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Overclocked OpenELEC vs Xbian for Raspberry Pi

This post is a shootout of OpenELEC vs Xbian, with OpenELEC overclocked to the same level as Xbian. In my recent comparison of Xbian, OpenELEC, and Raspbmc (Part 1 and Part 2), it was clear that Xbian was the fastest and most responsive operating system for Raspberry Pi media centers. One of the hidden factors in the comparison is that Xbian is, by default, overclocked to work at higher speeds. This may have slightly tilted the balance in favor Xbian. Moreover, most recent Xbian (1.0 Beta 1.1) was compared against OpenELEC 3.0.5 Stable and not the most recent version (OpenELEC 3.1.6 Beta). I had several requests, from including the OpenELEC developers requesting further information and pointing out that OpenELEC 3.1.6 brings new features with improvements in boot speeds. Therefore, I decided to give OpenELEC 3.1.6 a whirl, overclock it to the same level as Xbian, and compare the performance to that of Xbian. So here it goes, overclocked OpenELEC vs Xbian for Raspberry Pi media center.

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

Overclocked OpenELEC vs Xbian

OpenELEC vs XbianIt 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. 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. 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 left at default overclock settings (840 MHz CPU, 275 Mhz Core, 400 MHz SDRAM, and 0 Overvolt)
  • OpenELEC 3.1.6 Beta released on August 20th, 2013 overclocked to 840 MHz CPU, 275 Mhz Core, 400 MHz SDRAM, and 0 Overvolt

Raspbmc was left out of this comparison because, in my previous comparison, it was a distant third after Xbian and OpenELEC.

Build a Low-Cost Raspberry Pi Media Center ~$65 Price
Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi3) Model B Quad-Core 1.2 GHz 1 GB RAM Kit, including: ~$49.99
Samsung 16GB EVO Class 10 Micro SDHC Card with Adapter ~$6.99
SANOXY Wireless USB PC Remote Control Mouse for PC ~$8.00

Ease of Installation

Nothing has really changed here. I still find Xbian installation the easiest. However, OpenELEC is not too far behind and takes only a couple of minutes extra. On Linux, its a matter of downloading the compressed file, extracting it, and issuing a command to write the files to the SD card. On Windows, it is as easy as downloading the image file and writing it to the SD card with an image writer.

OpenELEC Linux Installation
OpenELEC Linux Installation

Winner: Xbian (OpenELEC is not too far behind).

Boot Speeds

Previous comparison showed that Xbian was the leader with an average of 37s, followed by OpenELEC (3.0.5) at 49s, and Raspbmc (July 2013 Update) at 78s. Well, overclocked OpenELEC vs Xbian showed a completely different picture. It is amazing how fast the recent OpenELEC version boots. Granted, overclocking also played a significant role in the faster boot speeds. Below are 5 recorded boot times (time taken to reach stable XBMC interface that is ready to navigate):

OS 1 2 3 4 5 Average
Xbian 1.0 Beta 1.1 38s 37s 37s 38s 36s 37s
OpenELEC 3.1.6 30s 32s 31s 31s 30s 31s

Clearly, overclocked OpenELEC 3.1.6 is better than Xbian and Raspbmc.

Winner: OpenELEC

Operation Speed

Operation speed of OpenELEC vs Xbian was compared by navigating to various windows, opening libraries, opening addons, opening settings, and changing library views. These tests were done after setting up a library of 212 Movies and ~1200 TV show episodes. Here too, Xbian was better initially. However, after overclocking OpenELEC both distros were neck and neck and I could not notice visible differences in the operational speeds.

OpenELEC Library Thumbnail View
OpenELEC Library Thumbnail View

After a very brief initial post-boot lag (also present in Xbian), OpenELEC was very fluid.

Winner: OpenELEC and Xbian (Tie)

Wireless Performance

I am adding this category because, wireless performance is something that is important to me. My Raspberry Pi is connected to my Wireless Network through an Airlink 101 AWLL6075 USB Wifi adapter. After my initial comparison of OpenELEC vs Xbian vs Raspbmc. I settled with Xbian, but I started having problems with video playback from my home server. After few minutes, the video would sometimes freeze and and the only way to move on was to cut and reconnect the power source. I may be wrong, but I am going to assume that this is a wireless related problem.

On the other hand in OpenELEC 3.1.6, not only was Wireless setup a breeze but my initial assessment shows that the performance was also much more stable.

OpenELEC Wireless Status
OpenELEC Wireless Status

Winner: OpenELEC

Overclocked OpenELEC vs Xbian comparison continued in next page…

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About the author


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.