Home » HTPC » OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian: Part 2 – Options and Features

OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian: Part 2 – Options and Features

My comparison of OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian for Raspberry Pi continues in this post, with focus on various options and features offered in each of them. After introducing 4 operating systems for Raspberry Pi and comparing the installation, boot, and operation speeds of OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian in Part 1, this post will discuss in detail various options, features, and other non-important but nice-to-have “frills” that the three operating systems offer. It is clear from my previous comparison that Xbian was not only the easiest operating system to install but it was also the fastest and most responsive of the three. Let us see how OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian compare in terms of the extras that they offer over just vanilla XBMC.

Update (5/13/2015): Raspbmc is now OSMC. So you may want to check out our latest OpenELEC vs OSMC comparison.

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OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian: Part 2

OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs XbianTo recollect, the objective is to run a low-power media center that can play HD video from home server through the wireless network. I will not cover services such as CouchPotato, Sick Beard, Transmission, and SABnzbd or a webserver in detail. While I will not cover or compare USB installation and overclocking (except touching on it briefly). 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 OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian.

  • 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

Options / Features

All three OSes offer a very nice settings window that has all customizable settings relevant to the operating system and services. As shown in the pictures below, they offer options to configure your host, time, enable/disable services such as SAMBA, SSH, etc., configure network, and more.

But one feature that Xbian offered over OpenELEC or Raspbmc, stood out for me. There is an integrated package manager that allows you to install additional packages with just couple of clicks. For example, under the category “Net”, Xbian offers that following packages one can choose to install:

Xbian Additional Packages
Xbian Additional Packages

Many of the above packages may of interest for anybody who wants to setup a low-power server. After couple of attempts, I successfully installed the SAMBA package. It took about 5 minutes to install (through Ethernet) but there was no progress bar or anything to indicate what was happening. One time, when I was on Wifi, Xbian actually froze but I thought it was still installing the package and let I stand almost 2 hours. Nevertheless, it is a great effort that will make life easier for a lot of people.

Winner: Xbian

Frills

In the final leg of OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian I am going to compare few non-essential but nice-to-have features and issues I encountered. OpenELEC has been around for quite some time and so it has quite a bit experience behind it. OpenELEC OS itself is designed to be more immune to user-caused crashes. This means less control over the operating system. But most users prefer not do any commandline activity anyways. This however does not mean that you cannot mess with it or hack it. If you are Linux-savvy you can still do all things you want to do. One problem I had with OpenELEC was that power-off through the menu was erratic. Many times XBMC interface would restart instead of the whole system powering off. This is not ideal when the Raspberry Pi is powered using the TV’s USB port. If the TV cuts off USB power before Raspberry Pi powers down it could corrupt the OS files.

Raspbmc is based on Debian, one of my favorite Linux distros. Therefore, commands are very similar to that of Ubuntu, which I am familiar with. So it made it easy to perform commandline activities. Raspbmc comes with a custom background. One issue I had with Raspbmc was that it took 30 seconds or more to shutdown. This is an issue if your Raspberry Pi is powered through your TV’s USB port. Again, if the TV switches of first then it could corrupt the OS files.

A minor but annoying issue I had with both OpenELEC and Raspbmc was that Wifi WPA2 Passkey was not visible while typing and having Caps Lock key on caused some characters to appear incorrectly. This caused quite a bit of headache before I SSHed into OpenELEC, opened the configuration file, and found the Passkey to be incorrect.

OpenELEC vs Raspbmc vs Xbian continued in next page…

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About the author

Anand

Anand is a self-learned computer enthusiast, a part-time blogger, and a Food Scientist by career. He has been blogging since 2010 on Linux, Ubuntu, Home/Media/File Servers, Smart Home Automation, and related HOW-TOs on htpcbeginner.com and smarthomebeginner.com.

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