XBMC performance demo

One of the areas we’re putting a lot of work into is XBMC performance – we’ve been a bit shocked on working through some data* to find that the Pi now appears to have more XBMC users than any other platform in the world, bar the PC (we’ve overtaken cracked Apple TV 2s), and we want to make sure you have the best possible experience with the software.

(If you’ve started reading this and don’t understand a word of that first paragraph, head over to XBMC’s website to find out what XBMC is, what a media centre is and why you might want one, and then come back here.)

Dom Cobley and Ben Avison have been working on the platform for us, and the results so far are pretty impressive: video playback has always been good, but they’ve really tidied up the user experience in the menu in particular, and browsing through your media collection, even if it’s as big as Dom’s, is now much smoother and faster.

We’ve seen people online (particularly over on the XBMC forums – and particularly particularly in response to posts asking for recommendations for cheap XBMC platforms) calling Pi users fanbois, and announcing that the Pi is too laggy to be a real media player. That’s just not the case. If you’re running the latest firmware, XBMC on the Pi is more than useable: it’s something you can happily use as your main HTPC. Dom made this video so that when challenged, he and other XBMC users can demonstrate when asked that actually, the Pi’s pretty good at this stuff. He says:  “I’d quite like the laggy complainers to have something concrete to look at and admit either ‘actually it’s better than I thought’, or admit they are speed freaks who need desktop PC class equipment.” Here it is.

What you’re seeing here is OpenELEC with some performance patches Dom is currently working on, along with some other patches from Ben. We expect to see these patches appear in the standard OpenELEC and RaspBMC very soon. Those of you who are feeling brave can get Dom and Ben’s code – which is currently in beta – here. While it isn’t stable yet (we expect it to be very, very shortly) it gives you a very good idea of where we’re going with this. Enjoy!

*If you’re trying to interpret the linked data and figure out where we got that statistic from, it’s helpful to understand that XBMC/12.2 Git:20130502-32b1a5e (Linux; Debian GNU/Linux 7.0 (wheezy); 3.6.11 ARMv6l; http://www.xbmc.org) represents Raspberry Pis running RaspBMC, and the dozens of other ARMv6l platforms are OpenELEC on the Pi. OpenELEC appears more fragmented, as they tend to use bleeding-edge kernels. (They are on 3.11.1 now.) We don’t believe any other XBMC platforms use ARMv6 (ATV2 is ARMv7).