So you want to improve XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi. Understandable. Let’s face it Raspberry Pi’s modest hardware specs is significantly below a low-end HTPC. But it is by design and nothing can beat a Raspberry Pi when it comes to a low-power high definition media center (less than $3 per year for 24/7 operation). However, nothing can be a bigger turn off than a HTPC that just crawls when you are trying to show off around your friends. The truth most of the times we forget Raspberry Pi’s limitations and expect the same things from it as a full-fledged HTPC. But there are a few tweaks you can perform to improve XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi.
Increase XBMC Performance on Raspberry Pi
While I have personally tested the following list, they are by no means exhaustive. Also, each tweak may be optional depending what you are willing or not willing to sacrifice. So here are some XBMC performance tips for Raspberry Pi on OpenELEC. These should also apply to other media center operating systems such as Raspbmc and Xbian.
1. Overclock Raspberry Pi
Overclocking your Raspberry Pi is the probably the best way to significantly speedup XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi. Overclocking Raspberry Pi can be quite tricky on OpenELEC but just follow our simple guide and it should tell you everything you need to know on how to successfully overclock your Raspberry Pi. Raspbmc and Xbian provide access to overclocking through the XBMC interface.
And if you decide to overclock then I suggest that you consider adding good heat sinks to your Pi.
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2. Disable Unwanted Services
The next tip to improve XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi media center is to disable unused services: SSH, SAMBA, Zeroconf, Bluetooth, etc. On some media center OSes certain services are enabled by default while on others you are asked to choose during first boot. Either way, on OpenELEC, go to the services tab and disable SAMBA (if do not plan on sharing the Raspberry Pi’s SD Card or attached USB device through SAMBA, SSH if you do not plan to SSH into your Raspberry Pi, and Bluetooth.
In my case I have also disabled Zeroconf and webserver (shown below).
In addition, you may want to think about about disabling weather altogether so there is no background synchronization. However, I am not quite sure if doing so has any significant impact on XBMC speed.
3. Disable Tag Reading
This is one tweak I will strongly recommend if you have tons of music and your Raspberry Pi plays music from a remote server wirelessly. Initial loading can take several minutes. Therefore, I recommend disabling music file tag reading.
4. Disable Actor and Video Thumbnails
I am not sure about you but I almost never check actor thumbnails. I do not want my media center to check online and download actor thumbnails. If you are like me then go ahead and disable Actor thumbnails.
Some may prefer not to disable video thumbnail extraction. Having video thumbnails makes the interface look nicer. Some of the nice views (Eg. Media Info) use video thumbnails. If no thumbnails exist in the video folder, XBMC can extract a thumbnail from the video. If you want use every bit of juice to improve your XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi then consider disabling video thumbnail extraction.
Keep in mind a thumbnail has to be extracted only once per video as XBMC uses the cached image from the next time.