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Should I use a Raspberry Pi or Android Tablet for my Smart Mirror?

We get asked this question a lot. What should I use to build my smart mirror? Should I make a smart mirror with a Raspberry Pi? or use an Android tablet for my smart mirror?

And our answer for most people is almost always – Android/Fire Tablet.

Here are the 5 main reasons why.

1. Purpose/Function:

A mirror’s main purpose is to reflect you, clearly and without distraction, so you can shave, get your hair or make up done and get on with your day. The last thing you want is a display screen that is taking up most of your mirror reflection area with information.

A tablet – 7″, 9″ or 13″ is a perfect option. You can place it on the top right corner (usually preferred) or on any other place, away from the main area of your mirror. You can still have access to all the smart mirror information you need – weather, news, time, steps, sleep, health, calendar and other smart mirror widgets.

2. Cost:

The Raspberry Pi 3B+ with the Power supply, SD Card, Case, HDMI cable and Monitor is easily over $100. Add in the cost of microphone and speakers if you want to integrate a voice assistant.

A 7″ Android or Amazon Fire tablet costs less than $50

3. Weight/Installation:

While you do get the advantage of using a larger screen, with a Raspberry Pi,  that can be a distraction – see Purpose/Function of a smart mirror above.

In general we recommend a simple setup – two way glass or acrylic mirror, a ready to go frame, black vinyl for the back, and the electronics and display mounted to the glass. This keeps it simple and easy to install.

With a tablet it is simple, you simply mount the tablet against the glass and you are done.

However with the Raspberry Pi setup, you need to mount the Pi and the monitor, which you cant  mount to the glass because it is too heavy. And so you cant use a regular frame. So you need to put together a mounting bracket or use a shadow box frame, and make sure you install it carefully against the wall to hold the weight.

Apart from this you need to deal with the two power supply cables – one to the Pi and one to the monitor. This setup can get pretty ugly and bulky pretty fast. And don’t kid yourself, trying to create a custom frame that looks as beautiful as a pre-made frame is not a simple process, especially if you don’t have the right tools or woodworking skills.

4. Voice Assistant:

With an  Android Tablet you get, Google assistant and with a Fire Tablet you get Alexa.  So you are covered. You can still play your favourite songs, or order your toothpaste via amazon. No additional capability needed, a mic and speaker is in the tablet.

With Raspberry Pi not only will you need to figure out how to program or code it in, but you will need to add a microphone and speaker as well, which adds to the cost and the installation complexity.

5. Simplicity:

Using an Android tablet wins hands down. It’s simple to physically setup with your two way mirror and frame, and you just need to install the Mango Display App and you are done. In less than 10 minutes, you can have an amazing smart mirror with a beautiful frame of your choice.

While we have made using a Raspberry Pi much simpler from a programming and coding standpoint by providing you with the Mango Display OS for the Raspberry Pi. The actual physical connections and mounting involved, along with custom framing options, make this option not as simple as a tablet.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we always tell our users to first look into using an Android tablet for their smart mirror  or Fire Tablet for their smart mirror if they prefer Alexa. We also have a tutorial for a smart mirror with a Raspberry Pi. So, you can review all the details and make an informed decision for your smart mirror project.

Happy building! Make something great!

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