Which flavors are the lightest and the heaviest disk and memory-wise?
The Reg FOSS desk has lined up the official Ubuntu remixes to see which ones hog the most or least of your computer’s resources.
Whenever Linux users get together, an eternally popular subject for advocacy (which is the polite word for arguments) is desktops. Here at The Reg FOSS desk, we’re as complicit as anyone. But oddly enough, the one aspect of desktop comparisons that is amenable to direct measurement rarely gets much attention: resource usage.
Resource usage is somewhat important. In direct terms, the less RAM and disk space your desktop uses, the more you have free for your own stuff. Secondly, desktops which are more frugal in resource usage are generally quicker and more responsive. That in turn means they run better on older, lower-spec computers. That’s highly relevant because a popular use case for Linux is reviving an old PC whose copy of Windows is too outdated and sluggish to be useful any more.
In more theoretical terms, one could also say that the larger the resource footprint, the bigger the attack surface. More running code equals more opportunities for stuff to go wrong.
Under « flavors » on the Ubuntu desktop page, Canonical lists six alternate editions: Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Studio, and Xubuntu. Since Ubuntu Studio uses the same KDE desktop as Kubuntu, we’re skipping it: its main difference is in the pre-installed apps, and it’s the desktops we’re primarily interested in here.
In a day or so, we plan to return to this theme and take a look at some of the main unofficial flavors.
That still leaves six official editions – in Ubuntu’s own order:
Since 22.04.1 is now out, it seems fair to call the current LTS stable. The last time we compared the flavors was nearly a decade ago, and much has changed – including the lineup.
Ubuntu’s installation process is usually smooth, and that hasn’t changed. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of Ubuntu when we looked at the beta of this version, and the final released version. If you like GNOME, it’s good. If you don’t, well, that’s why there are all these remixes.
We didn’t install any extras. It automatically prompted for a few updates, and after that, apt didn’t find any more. It geo-located the test machine to Prague, which is correct, and installed Czech localization, which isn’t – we picked English as the system language. We left that as-is, for a fair comparison.
The login screen gives a choice of Wayland or X.org, and defaults to Wayland. We chose X.org, so as to be the same as the other flavors.
Kubuntu also installed smoothly, although with one niggle. Like the GNOME edition, it doesn’t notice that it’s in a VM and sets the screen to 800×600 – but that isn’t enough to run the installation program. We had to reboot, pick « Try Kubuntu », load the full desktop and change the screen resolution to 1024×768, then we could complete the installation.
After installation, Kubuntu noticed some updates and prompted us, but then the apt full-upgrade command found a few more. After we installed those and rebooted, it then notified us that the localizations weren’t fully installed.
Lubuntu has always been the lightweight flavor of Ubuntu for older computers. Unfortunately, the parent distro has dropped support for 32-bit x86 so Lubuntu is now 64-bit only. That means it won’t run on things like old Atom-based netbooks or other 32-bit machines.
To be fair, most 32-bit PCs are largely obsolete now. The snag is that some early 64-bit machines can take more RAM, but it’s prohibitively expensive because they need DDR or DDR2, which simply didn’t come in larger sizes.
Whatever the reason, if you’re stuck with just two or three gigs of RAM, a 32-bit distro would be more memory efficient, but Lubuntu no longer has the option. If that’s your situation, we suggest either the Raspberry Pi Desktop for low-end hardware or for well-specced kit the Debian edition of Linux Mint.
There’s no « try or install » choice with Lubuntu. You boot straight to the desktop, with a link to the cross-platform Calamares installer.