The Raspberry Pi needs no introduction. The demand for Raspberry Pi boards has grown significantly over the past few years, as nothing is impossible with the Raspberry Pi. By purchasing a Raspberry Pi for a small amount, you can surf the Internet, learn to program, create new projects, and along the way learn a lot about computer hardware or software.
Since there are many things you can do with the Raspberry Pi, you will need the perfect operating system for your needs. So in this article, let’s take a look at some of the best Linux distros for the Raspberry Pi.
1. Ubuntu MATE
MATE is one of the best desktop environments for old hardware. Since it does not consume a lot of system resources, combined with the virtues of Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE turns out to be one of the popular choices for Raspberry Pi users.
Overall, this is the best Linux distribution for Raspberry Pi desktops.
- Works well on older hardware. Consumes very few system resources.
- Comes with many pre-installed apps.
Could there be a list of “best distributions” on the Internet without Ubuntu-based distros? Of course not. Simplicity, flexibility and ease of use are what makes Ubuntu one of the most popular distributions in the world.
Ubuntu is a great Raspberry Pi distribution for day-to-day computing. Editing style sheets, browsing the web, and launching a few other applications shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But one of the main disadvantages of Ubuntu on the Pi is memory consumption.
In recent years, Ubuntu has grown into a resource-hungry OS. Hence, if you have a Raspberry Pi with 2GB of RAM, opening and using multiple apps will be too slow. However, Ubuntu runs stably on a Raspberry Pi with 4GB of RAM.
- Easy to use.
- Long term support.
- It consumes a lot of system resources.
3. Raspbian OS
No one knows their devices better than the original equipment manufacturer itself, and the Raspberry Pi is no exception. Raspberry Pi OS (formerly Raspbian) is an incredibly lightweight Debian-based distribution that runs incredibly well on the Raspberry Pi.
This is due to the lack of flashy looks and animations that some people might not like. But the fact that you can use the Raspberry Pi OS to do just about anything on the Raspberry Pi makes it one of the best all-in-one distros on this device.
- Easy to use.
- Fast and lightweight OS.
- The 64-bit OS option is not available.
4. Manjaro ARM Linux
If Ubuntu / Debian isn’t your thing, then Manjaro ARM Linux is for you. It is one of the popular Arch-based distributions for PCs and is also available for ARM-based devices such as the Raspberry Pi. It is suitable for people who find it difficult to install Arch.
A special feature of Manjaro ARM Linux is that you can choose between three desktop environments: KDE, XFCE, and MATE. If you’re using an older Pi like Pi 2 or 3, you can also install a minimal version without a desktop.
- Easy to use.
- Great, intuitive interface.
- The installation process can seem confusing to beginners.
5. Kali Linux
You may have heard of Kali Linux. Used primarily for penetration testing and various security tools, this is one of the best Linux distributions for developers, hackers, and students looking to learn how to ethically hack.
This Debian based distribution is also very easy to install. You can install it on almost any RPI model including Raspberry Pi 4, 3, 2, and Zero.
- Great for developers and students looking to learn how to ethical hacking.
- Easy to use interface.
- The many options can be confusing for users.
6. Elementary OS
Elementary OS is one of the popular Linux distributions for people who want a macOS-like desktop. Based on Ubuntu, it is also great for Linux beginners.
However, Elementary OS for the Raspberry Pi is still in experimental stage, but there is also an unofficial Ubuntu-based build on the net.
- Looks great.
- Suitable for both beginners and advanced Linux users.
- Unofficial build may be unstable.
7. Lakka Linux
Playing old retro games and feeling nostalgic is probably one of the best feelings. The good news is that you can play old games using the Raspberry Pi. Well, check out Lakka Linux, a distribution specifically designed for retro gaming.
It is based on RetroArch, an interface for emulators, game engines, and media players. With extensive controller support, all you need to use Lakka is a controller.
It also has extensive customization options combined with huge game customization options. It is worth noting that this is one of the best distros for playing games on the Raspberry Pi.
- Lightweight OS.
- RetroArch only.
The name speaks for itself. RetroPie is an amazing and popular distro that turns the Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming beast. You can play almost any retro games from Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast and PSP (Play Station Portable).
All you need to do to get started is install RetroPie, download game ROMs from popular ROM sites like Romsmania and EmulatorGames, save the files to your Raspberry Pi, and enjoy your games. Overall, this is the best Raspberry Pi Linux distro for gaming.
- Ability to add standalone emulators.
- Lots of customization options.
LibreELEC is a lightweight Linux distribution built to run Kodi on modern and popular hardware.
It comes with tons of settings for music, movies, TV shows, anime, and even games that are just a few clicks away. LibreELEC makes the experience even better with 4K 60fps video playback. It is an advanced distro that boots directly into Kodi, making it one of the best Linux distros for the Raspberry Pi in terms of media consumption.
- Easy to install and configure.
- The OS is really fast.
- It cannot be used like a normal operating system.
OSMC stands for Open Source Media Center and as the name suggests, this is another OS that Kodi runs on. One of its standout features is Apple TV support.
OSMC is easy to install and can work with Raspberry Pi Zero, 2, 3 / B +. However, there is no support for the Raspberry Pi 4.
- Easy installation.
- A large number of customization options.
- There is no Raspberry Pi 4 B support.
These have been some of the best Linux distros for the Raspberry Pi to help you get the most out of your mini personal computer. If you liked what you read, be sure to share this article.