What is OpenELEC? And What is it Used for?
OpenELEC (short for “Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center”) is a basically a streamlined, barebones version of XBMC / Kodi.
OpenELCE is 100% free and is similar to XBMC Live; however the main difference is that OpenELEC has just the bare minimum of what is required.
OpenELEC is very similar to the Raspbmc and provides a simple yet highly effective media centre for devices like the Raspberry Pi. It was designed to be booted from a flash memory card or solid state device for use on set top boxes and similar devices based on ARM SoC’s or Intel x86 processor and graphics.
OpenELEC takes up around 100MB as an install and this is achieved by getting rid of the Linux distro underneath it, this enables it to be significantly smaller than XBMC, which starts from a full Linux distribution.
This means that with OpenELEC you just get a basic media player. If you put this on a card and run it on your Raspberry Pi then that’s all it will run.
XBMC takes up more space and the install probably contains a substantial amount of content you don’t really need if you just want a simple media player. But XBMC allows many more add on features and will let you add in additional drivers for supporting different file types, which just isn’t possible with OpenELEC, unless you’re willing to rebuild it and start from scratch.
There are also more options for letting you tweak the layout and look but both systems come with a nice user interface so you won’t have to enter a console command in Linux.
The drawbacks to OpenELEC are that it’s a little harder to install and doesn’t allow for the easy customization and tweaking that you get with XBMC. However the payoff is that once it’s set up it can run very fast and providing you don’t need a lot of extra settings it will offer a simple media player that’s suitable to most needs.
XBMC / Kodi can be easily installed onto a range of devices to turn them into a full media player but if you’re looking at loading a media player onto your Raspberry Pi then you may well like to read this comparison of suitable systems on the HTPC beginner.com, for information about how to install OpenELEC check out this how to or see this guide on the AV forums for installing to an Intel NUC.