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Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC for Raspberry Pi: Part 1 – Speed

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Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC for Raspberry Pi – as the title says, it’s a comparison of the three major media center operating systems for Raspberry Pi. Recently, I introduced 4 operating systems for Raspberry Pi that are primarily for running a media center. I am going to tell you right off the bat that I recommend Xbian over OpenELEC or Raspbmc. So on my new shiny Raspberry Pi with all the bells and whistles, I tried all three operating systems and decided to stick with Xbian at this point. In this review (Part 1) you will find a detailed comparison of the three operating systems on speed or responsiveness. In Part 2, you will find a comparison of options and features offered by Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC (coming on 8/20/2013). So here it goes.

Build a Low-Cost Raspberry Pi Media CenterPrice
Raspberry Pi Model B+ Revision 2.0 512 MB RAM~$35.00
Panda 300Mbps Wireless-N USB Adapter (PAU05)~$15.00
Transcend 8GB Class 10 SDHC Card (TS8GSDHC10)~$9.00
SANOXY Wireless USB PC Remote Control Mouse for PC~$8.00

Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC: Part 1

Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELECIt is important to understand that the primary objective is to run a low-power media center that can play HD video from home server through the wireless network. Although you can install downloading services such as CouchPotato, Sick Beard, Transmission, and SABnzbd or a webserver, I won’t cover those in detail. I will also not cover overclocking or USB installation. The comparison was on the barebones Raspberry Pi with a Transcend 8 GB Class 10 SD card. Note that all tests were done on the same SD card. After testing each OS, the card was fully formatted using SD Card Formatter. I found Xbian to be the most responsive, fast, and newbie-friendly. Find the versions compared below and read on to know more about Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC.

  • Xbian: 1.0 Beta 1.1 released on July 14th, 2013
  • Raspbmc: July 2013 Update
  • OpenELEC: 3.0.6 Stable released on June 15th, 2013

1. Ease of Installation

Installation of Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC was the easiest easy. Installation instructions are available here: Xbian, Raspbmc, and OpenELEC. Installation of Xbian and Raspbmc were the easiest on Windows and OpenELEC on Linux. The general steps involve 1) formatting the SD card, 2) downloading an installer or an image file, and 3) running the installer or writing the image file to the SD card.

Xbian: Xbian provides a Windows installer. Just download the installer, format your SD card, and run the installer. You will have the option to choose which version to install. If you have a good internet connection, within 5-10 minutes you are done.

Xbian Windows Installer

Xbian Windows Installer

Raspbmc: While Raspbmc provides a Windows installer it is not best suited for over network (Wifi) installation. In my attempt, the total process took about 25 minutes. The installer only install the base files, then when Raspberry Pi boots for the first time, Raspbmc downloads and installs the root filesystem and XBMC. One good feature was that the Windows installer allows you to pre-configure Wifi.

Raspbmc Windows Installer

Raspbmc Windows Installer

OpenELEC: OpenELEC installation on Windows can be a bit lengthy, so I chose to install from Linux. The whole process took about 10 minutes and is fairly straight forward if you stick to the guide.

OpenELEC Linux Installation

OpenELEC Linux Installation

NOOBS: New Out of Box Software (or NOOBS) allows you to quickly install Raspbmc or OpenELEC. It does not support Xbian at this point. You download a ~1 GB compressed file, extract it into your SD card’s root folder and boot your Raspberry Pi. You will have the option to choose your operating system of your choice. The whole process takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

NOOBS Boot-Time Installation Window

NOOBS Boot-Time Installation Window

Winner: Xbian

Xbian vs Raspbmc or OpenELEC continued in next page

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  1. John says

    What version of each XBMC distro are you using? Openelec 3.1.6 (released today) includes some boot-time speed fixes.

    • says

      John, that was a very good question. I updated the post with version info. I did not try OpenELEC 3.1.6. Also on a separate note. I will have another post coming soon which shows a different picture of OpenELEC and that it performs as good as Xbian upon overclocking to the same level.

  2. Gdog says

    Since I’m running a 256 MB version of Pi, any idea how performance will be effected? Will Xbian still be the clear winner?

  3. Cyril says

    For me, it’s raspbmc that is faster in any way. Boot time it’s not a problem for me, a fluidity navigation without bug is the goal. In second place openelec for the rapidity (equivalent to raspbmc) with many bug and at last xbian. I have been tested xbian for many month and there is no comparaison with raspbmc.

    • says

      Cyril, thanks for your input. Now that XBMC Gotham has been integrated into OpenELEC and Raspbmc and we have a few updates in this major version, I have been comparing both Raspbmc and OpenELEC. I have a post coming on this shortly.

      I agree with you, Raspbmc has come a long way. While installation and boot are still slow after Raspbmc boots and settles in it is comparable to OpenELEC. And I do not shutdown and reboot my RPi often. On top of that Raspbmc is more than just a media center OS. It has more features and it can do a lot more. But I still feel OpenELEC has a very slight edge (hardly noticeable) over Raspbmc in terms of speed and fluidity. Again, I will cover this in an upcoming post.

      Xbian, for whatever reason is struggling to keep up. Too bad, I really liked it.

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