Best Linux Distributions Based on KDE

KDE is one of the most customizable and fastest desktop environments out there. While you can always install KDE if you know-how, it is best to choose a Linux distribution that comes with KDE out-of-the-box.

Here, let me list some of the best KDE-based Linux distros.

Linux Distributions With KDE Onboard

No matter what you choose as your preferred distro, you can refer to our KDE customization guide to tweak your experience.

Note: The list is in no particular order of ranking.

1. KDE Neon

Kde Neon Information 20 04

Key Highlights:

  • Official KDE distribution
  • Latest stable KDE Plasma version
  • Focuses on latest KDE software
  • Not a perfect replacement as a desktop distro

KDE Neon is one of the exciting choices if you want to get your hands on the latest KDE Plasma experience.

Even if it utilizes a stable Ubuntu LTS base, you always get the newest KDE version delivered as soon as it is released.

Unlike any other distros, it does not focus on a complete desktop user experience but the KDE software packages. So, it may not be the perfect desktop replacement for everyone. However, if you focus on using the latest KDE software, KDE Neon is a decent choice.

The User Edition is what you need to opt for, but you also have the choice to try “Testing” or “Unstable” editions if you are willing to try pre-released features.

If you wonder how it differs from Kubuntu, you should check out KDE Neon vs Kubuntu comparison to explore it.

2. Kubuntu

Kubuntu Kde

Key Highlights:

  • An Ubuntu-based desktop-focused Linux distro
  • Offers both LTS and non-LTS versions
  • Good hardware compatibility

Kubuntu should be an excellent distro for your Linux desktop if the KDE software suite is not your focus.

Kubuntu is an official flavor of Ubuntu, which provides three years of updates for its LTS editions. Unlike KDE Neon, you get better support for various applications and are not just limited to KDE software.

You get the option to opt for an LTS edition or a non-LTS version to get the latest Ubuntu features.

Kubuntu has improved hardware compatibility when compared to some other KDE-based distros. Considering, it powers a variety of laptops that include Kubuntu Focus, Slimbook, and more, the hardware compatibility is something that you can rely on.

3. Manjaro KDE

Manjaro 20 Desktop

Key Highlights:

  • Arch-based Linux distro
  • Rolling-release updates
  • Presents a slight learning curve to new Linux users

Manjaro is an Arch-Linux-based distribution that makes it easy to use Arch as a desktop Linux platform.

It follows a rolling-release schedule, which should help you get the latest packages quickly without worrying about the software update period.

If you are a new Linux user, you may want to stick to Flatpak or Snaps to install any application. While Manjaro makes it easy to use Arch, it does present a slight learning curve to new users. So, you might want to check the Arch wiki to explore more.

4. Fedora KDE Spin

Key Highlights:

  • A unique KDE-based Linux distribution (if you don’t prefer mainstream Ubuntu/Arch distros)
  • Tailored for workstations and servers
  • May not be convenient for new Linux users
  • Hardware compatibility can be an issue

Fedora is an independent distribution (not based on Ubuntu/Arch) that acts as an upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

And, Fedora spin editions feature alternate desktops for users. If you want KDE, you need to download Fedora’s KDE spin.

Like KDE Neon, Fedora does not focus on providing a great desktop experience but aims to implement the latest technology useful for a workstation or server.

So, if you are confident to tackle any issues/challenges that come with newer technology implementations on a Linux distro, Fedora KDE spin can be a good choice.

5. openSUSE

opensuse kde

Key Highlights:

  • Suitable for system administrators and developers requiring access to several tools
  • Two different editions available including a stable and a rolling-release

openSUSE is yet another independent Linux distribution featuring the KDE desktop by default. While it pitches itself as one of the choices for desktop users, I have had hardware compatibility issues in the past.

However, it can be a good choice for system administrators or developers who want to access tools like YaST, Open Build Service, Kiwi, and more on their desktop, out-of-the-box.

It offers a stable edition and a rolling-release version. As per your requirements, choose what’s best for you.

6. Garuda Linux

Garuda Linux Review

Key Highlights:

  • Rolling-release distro
  • BTRFS as the default filesystem
  • Comes with essential pre-installed GUI tools to make the Arch Linux experience easy

Garuda Linux is a modern Arch-based distribution that focuses on a customized experience out-of-the-box.

The KDE version (or the Dr460nized edition) offers a beautiful experience while tweaking it with a macOS-like workflow.

Of course, if you are an experienced Linux user, you may customize your existing distribution to mimic the same experience.

As a cherry on top, Garuda Linux also provides different variants of its KDE editions, one with pre-installing gaming tools, one for penetration testing, and another as an essential Linux desktop system.

7. Nitrux OS

nitrux os kde

Key Highlights:

  • Debian-based distribution for a change
  • Unique desktop experience

A Debian-based Linux distribution that features KDE out-of-the-box. Unlike Kubuntu, Nitrux may end up offering faster KDE plasma updates and newer Linux Kernel upgrades.

Nitrux OS offers a beautiful and unique experience while featuring its NX Desktop.

If you want to try something different with KDE onboard, Nitrux OS would be a great pick.

8. MX Linux KDE

Mx Linux 19 2 Kde

Key Highlights:

  • Debian-based distro
  • Lightweight
  • Useful MX Tools pre-installed

Don’t need the looks but want a simple and customizable KDE desktop with a Debian base? MX Linux KDE edition should be a fantastic choice as it is known for its snappy performance and pre-installed essential tools baked in.

You also get several KDE themes if you want to tweak the default user experience.

Wrapping Up

In addition to this list, several other Linux distributions feature KDE desktop as their preferred choice.

Nitrux OS should be a unique pick overall, and if you want to move away from Ubuntu-based distributions, there are solid arch-based distros like Garuda Linux and Manjaro to try.

What is your favorite KDE-based Linux distribution? Do you focus on out-of-the-box customization or prefer to customize the KDE experience yourself?

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  • I’ve installed KDE on my Linux Mint after Mint dropped KDE. So far so good for me. People say it is a Frankenstein and I will break certain things here and there. But so far I’m able to game and update with no issues. I just do a quick timeshift from time to time.

  • Quality of Kubuntu due to snap has come down, so I think OpenSuse, Fedora Spin and Manjaro is better choice for stable desktop

    • nah, it takes only 4 lines of command to remove and disable snap on kubuntu (and other buntus). It won’t take you 5 minutes.

      sudo rm -rf /var/cache/snapd/rm -fr ~/snap

      sudo apt remove –purge gnome-software-plugin-snap

      sudo apt remove –purge snapd

      sudo apt-mark hold snapd

      Meanwhile, on Opensuse – you have add third party repo for more software, configure kwallet to autologin (because kwallet-pam is not installed by default), you have to install and setup kde connect, and when removing package you have to lock packages manually to prevent it from being reinstalled when you update.

      On fedora, setting up system snapshot is time consuming, as you have to configure btrfs layout to follow that of ubuntu when using timeshift. You have to activate also the rpm fusion and install additional codecs.

      On Manjaro – if you are big on aur packages, chances are you have to troubleshoot your system when updates arrive. On my personal experience, I have to figure out a wifi card problem for half a day the first time I encountered the problem, and I have to repeat doing it every update.

      Sure its a matter of taste, but I rather spend my time on doing actual things rather than tinkering my desktop OS.

  • I’m surprised you suggested Nitrux (near to unusable and buggy on my experience) while forgot about Q4OS, which is the most Debian like user experience with KDE pre-installed.
    I’m using it as a daily driver at work since more than 2 years, rock solid and fast.
    Please give it a go in a future release, cheers.

  • I have used all of these as my Linux understanding has expanded. I can handle a basic install like openSUSE without media codecs etc. then add to manually, tweak and land with my feet firmly planted. However that is not my dream, I like Gecko Linux which is openSUSE with the core addons included. I like it a lot.

  • You shortchanged openSUSE. It too uses Btrfs, w/ automatic snapper whenever you update software. You can boot back into any prior (I.e. working) state and roll back changes.

    It uses grub2 and systems (but you can also use conventional logging too).

    The software repos are extensive, and the Yast2 software management (based on Zypper and RPMs) is very easy to use. You can add optional repos to get additional software, more current KDE releases, etc.

    It works great as a desktop OS and install is a snap. You can use 3 different Qt based desktops (LXQt, KDE, Deepin) and software from the various projects tends to reuse KDE Foundation libraries and have good visual integration (picks up same Qt style/colors, etc).

    Plus, if you want your eyes to hurt you can install Gnome or one of the other hideous GTK based desktops. GTK apps (Firefox, LibreOffice) can be skinned and themed to look like Qt apps and not stick out.

    It has software for any particular use case. Yast2 is a nice, pretty easy front end to configuring most things including web server, SELinux/AppArmor, PAM, LDAP, email server, etc. Works great as host for databases (with latest PostgreSQL, Mongo, MariaDB, etc), monitoring/security (3 or 4 different system monitoring tools e.g. Icinga, angiosperms. Several options for intrusion detection.

    It has a hearty set of pen testing tools.Great support for software development esp. w/ OBS — can cross compile and package for different hardware (e.g. Raspberry Pi, x86, etc). Several options for virtualization and containers.

    My only gripes are there isn’t an easy way to see which graphics tool kit/desktop is used by GUI apps (there are usually several KDE5/Qt5 options), hard to view by software type too. The default tty (e.g. run level 3 or ctl+alt+2-6) is ugly, and there should be a preconfigured option using tmux/screen, framebuffer, ranger/mc, lynx, etc. w/ a nice gecko openSUSE logo when you finish booting.