A look at KDE Neon – a minimal mini-distribution

Mike Turcotte-McCusker
Mar 9, 2018

So, with the news of Linux Mint no longer providing KDE in future releases, some people have started to wonder where they might turn should the need / desire to change distributions in the future arises; granted you don’t have to leave LM-KDE at all if you don’t want, there will just be no more ISO’s being made, etc.

A little while ago, the suggestion had been made that I write up an overview for KDE Neon, and I thought this might be the perfect time to showcase it.

The machine I am using has the following specs:

  • Intel i5-4210U
  • 8GB DDR3
  • SSD
  • Intel HD 4400
  • Dual monitor (Laptop + HDMI to TV)


There isn’t really much to say about installing KDE Neon, other than since it uses Ubuntu 16.04 LTS as its base, if you’ve installed Ubuntu, or Linux Mint; than you’ll be just fine...It’s the same installation software. It was simple, quick, and effective as it should be, and ran without issue.

Under the hood

KDE Neon isn’t your typical distribution, where everything is installed for you, as much as it’s not quite as hardcore as Arch Linux or Gentoo either.

Once installed, KDE Neon leaves you with a nearly empty system, simply running the latest KDE packages. The purpose of KDE Neon, is simply that, to give you the absolute latest and greatest of KDE. What you do beyond that, is your call. You’ll find very little preinstalled applications, only the essentials.

However, again, KDE Neon uses Ubuntu 16.04 as its base, and with that comes the Ubuntu repositories, the ability to use PPA’s, .deb files, as well as Snaps and Flatpaks.

Installing software can be done via CLI as per usual using apt, and there is also the inclusion of a software manager called “Discover.”

Now, I can’t say I dislike Discover, but I will note that while it does automatically install a Flatpak and Snap backend support, you can’t actually search for them through Discover.

An example: searching for Spotify found nothing, but typing: sudo snap spotify, installed just fine via terminal. With that said, Discover isn’t half bad for just using apt in the more traditional ways GNU/Linux users are accustomed to.

Issues I found

Sadly, the lack of big features in Discover isn’t the only issue I did have while using the system, where twice I had issues with screens hanging and having to end the process. Granted, this was after first install, and before running any updates; and I have (so far at the time of writing this) had no issues further thus far.

Last words

Overall, KDE Neon is great for minimalists who want to populate their system with packages and applications themselves, rather than deal with the potential bloat of many common distributions. The downside, is that users who want a fully working, prepackaged distro that they can just install and go, will likely find KDE Neon too much for them.

As a whole however, the system runs nicely, using Ubuntu as the base has its obvious benefits and caveats just like other popular Ubuntu based systems; but if you’re looking for the latest and greatest KDE packages from upstream, and you don’t mind (or prefer) building your system up yourself a bit, give Neon a peek.

Now you: What’s your favourite KDE GNU/Linux OS, and why?

A look at KDE Neon – a minimal mini-distribution
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A look at KDE Neon – a minimal mini-distribution
A little while ago, the suggestion had been made that I write up an overview for KDE Neon, and I thought this might be the perfect time to showcase it.
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  1. Andrew said on March 11, 2018 at 8:22 am

    I’m running Neon now on my old HP laptop. But to my surpise I found both openSUSE Tumbleweed and Leap 42.3 to be faster during bootup on the exact same hardware: about 7 seconds faster.
    I didn’t expect this to happen, since Neon is supposed to be barebone. When running Wayland I do have a crash every now and then, but I’m not surprised about that. I installed everything I need and it just works.
    You should be careful before you mention bloatware in distributions. Neon on my hardware is not a bit faster than Leap or Tumbleweed, so no advantage there.

    For me there is no advantage anymore in using Neon compared to openSUSE products. Plasma 5.12 has all the features I need and I will return to Leap 15 when that arrives, or Tumbleweed.
    If I want that vanilla plasma look (I do want that), it’s easy to achieve.

    1. Jozsef said on March 11, 2018 at 9:48 am

      If I’m not mistaken, bootup time is typically not proportional to general performance. Have you done other speed comparisons between openSUSE and Neon? I wouldn’t think that speed of booting by itself is terribly important although I admit it’s certainly satisfying when it’s fast.

      1. Andrew said on March 11, 2018 at 10:46 am

        It’s not terribly important since you boot-up only a few times during the day if at all. But for me as an everyday user performance means speed and stability in every aspect, including speed during boot-up. It just caught my attention, because I boot both OS-ses on the same laptop. Load-time after login from SDDM is also a bit longer on Neon, although I never counted that one in exact seconds. My laptop for trying out OS-ses is quite an oldie (HP Compaq 6710b with an SSD), so it makes my feel proud about Linux when it boots up in about 3 seconds after Grub, like Leap 42.3 does.
        But that’s it: I never noticed a noticable speed difference in daily use (using multiple programs such as QGIS, Darktable or Libre Office), although I never tested it thoroughly. Kudos on Linux OS-ses!

  2. Jozsef said on March 10, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Thanks Mike. As I’m a graphic designer among other weird and wonderful things, I love the look of the Neon graphics and Plasma. I do have it on an old Thinkpad and update it periodically but have not had a chance to actually use it. Reading here and there, my sense is that beginners and the chronically code challenged will run into small issues with Neon due to the bleeding edge KDE version that for us is going to amount to hitting a very solid wall. It’s a similar issue with most of the best distros and so Manjaro and Mint are probably the places we simple folks should land for the extra time they take with extensive testing to ensure stability.

    Since I have faith in you, I gravitated to Manjaro’s Cinnamon version which looks very nice to me but I hate the frustratingly similar looking custom icons such as the Firefox one which is a square with rounded corners as many of the others also are. If I can find out how to change these for more standard ones, all will be well, otherwise Mint KDE looks to be an appropriate choice. There is talk of easily recreating that distro next time around by installing KDE on the XFCE version and then removing XFCE. Sounds like fun. I confess, I do look for trouble occasionally but we all need some excitement once in a while. ;)

  3. english = Poo said on March 10, 2018 at 12:00 am

    english language = Poo.

  4. mj said on March 9, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Used Neon for a while, but the old package base (due to 16.04) was aggravating, so I moved on to Kubuntu 17.10 w. backports (https://launchpad.net/~kubuntu-ppa/+archive/ubuntu/backports?field.series_filter=artful), and its working fantastic.

    It’s only a few days, to a week behind Neon, and the packages are much newer.
    Can highly recommend it!

  5. TianlanSha said on March 9, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    I liked Gnome 2.x, because coming from Windows, the way it felt was the closest, it was like the Windows Shell, whatever its name is, but with even more freedom added to it. For some reason KDE always felt somehow different. Only KDE 3 looks nice to me.

  6. TianlanSha said on March 9, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    When I was fooling around with Linux, for some reason I always preferred Gnome 2.x over everything else. Now that Gnome 3 is horrible, I think Mate and Cinnamon are the legacy of Gnome 2.x and I would use either if I have to use Linux again.

    1. John Fenderson said on March 9, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Which desktop environment is best is a very subjective call. People have very different, and strongly held preferences about this sort of thing. The ability to choose amongst many different desktops environments is one of the more awesome things about Linux — it makes it very likely that you can find one that actually pleases you.

  7. seatex said on March 9, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    I run KDE Neon in a VM. Usually, new KDE software versions come the next day after release. Yet, KDE Neon is still on Plasma 5.12.2, even though 5.12.3 was released a week ago and is already available on other KDE distros.

  8. poe said on March 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    I used to use PCLinuxOS but it crashed many times.
    After that I tried using Kubuntu, never crash even once :)

    1. A different Martin said on March 10, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      I did a bare-metal install of PCLinuxOS on an old 80386 ThinkPad around a decade ago, and it worked perfectly, all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve had *terrible* problems with current PCLinuxOS as a VirtualBox guest in the past six months or so — likely because of a video driver conflict that I just couldn’t fix, even after applying solutions recommended in the forums. VirtualBox itself had a serious problem with Linux guests in several recent releases (all releases after 5.1.28 and before 5.2.8, except for 5.2.4, which worked fine), but I know *for sure* that I was running a “Linux-guest-compatible” version (5.2.4) the second time I tried PCLinuxOS.

      I also tried KDE Neon and no longer remember why I dumped it. At least half of the distros I’ve tried have had VirtualBox compatibility problems, so that’s the most likely reason. However, it could have been an issue with the distro itself.

      I seem to remember that Manjaro KDE worked fine for me, but it was so annoyingly slow and laggy as a guest on my old, middle-of-the-road laptop that I dumped it.

      I’m intrigued by mj’s post, below, mentioning Kubuntu 17.10 with backports, and think I might give that a try. I have good memories of KDE from ten years ago, and I want to give KDE Plasma a fair shot today before writing it off entirely in favor of Cinnamon.

    2. weg barnes said on March 10, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      I was was a “distro” (distribution) hopper for almost 15 years. I discovered PClinuxOS 7 or 8 years ago and it has been my Prime distribution. I still check out distros such as KDE Neon,which I honestly hadn’t heard of prior to the post on here.
      Of course some people cannot get distros to install for many reasons but I wonder if you tried to get help from the PCLinuxOS forum,one which is second to none, where I can assure you,had it been possible to install on your specific hardware you would have got the necessary ,informed help to have it on your computer.
      P.S. had you done this, I have no doubt you would still be using it as I am.WEG

      1. poe said on March 10, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        That time when I first tried Linux, internet was quite scarce. So consulting online community was hard not like nowadays. Yes, PCLinuxOS was my first Linux.
        I installed PCLinuxOS from someone who brought me the CD, not from internet.

        I then tried Ubuntu and Kubuntu. Cannonical was really kind and the only one to provide free cd shipping. (I wonder if they still do that?)

        I first tried Ubuntu, it did not crash but I didn’t really like it. After that I tried Kubuntu and have been using it until now.

        I’m not Linux expert. To me, it seems that Linux OSes have similiar functionalities, what makes them different is the desktop environment.

        TLDR: PCLinuxOS was not working for me, I had Kubuntu as alternative, they had similiar functions and looks. So I chose Kubuntu.

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