Introduction: Portable XBMC Lunch Box

Picture of Portable XBMC Lunch Box

I wanted a portable XBMC system. I want to take this in my trailer camping, to hotels, friends house etc. Basically this is a Raspberry Pi running XMBC, powered USB hub, 2.5" USB SATA enclosure with a 250GB laptop drive. This case needed to be all self enclosed. I can carry all the cables and accessories.

Parts List:


* For some reason my USB hub quit driving my hard drive. I tested everything and swapped it out. I used a 4 port hub with a 2.6A power supply. This seems to power the hard drive fine. This new hub had vertical ports. I unsoldered the ports and directly soldered wires in their place. This lowered the profile.

Step 1: Prep the Lunch Box

Picture of Prep the Lunch Box

I used a mini lunch box. The dimensions are approximately 7-5/8" x 6" x 2-3/4"H

Cut metal and install keystone panel

  • Determine where to put the keystone panel.
  • Mark jack panel with sharpie marker
  • Dremel out the rectangle
  • Press in the keystone panel
  • Mark holes for screws
  • Drill holes
  • Remove screws and extra plastic from low voltage device ring
  • Place low voltage ring inside and screw faceplate to ring
    • This is to make a securely sandwich the metal. Cables tend to tug.
  • Screw panel into ring

Attach keyboard

  • Velcro the keyboard to the back of the lunch box

Step 2: Build Triple Stack for Pi and Hub

Picture of Build Triple Stack for Pi and Hub

I went though several orientations of the Pi and hub. This required that I have an easy way to change configurations and move the devices until I got the perfect orientation. I used plastic DVD covers. The width and length of the DVD cover worked well with the mini lunch box. I may redo this with acrylic now that I have the desired pattern.

Prep the DVD covers

  • Trim clear plastic cover (what holds the paper)
  • Split DVD case along seams
  • Cut the DVD cover to length. Ideal is to snugly press against the low voltage device ring.

Mount components

  • Screw standoffs on the Pi and Hub
  • Orient Pi and Hub on their respective DVD plastic
  • Mark stud location
  • Exacto a X on the stud location
  • Press stud in the X

* This will securely hold the component yet allow you to easily more the mount point if needed. Figuring out exactly where the Pi and Hub go and how they are oriented can be determined by the amount of space the cables take and your desired cable path.

Assemble the stack

  • Measure the depth of the lunchbox. Mine would fit 3" bolts.
  • Measure the spacers needed between each stack
  • Cut ball point pen tupe to length
  • Mark and drill holes for bolts
  • Thread bolts through holes and screw nut on top

Velcro HD

I wanted the hard drive removable so I could copy new data to it.

  • Add large strip of velcro to top of stack and HD enclosure

Step 3: Custom Cables

Picture of Custom Cables

The lunch box is oriented. The keystone panel is installed. The component stack is cut to fit and slipped in. Now we have to make lots of custom cables.

Cables attached to the Powered USB Hub

#1 USB Mini - USB A

  • This is to connect the Pi to the Hub

#2 USB A - USB A

  • This is to connect the hub to the external USB keystone jack

#3 Double USB A - USB A

  • This is power and data for the USB SATA HD enclosure
  • This was the one included with the drive enclosure

#4 USB A - USB micro

  • This is to power the Pi

#5 Power to USB Hub

  • Soldered on 5V and Ground to board (my son broke the barrel plug)
  • Wired into barrel keystone jack

Cables attached to the Raspberry Pi

#6 Video RCA to keystone jack

#7 Audio Phono to keystone jack

#8 HDMI to keystone jack

#9 Network to keystone jack

Power brick cables

#10 USB A - 5v power barrel

  • Solder the black (Ground) and red (5v) USB wires to the barrel plug
  • I chose an iPad charger because it was the smallest 2.1 charger I had. The plug folds up.

Step 4: Setup Rasbmc and the Pi

  • Download and install Rasbmc on the SD card
  • Plug in Edimax USB wifi card to Pi
  • Setup XBMC
    • Add profile for local content off HD
    • Add profile for networked content from home server
    • Final customizations per your preferences

Step 5: Extras

Picture of Extras

Since there is only 1 external USB port I added a 4 port USB hub (non powered)

You can also plug in other external HD's for further extendability.

The 2.4Ghz keyboard USB dongle does a better job if its plugged in outside the metal lunch box. I may experiment with other keyboards. I also use my Android phone / Tablet and Yatse Remote to control the media center.


asteadman made it! (author)2015-05-20

Thanks for the inspiration!

We absolutely LOVE our new media center and we can take it anywhere.

I had a blast building it.

D10D3 (author)2015-03-04

I used the same lunchbox for my Pi project!

Nixylix92 (author)2014-02-19

I hate to ask a stupid question but what exactly does this thing do?

n0ukf (author)Nixylix922014-02-20

This goes along with my question... What is a XBMC? Show screenshots of it doing something.

pcgate (author)n0ukf2014-02-25

X Box Media Center. Think of it as portable HTPC. Home Theatre Personal Computer.

oliverb123 (author)Nixylix922014-02-21

Its so that you can easily watch films from your hardrive... you could just plug your hardrive straight into the tv if it has a usb slot but some tv's wont register it, or play some of the films, and the files aren't displayed very nicely.. so this pro's got a rasberry pi with XBMC on - this is just a software which includes a very attractive interface for viewing your film collection with all the coverwork etc. I think that's what it is anyway. i'd love to make one with a mini projector in!

Ale Cylon (author)2014-02-18

Forgot to add the SD card to the part list, but of curse anyone using a raspberry knows you need an sd card.

tomhung (author)Ale Cylon2014-02-19

thanks. I got it added. I dont think raspbmc is very picky about SD.

bmingo (author)2014-02-18

Awesome build! This gave me some killer ideas for a portable Windows version!

ykyk (author)2014-02-17


tomhung (author)ykyk2014-02-18

"Powerful! This is the make up of the"


jongscx (author)2014-02-18

You could totally put a battery in there and add an external LCD and you have a portable media player/streambox/emulator...

Awesome work!

tomhung (author)jongscx2014-02-18

I thought about that. A larger lunch box would have enough room. This mini is just a bit too tight for all that stuff. Almost every I would take this has a TV so I'm not worried about that.

Wingloader (author)2014-02-18

How do you see what you are doing with the keyboard? Does it display something on the TV? Sorry for the noob question.

tomhung (author)Wingloader2014-02-18

The SD card is installed with a linux operating system and XBMC media center running on top of that. The Pi boots directly into XBMC.

kavar mitesh (author)2014-02-17

it's new and nice thinking

4drive (author)2014-02-15

Are you able to connect a wireless card to it so it can pick up a wifi signal instead?

tomhung (author)4drive2014-02-15

There is an Edimax Wireless N dongle in there. It works fine. But I prefer to plug in when available. You can't beat wired for streaming. However from the HD its not necessary.

firestormRc88 (author)2014-02-15

Umm ok I am not a super tech guy, could you explain what this actualy is?

tomhung (author)firestormRc882014-02-15

With this media center I can take my media to many places with or without internet. I can show off the awesomness of XBMC without any setup. I hated the pain of throwing all my cables, laptop, harddrive, etc in a bag. This is all self contained with everything I will need. I like the Raspberry Pi but its form factor is a squid with the cables.

xbmc is a style of home thearter entertainment center if you ever used like say windows media center its almost like that where you have your media all together can pick from all of it and this thing ontop you can add plugins such as youtube netflix and different stuff i suggest looking up home thearter pc or xbmc if you would like to know more

bob3030 (author)2014-02-15

Nice build. Thanks for posting.

Tex Arcana (author)2014-02-15

excellent build! I hope you submitted to other tech pubs as well!!

bhalliday (author)2014-02-14

use openelec and the amber skin it speeds up xbmc on the pi quite a bit ive build literally dozens of rpi htpcs i love the little buggers

snakelips1 (author)2014-02-12

slick. how is the performance overall? any other mods you would suggest? How have you used it so far?

rocketman221 (author)snakelips12014-02-14

Xbmc runs pretty well on the raspberry pi. Mine is overclocked to 950mhz and it plays 38mbps blu-ray rips perfectly over ethernet. The interface is a bit sluggish though. A mouse is too laggy to use, but a keyboard or ir remote works great.

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