REVIEW: Top 10 Linux Distros 2016

I’ve been experimenting very heavily with many different Linux Distros. I’ve compiled a Top 10 Distros list using the following criteria:

  • Overall performance and stability (including amount of resource usage)
  • Performance and appeal of the Desktop Environment
  • Ease of installation (and whether it has encryption option)
  • Included premium software (and how easy it is to install/uninstall other software)
  • Compatibility with hardware and ease of driver installation
  • Any issues I’ve ran into throughout my experience with the Distro
  • Ease of Troubleshooting problems and its Online Community

*Please keep in mind that I’ve put together this list based on my limited experience with a vast number of different Distros and that this list reflects my experience while using the specific hardware that I have. The list also reflects the time and resources I had at my disposal, the limited amount of time to get know the different Distros. I relied heavily on blog posts and other websites to figure things out, but I also had to figure things out on my own. I hope this review/list is of value to you.

Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think!


10: Cub Linux (Ubuntu LTS/Debian)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=cub
https://cublinux.com/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Cub Linux Software Center (apt-get)
  • Chromium
  • Google Apps
  • Nautilus
  • Firewall

PROS:

  • Nice Desktop Environment and fluid overall design
  • Great integration with Google, and it comes with integrated Chromium apps
  • Decent customization options but I’ve definitely seen better
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Easy firewall setup

CONS:

  • Limited amount of pre-installed software, could at least include Rhythmbox and Libre Office (common with Ubuntu based)
  • Average use of resources and performance, similar to Windows 10 (would definitely have expected better battery life since they claim it is light on resources)
  • Unnecessary difficulty with configuring touchpad settings
  • Very poor clock, volume, and network taskbar integration
  • Random glitches when typing (the cursor moves to where the mouse is located without touching the mouse button at all)
  • Apps menu is annoying
  • Boot up speed should be faster given that it’s supposed to be lightweight

CONCLUSION:

  • Chromium Apps installed out of the box, overall smooth performance, poor taskbar integration, poor software management and lack of included software, some glitches

RATING: 5/10

DOWNLOAD CUB LINUX HERE


9: Fedora 23 GNOME

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=fedora
https://getfedora.org/
https://www.redhat.com/en

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Fedora Software Manager (yum)
  • Firefox
  • Nautilus
  • Libre Office
  • Evolution
  • Rhythmbox
  • Shotwell
  • Boxes

PROS:

  • Stable OS with good hardware support
  • Ability to access Google Drive from the GNOME file manager
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Doesn’t come with much unnecessary software (limited amounts of bloatware)
  • Clean interface
  • Easy to install new software

CONS:

  • Not as much software as Arch and Ubuntu
  • Doesn’t come with GNOME Tweaks
  • Limited system settings configuration
  • Software manager has very limited selection of available software
  • Update Manager is lacking

CONCLUSION:

  • Solid performance, limited ability to configure System Settings and Desktop Environment, limited Software Management capability, no GNOME tweaks

RATING: 6/10

DOWNLOAD FEDORA HERE


8: Elementary OS (Ubuntu LTS/Debian)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=elementary
https://elementary.io/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Software Centre (apt-get)
  • Geary
  • Scratch
  • Elementary OS suite (Midori, Music, Videos, Photos)

PROS:

  • Stable OS and easy to navigate
  • Pleasant minimalist design with a decent amount of configurations after installing Elementary Tweak
  • Best multiple monitor integration out of the box
  • Fast boot time
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Great virtual desktop integration
  • No unnecessary included software (no bloatware)

CONS:

  • Lack of premium software pre-installed
  • Limited ability for configuration, improved with Elementary Tweak, but still limited options
  • Glitches when changing theme and icons
  • Quite behind with updates (still on 14.04 LTS at the time of this post)
  • Uses quite a bit of resources, but in this distro it seems worth it because of the functionality and the beautiful design
  • Midori crashes all the time
  • Video and music players were too simple (limited features compared to Rhythmbox and VLC) and had few bugs and would crash on occasion

CONCLUSION:

  • Great Desktop Environment, good performance, good software/hardware compatibility, no included premium software, slow at getting latest software releases and LTS release

RATING: 7/10

DOWNLOAD ELEMENTARY OS HERE


7: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Debian)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=ubuntu
http://www.ubuntu.com/
http://www.debian.org/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Software Centre (apt-get)
  • Firefox
  • Nautilus
  • Libre Office
  • Thunderbird
  • Shotwell
  • Rhythmbox

PROS:

  • Very easy to get common apps installed (lots of .deb files to download and software centre is easy to use)
  • Great Software Updater
  • Comes with lots of software to get you started
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Most popular Distro so there is tons of help/troubleshooting online (great online community)

CONS:

  • Worst multiple monitor integration
  • Worst compatibility with GNOME Desktop Environment that I’ve tried (a bit laggy and not as smooth as other distros)
  • Had bugs and issues with installing and removing software (but not when using terminal)
  • Lots of bugs with Kdenlive (on Arch there are less bugs and it runs a newer version)
  • Applications menu is pretty bad (annoying to navigate)
  • Comes with too much unnecessary software (bloatware)

CONCLUSION:

  • Good performance, decent Desktop Environment, largest amount of available software but the latest release is almost never available, experienced many software/hardware bugs

RATING: 7/10

DOWNLOAD UBUNTU HERE


6: Korora 23 GNOME (Fedora)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=korora
https://kororaproject.org/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Fedora Software Manager (yum)
  • Firefox
  • Nautilus (File Manager)
  • Libre Office
  • Evolution
  • VLC
  • RhythmBbox
  • Shotwell
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • Audacity
  • OpenShot
  • DejaDup

PROS:

  • Stable OS with good hardware support
  • Great theme and Icons
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Great selection of Included Software (some of my favourite creative software)
  • Most audio/visual and graphical editing software
  • Comes with GNOME Tweaks
  • Comes with many third-party repositories (makes it easy to install Chrome, Adobe, VirtualBox, etc. using “yum”)
  • Easy to configure Desktop Environment and System Settings
  • Full touchpad functionality (and ability to configure)
  • Keyboard function buttons worked out of the box (Asus Laptop)

CONS:

  • Software manager has very limited selection of available software
  • Update Manager is lacking
  • Seems to use a fair amount of resources

CONCLUSION:

  • Great theme and overall design, easy to configure system settings, best Audio/Visual and Graphical Editing out of the box, limited Software/Update Management capability

RATING: 7/10

DOWNLOAD KORORA HERE


5: Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa Cinnamon (Ubuntu LTS/Debian)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=mint
https://linuxmint.com/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Mint Software Manager (apt-get)
  • Firefox
  • Nemo (File Manager)
  • Libre Office
  • Thunderbird
  • VLC
  • GIMP
  • Pidgin

PROS:

  • Great menu and good overall design
  • Lots of customization options
  • Very stable
  • Low use of resources (CPU and RAM)
    • This makes it great for Laptops (battery lasts longer)
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Easy to find and install popular software
  • Great Software/Update Manager
  • Very good system settings manager
  • Asus Laptop: Keyboard functions all worked out of the box

CONS:

  • Very simple design (perhaps too simple)
  • Sign-in screen is lame
  • Virtual Desktops/Workspaces is difficult to navigate
  • Taskbar is difficult to configure
  • Asus Laptop: Touchpad scrolling didn’t work at all (even after proper configuration)

CONCLUSION:

  • Very robust system, great performance, standard design and desktop environment, lots of customization but not always easy to configure

RATING: 7/10

DONWLOAD LINUX MINT HERE


4: Kubuntu 16.04 LTS KDE Plasma (Ubuntu LTS/Debian)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=kubuntu
http://kubuntu.org/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Discover (apt-get)
  • Firefox
  • Libre Office

PROS:

  • Great theme and Desktop Environment
  • Tons of customizability with KDE Plasma
  • Easy to install/uninstall software
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Touchpad scrolling and webcam all worked out of the box (unlike Windows 7/8/10)
  • Clipboard history comes with KDE
  • Great Menu and Task Manager integration
  • Easy desktop widget integration
  • Lower use of resources than Windows 10

CONS:

  • Very lacking in included premium software
  • Discover seemed a tad bit glitchy and has limited amount of available software
  • Virtual Desktop is not dynamic and difficult to use
  • Asus Laptop: Only most basic keyboard functions worked (Print Screen and Calculator didn’t work, but were pretty easy to configure to my liking)

CONCLUSION:

  • Great design, very stable and robust, great Taskbar Management, great desktop Environment, very lacking in premium software

RATING: 8/10

DOWNLOAD KUBUNTU HERE


3: openSUSE Leap 42.1 KDE Plasma

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=opensuse
https://www.opensuse.org/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • YaST2 (zypper)
  • Firefox
  • Dolphin
  • Kontact
  • Libre Office
  • GIMP

PROS:

  • Great theme and Desktop Environment
  • Tons of customizability with KDE Plasma
  • Most stable and resource efficient version of KDE Plasma that I’ve used
  • Great Hardware compatibility, good performance and response
  • Great Hardware/Software Management
  • Robust and stable OS
  • Comes with few unnecessary included software (limited amounts of bloatware)
  • Clipboard history comes pre-installed with KDE
  • Great Menu and Task Manager integration
  • Easy system/software update management
  • Easy desktop widget integration
  • Steady use of resources, seems to use less than Windows 10
  • Easy Firewall setup/enable
  • Great system settings

CONS:

  • OS installation program should be updated (should resemble Ubuntu/Manjaro/Mint/Apricity)
  • YaST is quite complicated
  • Lack of included premium software
  • Comes pre-installed with a lot of unnecessary software (quite a lot of bloatware)
  • No dynamic virtual desktops
  • Huge ISO file: 4.5Gb (average is approx. 1.8Gb)
  • Installation in VirtualBox was incredibly slow (no other Distro gave me this trouble)

CONCLUSION:

  • Solid build quality and performance, great Desktop Environment, easy to access/install/uninstall popular software, software management is more difficult to navigate than other distros, lack of included premium software, comes with too much unnecessary software (quite a lot of bloatware)

RATING: 8/10

DOWNLOAD OPENSUSE HERE


2: Manjaro 16.06 KDE Plasma (Arch)

http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=manjaro
https://manjaro.github.io/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Octopi (pacman)
  • Firefox
  • Dolphin
  • Libre Office
  • Krita
  • Steam
  • VLC
  • Kdenlive

PROS:

  • Great efficient use of desktop (simplicity with a solid foundation of useful features), efficient use of desktop space, and looks really good
    • Tons of customizability with KDE Plasma
    • Favourite version of KDE Plasma that I’ve used
  • Manjaro Settings Manager is the best hardware driver manager I’ve ever experienced (although I had some difficulty getting RT5592 Ralink driver installed)
  • Rolling release without compromising stability
  • Easy OS installation (with encryption)
  • Touchpad scrolling and webcam all worked out of the box (unlike Windows 7/8/10)
  • Battery lasts noticeably longer than Windows, seems resource efficient
  • Fan ran considerably less often and usually at lower speeds than Windows, ran cooler overall
  • Great use of virtual desktops (but should have dynamic option)
  • Easily able to download and switch between Kernel versions
  • Clipboard history comes with KDE
  • Arch community is great
    • Tons of help/troubleshooting online (great online community)

CONS:

  • Some hardware drivers and software were quite difficult to install and very often I received installation errors
    • Updates are ok, but sometimes Octopi had errors for seemingly no reason during the updates
  • Asus Laptop: Only most basic keyboard functions worked (Print Screen and Calculator didn’t work, but were pretty easy to configure to my liking)

CONCLUSION:

  • Most reliable overall performance, great Desktop Environment, great Arch Community for troubleshooting, issues with software/hardware compatibility

RATING: 8/10

DOWNLOAD MANJARO HERE


1: Apricity OS (Arch)

  • [update] I’ve been experiencing update errors with Apricity OS and I found no solution. I’ve tried installing a newer version, older version, installed a virtual version of the OS and still ran into the same update error… this is a really frustrating error that seems almost impossible to fix. Because of this, I would rank Antergos as a more stable version of Arch and would put it as #1 in my list instead of Apricity OS. I’d demote Apricity to #8.

https://apricityos.com/
https://www.archlinux.org/

INCLUDED SOFTWARE:

  • Pamac (pacman)
  • Google Chrome
  • Nautilus
  • Libre Office
  • Flash
  • GIMP
  • Inkscape
  • Steam
  • Rhythmbox
  • Ice
  • Firewall
  • Play On Linux

PROS:

  • Software/Update manager is the best I’ve ever used
    • So easy to find installation packages, very easy to install and uninstall, very few issues
    • AUR (Arch User Repository) is awesome and has almost any package you can think of
  • Rolling release (always latest version of software)
    • e.g., Kdenlive, newest version works best, but on Debian based, you need 16.04 LTS to get newer versions (but those are still quite buggy)
  • All flash related websites worked as they should in Chrome, unlike Ubuntu and a few others
  • Most software or driver related problems are really easy to fix with Arch Linux Wiki and support, and the Add/Remove Software has most of those fixes just a click away.
  • Asus Laptop: Keyboard functions all worked out of the box
  • Touchpad scrolling and webcam all worked out of the box (unlike Windows 7/8/10)
  • Best hardware compatibility I’ve ever had to deal with (Asus touchpad, Windows touch mouse, Nvidia driver, Asus PCE-N53 Ralink RT)
  • Most stable use of Kdenlive and Geary that I’ve used (both programs are the most buggy programs I’ve used on any distro)
  • Great Theme right out of the box (Numix Icons, GNOME, GNOME Tweaks, etc.)
  • Easy OS installation (but no Encryption…)
  • Add/Remove Software has most important apps that I like to use and it installs/uninstalls them consistently with very few issues
  • Fast boot time
  • Fan ran less often and slower than Windows (runs cooler overall)
  • Arch community is great
    • Tons of help/troubleshooting online (great online community)

CONS:

  • Laptop battery lasts just as long as Windows, so it’s just as much of a resource hog, not particularly recommended for laptops (at least i5 & 8gb ram if you’re going to use it)
    • Overall performance was somewhat laggy even when not running any programs at all
  • Some Desktop Background and Desktop Icons glitches
  • One time when I removed an Nvidia driver that I installed, and it removed almost every program on my computer (even the GNOME settings software)
    • This seems to be because I had “Remove unrequired dependencies” enabled in the Pamac settings

CONCLUSION:

  • Great performance but steady use of resources, great design and implementation of GNOME, hands down the best hardware/driver compatibility and by far the best software experience, great Arch Community for troubleshooting, experienced one or two small graphical glitches during testing period

RATING: 9/10

DOWNLOAD APRICITY OS HERE


Final Remarks:

I currently own three computers. I have a newer and quite beefy desktop that I run all of my audio engineering and video editing software on Windows 10. I have an older desktop that can only be expanded to a max of 4Gb ram (yeah pretty old huh), and I have a four-year-old Asus laptop. All three of these computers are 64-bit, and I’ve installed both Windows 10 and various Linux Distros on all of them. I can tell you right now that the absolute best Linux experience on all three of these devices was with Apricity OS. The experiences I had with Kubuntu, Manjaro, and Linux Mint were very good too, and they were close to what Apricity had to offer, but they were significantly worse in some way shape or form… and that’s why I’ve ranked Apricity OS as the #1 Linux Distro of 2016! I now run only Windows 10 on my new PC (I experiment with VirtualBox), and Apricity OS on my old PC and Laptop.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Antergos (Arch)

    • http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=antergos
    • https://antergos.com/ 
    • Very similar to Apricity (great design and functionality except with Numix Square Icons and different included software)
    • I couldn’t get it installed with the media that I downloaded (therefore I couldn’t do a proper test/review)
      • [update] I downloaded a newer version of Antergos build and was able to install it (it had very similar features and performance as Apricity OS)
      • [update] I’ve been experiencing update errors with Apricity OS and I found no solution. I’ve tried installing a newer version, older version, installed a virtual version of the OS and still ran into the same update error… this is a really frustrating error that seems almost impossible to fix. Because of this, I would rank Antergos as a more stable version of Arch and would put it as #1 in my list instead of Apricity OS. I’d demote Apricity to #8.
  • Debian

  • Deepin OS (Debian)

  • Zorin OS (Ubuntu)

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