Debian Bookworm Comes To The Raspberry Pi, And Wayland Is Now Default

It must have been a busy week for the PR department at Raspberry Pi, with the launch of their latest single-board computer, the Pi 5. Alongside the new board comes something else, an updated Raspberry Pi OS version.

This is built from Debian 12 “Bookworm”, and supplants the previous “Bullseye” version. As well as the new OS base it comes with a pile of Pi-specific upgrades including an optimsied version of Mozilla Firefox. Probably most important is that henceforth (at least on 64-bit boards) its desktop will use the Wayland compositor rather than X11 to draw and manipulate windows. This is a development that has been in the works for a very long time — it must be almost a decade since the first Raspberry Pi blog entry about Wayland — so it’s welcome at last to see it.

The new tweaks as well as Wayland are supposed to deliver a much faster Pi experience, so we thought we’d break out the stopwatch and do some rough real-world tests. The bench 8GB Pi 4 here has a vanilla 64-bit Bullseye installed, so off we went to measure boot time, Chromium browser opening time, and Hackaday load time. It was time to download the new 64-bit Bookworm image and do the same. Have we just downloaded a power-up?

Both tests were done with an everyday boot, after the first-time OS set-up, and with all browser caches emptied. First up was a significant boost, with Bookworm booting in 37.14 seconds to Bullseye’s 53.5, but the Chromium opening was a little more disappointing. On Bullseye it took 7.15s, while Bookworm’s Chromium managed a more pedestrian 9.13s. The new Firefox takes only 7.95s to open. Both Chromium browsers load Hackaday in about 1.8s, while the new Firefox did the same job in a shade over 3s.

So allowing for our stopwatch reaction time and the ad-hoc nature of the test, this is a faster-booting OS, but the underlying hardware is still the limiting factor. We’re disappointed to see that there’s no update for the x86 version of the Raspberry Pi Desktop, and we hope they’ll be able to rectify this in the future.