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Hands-On With RecalBox, an Awesome Raspberry Pi OS

In my quest to find the perfect OS for my Raspberry Pi, I discovered RecalBox, an OS that combines the gaming potential of EmulationStation with the HTPC capabilities of Kodi. Check out my hands-on look at RecalBox, which includes pros and cons.

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As soon as I received my Raspberry Pi, two of my first projects were creating a retro gaming station with RetroPie, and a home theatre PC (HTPC) using Open Source Media Center (OSMC). While both are awesome, the only caveat is having to switch microSD cards. Not the biggest problem, but a mild inconvenience.

Enter Recalbox. It’s a lesser-known OS that fuses EmulationStation (the emulator front-end that RetroPie used) with Kodi. Well, sort of. Rather than on a PC or gaming console where there’s a home screen, switching between EmulationStation and Kodi isn’t accomplished by exiting a program and opening another. Rather, you actually have to enter the opposite OS through a reboot. Thankfully, this is rather simple, literally the push of a button.

Check out the above video of RecalBox in action!

RecalBox works almost flawlessly, with minimal bugs. A few though haven’t convinced me to switch. Notably, I couldn’t get my wifi to work in the EmulationStation front-end. This is a known bug, and there’s luckily a workaround. When in trouble, just edit the good ‘ol conf file. Further, I experienced a slight controller hiccup (the same issue encountered with Xbox 360 controllers in RetroPie…).

Yet despite bugs, RecalBox operates generally the same. I didn’t notice any major performance or graphical differences. The biggest improvement is a neat feature I stumbled upon by chance: drag and drop ROM support. After installing RecalBox on my microSD card and a brief initial setup, I popped it back in my computer to edit the conf, and much to my delight I discovered a bunch of folders: one for each of the supported consoles. Unlike on RetroPie, I wasn’t relegated to using a flash drive or network for ROM transfers, but instead, could simple drag and drop my ROMs to their respective folders on the microSD. Why do I prefer this method? Much faster transfer speed from my hard drive to my microSDXC.

As to which I prefer, a dedicated cards with RetroPie and OSMC, or the one RecalBox setup? It’s a bit of a toss up, but ultimately, for now, I’d have to say my dedicated cards at least for initial setup. Editing the conf isn’t really that big of a  hassle, but it’s an added step. Now that I have it up and running, I’ll likely use RecalBox for my primary card as I eschew the necessity of swapping out cards. However, if starting from scratch, the whole wifi not working properly on occasion from the front-end is a major bummer. Hopefully future iterations fix this error. Though there's a workaround, the install process would be much simpler without editing the conf. 

Have you used RecalBox? Got an OS you think I should try on my Pi? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter!

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raspberry pi,iot,emulationstation,retropie,recalbox

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