You’ve probably heard that the Raspberry Pi now ships with 512MB of RAM. I’m here to tell you about what that means for Raspbmc as so many of you have been asking, and help clear some things up.
First off, and most importantly, Raspbmc is going to support both 256MB and 512MB boards indefinitely. There is absolutely no reason why one distribution cannot be fine tuned for both boards, and as such, no compromises need to be made in terms of development. There’s no need to feel left out if you have a 256MB board — count yourself lucky to have a Raspberry Pi! It’s going to be rocking Raspbmc for a good long while I hope.
Now, will this new board work in Raspbmc out of the box? Yes. Will it be optimised? You betcha. I’ve already made the necessary optimisations to bring the best out of both Pis. I will compile my changes in a day or two — but the bottom line is Raspbmc will be able to detect the amount of memory the Pi has and configure the bootloader and system tunables accordingly without any additional setup.
So many are asking if this board will make Raspbmc faster. Not exactly, but the increase in GPU memory will come in handy for decoding fanart, and most likely, help support more fanart intensive skins. Furthermore, the additional RAM will come in handy if you use the Pi for multiple services, such as Raspbmc’s integrated TVHeadend or Samba servers. Additional memory here will let you run these services smoothly without worrying about running out of system memory during playback.
Should I upgrade? That very well depends on what you are doing. If you know your bottleneck is RAM, it may be an idea. But for most people who claim to have choppy 1080p playback, your issue may be that you are streaming a high bitrate video over SMB. This can peg the CPU high as SMB has a high level of CPU overhead in comparison to lighter network protocols, such as NFS. If the CPU is the constraint, then this memory upgrade is unlikely to yield much of a performance upgrade.
I hope this answers your questions about Raspbmc and the new Pi. And yes — Raspbmc is ready to take on this lovely upgraded piece of hardware.