RetroPie, Without The Pi

The smart television is an interesting idea in theory. Rather than having the cable or satellite company control all of the content, a small computer is included in the television itself to host and control various streaming clients and other services. Assuming you have control of the software running on the computer, and assuming it isn’t turned into a glorified targeted advertising machine, this can revolutionize the way televisions are used. It’s even possible to turn a standard television into a smart TV with various Android devices, and it turns out there’s a lot more you can do with these smart TV contraptions as well.

With most of these devices, a Linux environment is included running on top of an ARM platform. If that sounds similar to the Raspberry Pi, it turns out that a lot of these old Android TV sets are quite capable of doing almost everything that a Raspberry Pi can do, with the major exception of GPIO. That’s exactly what [Timax] is doing here, but he notes that one of the major hurdles is the vast variety of hardware configurations found on these devices. Essentially you’d have to order one and hope that you can find all the drivers and software to get into a usable Linux environment. But if you get lucky, these devices can be more powerful than a Pi and also be found for a much lower price.

He’s using one of these to run RetroPie, which actually turned out to be much easier than installing a more general-purpose Linux distribution and then running various emulation software piecemeal. It will take some configuration tinkering get everything working properly but with [Timax] providing this documentation it should be a lot easier to find compatible hardware and choose working software from the get-go. He also made some improvements on his hardware to improve cooling, but for older emulation this might not be strictly necessary. As he notes in his video, it’s a great way of making use of a piece of electronics which might otherwise be simply thrown out.

24 thoughts on “RetroPie, Without The Pi

  1. I’ve said for a while that the world needs a FOSS project for firmware for these various TV models, like what OpenWRT does for routers. So many smart TVs have such terrible firmware, a community maintained build would be a huge upgrade.

      1. Armbian is nice BUT not for this because it only targets like android machines. Almost every supported board is intended to be a dev board which means it already has Linux build.

        1. >Armbian is nice BUT not for this because it only targets like android machines.

          I’m not sure if I’m reading your comment correctly, but are you claiming Armbian only targets devices that run android?

          If so, this is incorrect. There is hardly a dev board in existence (ARM based) that does not have Armbian running on it (at least within a few months of release of the board).

    1. @Michael said: “Yall never heard of the inovado quadro?”

      I think you are referring to the Inovato Quadra not the Inovado Quadro, right?

      * Meet Quadra: A $34.95 complete mini-PC for school, home, hobby.[1]

      From what I can see the Inovato Quadra is a dirt cheap Chinese set-top-box you can get on Alibaba for less than ten bucks each in quantity – then good luck getting the drivers et-cetera to work.

      The good thing about the Inovato Quadra is all the software and hardware is at some level is probably there and it is cheaper than the Raspberry Pi3, which you cannot buy any more.

      The bad thing is the Quadra’s SoC is a bit dated (Allwinner H6 quad-core A53 ARM v8 64-bit, 1.7ghz), there’s only 2GB of DRAM and a measly 16GB eMMC soldered down (there is a uSD card slot), and there isn’t as big a community of users like there used to be with the Raspberry Pi. Also, the Inovato Quadra only sells in the USA and Canada. Finally, Diet Pi does NOT specifically list the Inovato Quadra amongst its recognized hardware, but it does list “Generic Allwinner H6 (aarch64)” as supported. So you might find some bumps in the software road ahead.

      There must be a good reason why the Inovato Quadra didn’t take off as a solution to the Raspberry Pi drought. I can see a few right off the bat.

      1. Inovato Quadra

      2. Diet Pi

  2. This is how I feel about the thousands of cable “modems” people just toss because their isp upgraded.
    They usually have anywhere from 64MB to 1-2 gigs of RAM and a decent processor. I feel bad and often wonder if I have what it takes to salvage and repurpose it but… I dunno.

    1. The packrat is strong with this one…

      Soon, a sheet of TP will have more processing power than your first computer (likely have better camera than 35mmSLR). Accept it. Doesn’t make a C-64 a ‘bad computer’.
      Somebody will rick roll the TP network. Doing Dog’s work.

  3. CoreELEC, EmuELEC and LibreELEC are also worthy contenders for replacement OSes on these boxes but you may even find you can get straight up Manjaro running on them too

  4. Things to know when using Retropie (or its various emulators standalone) on an ARM platform:
    – The controller drivers are not on par with the i386/AMD version (no force feedback on generic dualshock2)
    – No full Dreamcast emulation (specifically those “powered by WinCE” games
    – Pretty much no PSX2 emulation (come on) and no Saturn either, but this last one I’m not completely sure

    1. I think you’ll find that no Dualshock of any description has ‘force feedback’.

      (Sorry, I hate crappy vibration with a passion, probably comes from a youth spent trying to keep broken vehicles running. Anything that feels like an unbalanced rotating mass is abhorrent)

  5. I have been using this s905 tvbox as my HomeAssistant host for a while now (wired, no wifi) and really cannot complain! Wonderful boxes. Mine has 2GB ram, 16GB flash. Grab then when you can

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