The Raspberry Pi 2 Desktop Experience

March 13, 2015 11:15 pm Leave your thoughts

Raspberry Pi DesktopAs you might have seen from my previous post, I have bought the new Raspberry Pi 2 and even created a tray case for it out of icypoles the first day I got it. The previous plan as soon as I turn on the Pi 2 was to try out my existing tutorials and see how much performance difference between this one and the original 256MB Pi model B. Funnily enough though, after returning from a bit of a break, my main desktop computer decided to die out. Something to do with USB over current (ASUS motherboard), nothing much I can do except trash it at this point.

In any case, it became a good chance to give the Raspberry Pi a spin. I wonder what happen if I were to use this Raspberry Pi 2 as a real desktop machine (a really quiet one too). So I spent a couple days using the Pi for my daily uses:

  • Internet browsing
  • Web development
  • Watching movies
  • Writing this article on a web browser

Initial Raspbian Configuration

To make things equal so that I can compare with past experiences, I have installed the Raspbian OS for this Raspberry Pi 2. There are a few things that needs to be setup specifically for this Raspberry Pi 2 though and they all can be done via the raspi-config.

  1. Increase the GPU RAM to 128MB
  2. Set the overclock to Pi2 configuration. Otherwise by default it’ll run with 700Mhz, which is not the optimum speed for the Raspberry Pi2

In addition to the above setup I have also setup the default behaviour of the file explorer to open movie files using OMX Player, to do so is quite simple. Simply navigate to the movie file, right click and select “open with”. Then click on custom command line and insert this following line of code.

Don’t forget to tick “Set selected application as default action…” so that next time you just need to double click that file to watch any movie.

The Experience

So these are the experiences so far for each of the above activities.

Internet Browsing

Currently my browser of choice for the Raspberry Pi 2 is Iceweasel. The browser works very well and this is the closest thing to full web browsers on the normal desktop and laptops.

The internet browsing is limited to news sites and blogs. The sites that I visited were reddit, this site’s admin console, stackoverflow, bitbucket, github, theage and many more. Most of the sites performs very well, there were a couple occations where the browser would halt especially when the site has a lot of Javascript to process.

Flash videos are of course still not supported, although I suspect my tutorial with Luakit and youtube remains usable. I shall revisit that some other days.

In general though, browsing is pleasant enough and I have to say that it’s more hiccup free than my Android tablets, even the newer ones. The other good thing is of course the fact that I’m able to write this entire article on the Raspberry Pi 2 alone.

Web Development

The usual stack that I’m working on is LAMP. This time I haven’t started any EmberJS project or anything requiring NodeJS just purely LAMP stack. The good news is Apache, MySQL and PHP installs and runs really smoothly out of the box for development purposes, I didn’t have to do any tuning so far, after all there’s only one user.

Another thing that I couldn’t do in my old Pi was running Geany, I needed a light IDE that provides good syntax highlighting and Geany is of course available in the repository out of the box. So far, for editing larger codes the Pi 2 held up rather well, no hickups at all. This is also together with running the LAMP stack and having the web browser opening multiple pages.

On top of all that, I ran one more additional thing, that is TortoiseHG on this machine. I almost can’t believe my eyes when in worked relatively well. It did crash once when it couldn’t verify the host fingerprint, but after that thg runs very well.

Watching Movies

This one is a given, partically flawless at playing 1080p movies just like the first Raspberry Pi. So the one thing to setup was just the shortcut for OMXPlayer.

Writing Articles on a Web Browsers

Web WYSIWYG editors aren’t the lightest applications to run on a web browser. In the original Raspberry Pi I wasn’t able to initiate the editor properly much less write anything. This is because the javascript operations can be quite intense on these editors.

Using the Pi 2 though it’s quite possible, sure it’s not a flawless experience, there’s a bit of slowness and hickups but nothing that grinds the browser to a halt. Like I said previously, it’s faster than my quad core ASUS android tablet and my Galaxy Tab 2 tablet.


In conclusion it’s very possible to use the Raspberry Pi 2 for light workstation, I think this can be a perfect lightly powered desktop and it’s quite cheap. Most of my daily usages can be handled quite well without any crashes whatsoever. The Raspberry Pi 2 has come a long way from it’s original version the Raspberry Pi model B. Just remember to set the overclock and adding the GPU RAM if you want to use it as a desktop like I do. Lastly of course, this can be a perfect media center machine for your living room, especially if you install OpenELEC.

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