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I have a library with more than 1000 movies and I'm searching for a cheap but good performance media centre system.

I've been using a Xtreamer Prodigy until now but it's firmware's a little slow (more than 2-5 minutes booting and a clunky interface, streaming TV is jerky, etc).

So I'd like to turn to XBMC side (because it's full-featured). A Raspberry Pi may be the cheapest device but I have no idea how it would work with my library and even with XBMC navigation itself (I'd like it to be responsive/fluid and fast-booting).

Could anyone confirm its strength in such a configuration? Also, if it's not suitable for my needs, what do you think about all new android boxes (running XBMC)? Which would be best (considering I need it to have both HDMI and A-V/RCA/peritel display ports).

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This question (raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/32/…) will help you setup XBMC. From what I gather, it actually runs pretty well on RPi, if you are using a version specific to Raspberry Pi-- Raspbmc. –  RLH Jan 3 '13 at 13:18
    
How is your library stored? NFS and Samba (SMB) work well with large files on the raspberry_pi - personally I have 32GB SD Card and use SFTP and copy mkv to the card - always plays well some files are over 2.5GB –  Mapperz Jan 3 '13 at 20:25
    
@Mapperz : I'd use it with my 2 Tb external harddrive plugged in via USB. All my movies are contained within two separate folders. I would like the XBMC menus to be fluid, the pi to boot up fast enaugh and I would like to have a fluid navigation through my movies (jukebox mode, movie wall, etc) –  jsn.crdnl Jan 4 '13 at 7:08
    
Note that XBMC (I tried XBian) supports the HDMI-variant that transfers remote signals from the television. You can then use your normal remote to navigate. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jan 7 '13 at 23:40

9 Answers 9

I run the RPi as my media station with Xbmc on Arch Linux. I have an external 1TB HDD (with external power supply) attached which holds my movie/series collection.

Library

Xbmc has Library features for Movies, Pictures, Series and Music with extended functionality (order by year, actor, whatever).

But, before giving your collection to Xbmc, do yourself a favor and check for some "frame-conditions":


Speed

If you want to start your system from scratch (like I did), you'll want to make some "optimization" to the Xbmc settings:

  • Set the memory split to at least 128MB for the GPU (movies won't play otherwise)
  • Disable the RSS feed (makes menu faster)
  • Always enable v-sync (reduces CPU in idle)
  • Set down the refresh-rate (reduces CPU in idle)

If have not overclocked anything on the Pi in my current setup.

If you're using Arch (which has a very up-to-date repo), you get the newest Xbmc version which is now officially supporting the RPi. It got a little faster and they're still working on it.

Also, if you decide to use a finished Xbmc distribution, these tweaks might already be applied.


Controlling

I control my Xbmc with a Windows MCE remote I had laying around here. It works nice with Lirc installed. You might want to check Lirc's compatibility list and buy one of your own (it's more comfortable from the sofa).

Also, keep in mind that the RPi can not power down, so you'll need to shut it down via SSH/Xbmc and pull the plug manually.

I also have an FTP server running on the Pi so I can move new videos over quickly without carrying my HDD everywhere. Be sure to use FTP instead of SFTP, since the latter will be slower (due to the encryption).


Also, consult the Xbmc RPi FAQ!

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Enabling v-sync may also cause stutter. If you have a DTS capable receiver/TV you don't need to worry about transcoding the audio. Also, CEC works well with the Pi so if you have a capable TV or receiver you can just use its remote control. It's extremely important to have a class 10 SD card, or better yet use a hard disk for the OS. –  KayEss Apr 19 '13 at 1:45
    
I would highly recommend installing on a fast usb stick. Even class 10 SD card is slow compared to even 30 mbps capable usb stick. USB3 stick is worth it too since you can get up to 60mbps with usb 2 port. –  DominicM Aug 21 '13 at 19:16

I am using Raspberry Pi and have a large library. I have noticed that it works great with small libraries connecting to my NAS; however with over 1700 Movies with slows to a crawl and is unacceptable when getting ready to watch a movie. Great concept,but it lacks the power. I have tried it with Raspbmc and Openelec. Openelec works better but still not powerful enough.

I don't have the same problem when dealing with any of my laptops on my network using XMBC. I purchased an Arctic Media PC to help resolve this issue. Seems to help a great deal of people with the same problem.

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I have a Pi Running the OpenElec Version and have tried RaspBMC and also RasPLex (the Plex build for the PI). I've also run XBMC on PC's and laptops. OpenElec version offered the fastest most fluid response for me and will be way easier to set up and get running than Raspbian or Arch Linux.

My pi is connected to my Media via my NAS on Samba shares.  I have around 750 Movies (~1.2TB), ~700GB of TV Shows and ~350G Music.

While the Pi isn't as fast or fluid as a PC, it is certainly better than what you are describing with your current set up. For example:

  • If I press "movies" from the main menu it will load for about 3-7 seconds
  • Press start on a Movie/TV show it will load for about 3-7 seconds before playback
  • Playback of 480p & 720p files has been perfect. I have nothing in 1080p but I've heard it works fine.
  • Older divx files play fine as well as all my music files. In short, I haven't seen it stutter, buffer or refuse to play anything. Playback is perfect.

The only issue I have is that XBMC is refusing to recognize new movies as I add them and I haven't figured out why (and yes, they are named correctly and according to conventions).

In regards to a remote, try a Media Center Remote like this one from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001M56DI0/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 As the First Reviewer points out on the Amazon page, the remote itself is just OK, but the IR receiver can be used with Harmony remotes (I have the Harmony 200). This remote/IR Receiver works out of the box with every version/install/variant of XBMC I've ever tried. Not bad for $8.00.

Now, with all of that said... have you tried Plex? While it's performance is sluggish on the Pi it pretty snappy on the Roku boxes. Please bear in mind that with Plex you need to have the Plex Server running on another computer somewhere and so that may not be for everyone. Also RasPLex (the Pi build for Plex) is still new/beta and so performance may increase as the project matures.

In regards to price, while the Pi board is only $35, you will also need a case, an SD Card, a Power Supply and the cables. You may have some of this laying around and you can make a case from Legos or something if you want. If not, the true cost of the PI is probably going to be closer to $75 which is in the range of several other options. That is still a bargain and if you are something of a geek then a Pi will never go to waste if you decide to move your media center to a different device down the road.

Finally, please bear in mind that this landscape is changing very quickly and there are already a lot of options. I am looking at some of the Android Boxes like the Xios DS or the upcoming Ouya boxes. I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who has tried them and how they compare.

Good luck!

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you could always use a usb external hd, and yes RPi is good enough, although unlike the pc which is ofcourse slower, just expect what 512mb of RAM gives you, but in my case it's all good, Raspbmc + XBMC is a good combination as well as the cheapness of the RPi

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You can install Raspbmc (http://www.raspbmc.com/download/) it performs great even with 1080p videos ! I wouldn't recommend to use external HD because they consume lots of energy power that Raspberry pi can't handle. You can use a big SD card, or even mount folders via local network (raspbmc has that feature)

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I have recently set up raspbmc on my Raspberry Pi B model. I have performed the following to try to boost performance and/or quality.

  1. Disabled UI limit (XBMC UI went from 720p to 1080)
  2. Overclocked with in-built tool to "super" setting which is 950 MHz if I am not mistaken. You will also need power supply capable of delivering enough power. I had problems with any overclock with 950ma supply. 1.2A adapter works great.
  3. Setup all my shares as NFS instead of SMB (read Only). This improves performance when starting video or browsing shares. This only applies to network share and not usb devices. Try putting nfs in udp mode also, this is fine for home networking and removes some overhead.
  4. Installed the OS on 8GB usb Stick (~30mbps actual read speed). Note: you still need an sd card present to point to the system files on the usb stick.

To answer your question for the most part the interface is surprisingly fast and responsive considering the low cost and power usage of Pi. There are a couple of exceptions:

When opening Movies/TV shares with large amount of items it can take very long time. For example a Movies share with almost 3000 items can take 20-30 seconds to open. It does not matter if it has been opened recently or not. I haven't found a way to improve this yet. (Will try OpenElec instead of raspbmc to compare soon). The time taken to open seems to be directly proportional to the amount of files, so 1000 movies should take about 10 seconds. My TV folder has 350 items and opens in 4-10 sec.

When playing movies, especially 1080p device can become unresponsive and make it difficult to stop the video. This might be caused by the removal of the UI limit though because Pi has very limited video memory.

Overall the Pi can be very usable once configured properly with a few annoyances. SD and 1080p videos play smoothly and skipping/fast forwarding is not too slow either.

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I have a setup with 2 Raspberry Pis - one has a USB 2TB External HDD (with its own power supply) and it actually acts as a server I can connect to from my home network and also remotely. The other RPi has RaspBMC installed (because I've experienced that OpenElec has issues with certain video formats only playing audio) and I connect to the other Raspberry Pi by adding a new network location (SSH/SFTP). I've been able to stream video files from the RPi in my basement to my RPi with RaspBMC across over 2000 miles of internet highway. I had some buffering issues, but I feel like it was more of a connection speed issue (in-laws with slow connection). Locally, I've had no issues.

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Probably worth an update based on recent work done by some people closely involved with Raspberry Pi Foundation. There has been some speed up and better handling of features like fast forward. They blogged about it recently and added a video to show it. http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/4986

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Raberry Pi is OK at running XBMC, but the specs just aren't enough to run it well and reliably. I use an ANdroid based box. Much more powerful and stable.

I use a SkystreamX Android Box that came preloaded with all of the good XBMC Add Ons. It was simply plug and play. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to cut there cable and start watching free TV.

Android TV Box

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