As technology advances, it is becoming easier and more affordable for people to build their own media centers. The question of which one is the best becomes a matter of preference between consumers, but there are some factors that should be considered before making this decision.
The “best media center software” is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on what you are looking for. There are many different types of media center software that can do anything from streaming your favorite shows and movies in 4K Ultra HD to playing games with friends.
A Raspberry Pi is an excellent option for a media center setup. It’s compact, quiet, and can simply transform any TV into a smart TV by installing Kodi, a free media player program that allows you to play your files and install a variety of applications such as Netflix and YouTube. The player doesn’t have much of a choice, but which operating system should you use? OSMC? LibreElec? Or even the Raspberry Pi operating system? That is the purpose of this essay; I have tried all of them and will share the benefits and drawbacks with you.
Overall, LibreElec is the best choice for using a Raspberry Pi as part of a media center setup. It’s the lightest system, with frequent upgrades and minor tweaks in Kodi to make it more user-friendly. Other solutions, such as OSMC, should only be explored if the Raspberry Pi will be used for more than one purpose.
In the next section of this essay, I’ll explain how I got to this conclusion and which option you should choose based on your objectives.
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OSMC vs. LibreElec: What’s the Difference?
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The purpose of both OSMC and LibreElec is to install a basic operating system that will automatically launch Kodi when you start your Raspberry Pi. OSMC is a Debian-based operating system, while LibreElec is a Linux-based operating system designed specifically for Kodi.
Kodi, by the way, is a standard program that can be installed on any distribution and operating system (it’s available for Linux, Windows, Android, and other platforms). This program has an easy-to-use UI that works well on a TV, even with a remote, to view movies, listen to music, and display photos.
I have other Kodi lessons on my page, so I won’t go into too much depth here; you may read them if you need more information:
But the most important thing to remember is that these two technologies (OSMC and LibreElec) were designed to make your life simpler. You just install them, turn on your Raspberry Pi, and you’re in Kodi. It’s a challenging decision since you practically never see the underlying distribution.
You won’t notice any change while using it for its intended purpose (viewing Netflix, for example). But in the following sections, I’ll go through the little variations you could notice during installation and everyday use, as well as why one option is better than the other.
Installation of OSMC vs. LibreElec
Both OSMC and LibreElec provide simple setup options for your Raspberry Pi. You may either use their SD card maker, download the image and flash it with another program, or use Raspberry Pi Imager directly, where they are listed among the supported operating systems.
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When you go to their respective websites’ download pages, they both recommend the first option: a device installer to flash the newest version of their system on your SD card.
I think the OSMC installer is somewhat superior since it allows you to establish your network connection directly, which is frequently simpler than doing it on your TV. Other customization choices include the Raspberry Pi model, OSMC version, and installation support (SD, USB, NFS, etc.).
So, a solid point for OSMC on this, but the installation procedure isn’t the most essential thing in the end. Even if it is the finest installer, if the subsequent experience is bad, you will not retain it. Let’s look at the other distinctions!
These utilities are available for download from the official websites; below are the exact links:
The first thing you’ll notice is the installer. You’ll have to browse down a little to locate the Raspberry Pi images that you may use with Etcher, RPI Imager, or any other tool to flash. Make sure you’re downloading the right file for your Raspberry Pi model.
Another problem with LibreElec is that it doesn’t appear to like Chrome/Windows users:-). On my machine, none of their download URLs worked. To download the files, I had to copy the URL and put it into a new tab, which is not ideal.
A small tip: While using Raspberry Pi Imager to install OSMC or LibreElec may seem to be the simplest option, it is not the best solution if you want the most recent version. While testing this for you, I discovered that a LibreElec update that was issued a month ago was missing from Raspberry Pi Imager.
First boot: OSMC vs. LibreElec
LibreElec and OSMC will launch a setup wizard on the first boot to specify the basic parameters such as hostname, languages, and so on. Overall, the LibreElec wizard is more user-friendly and more integrated into the Kodi interface, although both provide equal functionality.
Overall, LibreElec’s initial boot experience is much superior. It boots up fast and prompts you to use a straightforward wizard to set up everything: hostname, localization, and, if necessary, SSH and Samba. If you enable SSH, it will also prompt you to change the default password, which is a good idea for security reasons.
In this installation, LibreElec additionally includes a step to setup your network connection. It’s a nice suggestion, even though it’s typically quicker to write the password on your computer, since they don’t have the choice in their SD card maker.
On the other side, OSMC will take a long to start up and show you anything. You’ll see a strange screen that says it’s “installing files.” I’m not sure why it takes so long because the system just needs around 200 MB, but you have to be patient here.
And, sure, the OSMC setup menu has never been one of my favorites. I recall being absolutely bewildered the first time I tried it. Because I didn’t know how to utilize the proper option, I even chose the incorrect nation and timezone. Now that I’m acclimated to it and understand the options and submenus, it’s no longer a pleasant experience.
If you are in India, for example, you must first choose “India” and then the appropriate city. In this wizard, I prefer to use the keyboard arrows since the mouse behaves strangely while hovering over the first list.
So, LibreElec wins the initial boot experience, but that isn’t the most important factor. Are there any additional changes after the setup is complete?
Updates in OSMC vs. LibreElec
LibreElec is updated more regularly as a whole, keeping up with Kodi releases and new hardware more quickly. OSMC is often delayed on these issues.
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The release of the Raspberry Pi 4 is the finest example I can provide. The next Raspberry Pi model was revealed in June 2019. LibreElec released an early version that could be used on a Raspberry Pi 4 less than a month afterwards. Three months later, the stable version was published (In November of this year,). Users of OSMC, on the other hand, had to wait two years to run their preferred system on a Raspberry Pi 4. (August in the next year).
The Kodi updates have the same problem, although to a lesser level. At the end of October 2021, Kodi 19.3 was launched. LibreElec was upgraded to utilize the current version a week later, while OSMC released a new version just three weeks later.
|Support for the Raspberry Pi 4 (June 2019)||August in the next year||In November of this year,|
|Update to Kodi 19.3||26 November 2021||3 November 2021|
It may not be a big deal for you since most new Kodi versions don’t have a comprehensive package that you don’t want to miss. You may always update later if necessary. However, it seems to me that there is a problem with the OSMC development team. Why did it take two years to make everything compatible? They’re using Debian, and Raspberry Pi OS was accessible right away on the Raspberry Pi 4 (which is also based on Debian).
If you’re just getting started with your media center, I’d suggest beginning with LibreElec to obtain upgrades sooner and prevent problems down the road.
Note: I attempted to flash an OSMC image onto a USB key, but it did not work. LibreElec is compatible with USB storage devices. That’s just another sign that there’s a problem with the OSMC development. I saw that in the OSMC wizard, you can choose USB, so it should be possible, but it’s strange that it doesn’t work manually.
Is there a difference between OSMC and LibreElec in Kodi?
Kodi is, in general, the same program regardless of operating system. The interfaces of OSMC and LibreElec differ somewhat, mostly in terms of additions, but it makes little difference whether distribution is installed.
In all situations, I received Kodi 19.3 throughout my test. By default, OSMC proposes a different theme, but you may choose the same one as on LibreElec during the initial boot wizard. The Kodi interface seems to be same at first look.
You’ll notice some minor variations after navigating through the various submenus and adjusting a few things:
- In the setup section, LibreElec adds a custom submenu. It can assist with system settings, updates, network connections, and Bluetooth devices. Additional choices for the services you enabled on the initial boot may also be found there (Samba and SSH).
- In the main menu of OSMC, there’s a comparable option called “My OSMC.” It will assist you in adding more services, performing upgrades, and displaying system information.
Another feature of LibreElec that I enjoy is that they have introduced some extra repositories to make it easy to install new plugins to improve your experience. Kodi provides the foundation for watching movies and listening to music, but you’ll soon want to add other applications like Netflix or YouTube. With LibreElec, this will be a lot simpler.
If you use Samba to transfer files from your PC to your Raspberry Pi, the same thing applies (Samba is a file sharing service). In LibreElec, you may instantly access the files in the various submenus (Videos, Pictures, Music, and so on), however in OSMC, you must first add the samba folder.
Overall, LibreElec improved your Kodi experience by making some useful adjustments. Everything is more user-friendly and ready to use, and OSMC requires less setup. You can always add the same things, but if you use LibreElec, that’s an additional step you won’t have to worry about.
Performances of OSMC and LibreElec
LibreElec outperforms OSMC in terms of performance. The LibreElec image is half the size of the OSMC image, and the LibreElec system contains just what is required to run Kodi, while OSMC is based on Debian, which is a more general-purpose operating system.
But, to be clear, I didn’t see any difference between the two when using them. On my Raspberry Pi 4, the two systems boot up in about 20 seconds, and you won’t be able to tell which one you’re using until you’re in the Kodi interface.
If you have an older Raspberry Pi model, LibreElec may be a better option since it is quicker. Apart from that, it makes no difference. Whether you’re viewing a two-hour movie, it doesn’t matter if it started in 35s or 42s.
OSMC vs. LibreElec: What can these distributions do for you?
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Because LibreElec runs Kodi and only Kodi on a basic Linux system, it’s not the greatest solution if you want to utilize the Raspberry Pi for other purposes. OSMC is built on a stripped-down Debian image, making it easy to add additional services.
You can activate SSH on LibreElec, but you won’t be able to do anything once connected. It’s a very basic distribution; you can’t add new packages and most commands are unavailable.
LibreElec is not a suitable option if you want to have a simple configuration for your media center while still keeping the Raspberry Pi operating for other services or executing scripts. OSMC (or any other distribution) would be much superior in this instance.
However, there are several extra services available in the LibreElec add-ons repository, which is set by default. You may install MySQL server or Docker, for example, from there. So, there are various methods to run other programs on LibreElec; I’m just not sure how far you can go just using the Kodi interface.
Another option is to utilize an entirely other system if Kodi isn’t the primary objective. As I said in the beginning, Kodi can be installed on various distributions and operating systems, so you can install and setup Kodi on Raspberry Pi OS (including the Lite version) or DietPi, then add any other services you like.
DietPi is most likely the best option for this. You’ll choose Kodi and all the additional programs you’ll need during the installation. As mentioned in this post, it will install everything for you.
Is it better to use OSMC or LibreElec?
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I hope you read the whole post since there are a few minor changes between these two solutions that will affect my advice based on your objectives. But here’s a quick rundown:
Overall, LibreElec is a superior choice if the Raspberry Pi will be used as a media center. More intuitive, greater performance, and more up-to-date in general. If you want to use the Raspberry Pi for other purposes, OSMC may be of interest; it is based on Debian, so you can simply install anything else on it.
|The most important criterion||Recommendation|
|Media center with its own staff||LibreElec|
|Performing Arts (old Pi model for example)||LibreElec|
|Kodi is merely one component of the whole effort.||OSMC|
Also, keep in mind that Kodi is compatible with any operating system. So, if my aim is to host Nextcloud, run some Python programs, and sometimes watch a movie, I’ll most likely start with Diet Pi or Raspberry Pi OS, setup the server, and then install Kodi on top of that. I’m not going to utilize LibreElec or OSMC in any way.
If you want to learn more about this subject, check out my other tutorials:
Resources for the Raspberry Pi
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This website also contains all of my tool and hardware suggestions.
The “best media server hardware” is a question that I can answer for you. The best media center system in my opinion is the Xbox One.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which media center is best?
A: If youre looking for a media center thats easy to set up, and provides access to almost any format of content then Kodi is the best. It can be used on all your devices so it makes life easier in general.
What is the best replacement for Windows Media Center?
A: The best replacement for Windows Media Center is Kodi.
What media server should I use?
A: There are many different media servers with varying strengths, weaknesses and costs. The best way to find a server you like is through reviews from users who have had experience using it.
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