Raspberry Pi – first (XBMC) impressions
Last week I received my Raspberry Pi, after three months of waiting. In short: it was worth the wait. I first installed Debian 6 from Farnell’s (where I bought my Pi) OS Download Center. I did not play much with Debian, so I did not get a good impression of it. The OS seemed pretty usable on the Pi, though I experienced some hickups while browsing (using the default browser, I couldn’t find a package for Chrome). Anyway, let’s get to the awesome part.
The Raspberry Pi is a very small single-board computer. It has a 700 MHz. cpu, 256 MB of RAM and a GPU capable of decoding 1080p – the reason the Pi has become extremely popular very quickly. It is powered by a micro-USB port and can be used for lots of different things. Downside: it does not feature an optical out (S/PDIF). I would have rather seen that instead of the RCA- and 3,5mm audio port.
The Pi’s OS is stored on a SD-card (not included). On the board you will find a HDMI-port, ethernet-port, RCA-port, 3,5mm audio jack, 2 USB-ports and a micro-USB-port (for power).
I’m a big fan of XBMC – that’s why I run it on my HTPC, my home server and pretty much everything else it runs on. For my HTPC and the Pi, I’m using OpenELEC. It’s a small Linux distribution built from scratch that contains nothing but BXMC. And it’s fast, really fast (much faster than XBMCBuntu, which I also tried a couple of times).
OpenELEC suggests building the OS yourself. I did not want to go through the hassle of doing that, so I tried some pre-compiled images and then upgraded to the latest build. Disclaimer: this is what I did to get it running (there might be a faster way, but this works for me).
Read my article here for installation instructions: Installing OpenELEC on the Raspberry Pi.
It works! Menu’s are kind of slow, but usable. Using the older build I first tested with, 1080p was playable but stuttered a bit. Enabling audio decoding (audio output to the 3,5″ jack) was too much for the cpu and caused a huge drop in frames per second. After updating to the latest OpenELEC build, 1080p plays perfectly fine with not stuttering at all! That’s pretty amazing for such a small and cheap device.
Overall, the Raspberry Pi works great so far and looks very promising. I can’t wait to see where development will take it, I’m probably going to order another one pretty soon.
Playing a full-HD 1080p video on the Pi
Here’s a video my cousin Peter (better known as l3p) shot when we tested the Pi at his place. The Pi is connected to a Panasonic 50″ TX-50V10E plasma tv. Audio is redirected through a Denon 1909 receiver to a Kef KHT2005 5.1 home cinema set (upgraded with a REL Q200E). The movie playing is a x264 mkv file.