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

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.

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

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

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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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.