Today we’ll be doing a side by side comparison of the three most popular Ubuntu Remix flavors of 21.04: Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, Ubuntu Unity Remix and UbuntuDDE Remix. We’ll be focusing less on features and appearances of these very different desktop offerings. This will be all about maturity, stability and usability to determine if they have enough crunch as daily drivers. All three are based on Ubuntu 21.04 and share the same Kernel 5.11.
I will be downloading all three and installing them side by side for a triple boot set-up. The test machine is my Dell E7240 (I5-4300, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, 1366 x768). Let the crunch down begin!
Before we start we need to give the remixes their abbreviations, otherwise you and I will go mad:
UCR, UUnity, UDDE.
I had a quick glance at the websites before proceeding with the downloads. They all make a very good first impression. The websites look clean and the logos are professional. UCR is the minimalist, UUnity the playful one while UDDE was the only one with ads. I used a mixture of torrents and direct downloads and ended up with the following ISO sizes:
- UCR 2.2 GB
- UUnity 3.0 GB
- UDDE 2.6 GB
I moved the UCR ISO to my USB stick with Etcher and fired it up. Booting seemed to take for ever as if using USB 1.1 standard. Eventually the UCR desktop appeared and I launched Gparted to prepare the SSD. I created three EXT4 partitions of roughly 40 GB each then proceeded to install UCR to the first one. Both UCR and UDDE use the Calamares installer.
Next up UDDE. Boot time from USB seemed just as long. The splash screen is nice. Once booted, a system error popped-up without having touched anything yet. That doesn’t make for a good first impression. The installer also produced a lot of beeping sounds during the first 30 seconds of installation. Overall time was over a minute longer than UCR. Shutting down the system after installation failed. It went into an endless error loop of “unable to read something…” I had to force shut it down. Then it seemed to boot fine at first. GRUB was there and I could already choose between two Ubuntus. However, when the log-in screen appeared and I started entering my credentials the screen went black and stayed that way. I had to force shut down a second time and try again. Unfortunately the problem persisted so I opted to reinstall it and give it another try. Thankfully, the second time was successful but still quite buggy. The log-in still fails sometimes (goes blank) and we get a system error every time after we log in – very annoying. Shutting down warns us that there are unattended upgrades although the system is offline and I hadn’t launched anything yet!
Lastly: UUNITY. USB Boot time seemed very long as well. It’s the only one of the lot to use the regular Ubuntu installer and it took a whopping eleven minutes and fifteen seconds to install. The longest I have seen on my test laptop yet. All installations were performed with WiFi disconnected.
To be fair, larger ISOs tend to result in longer installation times but UUNITY was far off compared to the other two.
- UCR 6:15
- UNITY 11:15
- UDDE 7:30
Boot times to the log-in screen after installation:
- UCR 11 seconds
- UNITY 7 Seconds
- UDDE 14 seconds
Htop figures compared after a fresh boot with WiFi turned off:
- UCR: RAM: 851 MB / 111 Tasks / 241 Threads
- UNITY: RAM 965 MB / 119 Tasks / 269 Threads
- UDDE: RAM: 601 MB / 97 Tasks / 254 Threads
Summarizing this section I’d have to praise UCR over the others. The ISO was very reasonable in size as were the installation time and boot times. Resource usage was in the middle ground and the system felt perfectly stable. UUNITY was a huge download and took forever to install but boot times were surprisingly fast although the same cannot be said about its shut down times. It is the most resource hungry of the group but seemed stable. UDDE is off to a problematic start. While the lightest of the three, it had installation issues and stability issues out of the box.
UCR comes with the recent Cinnamon version 4.8.6. It uses a dark theme by default: Yaru-Cinnamon-Dark with an orange accent color. The wallpaper is a tweaked orange version of the original “Hirsute Hippo”. The UCR team did a great job here. The look is a lot more refined compared to 20.04 I reviewed last. There is no welcome app but then again the Cinnamon desktop is one of the easiest to get a hang of. The only glitch I noticed was that we had the Bluetooth icon twice in the system tray (Later boots didn’t show this anomaly, though). The CPU cores seemed to idle at around 3%.
UUNITY uses a dark theme as well: Yaru-Unity-Dark while window decorations are Arc-Darker. Accent color is fittingly purple. The good old Unity Tweak Tool is installed by default so it is easy to modify the look and feel. The hippo used for the wallpaper received a full wax treatment and doesn’t do its name justice anymore. It is a bit too colorful and distracting for my taste but that is easily fixed. However, I noticed a glitch with window decorations when using the System Monitor. It had window controls twice and the scroll bar areas seemed transparent. Other software seemed fine though. I was pleased to see Kupfer installed. It’s a quick launcher that works very well. There is no welcome app here either but we get a keyboard short cut overview when we first log in. The CPU cores idled at around 3%. The long shut down times do get annoying, especially when jumping between OSes.
UDDE comes with the latest deepin desktop environment. It uses a light theme by default with its own icons called Bloom. There are a few options in the settings including Papyrus and the old Ubuntu icons but the more recent Yaru isn’t one of them. The accent color is a light blue. Window corners are very rounded but that can be changed in the settings. Dark and hybrid themes are available too. We basically get the full deepin desktop environment options. No welcome app here either but the system is really easy to use. CPU cores idled at about 5% but exhibited the biggest intermittent spikes of all three.
I have to say all three desktops made a good mature impression. They were all professionally themed and I was pleased to see all desktops using the “super” key to toggle the menu! So, it is simply down to personal preference, no winner here.
UCR: Played all my files, no issues, using Rhythmbox and MPV
UNITY: Played all my files, no issues but everything opened in Videos (Totem).
UDDE: Played all my files, however the Music app was missing so I had to use the Movie app instead.
UCR: Connecting to my JBL speaker caused a bug report but it still worked fine. Once established, We need to separately activate the connection to the speaker.
UUNITY: Connected fine and played instantly through the speaker – well done!
UDDE: What Bluetooth? There was no applet in the system tray, nothing in the settings or anywhere in the menu!
*Update: The final time I booted-up UDDE for this review, the Bluetooth applet appeared and connected perfectly to my speaker. What happened? I did not perform any updates. There must be some underlying stability issue.
Docking & Display: I didn’t check for fractional scaling due to my 1366 x 768 display and reduced this section to docking the laptop with an external screen attached.
UCR: Handled docking perfectly, recognizing keyboard & mouse and extending the display.
UUNITY: Also worked as intended
UDDE: I couldn’t get it to use the external monitor. I tried everything in the display options but no luck!
This section is a tie between UCR and UUNITY. UCR handled the docking a bit better while UUNITY had the smoother Bluetooth experience. UDDE initially failed in 2 out of 3 tests.
A quick look at the software choices and we can tell all three follow Ubuntu proper in regards to Internet and office applications. The only differences are in the multi-media and utilities section. Notable is the absence of a music player in UDDE and we learn that a bigger ISO doesn’t always mean more software.
Internet Office Multi-Media
UCR: Firefox, Thunderbird / Full LibreOffice / MPV, Celluloid, Rhythmbox, GIMP, gThumb
UUNITY: Firefox, Thunderbird / Full LibreOffice / Totem, Rhythmbox, Shotwell
UDDE: Firefox, Thunderbird / Full LibreOffice / Movie, Album, GIMP
Installing additional software:
UCR: Uses the Gnome Software Center with Snaps enabled. The Synaptic Package Manager is also present. I did the usual installation test with AbiWord but had to watch with frustration the endlessly spinning wheel of the Software Center. I gave up and installed it via the terminal with no issue. I presume the spinning wheel is because UCR’s Software Center defaulted to Ubuntu’s main servers in rainy UK instead of the closer palm shade cooled servers of Mexico.
UUNITY: Also uses the Gnome Software Center with Snaps enabled. Thankfully it automatically chose the correct Mexican servers and was much more responsive. Both the Gdebi package installer and the Synaptic Package Manager were also present. AbiWord test installation went fine without any spinning wheel frustration.
UDDE: Uses the deepin App Store modified for use with Ubuntu and there is the deepin package installer too. AbiWord installed fine, however, the app store was quite empty. There weren’t for example any other browsers offered! It seemed they use their own reduced repositories. I couldn’t tell whether Snap support was enabled.
I’d say this section is also a tie between UCR and UUNITY. Although UUNITY was the better experience, the installed software selection didn’t match the larger ISO and longer installation times. UDDE disappointed with the quite barren software center.
This was an interesting exercise. I had previously reviewed UCR and UUNITY, both in their 20.04 versions and must say they have improved tremendously! I couldn’t find any show stopping issues this time around and believe they’re on a good path to full flavor status. I doubt, however, the Unity desktop is receiving much development anymore so this might be an issue going forward. As for UDDE, this was my first encounter with the distro. I had only reviewed the desktop through deepin OS. There were simply too many issues to recommend it at this point. It’s a young distro and no doubt will improve over time as well. We’ll give it another go next year.
Has anyone had any similar issues or other issues I didn’t touch upon here? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.