78 - 2016-01-25

3D BD-ISO's play great (1:1 rips via AnyDVDHD or DVDFab) Doesn't work with some format,especially Dolby TrueHD 7.1 with ATMOS track


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - hdmkv - 2016-01-25

@movie78, you're still having the issue w/some TrueHD/ATMOS ISO's? Both builds #123 & 124 have 3D related fixes, tweaks. Have you tried?
Quote:MVC, SSIF and TrueHD updates/fixes
Bluray ISO crash fix

@ZwartePiet, I'd agree w/all the improvements you listed, except #1 & 4-6 can't be improved via firmware or s/w. Maybe RPi3.


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - movie78 - 2016-01-25

(2016-01-25, 14:23)hdmkv Wrote: @movie78, you're still having the issue w/some TrueHD/ATMOS ISO's? Both builds #123 & 124 have 3D related fixes, tweaks. Have you tried?
Quote:MVC, SSIF and TrueHD updates/fixes
Bluray ISO crash fix
Did not see that, i will test it tonight.

@ZwartePiet, I'd agree w/all the improvements you listed, except #1 & 4-6 can't be improved via firmware or s/w. Maybe RPi3.

Thanks for the heads up..


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - popcornmix - 2016-01-25

I tried the Eagles VC-1 clip and audio was in sync.
Were you playing with:
omxplayer enabled/disabled?
passthrough enabled/disabled?
deinterlace set to auto/advanced?
Any overclock?


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - RockerC - 2016-01-25

@popcornmix; Awesome job with Blu-ray 3D MVC, Blu-ray Disc ISOs, and TrueHD/DTS-HD!

Blu-ray Disc Java (BD-J) menu support the next big thing that is missing?

http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=213352

And after that the inclusion of libaacs and libbdplus in Kodi by default?

http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=230493

You have given us a pinky finger already and now we want your whole arm too, hehe Wink


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - movie78 - 2016-01-25

(2016-01-25, 17:24)RockerC Wrote: @popcornmix; Awesome job with Blu-ray 3D MVC, Blu-ray Disc ISOs, and TrueHD/DTS-HD!

Blu-ray Disc Java (BD-J) menu support the next big thing that is missing?

http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=213352

And after that the inclusion of libaacs and libbdplus in Kodi by default?

http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=230493

You have given us a pinky finger already and now we want your whole arm too, hehe Wink

+1 for the BDJ Menu support,that would be icing on the cakeCool


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - hdmkv - 2016-01-29

(2016-01-25, 16:01)popcornmix Wrote: I tried the Eagles VC-1 clip and audio was in sync.
Were you playing with:
omxplayer enabled/disabled?
passthrough enabled/disabled?
deinterlace set to auto/advanced?
Any overclock?
Did extensive testing w/the 'The Eagles: Farewell I Live From Melbourne' HD-DVD (remember those? Wink) rip today, as well as 'David Gilmour: Remember That Night' BD rip. Both are VC-1 w/DTS-MA 5.1. There's an ever-so-slight lip synch when playing from beginning, and if you skip ahead, the lip synch gets more pronounced. The clip I posted to Google Drive is only a minute, so you really need the full disc rip. nVidia Shield plays both rips fine.

omxplayer enabled/disabled? Disabled
passthrough enabled/disabled? Disabled, but 8-channel PCM enabled
deinterlace set to auto/advanced? Auto
Any overclock? Yes, arm_freq=950 / sdram_freq=450 / core_freq=450 / over_voltage=6

Anyway, w/o any overclocking, same lip synch issue (seems a second or two off, but noticeable). Are you in the U.S.? If so, please PM me & I'll hook you up with both these concerts discs Smile.


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - noggin - 2016-01-29

Sorry to be a pedant - but I think you mean 'lip sync error' rather than 'lip sync'?


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - hdmkv - 2016-01-29

Yes Smile. At least, seems one can use "synch" & "sync" interchangeably Smile.


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - noggin - 2016-01-29

(2016-01-29, 02:26)hdmkv Wrote: Yes Smile. At least, seems one can use "synch" & "sync" interchangeably Smile.

Don't get me started on 'lag'...

(In broadcast and general media circles, lag is used to describe a/v sync errors. i.e. there is a sound lag, or there is a vision lag. I still don't know who came up with the idea that it meant frame drops or skips, which don't usually slow things down. Lag should imply a relative delay or difference in speed...)


RE: Raspberry Pi2 as a Dedicated 3D & A/V-phile Home Theater Box - Pollo - 2016-10-10

(2016-01-29, 02:34)noggin Wrote:
(2016-01-29, 02:26)hdmkv Wrote: Yes Smile. At least, seems one can use "synch" & "sync" interchangeably Smile.

Don't get me started on 'lag'...

(In broadcast and general media circles, lag is used to describe a/v sync errors. i.e. there is a sound lag, or there is a vision lag. I still don't know who uses this for bodybuilding came up with the idea that it meant frame drops or skips, which don't usually slow things down. Lag should imply a relative delay or difference in speed...)

I hate lag, I've been noticing it quite a bit lately, has anyone else?


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