XBMC on Raspberry PI part 1

Raspbmc logoAs a owner of two Raspberry Pi  I have dedicated one of them to my testing ground for usage with XBMC. XBMC is more or less, in my opinion the open source standard in entertainment hub for digital media. Yes that means mkv, avi, mpg, iso and img playback over the network.
So what I found when I did a little research is that there are three out of the box candidates to use when installing XBMC on the Raspberry Pi .

 

We have:

  1. Raspbmc
  2. OpenELEC
  3. XBian

Installation

All of the different packages have there own installation help and techniques. Easy to follow and straight forward.

Difference

The difference between them lies in the features, plug-ins, optimizations and speed. I haven’t verified all the features but a good summary has been posted here by the user Caravela and I have also added and changed information.

OpenELEC
Low XBMC CPU around 13% on idle system menu
Easy to update
The system is optimized for what is compiled for, therefore It is limited to the packages you can compile.
Harder to customize, i.e: fstab mounts

Raspbmc
Low XBMC CPU around 18% on idle system menu
Debian based, easy to add packages
build environment available
non standard boot process, it uses upstart or something like that, do a apt-get upgrade on rc4 and it never boots again.
Non standard boot so it is harder,at least for me, to configure services.

XBian
Idle CPU usage is around 10%
Debian based, easy to add packages
Standard boot process
Updates through a custom apt repository
Not compatible with rpi-update due to a customized high performing kernel
Build environment available everything is documented on git: http://www.github.com/xbianonpi/

My installation(s) and toughs

I’ve installed only so far installed Raspbmc on my Raspberry PI. I’ve tried the latest release and the nightly builds.
Changing the resolution to 1080p as the default was capped to 720p.
Now what I’m comparing with regarding interface speed and playback speed is a good HTPC solution or Boxee Box(on the lower end) and the original Xbox regarding interface speed.

The Bad

I’m rather disappointed with the Raspbmc interface speed. There is too much lag when browsing around, especially when browsing the movies over the network. I compared this with the Boxee Box which handles this much faster.
Checking the frame rate in system information i shows that it is around 40fps in the interface when I have chosen that i should have 1080p 60hz. This is perhaps OK regarding the interface but when viewing a mkv 1080p over my Giga bit network there was a lot of frames missing(choppy playback) and it was not consistent. It was not watchable in my option.  Also the pre buffering of the movie took a really long time before it could start to play a movie which meant that moving to another position in the movie was not an option as it would take at least 5s for it to show the movie again. Not an option.
Also the CPU usage is much to high 70-85% when showing it in the system properties.

The Good

The features and the plug in options are really good in Raspbmc not to mention that they use XBMC + the easy installation.

Summary

In my opinion the Raspbmc has not reached a good baseline regarding playback, interface and network speeds. If they can fix that the Raspberry PI with Raspbmc is a worthy competitor to the normal HTPC and the Boxee Box solution. I will however come back with more info as I progress with testing the OpenELEC and XBian.

Catch you l8ter!