LibreELEC on Raspberry Pi 4 review

By Rob Zwetsloot. Posted

LibreELEC 9.1 comes to Raspberry Pi 4. Is it ready for prime time?

You could easily argue that Raspberry Pi was already the perfect media PC – why get excited for a Raspberry Pi 4-compatible version of LibreELEC/Kodi, then? One of the many improvements to Raspberry Pi 4 was the inclusion of hardware H.265 decoding – also known as HEVC. This means it can support 10-bit colour, as well as the 4K output of the new Raspberry Pi 4.

And we can say right off the bat that with H.265 encoded media, it’s noticeable immediately. Colour tearing and glitches are completely gone, with media running at full speed without it seeming to struggle. 4K works fine as well – not great, just fine – at 30Hz.

Size matters?

That’s not the only reason we decided to do a quick re-review of LibreELEC, though – there’s also the question of what version of Raspberry Pi 4 do you need. Could you save $20 and get the 1GB version over the 4GB, or is there a difference?

Yes, there is a difference, but no it’s not worth the $20 (for this purpose) in our opinion. After some extensive testing with the three versions, playback was the exact same, even with the most demanding bit rates. The UI, however, was noticeably just a little bit more responsive on the higher gigabyte models. Just the slightest bit, though – nothing to splurge on. At the very least, the 1GB model is a bit better than previous Raspberry Pi computers, in our experience.

So, to recap: you don’t even need to buy the best version of Raspberry Pi 4 to get the major benefits of the hardware redesign. That’s a huge win.

Verdict

9/10

LibreELEC 9.x still needs some work upstream. However, the beta is well worth jumping on board if you have a Raspberry Pi 4 and the need to use the extra power.

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