Raspberry Pi 2: We're Giving Away 50 Units!!! - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Raspberry Pi 2: We're Giving Away 50 Units!!!

Author: ctrauma

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: none

What were the biggest problems encountered?: none

Detailed Review:

For the last 3 months I have been putting the RPi 2 model B though it's paces. Realize these are my experiences and I don't have any solid empirical data to show, but I beat on this RPi 2 pretty hard and have 2 years of experience running a stable of original Pis doing everything you can imagine.


For me the roles that matter the most when it comes to performance on the Pi are:


  •      Video Rendering
  •      Code compilation
  •      Application load


I'm going to cover each area in detail..




My original Pi was running the latest install of OSMC with the latest release of Kodi. This configuration performed well most of the time but struggled playing HD video when panning across complex scenery. This pan usually resulted in dropped frames that made the scene jump and skip. I also had to be careful to chose a lighter skin for Kodi so not to exhaust the memory that usually let to a core dump. Memory also became a factor when Kodi kicked into screen saver mode, which I usually just have set to pan some fan art images. Whether this script had a memory leak or there was some corrupt image in the slide show I am unsure but it would frequently top out the memory and cause the watchdog script to reboot the OS, which in turn disables the CEC functionality and leaves you without a remote to control the UI. This is easily solved with a restart with the panel on, but is an annoyance.


Imaging the new Pi 2 with OSMC went smooth as glass and I was up and running in about 10 minutes, and simply pulled over my .kodi directory to bring over all my settings. Right from the start the UI was much more responsive and all the lag I had been use to was now gone. To test the limits of the UI rendering I grabbed a graphics heavy skin and installed it. At 1080p the UI looked amazing and was as snappy as ever, and with the added RAM of the Pi2 I wasn't bumping up against the memory limit even with the heavy skin. This definitely made for a more pleasant experience when playing media. Even though the Pi decodes video in hardware I found that all the dropped frames I was seeing ( or not seeing ) before were no longer a problem and heavy codec decoding pans across complex scenes no longer stuttered, which was really nice.  It is my understanding that the RPi 2 has the same data bus configuration, and that showed in the performance when accessing the network or reading from a USB device, but if you understand the limitations it is not really a show stopper. Also with the extra RAM head space I was seeing practically no lock ups or core dumps, which were most likely caused by too many  parallel tasks running when in screen saver mode, having more CPU and memory to work with seem to have put an end to that. I think I have had to restart to enable CEC only once in all the time I have been running the RPi 2 as a media center. So all around I give the RPi2 high marks as a successor to the original Pi with upgrades in some of the most useful areas.. If the Pi had gigabit networking and didn't share the data bus with the USB, the RPi 2 would be the perfect media solution, but for short money, dealing with a little network bottleneck is perfectly acceptable.




I mainly use RPis to run a bunch of services. I very rarely use them interactively through the desktop GUI. For instance my worker Pi has the following stack:



zabbix server





LDAP server (slapd)





basic NAS through NFS




This pretty much means the Pi is always busy doing 'something'... Slowdowns usually show up in web gui responsiveness, especially if db access is required. I never really see any file access sluggishness because access to file is over a shared data bus with both 10/100 network and USB, so you get what you get and that doesn't change much. Even times of high server load I don't see much change in the NFS response time, but the bottleneck here is the data bus and not so much the CPU/RAM combination, so I expect this.


The first thing I did was image the RPi2 withe Raspbian based on Jessie, so keep in mind I'm comparing RPis with two different OS releases. Again this went smoothly and I had things up and running relatively fast ( or course I have some helpful EOS python scripting to get everything configured for my environment). One of the most noticeable improvements  was the responsiveness of the web GUIs, and I don't know if this was do to more RAM and less swap, or more CPU cycles to handle requests, but the end result was less waiting and snappier responses, which was a welcome change because I had pretty much tapped out the original Pi. Like I stated before, network and file access response time remained the same, but this was expected. Raspbian wheezy has always been rock solid for me, and I saw the same results with Jessie, but the RPi 2 had much more breathing room which greatly improved the responsiveness, but I didn't see anything striking about the performance increase.




Let me state up front I don't recommend compiling any projects on the Pi, setting up a cross compiler toolchain on another more capable system is a much better choice, but if you must build on the Pi it can be done. Compiling on the RPi has always been an exercise in patience and some packages can even take days, and you need to make sure you have your swap set up correctly or there is a good chance you are going to exhaust your memory.  With the added RAM and cores I was able to to enable parallel builds which seemed to increase build performance by a factor of 5. If you absolutely have to build on the Pi you will be presently surprised at the performance increase, but your best bet will always bee to set up a cross compiler toolchain on a more capable platform.


If you have jobs on the Pi that can be scheduled to leverage multiple cores you will definitely see a noticeable performance increase, and the extra 200mhz per core doesn't hurt.




I didn't really find a use for the extra USB ports and I'm not sure how much use they would be in a data access capacity since the bandwidth is shared, but for multiple devices like mice, microphones, keyboards, etc,  it might come in handy. Installing RetroPie and having 4 usb ports to hook up controllers might be useful. I did briefly test RetroPie with two PS3 DualShock controllers connected to the USB ports and it ran and looked great. So if you are looking to build a mini retrocade, this might do the trick.




So in summary I think that the Pi 2 is a worthy successor, especially at the old price point, and especially in the targeted areas that benefited most from the upgrade, RAM and CPU. Of course adding gigabit network to the mix would have been a slam dunk, but would have probably pushed the price point a lot higher.