Get the best KDE Linux distro


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.


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 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.


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.


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 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.


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. 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.


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 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

My 2 cents...

While I agree that "eye-candy" may have played too large a role in the rating, this was, after all, a look at primarily how well a given distro was "integrated" with KDE4, so I can live with it. For me, once I have configured things to my liking, enabled desktop effects (not compiz), etc, I find Slack and Pardus to be the most attractive and stable KDE distros. Not that I find much fault with openSuse or Kubuntu, but both have had stability issues for me unlike the previously mentioned 2. I'll also agree that Kubuntu, while extremely plain vanilla, is more stable than Ubuntu. Chakra is also very nice, if a little scary in that I get a seg-fault upon each boot, along with a "FAIL" when it tries to mount the swap file, but then goes on to a perfectly usable and stable desktop. One other minor distro some may want to try is Toorox... heavily customized KDE 4 and based on Gentoo (which I remain unwilling to allocate the time to install, despite curiosity).

"Mine goes to 11" - Nigel Tufnel

horrible review

Granted Mandriva is not as microsofty as Suse but Mandriva is not only the best KDE distro now, Mandriva has been the best KDE distro in a long time. Get your bias straight, man.

sidux / Debian Rules.

Want cutting edge, this is it.

I can't believe that the reviewer used a dated release / snapshot.

As for the lack of a graphical updater, the excellent documentation explains why this is impractical in the world of Debian Sid.

KDE intergration of Firefox and is implemented. I believe that was one of the other supposed criteria.

The only other distro that comes close in my view is Arch / Chakra.

Rolling releases such as these win hands down over 'static' releases.

OpenSuse "the winner", based on "best looks", give me a break.

A poorly written and biased article, Linux Format needs to have a serious think before publishing such junk again.

horrible review?

what makes a distro better than the other? Sometimes there are no differences between them apart from theming and the election of software. This is not enough to set them apart since you can change and install whatever you like. In my opinion a good distro is based on Debian since I prefer apt-get and how things are organized. I like *buntu because of semi-automatic installation of restricted drivers. Very easy to install wifi and graphics etc. A distro has to be stable and for me *buntu has not been since 8.04.
I think I would put my money on LinuxMint.


Although the review is pretty shallow, I agree with the author. I switched to OpenSUSE from Kubuntu and noticed that Suse is a much more polished system. The battery monitor behaves properly, sound just works and so do suspend to RAM and disk.

The only place where Kubuntu has the upper hand is in the software installation, it's much faster and smoother on Kubuntu. But then, it's probably thanks to Debian.

Slack + 4.3.3

Hey man, that's the path the you all always like it...the distro staff show to you.
But I'm so happy with KDE Slackware system, just 'cause I can do anything I want to, without any distro limits...
That's the way it really meant to be... that's the way you want it to anything else in Slackware...


Digging yourself out of a hole

As a lot of other posters have said "your review lasks technical depth".

My suggestion to dig yourselves out of a hole is to perform a second review of the same KDE distro versions.
This second review will be complimentary to this existing review, and will only focus on what new technical features each KDE distro brings E.G. ease of locating and understanding Nepomuk or Phonon features, or simplcity of understanding the update VS upgrade mechanisims, or ease of applying partition and file encryption.

The next review should only require minimal effort, as you have already installed them for this review.

Excuse me?

"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."

How many times have we heard this?

"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."

Apparently, you CAN'T understand the sentiment. How many KDE 4 distributions do you really need?

MEPIS is my choice

I've used Linux since 1998 - all the major distros, most of the major window managers, but primarily KDE. SuSE 5.3 was my first distro...Caldera, Mandrake, Storm, Libranet, and Gentoo were also some of the ones I used the most. But since its early days, Mepis has been the most solid, stable, and impressive distro I've used. Warren and community do a superb job creating what I believe is the finest distro available. It has always used KDE.


I'll admit, I haven't even read this yet, but I skimmed the headers and I'm gonna read it right now. But for crying out loud, where the hell is Arch?

New KDE convert

I'm a new KDE convert from Gnome Ubuntu. I went with Kubuntu mainly to keep my Ubuntu/Debian ties. I'd seen plenty of blasting of Kubuntu in the Ubuntu community for not providing a good KDE experience. I haven't had a problem with it however and don't understand what the fuss is about. I understand that OpenSuse and Mandriva are better but both of them choke performance wise when I try to test them out virtually while Kubuntu ran just fine with the same hardware specs. I'd have considered switching distros but I could barely test those two.

Haven't used KDE 4.3 or 4.4 yet, but 4.2 was horrible

I'm a Mandriva fan myself, but I don't blame PCLinuxOS for sticking to KDE 3.5 for now. I got sucked into upgrading to Mandriva 2009.1 from 2008.1, which meant going from KDE 3.5 to 4.2. At first it seemed so great. But I started discovering all the flaws over the coming weeks:

1. Printing is badly broken - ignores locale settings and always uses European values (metric measurements, A4 paper), can't remember any setting changes, like reasonable margins (who thought 1.5 inch margins were a good idea?), can't remember the last directory that was painfully navigated to for print-to-file, no work arounds. They blame it on qt, but doesn't change the fact that it doesn't work.

2. 1G of RAM is not enough to run KDE 4 without a lot of swapping, and that's with desktop effects turned off, and minimal widgets.

3. Desktop effects only work for 5-10 minutes before crashing.

4. Numerous useful UI options have been cleverly hidden or completely removed (e.g. can't use mouse wheel over window bar to move windows between desktops any more; can't get to task manager settings if your task manager bar is full).

5. Konqueror loads ndiswrapper and runs it at 5-10% cpu even when it isn't needed, and even when it's supposedly deactivated (and dependencies won't let you uninstall it, so you have to actually delete the executable to work around it). PulseAudio idles at 15% cpu, korganizer at 7% (and always starts at boot even when you tell it not to). All told, it chews up 30% cpu when it's doing nothing. And my disk activity light is on almost non-stop even when it's doing nothing.

Those are just the highlights. If you do plan on going to KDE 4, better invest in a fast quad core cpu with 2-4G of memory, if you don't already have that. They've completely thrown out the past ability to run on older machines (which is fair enough as a design decision, but they should make that clear). So OpenSuse refusing to install with less than 1G is not unreasonable.

"Duck Stew"

After what seems like years of struggle, I'm using KDE4 some of the time now, but reading your comments on PCLOS makes me want to start bashing it all over again. I support KDE4 as a project. I know it's important to the future of free software, but why is everybody in such a hurry to shove it down my throat? With hundreds of distros, why does every one have to be all cutting-edgesy or face criticism?

OpenSuSE great at KDE horrible Package Manager

If OpenSuSE did not use Yast as its package manager I would've shifted right away. I do agree that its KDE is the best though.

OpenSuSE 11.2 has a slow

OpenSuSE 11.2 has a slow package manager? You use YAST then? use SMART as that's a better manager with its GUI installed (KSmart). A second review giving the technical details, hardware and HD size req'd is needed.
Info on living with the distro would be a good too.
Easy to keep up to date with KDE in OpenSuSE, just add the correct repository =]
Remember, any distro can be easily configured to work as you want.

Keep your KDE

I've tried most distros and for me KDE is little but a glitzy resource hog. I stopped using mandriva because it just gets too much. Technologies like Nepomuk might be technically interesting but are largely pointless to the average user.
I'd go as far as suggesting the importance of the desktop experience as a whole is overstated. 90% of users time is spent in the web browser. Love or hate them, Google understand this. Chrome OS will be the largest linux based distro within 2 years and there is no graphical desktop, it's just a glorified browser to average users.
I wish KDE well however as diversity is linux's strength. I hope Gnome 3 will get the balance right.

Desktop nonsense. Never mind the substance, enjoy the view!

All this desktop and kde4 nonsense going on. What are all you supposed Linux afficiandos doing at your keyboard, are you actually engaging in worthwhile tasks with a variety of programs that can also work with the computer hardware or do you just look at the desktop "cool" colours and effects?

Each distro's developers should be more concerned about making sure that the basic structure - getting the hardware working AND providing info in the distro about fixing any quirks - is satisfactory, then they ensure that programs meant to run under a GUI do so in a similar fashion.

Then, Linux might be in a better position to take over more "desktops". It's not going to happen with a race to make it look like, better, or fancier than Win-Mac.

The car analogy always stands up. Pimp up your vehicle in purple, pink and yellow paint with green piped edging tartan leather seats and neon glow instruments and a multi-function "widget" button -widgets, you have to laugh- you need to fiddle with to get something that should be on a proper switch and is actually 90% useless....

...and does it improve your driving experience?


plasmoids!!! more like haemorrhoids

KDE 4 a resource hog???????

Gosh someone forgot to tell me about it.

I'm running KDE 4.3.4 / Debian sid on a Dell Inspiron 6000, that's had a recent memory upgrade to 1Gb.

Other than that it's just a stock 'base' model with a Celeron M 350 and Intel 915GM video.

The bloody thing flies.

Ok so I'm not running wizz bang eye candy, but then again I don't on my desktop system either that has 2Gb Ram and a Geforce 7800 GT.

I'm not fussed on that stuff anyway.

As for the swapiness of KDE 4.x on a system with 1Gb of ram, never encountered that either.

With regard to Kubuntu, it's a pretty good distro that cops a lot of undeserved, and some possibly deserved flack. I've found it pretty light on resources and fast.

However, I'm done with *buntu regardless as it's been horribly unstable since 9.04

What? No one told "The Raver"?

Well, Mr. Raver, allow me to be the first.

This has always been the problem with KDE4. It's the original "Your mileage may vary" situation. Whether your experience is good or bad, don't assume that everyone else is having the same experience because they're probably not.

And you may assume that I'm not having the same experience, cause I just went back to KDE3. Again. KDE4's other problem is still the classic desktop it attempts to succeed. Vector Linux released a KDE3 version of VL6.0 just lat month to an overwhelmingly positive response, if the forums are any indication. There's still a KDE3 version of Kubuntu, now available in Karmic Koala

Lots of people love KDE4, and that's fine. As I like to say about KDE4: It's here. It's severe. Get used to it.

But KDE3 is going to be around. Some of us intend to make sure of it.

Newbie reviewer

To the reviewer of Slackware 13: have you heard of runlevels or of /etc/inittab?
You don't need to type 'startx' every time you want a graphical desktop, just change the default runlevel to 4 or 5 and X will automatically start, with KDM asking for your login details.

Apparently the reviewer thinks 'enhancing user experience' means that the desktop must be laden with bling out-of-the-box, and not a measure of the desktop's stability and usability. Fantastic, really....

interesting review, but ...

... I'd echo comments above that it is perhaps concerned mostly with first impressions, rather than providing any deeper insights into the kinds of working environments that these distros offer.

For example, some of the greatest KDE 3 applications (Kmymoney, Kdar, Quanta Plus) have not been ported to KDE 4. And no-one knows when/if they will be! On some of the distros noted above, you can install/update to KDE 4 from KDE 3.5 and simply find they are no longer available. On others (notably openSUSE) you can still install and run KDE 3.5 apps, as the various 'old' dependencies can still be satisfied by their repositories.

I am not saying this as a great SUSE fan - I haven't used it for years! I just feel that this kind of information is needed by people who need to make an informed choice. It is 1000 times more important than discussions of colours and eye candy.

For myself, I love PCLinuxOS, but I am hanging onto KDE 3.5 for as long as I can. This is not principally because I don't like the look and feel of KDE 4 (although I don't like it much, in truth) - it's more because I have not yet found real substitutes for the KDE 3.5 powerhouse applications listed above, and they won't run on PCLinuxOS's KDE 4 implementation.

Why ask why?

The problem isn't KDE4 itself. It's the proper direction for KDE development. KDE4 is important work that is being done well. The problem is the headlong stampede to replace mature software with immature software EVERYWHERE, to make KDE4 the standard, even though it still doesn't seem to behave in a standard way on all hardware platforms, and even though a large plurality of users continue to express a preference.

And please stop asking me to explain my preference for KDE3, because I don't really think I can. It just feels better. I can do pretty much everything I want with KDE 4.3, but it feels dull, uninspiring and generally icky. I don't need to justify my choices, and you don't need to justify yours. Developers of KDE4 should stop worrying about pleasing KDE3 users. You don't need the agtravation, and neither do we.

This review, which criticizes PCLOS for taking a different approach, pretty much exemplifies the stampede mentality. As long as every distro is supposed to be running KDE4 by default, KDE3 users and KDE4 users are going to be forced into direct conflict. Why do that? Because forcing everybody into one Desktop will unify the KDE community? As Dr. Phil would say: How's that working for you?

Exactly what I said Go OpenSUSE! & No Arch+ KDE4.3.3=Suck

From the start of the review i was thinking i bet it's OpenSUSE! and what do you know it is! Novel is a innovator in the open source community they send work upstream more then any distro i think. including kde development. OpenSUSE kde has always been top par they even managed to make 4.1 usable when it was nearly impossible! If you ask me they deserve it unlike Arch that simply "repackages KDE" Opensuse actually makes history! Thanks SUSE!

BTW: Why are your CAPTCHA's so dang long? it's and overkill no machine can catch a normal size CAPTCHA so having your monstrous overkill of one is pointless! No Offense my doggies

Review is not only about themes!

The review is based not only on distribution themes, but on overall integration with other components.

For example, he praise OpenSUSE because it provide KDE file dialogs in applications like OpenOffice and Firefox, which is better than the usual icon theme provided (or missing) by many distributions.

Kubuntu got its high vote for the application choice. Kubuntu release team is always looking for good KDE/QT apps to include in their distro. But as many, I stopped using it due to its unstability. And a personal note, I have no idea how the Ubuntu family get so good reviews, when they lack a central distribution configuration interface, like Yast or Mandriva Control Center.

The surpise was Mandriva score. They do always a good job on their releases. Good integration, very stable most of the time, and consistent gtk/kde application look. Maybe the non QT Control Center, and old menu style played a negative role in the score.



What About Debian

Can't believe you left out Debian. Simply, it just works. Apt based, KDE4 in Squeeze (and very stable), or go to Sid if you want cutting edge. That gives you the "rolling updates" that you refer to, and with Apt less chance of dorking your entire system. No it is not a KDE-only based distro,

Kubuntu is over-over-over-overrated

1. Try to configure your printer in Kubuntu. It's a mess.
2. Try to update your packages in Kubuntu. It's a disaster.
3. Where are all the Ubuntu helpers? They are broken, they crash, and those who work feel simply bad. Also, although we don't have this time those craptastic translations that made Kubuntu famous, the Kubuntu team spent so much time fighting with Rosetta and Launchpad that it didn't found time for something else.
4. Hardware configuration utility, please?

To beat Mandriva... sorry, but in this scale, I'm giving Kubuntu a 5/10, and Mandriva 8/10 (maybe 9/10 with 2010.0, but it needs better MCC-KDE integration) On the other hand, Mandriva's NEPOMUK experimental features are simply breathtaking.

About selection

Looks like the selection was based to the look. Not that it would be unimportant feature, but it is just a look what can be changed, but truth is that look is very important feature what _normal_ user notices, not small configurations.

1. Mandriva 9/10
2. openSUSE 8.1/10
3. Slackware 8/10
4. Chakra/Arch Linux 7.8/10
5. Debian 7.2/10
6. Kubuntu 6/10
7. Sidux 6/10

(the numbers does not mean how bad they are, just to be comparable to each others)

I have used KDE4 since first alphas. I have "rided the wild horse" and run experiments on most of the distributions on this test. I like really much about KDE SC and thats why I test even more Gnome (coming Gnome Shell as well) features to just keep touch to the other "side" for what to compare (same thing for Windows and Mac OSX).

But when it comes to Linux distributions, there is not a better KDE polishing than what Mandriva offers. I must say that I do not like at all the Mandriva's own style, Ia-Ora. I always switch it to Oxygen or my own bretty heavy QtCurve configuration.

As well I always configure the desktop environment and all apps bretty heavily to meet my needs, to be a very clean and simple by the way what the Gnome can not offer.

Kubuntu is very good try to be a good KDE SC distribution. But it fails on quality. Too much custom code or configurations in wrong places and they fall right down. Problem is not just their configurations for KDE SC, but on the whole Ubuntu distribution base and the speed of APT.

OpenSUSE is great distribution but I have never liked their way to offer repositories for package manager. I have always founded it too difficult to add repositories (packman etc), even with the "1-click" system, otherwise I have not found so bad things on OpenSUSE.

Mandriva I have always liked about it's updated packages for KDE SC. And taking technology what is needed, like now on 2009.1 they toke the nepomuk, K3b, digiKam, konversation, Kaffeine and few others great softwares and even hired developers to code them to be ready. Now on 2010 I can not say more than it is just best distribution to offer the basic of KDE platform.
I just hope they would change the style, but it is was first what made GTK+ and KDE Apps look similar, like what OpenSUSE did just their latest release.

The Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice integration on OpenSUSE is not so great thing what should be taunted as reason. Even more important for that is the pillars like nepomuk, networking and other features what allows users to
enjoy about using the computer easier way, actually manage their files. And when it comes about configurating the system, Mandriva Control Center just rocks by it's simple outlook but still very powerfull. OpenSUSE is the second one on that or almost same level, even it has more features, it just is too difficult when compared to MCC.

With little tweaking almost all distributions can offer same quality. Question is just more about the base system, not just about desktop environment. But even on the default desktop, the Mandriva One does look very professional with it's own blue theme.

Currently I have the Mandriva Cooker installed, the development version. And I can not say anything else than all other distributions should shame that they can not offer same quality (even when talking now about development system) of desktop.

ps. Debian does not have rolling updates. Arch has rolling updates. The idea of rolling releases is that you can always roll back to the last version of packages if you just have enough disk space to store all the downloaded packages. Like just give a 20Gb disk space for pacman and you can install newest version of packages and if they do not work, roll back to last one. That is something what makes Arch as well so great distribution.

Different bootloader

I think hat any review should state which bootloader a distro uses. I fell foul of Grub 2 (actually 1.97) in Ubuntu 9.10 which failed to recognise several of my installed distros. Then the problem is editing the bootup file - now grub.cfg not menu.lst. But you are warned NOT to edit grub.cfg. No alternative if you want to boot the un-found distros but ended in catastrophe. Forumately in the grub website there is a procedure to remove grub2 and install grub legacy.
I won't touch a distro that uses grub2 until it has gone past ver 1.97 beta which Ubuntu should never have used.

Other point against Slackware is that it uses lilo and gives no choice of using grub as the bootloader. Slackware also did not find two or three of my installed distros. PCLinux beats the lot for me.

Arch is the best and fastest of all

If you are not the “pragmatic one” and don’t want to learn and take full control over your computer but rather use a “point and click” system, you may go better by using one of the many other distributions for now, although they will not give you the clarity, power and simplicity of Arch Linux.

Stupid article

How can you gage "the best distribution" by its wallpaer ???
That ist the most stupid article I've ever seen!

You forgot Pardus.

If you are looking for the best KDE distro, you forget to look at Pardus.

Pardus the Best!

Good review but you forgot Pardus, take it the next time.

Opensuse and Mandriva

While i agree with most people here in that the review lacks objetivity by judging only the visuals and not the technical aspects of the distros above, i must admit that OpenSUSE it´s one the best KDE distros alonside Mandriva.

Mandriva 2010 - Winner for the new year

I've tried OpenSUSE, Kubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva.

Mandriva definitely has the best KDE experience, especially with codecs, graphics drivers, Firefox and flash bundled in Mandriva One. The control panel is tons faster than OpenSUSE's.

I haven't experience any glitch with Mandriva's KDE yet. I experienced crashes with Kubuntu and OpenSUSE. Fedora seems stable but very plain.

If you're new to Linux, try many out, like I have.
But I sure enjoy my Mandriva One 2010 - it's got to be the best KDE distro out there. OpenSUSE is a close second.


So, this is buried deep at the bottom of the comments...

But... To rate distros, you have to do something more than just take a look at the default desktop.

1) Yeah, so lots of linux people hate proprietary software, but still LOTS don't mind at all. So, is SKYPE in the distro's repos?? If not, can skype be installed easily??
2) And what about extra software...?? Mandriva with PLF is very good. PCLOS, vanilla install has EXCELLENT package choices. Suse, crap! (I type this as I am using SUSE 11.2) Then with suse, you have to do some jumping through hoops to enable extra repos, and then, well, I still can't get things to work.
3) Accessing media, specifically hard drives. PCLOS and Mandriva, I can easily access and set read/write permissions. (Konsole, su -, dolphin, then use dolphin's dialogues) Suse doesn't even let you do this at all. I can't for the life of me get read/write access to my main storage partition. (Sure I can probably do it by some esoteric command line function, but there are so many things like this that I CANNOT do in SUSE, that are EASY to do in PCLOS, Mandriva, and other distros.)
4) Suse freezes temporarily for seemingly no reason. It might look nice (true about the firefox theming), but I'd rather have a bit of roughness in the visuals but stable in the engines than the opposite scenario. Suse does have great default fonts. Mandriva is crap, and I have to change EVERY time I install it!!!

So, my point is that this article should be called an "overview" or "intro" to some kde4 distros. It is not much more than that.

My goodness!

Having read the 'review' or more accurately sorry excuse for one, I'd offer the following comments.

Lack of objectivity, lack of detail, poor assessment criteria, the author and last but not least the result.

But, most with few exceptions have beaten me to it.

Let's not forget one other important factor, the Editor of Linux Format, whoever he or she may be.

How on earth could they allow such garbage to be published in 'their' magazine and on the site.

I'd have said, "take it back and have another go...."

KDE4 + Mandriva = SUCKS!


I've been using KDE for 7+ years. It's been a nice ride, but I'm getting off. KDE4 isn't even stable, didn't bother retaining the same features KDE3 had, and doesn't even F*ING migrate your mail properly (and yes, I did try the mv .kde to .kde4: Empty mail box every time). Never mind the hundreds of rules, filters, and connections that are missing.

Goodbye KDE.

And, since I can't get the Mandriva 2008.1 to install cleanly on a new machine (you can't figure out what generic ethernet driver to use? Really?), I guess it's "Goodbye Mandriva" as well.


This was a review???

It was more like a summary on what the various distros looked like. There are various things wrong with this article..

1. You seem to be rating the distros on how "customized" they are, or how much they differ from vanilla kde. Well, what's so wrong with vanilla kde??? I'd much rather have that than some of these distros (cough kubuntu cough) that tweak all sorts of things yet make it ten times more buggy or confusing than the original. I understand that good tweaks can make a base kde install much better, but more tweaks doesn't necessarily equal better distro.

2. You also focus way too much on the aesthetics on the default install. As even you mention, a few clicks and it can be changed in any of these distros. Most users don't care if the default background is the stock kde image or some pretty replacement. One of the first things a user will do is replace whatever wallpaper is there with another wallpaper of his choice.

3. Where is Fedora's kde spin??? The second most popular distro out there, and you decide to leave it off here?? No idea what you were thinking there.

I would have much preferred to have known about things such as how fast the disto was, how buggy it was, how well it detects hardware, how well everything was integrated (foreign programs with kde, for example), how good the package manager is, etc. If I just wanted to know what the distros looked like I could have just used google images.

Ugly Compiz and KDM implementations

Way to go Kubuntu 9.10... Ugly Compiz and KDM implementations killed it for me. Something keeps on stopping my OpenGL effects from loading on login... KDM won't show a user list and I haven't found answers... Plus, Konqueror can't load Java content still. OpenSuSe was great until I tried to load the proprietary ATi driver. From there, it went down hill. I'm holding off judgement on Kubuntu until I see the LTS, though.

im using pclinuxos 2010 kde and love it!

im new linux user so i decide to learn more and get use to linux i have a new laptop and decide install linux, so i try one distro after another, i decide that i like more kde version than others, and love open suse looks everything work except wifi(one of the most important things in a laptop) so im new and is not fun looking around until finding what is the problem, so i try pclinuxos and work great everything work even wifi. so for me pclinuxos is great. im looking for others just to see how their work and for fun, but i must say pclinuxos even with that ugly bull win me very easy. lol!

Looks like it depends on a

Looks like it depends on a computer what is the best choice here?
Please advise.

It depends on your needs

It's all KDE...The different distros are answering the needs of different types of users...For example, if your priority is "simplicity", kubuntu is the choice...Opensuse is good in terms of security...others may be good when it comes to management of packeges...etc..etc...etc

You have to try them yourself to form an opinion about each...

Personally, I like opensuse and i'm on kubuntu...

KDE = Pardus

Not forget to look at Pardus ;-)

My choice also Opensuse

Myu choice too opensuse , i love this opensuse and I really love this opensuse, and and and I really really love this a lot.

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С ув. хухулихо.

The blue glow

I like it! I like this blue glow. It's other, it's special, it's cool!

Best of this time (Desember 2012)

Today best KDE just has to be CHAKRA 2012 (Claire) it's very stable and deal with gnome apllication with bundle so there will be no conflict if mixed (KDE and Gnome) aplication used.

NETRUNNER is the best

NETRUNNER is the best KDE
just try it...

Try Netruner it's the best

Try Netruner it's the best on KDE

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