MX-Linux just released the KDE version of their current 19.2 distribution. We had a look at the beta version about a month ago, so now it’s time to review the finished release. For a bit of contrast, I will be making some comparisons to the recently updated KDE neon that I had just reviewed.
I used the torrent option to get the ISO file. It was a blazing fast experience and an indication to this spin’s popularity or at least the curiosity surrounding it. It’s a 2 GB download, about half a gigabyte more than KDE neon but that is due to the plethora of additional software included by default.
The boot process has no MX-Linux branding. We only get to see a KDE splash screen towards the end of the process. On first start, we are as always greeted with the MX Welcome screen. This has now been fully updated to include reference to the new KDE desktop edition. The desktop presents itself in the usual MX dark grey/blue color scheme but with the panel at the bottom.
The welcome app includes the excellent user manual, short cut to the MX Tools, quick links to install additional codecs and apps as well as links to the forums, wiki and FAQ pages. This welcome app with it’s vast content clearly separates MX Linux apart from KDE neon which offers none of these aids and extras. Creating and maintaining these should not be underestimated.
Firing up htop right after booting up, we get the following values for resource usage:
- 565 MB RAM
- KDE neon: 618
- 90 Tasks
- KDE neon: 71
- 146 Threads
- KDE neon: 143
Exploring The System
Being based on Debian 10 “Buster”, the KDE software is lagging a bit behind at version 5.14.5 (vs 5.19.4 at KDE neon). Here, as always, MX-Linux is aiming for stability rather than flashing new software. Speaking of software and compared to KDE neon, there is a ton of it installed by default. As usual this is a matter of personal preference and I would actually prefer less pre installed apps (how many people would actually use LibreOffice Base or Math?) but that is just a minor gripe of my part. Most users will be happy to receive an all-round productive system out of the box. The included MX Package Installer makes finding and installing other popular and essential software a breeze.
When accessing the Menu, we find a lot of MX customization. The selection of pinned apps is a bit peculiar with a Conky toggle, LibreOffice launcher, MX-Tools launcher, Package installer, Manual, Terminal, system monitor and system info launchers. The usual File Manager, Web Browser and System Settings are actually pinned to the task bar at the bottom left of the screen.
Installed Software include:
- Internet: Firefox, Ktorrent, Thunderbird
- Office: Complete LibreOffice suite, Okular, Foliate, PDF Arranger
- Multimedia: VLC, Clementine, guvcview, K3b
- Graphics: GIMP, gwenview
- Utilities: Conky Manager, iDeviceMounter, Kate, Kvantum Manager
- System: Dolphin file manager, Muon package manager, Konsole, KSysGuard, KWallet Manager, KDE Partition Manager
- Games: Kmahjongg, Kmines, Ksudoku
MX-Linux’s stand-out feature is it’s set of tools that come pre installed with every system. These welcome additions to the system will be appreciated by many intermediate and advanced users. They are also excellent for curios beginners wishing to do more with their systems than just browse the internet and watch Netflix.
Notable tools include:
- MX Boot Options
- MX Boot Repair
- Reinstals the GRUB bootloader
- MX Cleanup
- Cleans up your disk to regain space by removing logs, emptying trash and clearing cache
- MX Conky
- Configures the Conky displayed on the desktop
- MX Live USB Maker
- Lets you create a Live USB thumb drive with persistence from an ISO
- MX Snapshot
- Creates a bootable ISO of your working system
- MX Tweak
- Allows some modifications to the main panel, like moving it to the top of the screen or to the left.
- MX Remaster CC
- The MX Remaster Control Center tool lets you rework an ISO while running Live. So you could change files, applications and settings and produce a new master ISO.
- MX Package Installer
- MX Codecs Installer
Other users might find little use for all these extras and prefer a less cluttered set-up: The aforementioned KDE neon comes to mind again in that respect.
Reception and critique
So far the vast majority of reviews and comments I could find on this new release were very positive. To this date there were very few reviews, both in writing or on YouTube. I also checked the MX-Linux site and forums for feedback. We will have to wait a while longer to gauge general reception. The only issue I had was the inability to set the time in the system settings. This is a known and documented issue with a work around provided through the MX Date & Time tool. Other than that, the system ran very well during my short time with it. It was snappy and responsive and it played back all the different media files I threw at it. It certainly appeared stable and mature enough to be used as a main production system.
I found comparing MX-Linux KDE with the KDE neon a very interesting exercise. While having the same basic desktop, they could not be any more dissimilar. KDE neon is a minimal install sitting on top of a recent Ubuntu LTS base and features the latest KDE software. MX-Linux’s KDE version on the other hand is a fully featured install with every possible piece of software a user might need. It sits on top of a more conservative Debian base with older but more tested KDE software. Two very different approaches for two different types of audiences. If we take a quick look at Distrowatch.com, we’ll note that MX-Linux is still at the number 1 spot. Clearly there is a lot of interest for this comprehensive approach. KDE neon has also been climbing the chart in a consistent manner and is now at position 11. So, both implementations are popular and work for different people: Kudos to the great variety of choice Linux offers it’s adopters.
I mentioned during my beta review that I found the overall looks of MX Linux, both the system and website to be a bit utilitarian. I got excited when I read the news on twitter that the website had a “cool new home page design“. It doesn’t really look much different than before and still has those 1990s Netscape visuals. Not really a bad thing but certainly goes against the trend of modern, clean lines that tend to be popular these days.
Although difficult to quantify, it will be interesting to see how many new adopters the KDE version will bring to the MX family and how many current users will switch over from the XFCE version. I also believe this could be a great alternative for openSUSE users since the overall approach has many similarities. YaST vs MX Tools? I shall probably do a comparison between the two in the near future.
If you have any thoughts on the new KDE version and how it compares, please do share them with us in the comments below.