Brief: Confused between Ubuntu vs Xubuntu vs Lubuntu vs Kubuntu?? Want to know which Ubuntu flavor should you use? This beginners’ guide helps you to decide which Ubuntu should you choose.
So, you have been reading about reasons to switch to Linux and the benefits of it and finally decided to give it a try. Good.
Now, after further reading on the internet, knowing people’s view about which Linux is good for beginners, you decided to install Ubuntu. A fine wise decision.
Perhaps at this point, you are wondering about which Ubuntu should you choose and how should you proceed with installing Ubuntu.
Wait! Did I say ‘which Ubuntu’? If you are surprised with that expression, it means you need to know a little about Ubuntu before you go on to install Ubuntu.
Why there are so many Ubuntu? Which Ubuntu should I choose?
If you have been reading on the forums and blogs, you might have come across a few terms like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu etc. No, these are not nicknames that people gave to their Ubuntu. Let me tell you the reason behind ‘those Ubuntu’.
These are various variants of Ubuntu that are categorized based on their specific usage or based on the desktop environment.
When it comes to Linux, you have the ‘freedom’ to choose the ‘desktop environment’. A desktop environment is basically a bundle of components to provide common graphical user interface elements such as icons, toolbars, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. Most of the desktop environments have their own set of integrated applications and utilities so that users get a uniform feel while using the OS.
Basically, it changes the looks of the operating systems you use and at times, the programs you use.
Still not convinced? Let me give you a rather loose analogy. It’s like dressing up clothes. If you dress like a hippy, you’ll look like a hippy. If you have hippy hair, there is a uniform feel of being a hippy.
So, what’s the advantage of using one desktop environment over other? In the previous analogy with clothes, if you wear skinny jeans, you might look smarter but you can’t run faster. There is a compromise, you see. Similarly, some desktop environments focus on utilizing the graphics but then they demand better hardware configuration. While some other desktop environments run better on low configuration computer but may not look that good.
Picture courtesy: Tuttly
What are the different kinds of Ubuntu available?
Below is the list of official Ubuntu flavors:
- Ubuntu Unity (default Ubuntu flavor)
- Ubuntu GNOME
- Ubuntu Mate
- Ubuntu Kylin
- Ubuntu Budgie
I specifically mentioned that these are the official flavor. These flavors are endorsed by Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company. They release a new version at the same time as the main Ubuntu Unity releases. Follow the same development cycle and release schedule.
Since these are the official flavors, does it mean that there are other Ubuntu variants as well?
Yes, but they are not associated with Canonical. They are created by hobbyist Ubuntu users who want to use some other desktop environments that are not supported officially by Ubuntu. You know, unlike Windows and Mac OS X, Linux users have the ‘freedom’ to use the system at will and try out new things. You can install various desktop environment on your Linux system, in parallel with the already installed default desktop environment.
For example, if you are using Ubuntu Unity, you can install GNOME on Ubuntu and switch between the two desktop environments at will.
You can install various desktop environments on your Linux system. Expert Linux users, out of hobby and curiosity, bring other desktop environments to Ubuntu (coding is involved here) and then other enthusiast Ubuntu users try them out (no coding required).
If a desktop environment (say XYZ) can be installed this way, why would there be a new Ubuntu XYZ flavor?
Because sometimes the desktop environments conflict with each other and you end up with a few missing icons, duplicate programs or a rather not so polished looking system. For this reason, a dedicated Ubuntu flavor is released so that users get the perfect experience of the selected desktop environment.
So, which Ubuntu is best suited for me?
That depends on your need. Let me list out the features and purposes of each official Ubuntu flavor and then you can decide which one is good for you.
1. Ubuntu Unity
This is the default Ubuntu until Ubuntu 17.04 version. A Mac OS X like interface (apologies to hardcore Ubuntu users). This is the main focus of Ubuntu team. You’ll find lots of support on the forums and most articles on various Ubuntu blogs are written around it. In short, more support and available resource.
But Unity requires upgraded hardware. It’s resource hungry. So if your system has RAM less than 4 GB, I don’t recommend it.
Kubuntu is KDE version of Ubuntu. KDE Plasma desktop environment is known for point-and-click configuration option. Plasma is modern and sleek looking. Lots of tweaks are available around the desktop like widgets, screenlets etc. If you like to customize desktop, this could be your choice.
Kubuntu is fine for an average system. If your system has RAM over 2 GB, you should be fine with it.
Image courtesy: softwsp
Xubuntu uses Xfce desktop environment. It’s an old desktop environment and provides you basic desktop customization options. It might not be as good looking as Ubuntu Unity but it certainly doesn’t look too bad or too old.
Moreover, it is suited for systems with low configuration. Even if you have a system of 1 GB RAM, it will be fine with Xubuntu.
On the downside, you won’t get that modern a system.
Like Xubuntu, Lubuntu also caters the need of lower end system. It uses LXDE which is a lightweight, power efficient desktop environment. If you are coming from Windows XP, you’ll have similar feel to it.
Lubuntu is the lightest among them all. Even if you have a system with less than 1 GB RAM, Lubuntu will handle it. It manages power efficiently so your system doesn’t overheat that often.
On the downside, I don’t think Lubuntu is a modern looking system. You’ll have to compromise on the looks here.
5. Ubuntu GNOME
Like Ubuntu Unity, Ubuntu GNOME is also a modern OS. GNOME is one of the most used desktop environment in Linux world. Sleek, modern look and a bunch of useful GNOME apps make it a perfect choice for a desktop.
Ubuntu GNOME also demands better hardware configuration. I advise to have a RAM of 3-4 GB to use it.
6. Ubuntu MATE
Ubuntu MATE uses MATE desktop environment which is forked from GNOME 2. Unlike the GNOME (version 3), GNOME 2 had a more traditional desktop approach. Many people did not like the new interface of GNOME 3 and this resulted in the birth of Mate desktop environment.
If you have lower hardware configuration and you like more traditional desktop, you would like Ubuntu Mate.
7. Ubuntu Kylin
This Ubuntu flavor is specifically focused on Chinese users. It provides support for Chinese language and few other things more suited for Chinese users.
Edubuntu is a shorter form of Education+Ubuntu. Basically, it’s a GNOME implementation with a focus on schools and educational institutes. It comes bundled with applications and games suitable for students.
I won’t advise you to use Edubuntu for general purpose computing. It has a limited focus. You are better off with other Ubuntu variants.
9. Ubuntu Studio
Though Ubuntu Studio uses Xfce desktop environment, it comes preinstalled with audio video tools. This Ubuntu variant caters the need of audio, video and graphics creators.
If you are into the creative field, Ubuntu Studio could be of your interest.
Mythbuntu is a minimal Ubuntu installation meant exclusively for MythTV. MythTV is an open source software for multimedia center and home theater PC.
This is again, not suitable for general purpose computing. Avoid it.
11. Ubuntu Budgie
Ubuntu Budgie is the latest official flavor of Ubuntu. As the name suggests, it uses Budgie as the desktop. Budgie desktop environment is developed by Solus Linux. Thanks to its modern and elegant looks, Budgie soon developed a good fan following.
Budgie provides you a macOS like notification area and GNOME like side launcher. The overall UI is aesthetically pleasing. Go for it if you want a modern looking desktop.
Which Ubuntu to choose and how?
To sum up, as a normal desktop user, your focus should be on default Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu and Ubuntu Mate. And based on YOUR preference, you can choose to install the one you like.
If you want to read more, I suggest reading this comparison of various Ubuntu 16.04 flavors.
Now, how do you know which one would you like? I suggest to try them out. But that’s easier said than done because creating live USB of Ubuntu flavors one by one and then testing them is a time taking task.
For this reason, I suggest using All in One Linux. AIO Linux combines various flavors of Ubuntu on one image. So you install that on an USB disk (of 8 GB) and then you can choose to boot into different Ubuntu flavors. No need to create live USB of each flavor one by one.
I just chose my Ubuntu flavor but I cannot figure out which version to use
That’s another question that might trouble you. At the time of writing this article, you might find yourself wondering if you need to install Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04, 17.04 or 17.10? Even more, you might be wondering what exactly are those numbers.
To understand those versions, you need to know Ubuntu release cycle. An Ubuntu version number actually comprises of the year and the month in which it was released. So, when you see Ubuntu 14.04, you know that it was released in April 2014.
Ubuntu releases a new version every six months. And this happens in the month of April (04) and October (10). There are two types of releases:
- Normal release: Released after every 6 months and is supported for 9 months.
- Long Term Support (LTS) release: Released after every 2 years and is supported for 5 years
Pros of a normal release are that you get the latest features, applications and the newest version of the various software. However, you’ll need to upgrade every nine months. For example, if you choose to install Ubuntu 17.04 (any flavor), it will not get any updates after Jan’18. This will leave your system unsecured.
If you choose an LTS release (any flavor), you don’t need to worry about upgrading to a newer release every 9 months. However, it may take some time before you have the latest versions of the most software. LTS releases are preferred for production system machines and this is why only the stable version of various programs are made available to them.
At the time of writing this article, if you were wondering which Ubuntu version to choose, I suggest Ubuntu 16.04. You’ll be covered till 2021.
Everything fine but should I go for 32 bit or 64 bit Ubuntu?
At the end, you might ask if you need to install 32 bit or 64 bit Ubuntu?
To that, my suggestion is to first identify if you have a 32-bit system or 64-bit system. You can use this trick in Windows to find that out.
- If your system supports 64 bit and you have more than 2 GB of RAM, install 64 bit Ubuntu
- If your system supports 32 bit or if your system has less than 2 GB of RAM, install 32 bit Ubuntu
Just to add, Google Chrome is not supported on 32 bit Linux. So choose wisely.
Did you make your mind?
I think I have provided enough to help you make up your mind on which Ubuntu should you choose to install. But if you still have questions or even suggestions, do let me know in the comment section below. I always like to read and answer the comments.