The Raspberry Pi single-board laptop and all its variants have captured the imaginations of DIY lovers and budding hobbyists alike, although it hasn’t been immune to the chip crunch. The next-gen Raspberry Pi 5 received’t launch this yr, however the existing models nonetheless pack sufficient oomph to gas sensible and fantastical initiatives alike, providing useful options like USB-C charging and sufficient graphics horsepower to drive a pair of 4K screens concurrently.
Much of the protection you’ll see across the internet focuses on the more wondrous projects—magic mirrors, transportable gaming handhelds, clever drones, and so forth. And for good cause! Those maker masterpieces present what kind of energy the $35 mini-PC is able to within the palms of somebody with a little bit creativeness and a bin stuffed with spare electronics.
But most individuals, significantly newbies, received’t use the Raspberry Pi to whip up loopy creations. There are near-endless sensible makes use of for this bare-bones equipment, from media streaming to extending the vary of your Wi-Fi community, as the next 10 initiatives show. Time to place that $35 laptop to actual work. Heck, many of those will work simply high quality even on the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero.
The unique $35 Raspberry Pi could have been revolutionary to makers, but it surely took off with PC lovers as effectively because of its means to double as a dirt-cheap home-theater PC. That attract could have waned a bit in recent times as devoted gadgets just like the Chromecast hit the streets at equally low costs, however utilizing a Raspberry Pi as a media-streaming field nonetheless gives much more energy than these streaming-centric sticks, particularly you probably have a sizeable native media assortment.
There are a slew of HTPC-centric Raspberry Pi working techniques on the market, every revolving round slapping your HD movies on the massive display. OSMC is constructed across the well-liked Kodi media heart software program (previously XBMC), whereas RasPlex transforms your Pi into the final word Plex streaming field. The $21 Raspberry Pi TV Hat accent, in the meantime, can grant your mini-PC the power to learn over-the-air TV indicators.
Give a dumb TV smarts
Likewise, you probably have a dumb TV that you simply’d like so as to add internet shopping and different fundamental computing talents to, the Raspberry Pi does the trick with out costing anyplace close to as a lot as a correct house theater PC. You’ll wish to use a Raspberry Pi 2, 3, or 4, although—the unique Pi and the Raspberry Pi Zero are simply pokey sufficient to be irritating for normal duties. With the precise case, the Pi can look downright fashionable in your house theater, too.
Bonus: If you’re connecting the Raspberry Pi to your TV, you should use it to stream internet movies, too!
File storage server
You can even have your Raspberry Pi play wingman for the opposite gadgets in your own home, serving as a centralized system that performs useful duties.
Case in level: You can use the mini-PC as a cheap NAS box for normal file storage when you join an exterior USB arduous drive to the machine. Hit these hyperlinks for technical particulars, and one tip when you’re planning to transform the pc to a file server: Use a wired ethernet connection fairly than Wi-Fi when you’re in a position. Make certain you grab a solid external drive, too!
Wireless community printer
Printing isn’t as prevalent because it was once, however the Raspberry Pi may help you rework that chunky previous USB printer in your closet right into a networked printer that each system in your own home can use.
You’ll want an influence supply for every gadget, clearly, in addition to a USB connection between the gadgets, however setting it up is fairly easy. This MakeUseOf tutorial walks you thru the method step-by-step.
Extend your private home’s Wi-Fi community
Raspberry Pi doesn’t make the house networks you employ, however it may possibly make the house networks you employ higher when you configure the mini-PC as a wi-fi vary extender, tapping into the system’s ethernet and USB ports. Doing so may help your Wi-Fi sign attain the farthest corners of your own home and assist wipe out useless zones.
Configuring the system to bolster your private home community will take a little bit of time, and also you’ll want to purchase a USB Wi-Fi adapter to do it, however once more, it’s comparatively easy with a information. Check out Adafruit’s reader-friendly tutorial.
Old-school gaming emulator
Gaming emulators are a authorized grey space, however there’s little doubt that utilizing the Raspberry Pi as a butt-kicking console emulator is a well-liked use for the machines. It can play video games from all kinds of consoles proper on as much as the PlayStation 1 period when you handle to snag some authorized sport ROMs, although the older the system being emulated, the higher the efficiency.
Curious? Check out PCWorld’s full information to turning your Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming console for the total scoop.
A music streaming machine
The Raspberry Pi’s media chops aren’t restricted to video streaming alone. Numerous working techniques have additionally been launched that rework the system right into a high-fidelity music participant when related to a speaker, kind of like a extra highly effective, versatile model of Chromecast Audio.
The varied music-oriented OSes out there provide completely different options; poke across the FAQs and options of every to see which is correct to your wants. Here are tutorials on tips on how to have your Raspberry Pi flip dumb audio system into good music options with Volumio and Rune Audio (pictured), each of which supply cell apps so you possibly can management your tunes together with your telephone.
You might all the time use the Raspberry Pi because it was initially supposed, too: As a low-cost introduction to programming and laptop science. The mini-PC’s loaded with all types of software program that encourages deep-level tinkering.
Beyond the command-line terminal, you’ll have to wade in usually, you’ll additionally discover variations of Wolfram Mathematica, Python program creation instruments, and Scratch, an animation coding IDE for teenagers, within the Raspbian operating system that the Raspberry Pi Foundation encourages new customers to put in. Get good!
Or you possibly can play Minecraft. There’s a free Raspberry Pi model of Minecraft that anyone can obtain for gratis. Even higher, it’s designed to show you tips on how to use the Python programming language as you construct out the world. (Hey, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella did say that a part of the rationale the corporate bought Mojang was to lure kids into computer science.)
Download Minecraft: Pi Edition and leap in with this helpful tutorial.
Affordable productiveness PC
With choices of 2GB, 4GB, and now 8GB fashions, the Raspberry Pi 4 packs a heftier punch than earlier RPi iterations—making it appropriate for fundamental on a regular basis duties like internet shopping, watching video streams, and doc modifying. Setting up one as a PC goes quick, too, with the majority of the hour setup time dedicated to ready for the working system set up to finish.
As a starter or secondary laptop, it’s arduous to beat, particularly given its construct value of $100 (and even much less, when you go for the 2GB model and never the 4GB). Check out PCWorld’s full information in tips on how to put collectively a $100 Raspberry Pi PC for all the things you’ll want.
Crazy superior experiments
Let’s end the place we started. Once you’ve wrapped your head across the Raspberry Pi’s potential, why not attempt your hand at a kind of awe-inspiring creative initiatives? PCWorld’s take a look at 10 insanely innovative, incredibly cool Raspberry Pi creations may help with the inspiration, whereas the challenge guides at Instructables, Hackaday, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation website itself are able to stroll you step-by-step by means of the actually superior stuff just like the magic mirror above.
Also try our roundup of the best Raspberry Pi kits. Whether you’re a beginner who simply desires to get all of the fundamentals with one buy, or an skilled tinkerer trying to construct a specialised challenge, a equipment could possibly be the way in which to go.
Editor’s word: This article is up to date periodically to incorporate new information, most not too long ago to resurface these initiatives for Pi day (3/14/23) and word that the Raspberry Pi 5 received’t launch this yr.