Linux Shootout: 7 Desktop Distros ComparedMay 6, 2008 – 6:55 PM
We tested openSUSE, Ubuntu 8.04, PCLinuxOS, Mandriva Linux One, Fedora, SimplyMEPIS, and CentOS 5.1. All performed well, and each had at least one truly outstanding feature.
In the last couple of years, desktop-friendly Linux distributions have taken enormous leaps — they’re easier to install, better maintained, and more powerful than ever before. There’s also that many more of them — which means that many more possibilities to sift through.
In this roundup I’ve looked at seven Linux distributions, all mainly aimed at desktop users. Some ought to be household names; some are less widely sung but still worth looking at. All are meant to be top-of-the-line, “throw-and-go” distros for general use, so I paid careful attention to how they behaved on a fairly broad range of hardware — how display, networking, or other default configurations were set to behave both out of the box and after an update (if one was available).
Each of these distributions was installed on five machines:
- Homebrew AMD Duron 1.1-GHz processor; 1-GB RAM; 80-GB hard disk; Geforce FX5200 128-MB AGP graphics.
- Lenovo Thinkpad T61 notebook computer; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2-GHz processor; 1-GB RAM; 80-GB hard disk; nVidia Quadro NFS 140M graphics.
- Sony VAIO TX series notebook; Intel Pentium R 1.3-GHz processor; 1-GB RAM; 80-GB hard disk; 1366 x 768 widescreen display; Intel 915GM integrated graphics controller.
- Dell XPS 420; Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4-GHz processor, 3-GB RAM; 160-GB hard disk; 1680 x 1050 widescreen display; ATI Radeon 2600 HD 256-MB graphics.
- VirtualBox virtual machine with 1-GB RAM and 128-MB video running on Dell XPS 420.
Even if some of the distros shone brighter on the whole than others, most of them did fairly well — and all of them had at least one truly outstanding feature that might be the deciding factor for you. I should also note that many of these distributions either have commercial support options (like Ubuntu) or full commercial versions (openSUSE) available, in case you want to graduate to something a little more aggressively supported.
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