Raspberry Pi operating systems: 5 reviewed and rated

A sweet selection of tasty Raspberry Pi distros

Rio, the Plan 9 windowing system, looks and feels like a step back to the old Amiga and Atari ST days, as the façade is nearly the same. It does take some getting used to, and it's quite easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of reading material, but as we've stated many times already, keep going and you'll soon discover a rather pleasing desktop that's simple, elegant and flies at a rate of knots.

The community

Like Eastenders, but without the violence, affairs, deaths…

If there's one thing that makes Linux stand out as the operating system of the people, it's the community. Made up of individuals who are willing to help, share and promote their favourite operating system, the Linux community is a place where the new can learn, and the experienced can pass on their knowledge. There are also a significant number of trolls and idiots, but you get them in every walk of life.

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Raspbian and Arch have the biggest communities. Raspbian especially, as the prime focus of the forum on the Raspberry Pi site is dedicated to the working of Raspbian. Arch, though, has a following that almost rivals it - and it's growing, as the user-base comes to terms with different OSes for RPi.

The Raspberry Pi Android project is gathering pace, with more and more users beginning to look at the potential of the port to the RPi, but it's a little bleak at present.

Risc OS, which has a following of Acorn users from many years back, hosts a vibrant community. Plan 9 for the RPi may be newer, but its followers have detailed and documented many help files online since its initial release back in 1992.

Most of the community offerings can be found on the respective OS sites, but take the time to browse through the Raspberry Pi forum to find what you're looking for; if you are stuck, don't be afraid to ask - the users on the RPi forum are a good bunch, and more than willing to help out a newcomer or more advanced user.


Raspbian - 5/5
Risc OS - 4/5
Plan 9 - 3/5
Android - 2/5
Arch - 3/5

Suitability for children


How user-friendly are they?

The Raspberry Pi has, as we all know, endeared itself to the next generation of computing wizards, but how usable are our selection of operating systems? It's all fine and well offering the next generation the tools to become more experimental with computing, but if the task of getting the hardware talking to the user in a human way becomes too difficult, then those users could well leave the project and never return.

In this instance, we're targeting the younger generation, and how they will cope with the OSes on test. For this, we recruited an 11-year-old and a 10-year old, Daniel and Hannah, to set up the operating systems for us.

Raspbian and Risc OS came out on top, being easy to get up and running and use. Android left a bad taste in their mouths, as did poor old Plan 9. Arch drew blank looks that brightened up after a bit of work.

In the words of Daniel, "Raspbian rules!", whereas Hannah enjoyed the look and feel of Risc OS, "Risc OS looks much nicer." There we have it. The youth of today hath spoken!


Raspbian - 5/5
Risc OS - 5/5
Plan 9 - 2/5
Android - 2/5
Arch - 3/5

Media playback

Media playback

Having a tiny media centre is OK, but does it play from the word go?

Media playback is contentious in Linux. Some distros provide the latest codecs and software, others don't. The beauty is you are free to download and install your preferred player, and tweak it to your needs. But how will our selection of chosen OSes cope with media out-of-the-box?