KDE Neon vs Kubuntu: What’s the Difference Between the Two KDE Distribution?

When you find two Linux distributions based on Ubuntu and powered up by KDE, which one do you choose?

  • Kubuntu is the official KDE flavor from Ubuntu.
  • KDE Neon is the Ubuntu-based distribution by KDE itself.

I know it is often confusing especially if you have never used either of them but got them as recommendations for usage. Hence, to help you make a decision, I thought of compiling a list of differences (and similarities) between KDE Neon and Kubuntu.

Let’s start with getting to know the similarities and then proceed with the differences.

Note: Depending on your system, your experience with the distributions might differ. So, take this article as a reference and not a “what’s better” comparison.

KDE Neon vs Kubuntu: Feature wise comparison

Kde Neon Vs Kubuntu

It’s always good to compare distribution based on their similarities. So, theoretically, I’ve tried to put down the most important differences.

However, it is worth noting that the compatibility, performance, and the stability of the distros will vary depending on your hardware and hence, that has not been accounted here.

Ubuntu as the Base

Install Ubuntu 8

Yes, both the Linux distributions are based on Ubuntu. However, KDE Neon is based only on the latest Ubuntu LTS release while Kubuntu offers an Ubuntu LTS based edition and a non-LTS edition as well.

So, with KDE Neon, you would expect to get your hands on the latest Ubuntu features right after a few months of the next Ubuntu LTS release (2 years). But, with Kubuntu, you have got the option to opt for a non-LTS release and try on the latest Ubuntu releases with 6 months of software updates.

KDE Neon does offer testing editions and developer editions but those are meant to test pre-release KDE software.

KDE Plasma Desktop

Kde Plasma 5 20 Feat

Even though both of the distros feature KDE plasma desktop and you can get the same level of customization, KDE Neon gets the latest KDE Plasma desktop release first.

If you did not know already, KDE Neon is developed by the official KDE team and was announced by Jonathan Riddell (Founder of Kubuntu) after he was forced out of Kubuntu by Canonical.

So, not just limited to the latest Plasma desktop, but if you want the latest and greatest of KDE as soon as possible, KDE Neon is the perfect choice for that.

Kubuntu will eventually get the update for newer KDE software — but it will take time. If you’re not too sure about the latest KDE software/desktop and all you need is a stable KDE-powered system, you should go with Kubuntu LTS releases.

Pre-installed Software

Out of the box, you will find Kubuntu to have several essential tools and applications pre-installed. But, with KDE Neon, you would need to find and install several applications and tools.

To give you some perspective, KDE Neon might turn out to be a lightweight distro when compared to Kubuntu. However, for new Linux users, they might find Kubuntu as an easy-to-use experience with more essential software and tools pre-installed.

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Software Updates

If you are not using a metered connection, this may not matter at all. But, just for the sake of it, I should mention that KDE Neon gets more software updates considering the regular Ubuntu LTS fixes/updates along with KDE software updates.

With Kubuntu, you just get the Ubuntu LTS updates (unless you’re using the non-LTS edition). So, technically, you can expect less number of updates.

Ubuntu with KDE vs Plasma Experience

Kubuntu Kde

I know if you haven’t tried both of them, you might think of them as pretty similar. But, Kubuntu is an official flavour of Ubuntu that focused more on the experience with Ubuntu on a KDE desktop environment.

While KDE Neon is technically the same thing, but it is all about getting the best-in-class Plasma desktop experience with the latest stuff on board.

Even though both the distributions work amazing out of the box, they have a different vision and the development proceeds on both them accordingly. You just have to decide what you want for yourself and choose one of them.

Hardware Compatibility

Kubuntu Focus Laptop
Kubuntu Focus Laptop

As I mentioned earlier, this is not a fact-based point here. But, as per my quick look on the feedback or experiences shared by the users online, it seems that Kubuntu works with a wide range of old hardware along with new hardware (potentially dating back to 2012) while KDE Neon may not.

It’s just a thing to keep in mind if you try KDE Neon and it doesn’t work for some reason. You know what to do.

Wrapping Up

So, what would it be? KDE Neon or Kubuntu? That’s really is your choice.

Both are good choices for a beginner-friendly Linux distribution but if you want the latest KDE Plasma desktop, KDE Neon gets the edge here. You can read more about it in our review of KDE Neon.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments down below and what do you find good/bad on either of them.

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  • Regarding KDE Neon on older hardware: I have found Neon works absolutely brilliantly on my mid-2009 13″ Macbook Pro, using it for about a month now. No driver problems whatsoever, graphics and wifi worked out of the box, super smooth. I have not tried Kubuntu, so this is not a comparison. But you mentioned potential issues with KDE Neon and older hardware, so wanted to give my experience for anyone using an old Macbook.

  • This is my take because I’ve always only used the KDE’d versions of Linux distros. I had the most current versions plus updates of KDE Neon installed for several months and what I noticed was that regularly things such as WiFi would malfunction. Clicking on certain applications would require reclicking and sometimes they just would not open. There were quite a lot of regular gotchas for a distro installed on a very up to date, powerful computer. I used Kubuntu for the same period of timeand under the same conditions and didnot notice a “regular” usability problem while actually using it. There were hiccups, of course, but not in an annoying regularity as I found during the use of Neon. The usability annoyances in Neon were far more frequent than in Kubuntu.

    For now, I am staying with Kubuntu because I really “Use” Linux to do all kinds of computing work. I prefer stability rather than the next shiny new thing in Linux. That is why I am surprised by the take of so many reviewers and Linux users giving Neon a higher rating simply because it is the new, most recent incarnation of KDE.

    There was a time when the Linux audience was far more selective
    and critical as to how Linux was used. I guess times have changed.


    • I’ve been trying to get back to KDE for a while & had been trying to get away from Kubuntu, but Neon is just too lacking – no user group management from the DE; inability to do basic admin tasks as root from Dolphin, among other issues. I haven’t wasted this much time on a linux distro, nor seen one so poorly executed in over a decade, but that’s what you get w/ the latest state of Plasma. Other OSs aren’t likely going to implement incompleteness. Fair warning, you have to expect that going into Neon.

  • I’m currently using 5.22.5, and I’m very disappointed with it. It segfaults reboot and requires the power off for 10 seconds or so then restart. The latest kernel fails saying it can’t mount root.

    Other issues are:
    – Ease of use running as root. Not …
    – System menu isn’t easy to navigate
    – Installed Muon to search for Nvidia drivers because Discover didn’t display a single one. – Dolphin doesn’t display my unmounted drives. I have to drop into a terminal to mount them
    – Discover has a very limited application choices and most are a flatpack which contain the running environment, so the flatpack choice flat eats disk space.

    I’m going to wipe it and go back to Kubuntu. I thought Neon would have better performance on my 14 year old system. I have more control of the system options and the Nvidia drivers work without causing issues.