Raspbian is the standard Linux distribution for the Raspberry Pi, it’s a 32bits ARM variant of Debian Linux Distribution. This is the recommended distribution, and have the biggest community and will certainly provide the best support for both software and hardware. Most examples and projects you will find online are for this distribution.
But they are lot of other distribution available. Here some I tested :
- Arch Linux ARM : a really simple, lightweight rolling-release distribution, available both in 32bits and 64bits version. You can update it daily and always have recent packages. Can be also be completed with the Black Arch repository for Arm, a great Penetration Testing distribution.
- Kali Linux : This is the most famous Penetration Testing Debian based distribution. They have both 32bits and 64bits version available for the Pi. But I recommend the images available on Re4son kernel web site, optimised and with support for severals kind of LCD screen.
- DietPi : if you searching for a optimised lightweight Raspian variant, with easy to install softwares, DietPi is for you. on 32Bits version only.
- ParrotOS : A nice looking Penetration Testing Debian based distribution using the MATE interface. With good tools for your own security (better choice than Kali if you want to use it as your main desktop OS). But the Raspberry version wasn’t really stable (problems updating), they finally removed the images … they are preparing the new version for the better I hope.
- FreeBSD : FreeBSD for your Raspberry. if you want to test another Unix system. From the test I done, the WiFi board integrated in the Raspberry is not supported.
- armbian : It’s a Linux Arm Debian distribution available for alternate Linux board (not the Rapberry Pi). It’s often the best alternative OS to start with another boards.
- Manjaro : Easy to install Linux distribution based on Arch Linux, they have a 64bits build for Raspberry Pi 4