Which Linux distros are the best?

Which Linux distro is the best? There are many excellent choices available, and the answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask. Below are the distros that are my favorites, and are also great for people who are new to Linux:


 ubuntu-16-04-screenshot-default

Ubuntu

The flagship distro of Canonical, Ltd., Ubuntu (which is an ancient African word meaning “humanity to others”) has the Unity desktop. Ubuntu is extremely user-friendly, which makes it an excellent choice for Linux beginners. Because it is based on Debian, Ubuntu shares the ability to run .deb files and has many of the same features. Like many other Linux distros, Ubuntu can be downloaded and burned to make a live DVD or live USB to run and test the operating system before installing. While Ubuntu by default does not include the Adobe Flash Player and video/audio codecs, they can easily be added during installation, or manually later through Software Center, which is one of the best software managers available and has thousands of free software downloads of every imaginable type. Through the Rhythmbox media player, users can manage media libraries on the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. The Mozilla Firefox browser, Mozilla Thunderbird email, and the LibreOffice suite are installed by default in Ubuntu. A new version of Ubuntu is released every six months, usually in April and October of each year, and every other year the releases in April are considered long-term support (LTS) with the desktop version being supported with updates for a period of five years. All other releases are supported for nine months, and Ubuntu makes it easy for users to upgrade to newer releases. Instead of traditional menus, Ubuntu has HUD (Heads-Up Display), which is a text and search query to find applications, folders, and files. Additionally, there is Ubuntu for Android, which is an app for dual core Android phones that allows users to dock their phones to a keyboard and monitor to have access to a full Ubuntu desktop. One feature in Ubuntu is the ability to pin separate web applications (such as Amazon.com, Facebook, and Gmail ) to the launcher and run them without first opening the browser. Pictured above is Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. For those who prefer other desktop environments, there are other distros “flavors” offered which are based on Ubuntu. Following are the flavors which are part of the official Ubuntu family:

KubuntuKDE desktop environment Ubuntu

Ubuntu GNOMEGNOME desktop environment Ubuntu

Ubuntu MATEMATE desktop environment Ubuntu

XubuntuXfce desktop environment Ubuntu

LubuntuLXDE desktop environment Ubuntu

Edubuntu – Ubuntu for education

Mythbuntu – Ubuntu for a home theatre PC and MythTV

Ubuntu Studio – Ubuntu for multimedia editing and creation

Ubuntu Kylin – Ubuntu for China

My Rating of Ubuntu:
 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager    10
 Look and Feel    10
 Default Applications     9
 Multimedia     9
 Software Updates    10
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 96/100
The recommended minimum requirements to run Ubuntu in the default Unity desktop are:
1 GHz x86 processor
1 GB of system memory (RAM)
15 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
Either a CD/DVD Drive or a USB port (or both)
The system requirements will be less with Ubuntu running in the Xfce desktop environment as Xubuntu, or in LXDE as Lubuntu.

 linux-mint-18-menu-live-screenshot

 Linux Mint

Based on Ubuntu and Debian, Linux Mint shares many of the same features of both distros. Linux Mint, like Ubuntu, is an outstanding choice for Linux beginners. One reason for this is that it comes loaded by default with the Adobe Flash Player (needed to watch YouTube videos) and the necessary codecs to play popular audio and video formats such as MP3 and MPEG. Linux Mint includes support for the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad through the Banshee media player. Like many other Linux distros, Mint can be downloaded and burned to make a live DVD to run and test the operating system before installing. With the main edition, users have a choice between the MATE and Cinnamon desktops, both of which are much more traditional desktops than Ubuntu’s Unity. For those who want a desktop that looks and behaves more like Windows, Linux Mint is a great choice. KDE and Xfce editions of Linux Mint are also available. Linux Mint “frozen releases” share a similar six month release cycle as Ubuntu, but beginning with Linux Mint 17, new releases will be based on the most recent LTS release of Ubuntu. So for example, Linux Mint 17 will be supported for five years (until 2019), just like Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and the following release of Linux Mint is 17.1, and is still based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Linux Mint’s Debian Edition (LMDE) is a rolling release like its parent Debian. It should be emphasized that the main edition (MATE / Cinnamon), Xfce, and KDE editions are based on Ubuntu, while the Debian edition is based on Debian. With the Debian Edition, the ISOs are regularly updated, and once installed, it will not be necessary for users to install newer releases / editions later because they will bring constant updates indefinitely [2]. Also, like Ubuntu, Linux Mint has thousands of free software downloads available through the Linux Mint Software Manager and the Debian-based (Synaptic) Package Manager. Firefox is the default browser, and LibreOffice is the default office suite. Pictured above is Linux Mint 18 “Sarah” with the Cinnamon Desktop Environment.

My Rating of Linux Mint (Ubuntu-based versions):

 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository    10
 Software Manager    10
 Look and Feel    10
 Default Applications    10
 Multimedia    10
 Software Updates    10
 Convenience of Upgrading     5
 Overall Points 95/100

The recommended system requirements for the main edition of Linux Mint are:

1 GHz x86 processor
512 MB of system memory (RAM)
10 GB of disk space
A 3D capable graphics card
CD/DVD-ROM drive or USB port


 ubuntu-mate-16-04-menu-screenshot

Ubuntu MATE

A new flavor of Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE an outstanding distro that should be very appealing to those who prefer a more traditional desktop environment. Default applications include: Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, Brasero, and Caja. Software can be easily installed by going to the Ubuntu Software Center. Pictured above is Ubuntu MATE 16.04 LTS with the MATE desktop environment.
My Rating of Ubuntu MATE:
 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager    10
 Look and Feel    10
 Default Applications     9
 Multimedia     9
 Software Updates     9
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 95/100
The recommended system requirements for Ubuntu MATE are:
1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo processor
2 GB  of system memory (RAM)
16 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution

 manjaro-menu-screenshot-2016-12-05

 Manjaro

Based on the popular Arch Linux, Manjaro brings a strong element of convenience and user friendliness that is not found in Arch by default. Like Arch Linux, Manjaro is a rolling release which provides updates on a constant basis and gives users the most recent and cutting edge versions of software. Manjaro also shares the traits of speed and efficiency with Arch Linux. Another very nice feature found in Manjaro is the pre-installed multimedia codecs. Currently, Manjaro is available in the Xfce, KDE, Openbox, and Minimal Net editions. Additionally community versions of Manjaro are available in the GNOME, Cinnamon, LXDE, MATE, and Enlightenment desktop environments. In the Xfce version of Manjaro, Mozilla Firefox is the default browser, and LibreOffice is the default office suite. Click on the picture above to see a larger screenshot of Manjaro 16.10.03 with the Xfce desktop environment.
My Rating of Manjaro:
 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation     8
 Software Repository     7
 Software Manager     8
 Look and Feel    10
 Default Applications    10
 Multimedia    10
 Software Updates     9
 Convenience of Upgrading    10
 Overall Points 92/100

My recommended system requirements for Manjaro are:

1 GHz x86 processor
512 MB  of system memory (RAM)
10 GB of disk space
Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution

 pclinuxos-screenshot

PCLinuxOS

Based on Mandriva, PCLinuxOS (also known as “PCLOS”) is offered in the KDE, MATE, LXDE, and FullMonty desktops. The FullMonty version offers a larger set of installed software, as well as a choice of customized KDE desktop layouts which are optimized for the following areas: Internet, Office, Games, MultiMedia, Graphics, and System. Known for its user-friendliness, PCLOS is another excellent choice for people new to Linux, and it offers a very aesthetically pleasing and well-planned desktop. PCLOS is a rolling release and comes installed with Mozilla Firefox, LibreOffice, Google Earth, plus a lot of other applications, and additional software may be installed from their RPM repository using the Synaptic Package Manager. Like Linux Mint, PCLinuxOS comes loaded with the various multimedia codecs by default. Pictured above is PCLinuxOS 2016.03 with the KDE desktop environment.

My Rating of PCLinuxOS:

 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation     8
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager     9
 Look and Feel    10
 Default Applications    10
 Multimedia    10
 Software Updates     9
 Convenience of Upgrading    10
 Overall Points 95/100
The recommended minimum requirements to run PCLinuxOS are:
Modern Intel or AMD processor
512 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended
3 GB of minimum disk space, 10 GB or more recommended
nVidia, ATI, Intel video card
Any Sound Blaster, AC97 or HDA compatible card
CD/DVD drive

xubuntu-16-04-menu-screenshot

Xubuntu

The Xfce version of Ubuntu, Xubuntu is considered to be a “lightweight distro” which can run on relatively older computers with less system resources. While Xubuntu is considered lightweight, it is in my opinion more of a “mid-sized” or “mid-weight” distro. Like Ubuntu, the various multimedia codecs do not come in Xubuntu by default, but can be easily added during installation or later through the Ubuntu Software Center / Synaptic Package Manager. By default, Xubuntu is loaded with many very useful tools which includes the Mozilla Firefox browser, LibreOffice, gmusicbrowser to manage music, and GIMP to create and edit images. Xubuntu is an excellent choice for those who have older computer hardware. Picutured above is Xubuntu 16.04 LTS with the Xfce desktop environment.

My Rating of Xubuntu:

 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager    10
 Look and Feel     9
 Default Applications     8
 Multimedia     9
 Software Updates     9
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 93/100
The recommended system requirements for Xubuntu are:
x86 processor

512 of system memory (RAM)
4.4 GB of disk space


lubuntu-16-04-menu-screenshot

 Lubuntu

A relatively new distro, Lubuntu is basically a very lightweight version of Ubuntu running the LXDE desktop environment, which allows it to run on extremely old computers. At the same time, Lubuntu is lightning-fast on newer computers. One very nice feature of Lubuntu is that it has access to the Ubuntu repositories through the Synaptic Package Manager which is easy to use, though not as convenient in some ways as the Ubuntu Software Center. Beginning with version 12.04, Lubuntu has its own adaptation of the Ubuntu Software Center. Like Ubuntu, the various multimedia codecs do not come in Lubuntu by default, but can be easily added during installation or later through the Lubuntu Software Center or the Synaptic Package Manager. Beginning with version 14.04 LTS, Lubuntu offers long-term support for three years. By default, Lubuntu comes loaded with the Firefox browser. Also installed by default are Abiword and Gnumeric. Pictured above is Lubuntu 16.04 LTS with the LXDE desktop environment.
My Rating of Lubuntu:
 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager     9
 Look and Feel     8
 Default Applications     8
 Multimedia     9
 Software Updates     9
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 91/100
The minimum system requirements for Lubuntu are:
266 MHz Pentium processor
128 MB of system memory (RAM)
4.4 GB of disk space

peppermint-os-7-screenshot

Peppermint OS

A lightweight distro, Peppermint OS is very user friendly and is based upon Lubuntu and Linux Mint. Its purpose is to be both desktop-based and cloud-based through the utilization of its Ice technology. As a result, such favorites as Google DocsGmailYouTubePandoraFacebook, or any other web site or application can be opened like any desktop application, without going through a web browser. Firefox is installed as the default browser and users have access to the vast software repositories of Ubuntu. Other great features of Peppermint OS are its super-fast startup and shutdown times, as well as the “out-of-the-box” ability to play popular audio and video formats. Currently, Peppermint OS is based on the most recent Ubuntu LTS release. Pictured above is Peppermint OS 7 with the LXDE desktop environment.
My Rating of Peppermint OS:
 Ease of Use    10
 Overall Convenience    10
 Ease of Installation    10
 Software Repository    10
 Software Manager    10
 Look and Feel     9
 Default Applications     7
 Multimedia    10
 Software Updates    10
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 95/100
The minimum system requirements for Peppermint OS are:
266 MHz Pentium processor
192 MB of system memory (RAM)
4 GB of disk space

 puppy-linux-screenshot

 Puppy Linux

For computers which are really old and not capable of running larger distros or even smaller disros such as Peppermint OS, Lubuntu, or Bodhi Linux, Puppy Linux is a great choice. Built from Ubuntu packages, this lightweight Linux distro is feature-rich for being so small and can be loaded and completely run in 64 MB of RAM without needing a hard drive. Users can boot into Puppy from a CD, a USB flash drive, or a hard drive, though it is best suited for running from a CD or USB drive. When users boot from a CD or flash drive they can unmount any hard drives while surfing the Internet, which provides better security because the hard drives and their files are essentially disconnected. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera are offered as choices in browsers. Both AbiWord and Gnumeric are installed as office applications. Like Peppermint OS, Linux Mint, and PCLinuxOS, Puppy Linux comes ready with the codecs needed to play popular audio and video formats. By default, Puppy Linux uses JWM (Joe’s Window Manager), but other window managers such as Fluxbox, Enlightenment, and IceWM are also available. Macpup is available as a “beautiful derivative” of Puppy Linux which uses the Enlightenment desktop environment and somewhat resembles Mac OS X [1]. Pictured above is Puppy Linux 6.0.5 “Tahrpup” with JWM (Joe’s Window Manager).
My Rating of Puppy Linux:
 Ease of Use     8
 Overall Convenience     7
 Ease of Installation     7
 Software Repository     9
 Software Manager     8
 Look and Feel     7
 Default Applications     6
 Multimedia     9
 Software Updates     7
 Convenience of Upgrading     9
 Overall Points 77/100
The recommended minimum requirements to run Puppy Linux are:200 MHz Pentium processor
64 MB of system memory (RAM)
8x CD-ROM
Graphics card capable of 16-bit VGA
Scroll wheel mouse

My Opinion:


For people new to Linux, my top recommendations are either Linux Mint, Ubuntu, or any of the other *buntus such as Xubuntu, or Lubuntu; each of these works great on newer hardware. Also, PCLinuxOS, Manjaro, or OpenSUSE are nice choices. When it comes to older computers (in the Pentium 4 range), SolydX, Lubuntu, and Peppermint OS are great options and in the Pentium III range, I believe the best options are Lubuntu or Peppermint OS. For extremely old computers (in the Pentium II range), Puppy Linux generally works well. On older computers, it is my recommendation to add as much RAM as possible. If your computer has less than 64 MB of RAM, then it will be very challenging to run a graphical desktop on that system, so adding RAM can really help.As you may have noticed, most of my favorite distros are in the Ubuntu family, or based on Ubuntu/Debian. One reason for this is because my first experience with Linux came from Ubuntu and this is where I feel the most at home. However, I must also say that in my opinion distros from the Ubuntu/Debian branch of Linux offer the best all-around user experience, especially for those who are new to Linux. Ubuntu is well-known for being user-friendly, stable, great with multimedia, and compatible with a wide array of hardware. Also, Ubuntu has an excellent user community and outstanding software repositories with tens of thousands of free and open source software from which to choose. While Ubuntu is excellent, If someone were to ask me which Linux distro is my absolute favorite, I would have a hard time choosing just one. At this point I would say my favorites are Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, Linux Mint, and Peppermint OS. Other popular distros that are known for being beginner-friendly are Kubuntu, Zorin OS, Sabayon, Mageia, Pinguy OS, and Chakra. Also, there are many other high-quality distros such as Debian, SlackwareVectorLinux, Arch Linux, ArchBang, Fedora, and Gentoo Linux that are great, but they are (in my opinion) better suited for people who are either intermediate or advanced Linux users. You can click on the following links to learn more about the literally hundreds of Linux distros available:

References:

1.    ^ Macpup. http://macpup.org/.
2.    ^ DistroWatch. http://distrowatch.com/.
3.    ^ “List of Linux Distributions.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_distributions.

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Updated 12/8/2016
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