Techradar compares five Raspberry Pi operating systems

There’s a really fantastic piece in Techradar and Linux Format, going into considerable depth to compare, contrast and review five Raspberry Pi operating systems. If you’ve been thinking about trying out a new distro on your Pi, it’s a great place to start. (And well done, Raspbian!)


Sawdust avatar

Ignore the bit about RISC OS Select in the article. That was for old Acorn hardware and is not relevant to the PI! Maybe someone who is registered would like to point that out to them.

Cypher avatar

RISC OS is now on the Raspberry Pi as well now, it’s in the Downloads section.

Tim Rowledge avatar

It was the ‘Select’ part that they got wrong. The ‘RISC OS Select’ version of the OS is a non-open system that … well it’s complicated boring and irrelevant now for other complicated and irrelevant reasons.
It doesn’t run on the Pi anyway, though there is some small chance that the code might in the future become part of the open RISC OS.

Eric Wing avatar

The article doesn’t say that version 6 will work with the RPi, it says that version 5.19 will and is the RISC Open version. It’s also worth mentioning that RISC OS 6.2 does cost something like £99 from the RISC Select section of the RISC 6 site.
In fact, reading through this article again, apart from the typos (LXDE is a fair mistake to make, and one that was mis-printed on the main Raspberry Pi site when it first appeared), this article is really good. From the viewpoint of the beginner, RISC OS is good fun, but difficult to get into. Plan 9 is diabolical and a load of rubbish to put it bluntly. The author also mentions PiBang, but never included it in the main article, maybe they didn’t have time or were asked not to? I think it’s a very good look at some of the main RPi OS’s.

InverseSandwich avatar

I’ve found another error in the article.
Raspian uses LXDE, not XFCE.

Crystal Cowboy avatar

They rate Raspbian very highly. And yet, when i went looking for webcam streaming packages, Arch had mjpg-streamer readily available as a package. Raspbian did not, I had to compile it from source.

peepo avatar

Too many ads by far makes the review hard to read, let alone concentrate.

if the web goes this way, please turn the lights out…

Dr. Mouse avatar

AdBlock Plus is your friend… At least if you use Firefox :)

mahjongg avatar

its a bit of a pity they did not review bodhi linux for the PI. Based on Raspbian, but using the light fast and beautiful enlightenment windows manager it actually manages to b a big improvement on Raspbian.

Marc avatar

Clearly biased towards Debian. Plan9 is much better than they indicated.

Gonewest avatar

Last July you blogged “Android 4.0 is coming!”

Is work still being done on that?

liz avatar

Not at the moment. We’ve got a finite amount of engineering resource, and we’re putting it into things that are important for the educational purpose of the Pi, and making the wider user experience better: stuff like Scratch, Squeak, Smalltalk, Wayland, stuff like PyPy (see post from earlier today) and so on. Gordon’s currently working on USB issues, we’ve got camera work to do, and much more. But Android development is dormant for now; we have things that will benefit the *whole* community we’re working on.

AndrewS avatar

*puts on my conspiracy hat*
Google gave a big donation to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and now the Raspi port of Android is dormant… hmm, the big G clearly don’t want their flagship phone OS running on such cheap hardware ;-) ;-)

Liz, put the banhammer away, I’m just teasing! :-D

liz avatar

It’s OK, Andrew; you get to tease after all the problems you were having with the spambot!

Gonewest avatar

Got it. Kudos to you for pursuing the educational initiatives. Personally I’m fine with Raspbian. Thanks!

Matt Flaherty avatar

I understand the issues with closed source drivers, but I’m disappointed to hear (for the first time after all these months) that Android development is dormant. Android would be a godsend to this device and many of us in the community have been waiting (rather impatiently) for the official Ice Cream Sandwich release. I have to think there is so much demand for this that the OSS community would obliterate the engineering resource limitations. Is there no way you could expand the pool of resources through non-disclosure agreements with the Razdroid contributors?

JamesH avatar

Android has never been a priority for the Foundation due to it’s lack of educational emphasis. I’m also dubious of the level demand that Android supporters suggest is present.

I seriously doubt that the Razdroid developers would be able to afford the lawyers required for a Broadcom NDA…

Matt Flaherty avatar

This device coupled with a recent and usable Android would create a demand. The only things missing are the commitment and the marketing. It would be like a £35 Google TV platform complete with Netflix, LoveFilm, and loads of free and commercial apps that are simply not available on other RPi operating systems. Fair enough about the educational emphasis, but let me tell you. Once the UDOO project gets going it’s going to kick the RPi’s butt. Yeah, it’s estimated three times the price but it’s 5x as powerful, much more extensible, and completely open.

JamesH avatar

If I had a pound for every platform that said it was going to kick the Pi’s butt I’d have more than a few pounds.

The Pi is popular without Android, had no marketing budget to get to its 1.4M sales, and required no kickstarter funding – the funding was Eben/Liz re-mortgaging their house to pay for it. THAT is commitment.

If you really want Android I’d suggest either waiting for the UDOO (might be a while) or getting one of the other available devices that already support it. There are a few about.

Matt Flaherty avatar

I don’t wish to disparage the commitment of the founders to the Foundation or the vision that they have, but I don’t see the point of a post tagged Android calling attention to an article that compares 5 operating systems and boils down to “watch this space, it’s going to change everything” when the upshot is “nothing to see here”. The beauty of OSS is that anyone who wants to make something work can try and hundreds or even thousands can work together in parallel. Open source software is essential to the RPi project but some aspects of it are being held back by proprietary concerns. Forgive me, but this post seems a bit of a tease after months of “we’re working on it.”

JamesH avatar

We said quite some time ago (months) that Android was on the back burner. There are actually technical reasons why we cannot use the current Broadcom JB Android which are not that easy to get round in the limited time available to the people who could work on it.

The Foundation are not responsible for third party reviews – the article linked to had other information unrelated to Android that was worth linking to.

Please don’t bring up the OSS strawman argument. It pretty old hat and done to death on the forums. I’d suggest that even with its propriety GPU blob, the Raspi is still the most open of SoC based devices. It’s obviously not been any sort of limiter on sales, so I fail to see how it’s being held back.

Matt Flaherty avatar

All right, I missed that news. I read some comments back in Feb/March and once in a while I check this tag. I’m glad the RPi is selling well. I have two. One runs openELEC. The other is for messing around. My wife is involved in IT procurement at the school where she teaches and she is talking about getting a whole bunch. I will swallow my disappointment. Maybe I’ll join the Razdroid project. I’ve never done any embedded development but there’s a first time for everything. Thank you for the discussion and thank you Raspberry Pi.

Jason Bramwell avatar

Too bad they keep referring to RISC OS and Plan 9 as Linux. Not a great article by any stretch.

Marc avatar


Wobbulator avatar

I find RISC OS by far the best desktop tinkering OS for my needs. And raspian is my OS for the headless server Pi.

Ian avatar

While we don’t review each OS, in this month’s The MagPi magazine we have an article that summarizes over 30 different OSes for the Raspberry Pi including Plan9, Bodhi Linux, Risc OS, PiBang Linux, Chameleon and many more. PwnPi anyone?

liz avatar

Ooh excellent – looking forward to that!

Edilson avatar

Hi guys.
I just came to ask if is i good idea pay 120U$ for an raspberry model A. Is cause i don’t found a store that sell this, and i decided make an special from one nacional store.
I’m in Africa i don’t if the reason is it.

JamesH avatar

If that is US dollars its very expensive – should be around $25

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