Linux desktop comparison summary – 20 solutions for your desktop!

Our first Linux desktop comparison is over. I took a look at quite some projects during the last weeks. 20 of those (including modes that are behaving differently) proved to be full DEs which should be covered by a broadscale test.

Some others, like UDE for example, had to be skipped. While it does have a very interesting concept, it’s not currently a DE but only offers a window manager (despite the name “Unix Desktop Environment”). In the end 18 DEs were actually tested (I failed to get the other two to run on Arch).

Problems

Comparing DEs over the time of several weeks on a rolling release system might not really wield the best results. I also wanted to add something new to this post so that it’s not just a boring summary for those who have read the past entries. Therefore I decided to add the size of the packages that are downloaded to install the DE, too. After all network traffic can still be an issue for some people. Well, and for some DEs new versions have been released in the meantime and I’d feel stupid to write a new entry by just warming up old stuff.

For these reasons I repeated most of the tests last Monday and Tuesday and use the new values here (which sometimes make a huge difference!). Only CDE uses the old package; I was able to build a current package but did not succeed in making the DE start. Unity2d is now obsolete just like the old GNOME 2 (which I essentially added so that MATE can be compared to it, anyway).

Overall Ranking

I’ll begin with the overall rating here since that’s the most important thing. I’ve compared all DEs in terms of 1. memory consumption (most important for me and thus weighted *3), 2. disk space used (weighted *2) and 3. size of packages to download. So, here’s the result:

Rank DE Version
01 OpenCDE 620
02 Equinox DE 2 2.0
03 CDE 2.2.0a/b
04 LXDE 0.5.x
05 ROX DE 0.41.0
06 Enlightenment 17 svn-75246
07 Razor-Qt 0.4.1
08 Xfce 4.10.0
09 Sugar 0.94.1
10 MATE DE 1.4
11 Cinnamon UI 1.5.7
12 GNOME 3 Classic 3.4.2
13 GNOME 3 Shell 3.4.2
14 Trinity DE 3.5.13
15 Unity 3D 6.4.0
16 KDE Plasma 4.9.0

RAM usage

Here’s the table that compares memory usage of the tested DEs:

<101 MB 101 – 200 MB 201 – 300 MB >300 MB
obsolete not working
Rank DE Version Memory usage
00 Arch Linux 08/2012 37 MB
00 X11, VBoxadds, xterm 08/2012 54 MB
01 OpenCDE 620 57 MB
02 Equinox DE 2 2.0 71 MB
03 CDE 2.2.0a 72 MB
04 ROX DE 0.41.0 72 MB
05 LXDE 0.5.x 83 MB
06 Enlightenment 17 svn-75246 97 MB
07 Xfce 4.10.0 104 MB
08 Razor-Qt 0.4.1 117 MB
09 Sugar 0.94.1 122 MB
10 GNOME 2 2.32 137 MB
11 MATE DE 1.4 139 MB
12 Trinity DE 3.5.13 202 MB
13 GNOME 3 Classic 3.4.2 211 MB
14 Cinnamon UI 1.5.7 224 MB
15 GNOME Shell 3.4.2 253 MB
16 Unity 3D 6.4.0 312 MB
17 KDE Plasma 4.9.0 354 MB
18 Unity 2D 6.0.0 404 MB
xx Ètoilè 0.4.2 ??
xx Mezzo ?? ??

Drive space needed

Here’s the next table:

<301 MB 301 – 600 MB 601 – 1.2 GB >1.2 GB
obsolete not working
Rank DE Version Disk space used
00 Arch Linux 08/2012 561 MB
00 X11, VBoxadds, xterm 08/2012 +68 MB
01 OpenCDE 620 +83 MB
02 Equinox DE 2 2.0 +174 MB
03 CDE 2.2.0b +192 MB
04 Razor-Qt 0.4.1 +226 MB
05 LXDE 0.5.x +325 MB
06 Enlightenment 17 svn-75246 +340 MB
07 ROX DE 0.41.0 +497 MB
08 Xfce 4.10.0 +559 MB
09 Sugar 0.94.1 +604 MB
10 GNOME 2 2.32 +630 MB
11 MATE DE 1.4 +675 MB
12 Cinnamon UI 1.5.7 +947 MB
13 GNOME Shell 3.4.2 +1023 MB
14 GNOME 3 Classic 3.4.2 +1023 MB
15 Unity 3D 6.4.0 +1121 MB
16 KDE Plasma 4.9.0 +1232 MB
17 Trinity DE 3.5.13 +2098 MB
18 Unity 2D 6.0.0 ??
xx Ètoilè 0.4.2 ??
xx Mezzo ?? ??

Download size

And here’s the last one:

<51 MB 51 – 100 MB 101 – 200 MB >200 MB
Rank DE Version size default / max
00 Arch Linux 08/2012 123 MB
00 X11, VBoxadds, xterm 08/2012 +15 MB
01 OpenCDE 620 +19 MB
02 Equinox DE 2 2.0 +38 MB
03 CDE 2.2.0b +49 MB
04 Razor-Qt 0.4.1 +53 MB
04 LXDE 0.5.x +53 MB
05 ROX DE 0.41.0 +75 MB
05 Enlightenment 17 svn-75246 +75 MB
06 Xfce 4.10.0 +82 / 99 MB
07 Sugar 0.94.1 +89 MB
08 MATE DE 1.4 +119 /169 MB
09 Cinnamon UI 1.5.7 +147 / 347 MB
10 Unity 3D 6.4.0 +163 /302 MB
11 GNOME 3 Shell 3.4.2 +167 / 366 MB
11 GNOME 3 Classic 3.4.2 +167 / 366 MB
12 KDE Plasma 4.9.0 +306 / 774 MB
13 Trinity DE 3.5.13 +485 MB

Conclusion

The most light-weight DE tested is OpenCDE, based upon Motif. The second best is Equinox DE using FLTK as its toolkit. The lightest GTK+-based DE is LXDE, ranked No. 5 and the lightest Qt one Razor-Qt which scored rank 7. So these will be the candidates to examine closer in a future testing series.

What’s next?

The next entry will deal with what Eerie’s last two letters stand for.

Advertisements

Linux desktop comparison (pt. 4): Less common GTK+ DEs

This is part 4 of our desktop testing series. We’ll deal with some of the less common desktop environments in this entry which by chance are are all GTK+ based.

These are:

For test criteria and the basic Arch system, please refer to the first part of this test.

GNOME 2

GNOME was the most used Linux desktop before the new version 3. GNOME 2 is quite old now but it is still a standard desktop in several more conservative distributions. And while it is not nearly as common anymore as it once was, it may still be the most used DE of this part of our test!

The GNOME 2 desktop

Installation

Using mirror from 04/30/2011 (Kernel 2.6.38)
pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus xf86-video-vesa gnome

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up GNOME 2 (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + GNOME 2 (2.32)
MemTotal: 1028476 kb
MemFree: 888080 kb
Buffers: 15672 kb
Cached: 63488 kb
Rootfs: 1299288 / 1.3G
RAM used at startup: 140396 / ~137 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 645000 / 630MB

ROX DE

ROX is best known for ROX-filer, a widely used file manager. A little less common is the ROX desktop. Like one would expect, ROX-filer is the heart of it, but there are several other parts which form the ROX DE together. In its default shape it is very simplistic – and certainly not nice-looking. But don’t be fooled: With a little customization it can look a lot better than it does on this screenshot!

The ROX desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus dbus-glib virtualbox-archlinux-additions gconf libxxf86vm openbox rox
pacman -U rox-session-0.41.0-5-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U appearance-0.9.1.ml-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-clib-2.1.10-2-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U appfactory-2.1.5.ml-2-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U archive-2.2.git.ml-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U mini-clock-2.0.0.ml-2-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U resolution-0.3.ml-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-edit-2.2-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-font-0.9.2.ml-2-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-keyboard-0.11.1.ml-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-mouse-0.10.1.ml-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-trash-0.3.0.ml-2-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U traylib-0.3.2.1-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-trasktray-0.7-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U python-pyalsaaudio-0.7-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U rox-volume-0.4.14122008-1-any.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U systemtray-n-0.3.2.1.ml-2-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U tasklisk-0.5.ml-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up ROX (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + ROX (0.41.0)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 955128 kb
Buffers: 10084 kb
Cached: 36784 kb
Rootfs: 1087652 / 1.1G
RAM used at startup: 75524 / ~74 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 433364 / 423MB

Enlightenment E17

Enlightenment started as a hacked window manager that was amazingly customizable. E16 is the current stable version. With E17 however, so many things have been added that it is no longer considered just a WM but in fact a real DE. E17 is officially in beta stages but it is already pretty stable and used for everyday work by many users.

The E17 desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions e-svn

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up E17 (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + E17 (snv-72693)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 934808 kb
Buffers: 8772 kb
Cached: 50312 kb
Rootfs: 896992 / 876M
RAM used at startup: 95844 / ~94 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 242704 / 237MB

Sugar

Sugar is not really a general-purpose desktop. It’s a DE made for children. It would probably not be known by many people if it wasn’t the standard DE on the sub-notebooks of the well-known “One Laptop Per Child” project. It’s also available as an optional package in some of the bigger distributions.

The Sugar desktop

Installation

pacman -S xorg-server xorg-xinit dbus virtualbox-archlinux-additions python-pygame
pacman -U sugar-base-0.94.0-2-i686.pkg.tar.gz
pacman -U python2-xapian-1.2.10-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U sugar-datastore-0.94.0-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U icon-slicer-0.3-5-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U sugar-artwork-0.94.0-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U sugar-presence-service-0.90.2-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U hippo-canvas-0.3.1-2-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U sugar-toolkit-0.94.0-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz
pacman -U sugar-0.94.1-1-i686.pkg.tar.xz

Statistics

Memory usage right after starting up Sugar (with a second login on tty2) and used disk space after removing pacman cache. Here are the values I got with cat /proc/meminfo and df respectively df -h:

Arch Linux + Sugar (0.94.1)
MemTotal: 1030652 kb
MemFree: 911100 kb
Buffers: 12092 kb
Cached: 57340 kb
Rootfs: 1272052 / 1.3G
RAM used at startup: 119552 / ~117 MB
Disk space (less basic system): 617764 / 603MB

Conclusion

GNOME 2 is the biggest DE this time and it’s doing a little better than MATE in terms of RAM needed. Sugar needs some less RAM but it’s not a DE many people will want to use, anyway. E17 is beautiful and still rather memory-saving. And the ROX desktop is by far the most frugal one so far when it comes to memory usage!

What’s next?

The next entry will cover some rather exotic Linux desktop environments.