Get the best KDE Linux distro

KDE

Not all distros are made equal, particularly if you're a KDE user. KDE has had something of a rough time over the last couple of years. The transition from version 3.5 to 4.x hasn't been easy, and over this period many distributions have decided to use either Gnome or stick with KDE 3.5 as their default desktop.

But we feel KDE 4 has now matured to a point where most KDE users can safely dump their old desktop and move on to the new one. There are very few stability issues, and most of the functionality found in 3.5 has been migrated to 4.3. The question is, which Linux distro provides the best experience for KDE users?

Rather than providing simple packages for KDE, a real KDE distro is likely to include GUI refinements, usability tweaks, custom themes, artwork and a good selection of KDE applications. It's also nice when Gnome and GTK applications play happily with their KDE counterparts, especially if a compatible theme has been chosen from them both. KDE-based distros should be able to do this better than simple Gnome desktops.

So, we took eight of the top KDE-focused distros and pitched them head-to-head to find which ones really rock, and which ones just limp along with a vanilla set of packages. Read on!

How we tested

Regardless of how optimistic we'd like to be about KDE 4, it's still a desktop that's in development freefall. Any KDE 4 distribution worth its salt will need to be recent, up-to-date, and ideally, open to a constant stream of new packages as the KDE developers patch and add features. We need a distribution that's going to blend the latest features and fixes into either a rolling update, or a new, updatable distribution you don't have to wait too long for. Only then can KDE get back on-top as the desktop of choice for Linux users.

Many of the distributions we have looked at come in the form of a live CD, and, while this can be a useful tool, we've made our judgements on the configuration of a permanent hard drive install, as this is what most KDE users are likely to use.

Slackware 13

We're starting with Slackware for two reasons. The first is that it's a no-fuss distribution that makes very few concessions to 'enhancing the user experience', and the second is that it typically installs the most unmodified packages of any Linux distribution.

This is obvious from the first launch after the text-based Slackware installation routine. KDE's default blurry blue background greets you, complete with the default panel, the default selection of icons, and the default theme. This is KDE back to basics. Unlike most other distributions, this includes an icon that most packages would rather ignore - the purple and blue globule of the Nepomuk Strigi module secreted between the clock and the alarm.

This is the front-end to KDE's pervasive search engine, and if you click on this icon followed by the 'Configure' button in the window that appears, you can ask it to start creating an index of your files. We couldn't get it to work without messing around with the command line, which is probably why most other distributions hide it. On the positive side, Slackware includes the full complement of KDE plasmoids, which means esoterica like the Blue Marble and Conway's Game of Life.

You'd better get used to this default desktop - most distros don't bother changing it.

You'd better get used to this default desktop - most distros don't bother changing it.

Slackware has a problem with getting fonts to display correctly. We've seen this behaviour before when we've compiled our own version of KDE, so it's not surprising that Slackware suffers similar problem. It's easy to solve with the System Settings font selector, but it's a sign that very little has been done to make the average user's experience any better. But then, what can you expect from a distribution that still requires you to type startx to launch the graphical desktop?

Our verdict: The equivalent of the value range in a supermarket: it's the same food, just without the nice packaging. 5/10.

Chakra Alpha 3

Chakra is a version of Arch Linux customised for live use with the KDE environment. It's also the most experimental of the distributions we're looking at, but that also means it has some rather advanced features. The first thing you notice is that the default live desktop is fairly close to the KDE default, with the exception of the desktop folder.

This contains links to some common desktop tasks, including documentation, installation, and a few KDE applications. This is where Chakra makes its mark, because it links to a preview release of K3b 2.0, Kaffeine 1.0 and Arora. The WebKit-based Arora browser in particular feels completely at home on the KDE desktop, and is a great replacement for Konqueror's increasingly clunky web surfing. We wish other distros did the same.

Click on the Install button and you'll see a custom installation app called Tribe, which is written in Qt. This really helps with the feel of the desktop, and while Tribe still has a way to go when it comes to user management, we had no problems partitioning the drive and installing a permanent version of Chakra on our hard drive. The highlight was the use of the Marble 3D globe as a location selector.

Chakra builds on a modular version of KDE originally built for Arch Linux.

Chakra builds on a modular version of KDE originally built for Arch Linux.

When we finally got to the desktop, however, we were disappointed that the application links of the live version were no where to be seen. This default desktop is a plain old KDE installation. It doesn't even include the handful of helpful home directories you might expect to find, such as one for the desktop, photos or documents. It's rare that the live version of a distro is more functional than the installed version, but that seems to be the case here.

Our verdict: Tons of potential and an exciting rate of development mean Chakra is a distribution to watch. 6/10.

Sidux

Debian is a distribution that takes a very mature and stable approach to application inclusion. New packages must first prove themselves in an experimental repository known as Sid (a little like Mandriva's Cooker and Fedora's Rawhide). This is where Sidux comes in. It's a KDE-based distro that uses the Sid repository for packages, created by people who love the melting pot of Sid with the aim of releasing 3-4 snapshots of the Sid repositories each year, complete with the latest version of KDE.

Sidux has taken the brave step of changing the appearance of the default KDE desktop, and the black-and-red plastic appearance that the Sidux art team have come up with works well. It's also based around SVG, so it should look just as good regardless of the screen resolution you're using. But perhaps the boldest decision is opting to use the original KDE menu system rather than the new one that annoys most people.

Is it us, or is there something slightly sinister about the Sidux desktop?

Is it us, or is there something slightly sinister about the Sidux desktop?

The custom installer is fantastic, and it took under five minutes to create a permanent installation on our hard drive, which must be something of a record. After that, the new desktop is identical to the old one. The default web browser is Iceweasel, in line with Debian, but neither this nor the installed OpenOffice.org has any concessions in their themeing to accommodate KDE-style icons and file requesters.

Thanks to its use of the Sid repository, upgrading from one version to the other is accomplished through the apt-get dist-upgrade command, but it's a pity that there's no simple GUI to perform the same task. The result is a no-nonsense desktop that's going to appeal to experienced KDE users, but may feel a little austere for new users.

Our verdict: With pervasive desktop search and a constant stream of new packages, Sidux is a good power-user choice. 7/10.

Kubuntu

Despite being part of the Ubuntu stable, Kubuntu rarely garners the same amount of coverage as its Gnome-based sibling. And that's a pity, because Kubuntu is a genuine candidate for being the best KDE distribution you can get your hands on.

The main reason for this is that the Kubuntu team spend a lot of time trying to integrate KDE's specific quirks and peculiarities into the Ubuntu desktop environment. You get to use KPackageKit for package installation, for example, and many of the KDE configuration panels can be used to change Ubuntu-specific options. The fantastic network manager has always been top of the priority list, for example, and Kubuntu's version is the best we've seen for connecting to wireless networks on the go.

Kubuntu doesn't look any different to a standard KDE installation.

Kubuntu doesn't look any different to a standard KDE installation.

Our only real disappointment is that the default blue of the standard desktop is quite a contrast to the highly customised and themed version of Gnome that Ubuntu is famous for, and KDE could really do with getting a share of the attention. Admittedly, you can change something like the backdrop yourself with just a few clicks, but it would be nice to see a professional team of designers tackle KDE's widget and window themeing engines.

Kubuntu's best feature is unofficial. It's the updated versions of KDE that appears in the PPA repositories. These are the best packages we've found for keeping KDE up to date, which is especially important when so many changes are still being made. Even the latest release of KDE, version 4.3.2, was available for Jaunty through the PPA, and thanks to improvements made in Karmic Koala, adding PPA repositories to your current package manager has never been easier.

Our verdict: A solid desktop, brilliant packages and a good stream of updates help make Kubuntu a serious contender. 8/10.

Mandriva One

Despite the fact that Mandriva One now offers a choice of KDE or Gnome desktop, Mandriva remains largely a KDE shop, as it has been since 1998 and the days of KDE 1.0. But this doesn't mean you always get a trailblazing KDE experience. Mandriva has always taken the more mature and stable route, and this means it often tries to tame the more wayward of KDE's new ideas.

With Mandriva One, this means you get an opaque panel that could have come from KDE 3.5, a Mandriva theme that uses the Ia-Ora widget style to look like Gnome circa 1.5, and a launch menu that could have come from Windows 95. One feature from a more innocent age is the morphing of KDE's Desktop Folder Plasmoid into a complete desktop. You can now drag files and folders on to the desktop, and the real thing will move to the Desktop directory rather than the Plasmoid link that's the default behaviour in KDE 4.

Google Gadgets can be dragged into the Mandriva desktop, but they may crash your machine.

Google Gadgets can be dragged into the Mandriva desktop, but they may crash your machine.

There's also a good selection of Plasmoids, and Mandriva tries hard by including a working Google Gadget option from the Plasmoid activator window. Behind the scenes, you still get the excellent graphical system configuration tools, fantastic package management and Mandriva stability if you stay away from Google Gadgets.

It would be nice to know you could upgrade to the latest KDE when it's released, but Mandriva would rather you updated your distribution than provide even semi-official packages for an update. But best of all, Mandriva is the only distro to include the following line in its online documentation: "Our planet is beautiful, please do as much as possible to protect it."

Our verdict: Mandriva is a good choice for those chasing Gnome stability with a little KDE magic. 7/10.

OpenSUSE

Another mainstream distribution that has always taken care to bundle KDE is OpenSUSE. It's also one of the few distributions that takes the trouble to create its own artwork for the KDE desktop, and version 11.2 in particular makes great use of OpenSUSE green with KDE's new Air theme. It's the best we've seen, and we think the most beautiful KDE desktop available from a standard distribution. OpenSUSE even hosts a useful 'Getting Started with KDE' guide, but if you're installing from the live CD, you'll need to make sure you have more than 1GB of RAM for the installation to work. Even in these times of super-cheap RAM this seems a touch excessive. We blame OpenSUSE's all-singing, all-dancing config tool, Yast.

Beyond the graphics, OpenSUSE features plenty of usability tweaks too. Despite using the new launch menu, for example, the version that bundles with OpenSUSE forgoes the hover-over switching of the original, and removes the backwards arrow in a successful bid to add some much needed clarity. You still have to resort to one of the clunky Yast control panels to change settings, although you have a choice when changing screen resolution, as the original KDE tool is still present.

OpenSUSE is the best-looking distribution we've tried.

OpenSUSE is the best-looking distribution we've tried.

On the desktop, there's the usual array of Plasmoids, although 11.2 is the first time we've seen the World Clock addition. As you'd expect from a company that's made a considerable investment with OpenOffice.org developers, the office suite is well tailored for the KDE desktop, including icons and file requesters. It's easy to see why OpenSUSE has jumped to KDE as the default desktop.

Our verdict: A distribution where the KDE desktop gets the same amount of love as Gnome does in Ubuntu. 9/10.

Sabayon

Following Ubuntu's lead, many distributions offer a KDE version as an alternative download, and Sabayon is one of the best and most popular. Installation is through a GTK-looking application that should guide you from the live CD to an installed desktop in under 20 minutes.

Annoyingly, KDE's standard System Settings panel can't be found in the settings menu, which left us floundering for the screen resolution tool before we could use the desktop. (The application can be found on the 'Computer' page of the menu, in a nod to Microsoft Windows.) Sabayon also bundles its own package manager, called Sulfur. This is a mixture of download agent and configuration tool, and it enables you to see exactly what's changing and where when you install a new package. It's a great addition, but it's likely to scare newbies away.

The Sulfur package manager and configuration could help push Sabayon further up the charts.

The Sulfur package manager and configuration could help push Sabayon further up the charts.

It's easy to see the intended audience for the distribution, with quick links to KDE's IRC client, torrent download application and VLC all available from the launch menu, and the cool kids of the internet are going to love the black and shiny livery of the desktop. OpenOffiice.org is a mixture of Crystal-like icons with the old GTK file requester, and Gnome's update manager is lurking in the toolbar. and all actions require a double-click, rather than the singe-click of most KDE desktops. Firefox comes augmented by a few extensions such as FastFox, Google Preview and Stumble Upon.

With no file manager immediately obvious, either through the launch menu or a link to your home directory on the desktop, KDE beginners might find the Sabayon desktop a little intimidating, which is our lasting impression of this distribution.

Our verdict: A powerful, good-looking distribution that's tailored for KDE power users. 7/10.

PCLinuxOS

We've always liked PCLinuxOS, even going back to its pre-distribution days as a series of packages for Mandriva. But when PCLinuxOS 2009.2 was released at the end of June, we were just as surprised as most people to find that this KDE-based distribution was still clinging to KDE 3.5 like the crew of a sinking ship. As much as we can understand the sentiment, it's now time to move on. KDE 4 has been promised for the 2009.3 release, but as yet, this hasn't appeared. But PCLOS is still worth a look because we love the desktop and there are official instructions on how to upgrade to 4 in the PCLOS forums.

KDE 4 on PCLOS is a great environment. There's still the old launch menu in the bottom-left corner, the Folder View takes over the complete desktop, and the Utilities folder is a nice touch. Hold your mouse over it and a window appears with the contents of the utilities menu easily accessible. It's a little like stacks in OS X, and the only thing that spoils it is that it only takes one click to mess up the display - but that's KDE's fault, and perhaps vindication for PCLOS's reluctance to upgrading to KDE 4 before now.

PCLinuxOS wins our award for the best-looking background, even if it is inspired by Microsoft.

PCLinuxOS wins our award for the best-looking background, even if it is inspired by Microsoft.

You still get Mandriva's configuration and installation tools, which isn't a bad thing, while a distinctly GTK-looking AbiWord is the word processor of choice. Synaptic takes up the package management duties, and a link from the Utilities folder will install OpenOffice.org with a single click, which is a great idea. We don't like the continual need to re-authenticate our root credentials though, and adding Google Gadgets through the Plasmoid window crashed Plasma - another problem with KDE.

Our verdict: A great distribution that's hindered only by the lack of KDE 4 in the default installation. 6/10.

Our choice: OpenSUSE

As we mentioned at the beginning of this Roundup, the reason why there's no single-page review of a single distribution is because they're all just so close. KDE is pretty much KDE whichever distribution you choose, and most users will make the desktop their own within weeks anyway. You could install any of the distributions we've looked at and get productive with your usual array of applications within an hour.

What we were particularly interested in was the distro's commitment to KDE and some illustration of understanding what KDE users want. Kubuntu gets very close. Its team do a very good job of building a great package with superb flexibility and stability, and thanks to the wonders of the PPA, Kubuntu is the best choice for KDE users who are prepared to make their own adjustments and upgrade the official packages with each major release. It also comes with all the advantages of the default Ubuntu installation.

But our winner is OpenSUSE. It's a distribution that's got the professional sheen and gloss that only Novell can bring, and it's a distribution that always manages to bundle a cutting-edge KDE installation that will last you the full nine months of the distribution cycle. The custom artwork looks great, and shows that the packaging team have a great understanding of what KDE is capable of and what users need from their desktop. Yast is always going to be unwieldy, but its fantastic integration into the KDE desktop (it's written in Qt) makes Linux feel much closer to its Windows and OS X competitors than other KDE distributions.

At the end of the day, we're suckers for the best-looking desktop thrown in with a touch of stability.

At the end of the day, we're suckers for the best-looking desktop thrown in with a touch of stability.

I am KDE, hear me roar

What this really comes down to is a distribution that is willing to pin its hopes on KDE, and in the current desktop climate, that's becoming an increasingly rare thing. The KDE development team may seem to be increasingly aloof and separate from the world of distributions (for example, when will they remove the ridiculous blue glow that seems to accompany every window on the KDE desktop, and use a normal drop shadow instead?), but this selection that we've covered shows that there are still plenty of people willing to chase the ideal. Which means there's never been a better time to be a KDE user.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments

I can't believe you rated Mandriva so low

I saw the article in the December LFX and thought the same thing. I really can't believe you rated at a 7 and Kubuntu at an 8. I think this was really about your distro preference more than best KDE distro.

I suppose you are allowed to have your own opinions though.

Good article

Nice article.

I understand this may have been writen before Fedora 12 came out, but what would the crew have placed that at?

I only ask because I tried it and liked it, and wanted to know how that benches against the others.

OpenSUSe was an excellent KDE 4, I agree. They done good. If I wanted KDe, I'd jump over immediately.

Did you try Pardus? Pardus

Did you try Pardus?

Pardus eZine: Have you ever used or heard about Pardus? What do you think about it? What's your opinion about the most defective things of GNU/Linux or Pardus? What's Pardus' rank between the distributions using KDE?

Sebastian Kügler:
It's the best integrated KDE distribution I know. Simple as that.

It's a nice review about

It's a nice review about what you get just after installation.

But like a gazillion other reviews this one is about installation and a quick spin. That is a ok basis for someone wanting to test Linux, but it doesn't really say anything about living with a distro.

For instance, the winner is a fat distro - not gentle wrt resources, heavy on dependencies and hard to trim compared to others. A coupple of the others are pretty fat too.

The gloss doesn't really matter much. You can make Mandriva look like Sidux or Opensuse vice versa if you want. Easy.

Don't get me wrong - it was a very nice overview and a great article. But in my view it got the priorities wrong. ;)

My distro

I currently have Kubuntu - while they screwed it up this time, removing pulse made it far far better.

Though I have an X problem, I really ought to move to Chakra pretty soon.

Cos I tried it and it rocks.

Arch+Kde 4.3.4 = Super

Arch+Kde 4.3.4 = Super awesome.
Gnome is so primitive comparing to KDE.
all of KDE's apps are fully functional besides kOffice which still has a way to go.

SUSE

I tried SUSE on many systems. there package manager is the slowest of all the distros. As well there aggreement at install gives me the feel of microsoft. and as for it detecting my different computers screen size. It never did. its all one side or other. atleast 5 of the other distro's you rated didnot glitch my video and I run nvidia. major downfall.

I seen kubuntu get some bad ratings and I can only understand if your running a old system. it really does suck at operating. but all the new systems I have built this year with all types of hardware. Kubuntu is 10/10 in performance. as for fedora. it has a ever once in awhile hang for 1 second then go after you load it up with alot apps. same with mandriva and suse. only distro not doing this and still running smooth and at high performance is Kubuntu.

And all this coming from a penguin that hated kubuntu for the longest. but after running on hundreds of computers all different types of settings and apps. Kubuntu blows away all the other distro's hands down.

and there new installer is best I seen yet for any linux distro.

Cheers.

Critiquing the critique

"Slackware has a problem with getting fonts to display correctly. [...] It's easy to solve with the System Settings font selector, but it's a sign that very little has been done to make the average user's experience any better."

What, exactly, does that mean? You didn't like the (lack of) antialiasing? Or...? (I have yet to see an implementation of KDE 4.3 where I didn't have to manually set font anti-aliasing, and I've used most of the distros here.)

"Sidux has taken the brave step of changing the appearance of the default KDE desktop, and the black-and-red plastic appearance that the Sidux art team have come up with works well."

So they went and created their own custom wallpaper. Ooh. Aah. (And their own custom color theme. Ooh. Aah.) Does this somehow make them better than the other distros here that also ship with custom wallpaper?

"With Mandriva One, this means you get an opaque panel that could have come from KDE 3.5, a Mandriva theme that uses the Ia-Ora widget style to look like Gnome circa 1.5, and a launch menu that could have come from Windows 95."

All the panels in your screenshots are opaque. None of your screenshots here show KDE with compositing enabled. Compositing and desktop effects are enabled by default in Mandriva One's KDE (if your video card supports it), so I'd say that one's your fault. And what is it with Sidux getting a plus for using the traditional menu-based application launcher, but Mandriva getting kicked for it? An argument could be made that Mandriva's menu is much better organized than Sidux's. (You can tell Mandriva did a lot of work to make their Ia Ora windec look the same on both KDE and GNOME; obviously you don't like it.)

"It would be nice to know you could upgrade to the latest KDE when it's released, but Mandriva would rather you updated your distribution than provide even semi-official packages for an update."

Mandriva has a "backports" repository in each of its repo's sections (main, contrib, and non-free). Mandriva describes on its wiki how Mandriva 2008 shipped with KDE 3.5.7, and put KDE 3.5.9 packages in "main/backports" when it was released. So what makes you think Mandriva 2010 will treat KDE 4 any differently?

"Beyond the graphics, OpenSUSE features plenty of usability tweaks too. Despite using the new launch menu, for example, the version that bundles with OpenSUSE forgoes the hover-over switching of the original, and removes the backwards arrow in a successful bid to add some much needed clarity."

You can toggle "Switch tabs on hover" on and off in KDE 4.3 (under "Application launcher settings"). I don't know what you mean about "remov[ing] the backwards arrow" -- it's still there in my kickoff menu.

OK, that's enough. :-) Could we have an article about KDE 4's unique features (e.g. Nepomuk/Strigi) next time, please?

Backtracking

On second view, you're right, Mandriva's default panel is opaque, whether compositing is on or off. (And compositing wasn't turned on by default when running from the live CD, just after it'd been installed.)

Nice overview

I am a bit surprised to see that KUbuntu has shaped up so well. The last time I used it was with KDE 4.2 and it wasn't looking bad though not to be campared to openSuse at that time.
I don't need to say much about openSuse since I am an openSuse user. It's simple the best KDE 4 DE out there.
PCLinuxOS was one of my favourites for a long time but I haven't used it for about a year now just because they have not decided to go with the time. KDE 3 looks dated these days and KDE 4 is more that good enough - it's a great desktop. The only thing that I am missing, like I said so many times is a full functional Kaffeine for KDE 4. Apart from that it just rocks.
I do hope that openSuse will continue to lead as a KDE distro although it doesn't seem like it will be all that easy in the future with all those strong competitors.
This is really good for the Linux desktop.

I'd go with Mandriva Linux for best KDE experience

I tested almost every distribution listed here (and some more) when I was searching for the best distribution for KDE 4 when switching from Ubuntu with Gnome. And from my experience Mandriva should be the highest rated here with openSUSE and Pardus (you should really give this on a try, not well known but they did and excellent job integrating KDE 4) following it. So yeah, I also share this opinion with others that Mandriva was much underrated in this article, and Kubuntu way overrated (I guess this is in some part the result of the Ubuntu hype residue). But in the end what matters is that a user looking into test as many distributions as thorougjhly as possible and keep in mind that the distribution that does a goog job with Gnome may not be so good when doing their job for KDE.

System Settings Location.

Just a FYI related to your System Settings comment in your Sabayon review. This is the default location for a modern KDE 4.3.x build. If you see it elsewhere in other distros, it is they that moved the location or they use an older version of kde4.

The fact that you claim you were "floundering" because of this worries me, considering that there's a search box in the menu allowing you to find the link regardless of it's location in the menu, and of course /etc/X11/xorg.conf which is a pretty standard way of configuring such things in any distro.

I enjoyed the article, even if I disagree with its conclusion. I am a gentoo/arch fan myself, which makes me a bit biased. Though I must say that the aforementioned issue with System Settings seems to lower the credibility of the author in my opinion. Maybe I have higher standards of expertise in an author writing an opinion/review piece about gnu/linux.

Why ignore Fedora?

I am curious as to why the authors seemed to have completely ignored Fedora KDE in this.

Mandriva

Very strange to see Mandriva behind Kubuntu...

l10n

Kubuntu might be a good distro until you use their localization packages.

openSUSE

Although I am not a KDE lover, I think openSUSE is probably the best KDE distro I have ever tried. Mandriva is also not bad.

Kubuntu is not a good option.

Arch + KDE may also be a good choice if the user care about and would like to keep up with the latest KDE version.

Credibility - not much of it to be found here

>Though I must say that the aforementioned issue with System Settings seems to lower the credibility of the author in my opinion. Maybe I have higher standards of expertise in an author writing an opinion/review piece about gnu/linux.

The author complains about a mere difference in the location of System Settings, then complains about the one distribution that has it in the up-to-date location as opposed to the previous location. The author misses quite a number of KDE distributions, including two of the good-standard three that ship it as their only desktop option, fails to notice that all distributions that ship GNOME also ship KDE, and then remarks that KDE distributions are "becoming rare". !!

Zero credibility, if you ask me.

Mepis 8.5 is Going to be the Best KDE4 Distro

You forgot to mention Mepis 8.5. Though Mepis goes little unnoticed in the chaos of Ubuntus, Fedoras and Suses, it's the best desktop distribution. It did KDE 3 the best and is going to repeat the same with KDE4.

I tried the latest Beta. It's as par with some major KDE4 Distro's final releases.

Another SimplyMepis mention.

I've been using DanumLinux Canteras 3c which is an excellent SimplyMepis based KDE4 distro as long as you keep in touch with the forum & only use Aptitude to avoid any breakages.

Migrating my main machine to SimplyMepis 8.5 from 8.0 will only be a matter of time and a lot of people are running their main machine on 8.5 already.

no mention of mepis?

original article posted on Saturday December 12th 2009 ... and no mention of Mepis? Um. Okay. Just ignore the Distro that ignited the usable Desktop Linux Experience? Just pass over the distro that was doing auto-mated binary driver installs years before anybody else? Just say, nah, we won't try the distro whose tools pretty much have now become standard across every other distro. I can understand not trying every single distro that ships KDE in some form. I do not understand skipping Mepis.

What about GNOME?

Can you make the same thing for GNOME distros? PLZ.

Sidux.

An interesting article but fundamentally flawed and subjective.
Especially given that some of the ratings are based on appearance, ie Open Suse "the best looking desktop", a clearly subjective statment if there ever was one.

Also if you look back, apart from the pea soup green wallpaper and some 'custom' Suse icons it doesn't look markedly different from a standard KDE 4 install.

They even use the same panel theme as PClinuxOS. So much for a custom look.

Furthermore some of the other distros you rated down on 'looks' made a significantly more obvious effort to stray from the default look than Suse.

Get real mate.

It's interesting also to see that you did not use the most current Sidux snapshot.

I can assure you that OpenOffice.org and Iceweasel integrate considerably better in looks and feel than they do in the 'dated' snapshot you used.

In short a healthy dose of objectivity and a comparison based on the latest, offerings available.

Perhaps some additional screenshots to back up some of your obviously personal assertions would add some credibility.

Pardus

How told higher, you had to talk about Pardus. It was indispensable and I don't understand how you could forget it while Chakra is mentioned.

Default install characteristics?

I was surprised that there wasn't a more in-depth précis on the base install characteristics. By this I mean things like:

- Base install size: which distribution include an inordinate amount of fluff that never gets used?
- Base memory footprint: do some distributions optimise the 'standard' KDE desktop more than others? Do some add more back-end clutter which consumes resources but doesn't benefit the end-user experience?
- No. of additional themes (plasma/colours/icons/window dressing) available via on-line repository or included by default.
- No. of plasmoids available by default.
- How well integrated are the core components of KDE with the back-end systems, and how easily are these functionalities utilised (such as Nepomuk, Phonon et al.)

Including these would have presented a more rounded view and would have also allowed the reader to infer their own 'best' KDE distribution, based on the content and his or her own preferences.

I actually buy the magazine, but this article was a disappointment.

Fedora 12 and Pardus 2009 missing.

Fedora 12 and Pardus 2009 shine for their absence in the review. But since I have tested both can give you my opinion:

Fedora 12
Good: stable, fast desktop, based on KDE 4.3.3 which is newer than Kubuntu (non PPA), OpenSUSE, Mandriva offerings. Distribution boots very fast, and thanks to new packaging tuning, it takes less HD space than before. Theme is very well done.

Bad: distro tools are GTK only. Uses Gnome network manager gui instead of KDE network manager.

Pardus 2009:
Good: stable, fast, solid KDE implementation. All distro tools are QT4 based. Provide even custom plasma widget to manage services. Custom theme icons and wallpaper (not my favorite btw).

Bad: Based on 4.2.x. Read somewhere that 4.3.x packages are available, but must be compiled manually.

Artwork as most important criterion of a distro?

I’m quite disappointed to see that the authors of this article take artwork and eye candy gadgets as most important criterium for comparing some distros. I know that KDE attaches more importance to design than other desktop environments like Gnome or XFCE do in their vanilla product. But I think that most people don’t care much about artwork and are more interested in a operating system that just works. Especially if you want to make Linux and in particular KDE distributions popular to newbies, the most important criteria should be ease of use and stability. A distribution that is “going to blend the latest features and fixes into either a rolling update, or a new, updatable distribution you don’t have to wait too long for” will surely not match these criteria.

I’ve tested the more common of the above KDE distros on my Dell laptop and my desktop computer and when taking ease of use and stability as most important criteria, the winners are Mandriva and Kubuntu. (To be fair I have to say that I didn’t test PC Linux OS with KDE yet, probably it is still better.) Mandriva is very stable – I didn’t find one serious or annoying bug –, the control centre is one of the best (and also very easy to use!) and the whole system is very straightforward. Kubuntu would be a good alternative. It’s not as stable as Mandriva (but interestingly more stable than Ubuntu, at least in the most current version 9.10) but also very easy to use. Open Suse however is not easy to use and I noticed too many serious and annoying bugs so that the distribution was only usable after many hours (and I’m not the only person that had problems with the current Open Suse version, there were many reviews that came to the same result).

MEPIS 8.5 (still in Beta) is (gonna be) the best KDE-4...

If you like Debian-family distros, you'll LOVE MEPIS 8.5.
Especially if you are a newbie, though it's great for
advanced Linux users, too.

And, it's support forum, at MEPISLovers.org, has been voted on DistroWatch.org as the friendliest around!

Those all add up to a winner distro, and I've tried
a LOT of them over the past 5 years.

Are you sure about Suse yeah right!

I don't forget is packed with some stupid shit M$/Novell Monolight codec crap!

And i like to see some scores 1/5 ***** what's best or worse.

Horrible Review

Most the commenters above me already pointed this out, but this review is entirely based on how the author feels about eye candy and artwork. There is no sound, logical arguements listed as to what makes any given distro better than other except a great deal of wasted whitespace on which distro looks better than the other. Also, as pointed out above, the author contradicts himself on more than one occaision with the usage and layout of the Kmenu/Kicker from one Distro to another.

32 bit Mandriva ONE is currently the KDE4 Distro King, as every review (except yours) has acclaimed. More than this though, its popular by Linux community consensus of those who have actually used it. A quick surf around the Internet forum hangouts of the Linux crowds would quickly reveal this.

Contrary to ongoing misconceptions, Kubuntu Karmic is indeed a fantastic Distro. Yea, Canonical actually got it right this time around, and IMO, its better than Ubuntu Karmic by a long shot. Since Kubuntu supports 64 bit, and Mandriva does not (other than the FREE edition), it is the best choice out there for this crowd.

Pardus

When I try Pardus, I chage my Fedora desktop from XFCE/Gnome to KDE...

Mepis 8.5 for KDE, Kubuntu 9.10 a close second.

Come on fellows. When you write an article like this you need to go a little deeper then what it looks like. There were a lot of distros you did not even try out. With articles like this it not hard to wonder why KDE 4.x is having such a hard time trying to get back to number one. I believe that Mepis 8.5 will bring the fun back to using a KDE distro. It will never replace my beloved Gnome but it will be my KDE distro of choice.

U are right to say that

U are right to say that kbuntu is good,
but less good than opensuse - which wouldn't even boot from my usb drive. I corrected this but found other problems. It played up during the installation of a package and by this time I'd had enough - just too rough. Imho Kubuntu is tops this time round with mandriva/pclos close runners up.

@filip007 I don't think that

@filip007
I don't think that the default Opensuse installation has any mono packages installed.

RE: @filip007 I don't think that

> I don't think that the default Opensuse installation has any mono packages installed.

There wouldn't be any point. AFAIK there simply aren't any KDE applications that use Mono. The Mono project has produced some Qt bindings for Mono, but as far as I know no-one has ever written an application that uses them, and they are included in no distributions at all.

sidux is (IMHO)nec plus utra

Sorry to say that this review is quite shallow. Eye candy is just that... candy.

Among other things, the author mentions that it's a pity that there is no GUI to upgrade: well, typing _apt-get dist-upgrade_ must be a tremendous chore! It also shows that the author has no clue about the upgrade mechanism in a debian-based rolling distro like sidux. The list of dubious evaluation criteria would be too long for a simple comment.

sidux (yes, lowercase only) is simply the best distro that I have worked with up to now (not to mention the fabulous manual and the great and competent support) To rate it below Kubuntu is beyond me.

flawed yet quite spot on

Although one can give an impression of shallowness, I do think openSuSE 11.2 is the best KDE4 distro.
Don't get me wrong. I tried to avoid openSuSE, and really rooting for Mandriva, Kubuntu and Fedora. But openSuSE just worked very well, almost flawless, while Mandriva stalled in the early phase of installation, Kubuntu dragged my system down, and Fedora KDE is just okay but felt second to its original GNOME version.
The amazing thing is all my computers can be assumed as ancients, yet openSUSE KDE runs faster than Ubuntu 9.10. I was and I am still impressed.

I am looking forward to next release of Pardus, if I want some quality eye candy (icons and others).

It's not that easy to write a review, you have to hover over the things that you might not normally do in order to cover them comprehensively, so I cannot give any harsh words towards any of this article shortcomings.

So I can conclude that I second your opinion. Bravo openSuSE

What about Fedora???

I use KDE 4 on Fedora and it is great. I can't see anything wrong with it at all. A Debian net-install with KDE also yields good results as it is a nice small and fast system with the Debian charms and it just works unlike Ubuntu.

Kubuntu is the WORST distribution in existence, IMO.

About Suse

When i was building my own distro with Suse Studio, Mono project was part of install, when i ban that and then Tomboy was required when i remove that too than os have error on boot, bet your ass that Monolight is in there!

M$ is secretly pushing .Net over that Mono project, some they run Paint.Net on linux, ban, ban...you got that!

"KDE- focused"

I think some of the fedora people are getting a little confused, at least, I was under the understanding that fedora was NOT "KDE-focused" like the author stated at the beginning.
I'm a long time suse user, well all my linux years, and I have tried some other distros, I can't see why people are upset by yast. It's yast that makes suse, I love it.
Oh, one last thing, I'm still with the kde3.5 supporters, though forced to use kde4 with opensuse 11.2, from a business point of view, I don't want my desktop crashing/resetting every half hour, I don't want my windows moved all over. I want to be able to edit files with kate from the root shell . . .etc. There are bugs, and yes I do report them. There are things that just don't work now that I've had to move.

sidux

1) SO they spelled it w/ a capital s in the review, BIG DEAL. Don't be anal. There's not enough lube.

2) that sinister thing ? It is that ugly as sin bug. It should be smashed. And whoever drew it needs a slap, too.

3) sidux 'had' an updater, while not "gui" ... it was 'so' lovely. All hail smxi. it is sexy.

4) eyecandy nearly burnt out my cpu and motherboard. Fuck it.

5) Open Suse's green is ugly as sin.

Mandriva and Pardus

I'm also one of those who recently switched from GNOME to KDE and I can also agree with others before me who can't see how Kubuntu could get such a high score. Ubuntu was fine for GNOME but for KDE it has way too many problems. After some time of looking for the perfect newbie distribution I also ended with Mandriva Linux and they've put much more polish into their offering of KDE. I didn't try Pardus yet but I did hear a lot of good words about it. i guess I'l have to take some time and try it.

Fonts is the number one eye-candy

Practically every application involves displaying text in one way or the other. Therefore IMHO the most important look-and-feel aspect of any distro is the fonts.

First of all, they should look reasonable by default.

Second, it should be possible and easy to personalize the fonts. The "easy" should apply to all applications, even if it takes lots of engineering to make it easy.

And "personalize" should include the possibility to switch to non-antialiased (sharp) fonts. I personally happen to like the fonts that came with Windows 2000, so I want such fonts or good equivalents to be available.

I did some looking around among distros earlier this year. My winner was PCLinuxOS, although it took me quite a lot of tinkering to get the fonts the way I wanted. And I didn't try all the distros mentioned here...

openSUSE FTW!

Don't forget that openSUSE KDE repos give you a perfect choice between stability and bleeding edge! You an easily switch between OSS, KDE:STABLE, KDE:Factory and KDE:UNSTABLE to find out the combination that works best for you. From experience (and speaking as a user since SUSE Linux 9.1), even the "UNSTABLE" repos give you a working desktop with the newest and coolest fetures enabled and great integration + artwork. If you want to use KDE as your primary desktop, go openSUSE! Mandrıva or Kubuntu only come a dıstant second ın my bookç

Mandriva way behind Kubu and Opensus? Drugs are bad, man....

Mandriva behind Kubuntu?

OpenSUse gets a 9, Mandriva gets a 7?

Lay off the wacky tabacky.

Writing this from Kubuntu 9.10, its good but not Mandriva level yet.

I have family and friends on Mandriva including about 6 family members who are retired.
Its the one I always trust for family (PCLinuxOS also in the ol 3.5 days).

My father has been using KDE for 3 years now and laughs whenever I show him different KDE distros (I use Gentoo and Arch). He says they are all the same and swears that my wife's Kubuntued Dell Mini 9 is the same as his mandriva.

This is like debating pubic hairs on angels.

Very Nice Artical..... I

Very Nice Artical.....

I also think OpenSUSE 11.2 it's a best destro that manage KDE very Well as usablity.

Missed a few distros...but

I would agree with your assessment of Kubuntu, I've been using it now for almost a year and if it were not for the availability of the PPA's I would most likely have switched to something else.
Since I like to tweak everything to my own liking, I don't mind that they haven't focused much on their own graphical customizations.
But it's obvious from these comments that the Best KDE distro is really a subjective matter, as we all have our reasons for liking the distro we use.

Mandriva vs openSuse

I tried openSuse 11.2 and Mandriva 2010. My opinion is that Mandriva 2010 is over openSuse 11.2 at this moment. Maybe a better distro is openSuse 11.1 + KDE4.3 than openSuse 11.2. A very annoying problem (for me) I found on many distros having installed KDE4.3: Xorg uses a high CPU even if you only move the mouse. Mandriva 2010 is the only distro that didn't have this problem. I'm a big fan of openSuse 11.1 and because of the problem mentioned I don't use openSuse 11.2 at this moment.

Mandriva is definitely better than Kubuntu

Just 3 weeks ago I wanted to install a KDE 4 desktop and I tested both Kubuntu and Mandriva. Mandriva was much better than Kubuntu: better polish, less bugs. Kubuntu's so called great network manager is still buggy and can by no means match the Mandriva one, which is working flawlessly. A lot of useful management tools included in the Mandriva Control Center are just not available under Kubuntu.
I cannot argue about OpenSuse and the others, because I did not test them

Nice view

I totally agree with you. Having tried all these distros.

I agree with the majority

Mandriva is on the good way, and it seems everyone noticed how good their KDE4 implementation is, the best available to date. Except that all the fuss about Ubuntu makes some people think that it really is the only "linux", those people that actually never tried anything else. For those *who know*, that is those who actually use it on a daily basis, Mandriva is probably the best/easiest distro.
And indeed, your screenshot shows that you compared apples to oranges, as you took the most recent releases except for Mandriva which is 2009/2009.1 in your review.

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