Raspberry Pi + XBMC = Meh....

The internet is full of the raving over how the Raspberry Pi and XBMC are the panacea utopia of media centers.   And the hype has finally driven me to give it a try and see what is up.  And what I discovered is that all the stories about it are incomplete or downright fake.

Here is where I started, My RasPi is a 2nd gen purchased about 3 months ago.  I have used it for a lot of playing about, and started a internet/MP3 clock radio project.   So I grabbed it and went online to download the http://www.raspbmc.com/ distribution for the RasPi.   Installation was utterly effortless, and the Rasbmc distro is as easy as you can get.   it downloads the latest on initial startup and configures everything.  It even is defaulted to using HDMI CEC control if your TV supports it so you have a unified remote control..... Kind of..... more on that later.

After the installation, it started up and I pointed it at my media collection.   I have a tiny collection of movies and Tv shows,  maybe 30 Movies and 50 TV episodes all together, so it started to download metadata for all the content and pegged the processor.  Ok, I'll give it slack as this will only be done once in a great while...  but even after letting it sit for 2 hours it was still sluggish.   Things improved when I set it to 720p instead of the default 1080p, but slightly.   The entire User interface is sluggish all over the place, and spooling up a Show to watch from the NAS takes at least 10-15 seconds, this is compared to my PC based XBMC box and even the AppleTV 1 running XBMC starts playing in 2 seconds.   Playback of SD content is good, until you skip ahead or back,  at this point the mpeg4 stream falls apart and takes about 2-3 seconds to recover.  I do not see this same behavior on my AppleTV running XBMC or the PC based player.   Playing any HD content that is 720p or 1080i studders once in a while,  this is probably because of the lack of ram allowing any video buffers.

Overall, the Raspberry Pi is not useable for XBMC.  I wish it was, I desperately wish it was, but it does not have enough ram or processing speed to give a smooth User interface feel or to stop it from locking up and waiting for 10-20 seconds at a time when it get's busy.  also the CEC control is missing an important function.   "menu"  so you can get into the functions of XBMC for file management.  This may be easy to fix by mapping the blue button to menu,  I have yet to look.

It's neat,  but certainly not useable,  those that claim it is either have never touched XBMC on real hardware before or are sugar coating the real problems it has.  Going into the TV directory makes it pause for 20 seconds while it reads the directory contents..   I dont see this on any other hardware.

Give me a Rasberry Pi with a 2ghz processor or a dual core 1ghz, and at LEAST 1 gig of ram, and then you have something that will be able to run XBMC in a useable form.

I'd even pay $59.00 for that kind of hardware!


  1. Thanks for a honest review. People seem to rave about it, but from the YouTube videos it does look very sluggish. I keeps I'll keep my Sandy Bridge Celeron HTPC for awhile longer.


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