Raspberry Pi Performance
Anyone thinking to get a functional everyday PC on the cheap with the Raspberry Pi will either be pleased or frustrated. Pleased if they haven’t used a modern computer before, as the Raspberry Pi will let you browse the web, create word documents or spreadsheets, play simple or older games, and watch HD video. Frustrated if they’ve used anything faster than a netbook, which the Pi most certainly is not.
The YouTube website took over 55 seconds to load, compared to under 2 seconds on the average desktop PC and virtually instantly on a powerful rig with SSD storage. Even opening or closing windows in the graphical environment of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s recommended Raspbian Wheezy (a Raspberry Pi optimised version of Debian) can take just a bit longer than is comfortable, especially if another task is running in the background. Browsing the web also requires patience, and in the OS we even clicked buttons several times at first because the response was so delayed.
We’re hoping we’ll soon be seeing in-OS graphics acceleration, at which point day-to-day performance for the Raspberry Pi should increase noticeably. The other thing we’re hoping to see is a more powerful yet still ultra-affordable Model X with a 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM, not outside the bounds of possibility considering there are already sub-£100 tablets with these kinds of specs.
Even if this doesn’t happen, one of the best things about the Raspberry Pi is that performance on this open-source PC will only improve, as home-brew developers and hobbyist programmers add ever more refinements, shortcuts, and efficiency to the software available for the diminutive computing platform.
Raspberry Pi Value
Well, this one’s pretty obvious. There’s nothing else out there that comes close to matching the sub-£30 Raspberry Pi for value. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy one. If you’re after a cheap as chips desktop computer for basic productivity it will do the job, but you’ll need patience.
It’s perfect for a kid’s first computer though, especially since there’s no hand-holding and even installing extras needs to be done through a command interface – meaning they’ll hopefully learn a little more than ‘click/touch here to do this’. Relatively simple game-making software on the Wheeze install will especially appeal.
As a media player, the Pi is again the cheapest but not necessarily best choice compared to dedicated media players. With the correct software – either a video player on Wheeze or an XBMC/OpenELEC install - it will certainly play most video formats, including 1080p MKVs. However, menus perform slowly and MPEG 2-encoded video is off the menu due to licensing restrictions, so you might be better off with something like the far more powerful MK802 computer on a stick.
You’ll probably also want a case so the Raspberry Pi looks good with your AV gear. There’s a large choice of third-party ones available from sites like www.modmypi.com – or just build your own out of Lego/wood/cardboard. Because the Pi doesn’t require active cooling and doesn’t get hot, you can make a case out of a huge variety of materials.
Where the Raspberry Pi really shines is as a hobbyist board that’s small enough to fit almost anywhere and versatile enough to handle a huge variety of projects – and cheap enough that if you fry, break or smash it, it can easily be replaced.
Believe the hype: the Raspberry Pi really is a miniature marvel. It’s a computer the size of a business card for the price of a concert ticket, with enough connectivity to hook up all the essentials and enough power to play back Full HD video.
What it doesn’t quite have enough power for is to provide a smooth experience in anything remotely intensive that doesn’t utilise its graphics chip, and it can require a lot of effort to get even basic functionality set up. Of course that’s part of the point and, with widespread community support, the Raspberry Pi is only going to get better.