Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Linux Mint

Mike Turcotte-McCusker
Nov 19, 2021
Linux, Linux Mint
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21

If you’ve done any research into the Linux world you’ll no doubt have heard of Linux Mint. Linux Mint is rated number four on the popular rankings site, Distrowatch, based on number of hits to the Distrowatch page for the OS, not based on actual downloads / user-base. Check out my previous reviews of Manjaro, MX Linux and EndeavourOS.

For those who haven’t heard of Linux Mint, it’s a super popular distribution based off Ubuntu, that is commonly argued between the two for which one is the best distribution for new users. Linux Mint has plenty of friendly GUI tools, a strong and helpful community, and 99% of Ubuntu documentation is also applicable to Linux Mint, so troubleshooting your own issues is significantly easier to research than some other, lesser-known distributions.

Linux Mint comes in three flavours, utilizing different Desktop Environments such as:

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  • Cinnamon
  • MATE
  • Xfce

For this installation I opted for the Cinnamon flavour of Linux Mint, since there is no official KDE flavour available, and Cinnamon is my second-favourite environment.

My Specs:

  • Ryzen 5 3500X
  • NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super
  • 16GB DDR4 3000Mhz
  • System installed on a SATA SSD

Installation

The Linux Mint installation via Live-USB was quick and painless, however I can say that I do wish it had a little more features, such as those found in the installation utilities Calamares, found in popular distributions such as Manjaro. I had the option to Erase an entire disk, install Linux Mint alongside other OS’s, or do custom partitioning. There is no built-in option for replacing a partition...So, I had to manually do that myself, which isn’t hard for me, but people who don’t install OS’s like socks might not be as familiar with how to do this; so I think it’s a feature lacking.

However, once the installation was done, which didn’t take very long, I rebooted my machine and was on my way.

Note: Another complaint I have is that Linux Mint attempts to use Nouveau, the open-source NVIDIA driver, by default, and this does not work on my GTX 1660 Super. I had to boot using the compatibility start option to get into the Live-USB, and I had to use the nomodeset option in my GRUB startup line to boot to desktop after installation, so I could install the proprietary driver. Again, nothing complicated for experienced users, but a first-timer with my GPU may get scared off by facing these issues right out-of-the-box.

Included Software and Features

Linux Mint is by no means a lightweight or minimalist distribution; it comes with basically all software that the average user will need, out-of-the-box. Firefox, Hexchat IRC client, Thunderbird, Transmission torrent downloader, LibreOffice, Rythmbox audio player, Hypnotix TV player, Celluloid video player, Redshift (colour changer for night-mode / reducing blue light), Timeshift (an awesome backup utility) and numerous other applications and utilities come with installation. I was surprised that GIMP didn’t come with it, since it had everything else. If you want a system that is pre-loaded with most basic utilities and applications, Linux Mint has you covered...If you want a super minimalist approach to things; you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Performance

Linux Mint, and Cinnamon, are not known for their super lightweight and speedy designs; yet, Linux Mint Cinnamon edition was quick, responsive, and elegant when I was testing this out for this review. I had zero issues with big slowdowns, program hanging, or excessive resource usage. With LibreOffice Writer and Firefox with three tabs open, my system was using about 6% CPU and 2.4GB of RAM used. A little heavier than some others I have reviewed lately, but overall the Linux Mint Cinnamon edition wasn’t too brutal for most people to have to worry about.

Final Thoughts

Besides the couple of negatives I listed earlier, I really don’t have much negative to say about Linux Mint. It’s got graphical tools for driver installations, it’s got great support, it’s based on one of the most commonly used OS’s in the Linux World, and it’s a system that even first-time users can enjoy. Cinnamon is a gorgeous Desktop Environment for those who enjoy more traditional layouts similar to Windows, and it’s highly customizable too. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t used it yet, check this OS out.

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Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Linux Mint
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Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Linux Mint
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Mikes review of the Ubuntu based Linux OS, Linux Mint.
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Comments

  1. Dumbledalf said on November 19, 2021 at 1:09 pm
    Reply

    I’m really curious to try Kubuntu and Pop!_OS

    1. ULBoom said on November 20, 2021 at 3:23 pm
      Reply

      Kubuntu isn’t exactly Ubuntu with KDE on top, it has some weird aspects built in deliberately by the dev team, IIRC, not being able to use the file manager as root without installing a different manager. It’s to protect users, they say. Uh, this is Linux, not iOS. By the time one gets to Kubuntu, they’d likely have some decent knowledge of Linux.

      KDE Plasma is IMO the best way to try Plasma on top of Ubuntu. It’s small and fast, add your own packages as you see fit.

      1. MdN said on November 20, 2021 at 5:13 pm
        Reply

        Strangely, been using Kubuntu for a year now and didn’t know this until you said it. Back on Xubuntu I had to use Thunar as root a few times, mostly for installing icons or cursors in a system-wide folder… But on Kubuntu I never had a need for that. It’s all in the settings.

        You might as well say “by the time one gets to Kubuntu, he knows enough not to have to use the file manager as root”. :-)

  2. Anonymous said on November 19, 2021 at 1:45 pm
    Reply

    What I do not get: assuming you use Linux for the trust, why would you want to trust the additional people it takes to make Ubuntu out of Debian, and Mint out of Ubuntu? They are all equally ugly and inefficient from a UX perspective….

    1. ULBoom said on November 20, 2021 at 3:30 pm
      Reply

      Most comments I see from Windows users thinking about Linux regard Windows Updates wrecking their devices and MS’s incessant intrusive nagging. They want relief from an OS with too many layers of junkware. Just tired of being annoyed.

  3. Neutrino said on November 19, 2021 at 1:53 pm
    Reply

    Mint would freeze on my similar system without any indication as to why. Just like that w/o me doing anything. And it looks like Windows, yikes! Totally unusable.

    Pop!_OS partition manager is not user friendly at all, but my overall interface experience of the distro was amazing. All but a ‘minor’ problem: no sound. It took me nearly a weak of reading and reinstalling the whole thing but with no success.

    Fedora should’ve been my favorite, at least on paper: clean Gnome, first to be updated, no BS, right? But the installer was terrible, and getting nVidia drivers to work was a mission impossible.

    So the only one that hasn’t given me any trouble is good ol’ Ubuntu. Love it or hate it, it just works.

    1. vgtz said on November 19, 2021 at 3:19 pm
      Reply

      I just tried it yesterday without installing and… “and it looks like Windows, yikes!”. I had exactly the same thought!! Using Ubuntu also that I think is great on my simple system. Nearly – everything just works and is simple to toggle the interface to your taste.
      I noticed a more efficient memory management and app install in Mint.
      While reading this: https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-linux-desktops-for-beginners/ – where the author considers Chrome OS a Linux desktop I had a glimpse of what could be a very bright future for Linux – adopting some very clever and efficient ideas from Google and leaving “the rest” aside like Ubuntu did with Chromium.

  4. just an Ed said on November 19, 2021 at 3:56 pm
    Reply

    I run Mint, Cinnamon edition; and have for a few years now. I’ve occasionally had trouble with my printer, and had to reinstall drivers; but that was only if I pulled everything apart to clean the physical hardware ( I do that once a year, usually).
    As regards the freezing, I had that initially, when I first moved to Linux, and found that if I went into BIOS setup and disabled Global C States that it stopped happening. I don’t know if that was a quirk of my motherboard (AsRock B450 Pro4) or not. My understanding is that NVIDIA is problematic with any distro; although I have no direct experience, as my system is a 1st gen Ryzen 5 with an R-550 video card.
    I agree that the Mint team should have an out-of-the-box ability to replace a partition on install; but would a new user really want that anyway? I would also point out that they have developed a direct upgrade path from one major version to the next, i.e, from version 19.3 to version 20.0 without the need for a new ISO, although a stable internet connection is required.
    Just my half penny. :-)

    1. Yet Another Jason said on November 19, 2021 at 5:02 pm
      Reply

      That’s a better review / feedback of experiences than the article provided. (Almost as long, too!)

      Mint is a great OS and my distro hopping experiences tell me it will cause the fewest problems for the most people on initial setup. I’ve never much liked the Cinnamon desktop but I appreciate Mint’s offering of the Xfce desktop, which can be made to look fairly attractive with minimal effort and which has perhaps the most functional, no-nonsense approach I’ve ever seen.

      The real advantage of Mint, though, is in the custom software manager, software updater, network tool, etc. that come with all the Mint editions. These tools work well and they are easy, something that much larger organizations than the Mint team have trouble achieving.

      1. just an Ed said on November 19, 2021 at 9:46 pm
        Reply

        You’re too kind; thank you. :-) I’ve not done any distro hopping myself, but it’s something I am thinking of. I have an old computer in the basement, and think I’ll check out MXLinux and/KDE
        after the holidays. I’m pretty sure Gentoo would be beyond me, though. ;-)
        I’ve never looked at the XFCE desktop, perhaps I’ll give that a spin. Could I ask what your objection to Cinnamon is? I believe that it’s a creation of the Mint team, a fork of Gnome2.

      2. ULBoom said on November 20, 2021 at 3:43 pm
        Reply

        @Ed

        XFCE and Cinnamon aren’t that much different in action. XFCE is lighter, Cinnamon has a more modern (whatever that means) look. They both are similar to windows in appearance. With the exception of Gnome, most mainstream desktops’ looks are similar to windows and mac.

        I used mostly XFCE with Mint and also Ubuntu Studio, a rather massive creativity distro and had no issues with it. Easy to find things. One tiny perk with XFCE that’s often missing is easy resizing of the start menu/launcher.

      3. just an Ed said on November 20, 2021 at 4:05 pm
        Reply

        Thanks for the reply, Mr. B.

  5. Paul(us) said on November 19, 2021 at 10:31 pm
    Reply

    First of all thanks again for another Linux article again Mike.
    Let me make its short and sweet: Linux mint is the one i still prefer to use.

  6. Terry said on November 20, 2021 at 7:10 am
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    Have been using Mint Mate since 2009. Initial sound issues solved in the forum (you sure don’t get that from M$). Never looked back. Works great, and the move to SSD really sealed the deal. Mint is fast, great community, love the software manager, love tabs in file manager, hasn’t slowed since last OS installation. No distro hopping for me! PS: I’ve also installed it for friends with old hardware. Everyone happy.

  7. Mixa said on November 20, 2021 at 9:55 am
    Reply

    Title should be top 5 crap Linux distribution

  8. Tim said on November 20, 2021 at 10:25 am
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    I did some distro hopping and Mint always came first – stable, friendly, good-looking and without strange bugs. Strongly recommend to all those who need a good, reliable OS.
    1. Mint comes with a bunch of useful applications that allow to back-up your system, create bootable drives, change a webpage into an independent app, see system reports, character map and more
    2. Very, very few bugs
    3. Cinnamon desktop allows users to customise many aspects of the system: themes, scrollbar width, size of icons on the bottom bar (left, middle and right zones can have different sizes), bottom bar width, appereance of the default start menu, colors of individual folders, hot corners etc
    4. Great neat settings app, where you can find anything very quickly
    5. Nemo – powerful and customizable file explorer app of the Cinnamon desktop, much more functional than other file apps except Dolphin (in some respects Nemo is even better). In Mint you can have split view option to have 2 different directories displayed at the same time, you can search file contents, batch rename files and more
    6. Neat appearance, neither as Spartan as Gnome nor as cluttered as Plasma
    7. Fast and friendly software center
    8. No data collection
    9. Large friendly community
    10. Mint doesn’t change drastically from one version to another, so if you value reasonable ”conservatism’ you will like Mint. You won’t be surprised by sudden changes that are made by some other developer teams. Mint seems to prefer evolution, not revolution. There is no rolling version.
    11. Developers interact with Mint users. You may even manage to have a function implemented in the OS if you can prove it makes sense and resonates with the developer’s vision of the system. I’ve experienced it myself.
    12. Mint blog
    13. Several flavors to choose from (I prefer Cinnamon). They are all based on Debian
    14. New iterations of Linux Mint appear regularly at reasonable intervals (approx six months). You don’t wait too long for new stuff
    15. Pleasant aesthetics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know, but for me Mint is very beautiful. Some people say Mint is ugly, which I perceive as totally ungrounded. Mint doesn’t look like a futurist’s child, but it does look polished, modern and elegant.
    There might be more reasons to choose Mint, but my wrist is getting tired, so… That’ll be all.

  9. ULBoom said on November 20, 2021 at 3:15 pm
    Reply

    Mint was the first distro I tried, all three desktops. I probably would have stayed with it except for the Nouveau issues mentioned above. As a newbie, I had no idea how to override it. Another issue was erratic touchpad behavior no suggestion could fix. My old laptop’s touchpad isn’t very smooth; I found performance varies among distros while the mouse is OK on all. Weird.

    Seems like there may be more to the “privacy” mini-war with Ubuntu than meets the eye. Going online with a typical browser, even highly modded about:config FF and no VPN gets you out there. Not a huge concern for me, may be for others.

    I’d recommend Mint Cinnamon for Windows users on the fence about Linux. Mint has a significant fan base, easy to see why.

  10. MintFan said on November 20, 2021 at 4:59 pm
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    Gimp used to be included with Mint. No idea why the dev team removed it. I simply reinstall any apps they remove if I prefer them.

    I have been a Mint user since 2013 (LM Maya, which I still fondly remember). So many improvements since then. I recently switched from the Mate edition to the Cinnamon edition. Mint was the second distro I tried. Ubuntu was first but I just could not get comfortable with the desktop UI. As a former Windows user, Mint’s UI was easier to adapt to and far more intuitive.

    I do not understand this obsession with rejecting every aspect of Microsoft’s operating systems. It is not the desktop interface that I object to, just what is underneath. Mint is the perfect transitional UI for former Windows users. It’s a UI that works and far more stable underneath.

  11. Hunter2020 said on November 20, 2021 at 10:34 pm
    Reply

    Years ago when I was using Ubuntu and had a network activity icon animated, I saw hundreds of MB’s of data uploaded from my laptop around midnight almost every night. My first thought was, Ubuntu was using my computer as part of a large botnet to crunch astronomy data.

    But in this day and age, I finally get why Ubuntu felt the need to send data from my laptop computer to their server every night… They were using my computing resources to mine cryto currency without my consent!

    If there is one Linux I whole heartedly trust that has got to be Deepin. Deepin is already being sold in China like Windows. They have a source of revenue and are in the business of making commercial OS. They shall have no need to use anybody’s computer to secretly mine crypto.

  12. Brian Swift said on November 21, 2021 at 3:40 am
    Reply

    Two years ago when Windows was saying it was going to stop supporting Windows 7, I struggled to figure out what I was going to do — with some research and guidance (https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-and-how-to-replace-windows-7-with-linux-mint/) I installed LM on my main computer and I was instantly greeted with an installed wireless network printer — in Windows it would never hold a network link and I had to keep it wired. With the program Xsane, I have full control over wireless scanning that I never had before. Also I found that the system updates are more friendly than those of Windows — you can choose when to update and you can work while it works, and normally it is done in a minute or so, and normally with no rebooting. When I want to install something (most software is free!), I can either go to the Software Manager, or I can ask the internet and it will give me an incantation for the Terminal — and like magic, it is installed! Viruses seem to be much less of a problem with Linux than with Windows — and while there are some anti-virus programs (like Clamscan) there are no expensive antiviruses nor subscriptions needed for protection — I have cancelled all my Windows antivirus subscriptions. I have tried some other distros and some are not as printer friendly. I am now a Linux zealot and see no reason that everyone should not switch and Linux Mint is certainly a good choice.

  13. Hary said on November 22, 2021 at 2:28 pm
    Reply

    Can he finally write a FULL BLOOD tutorial (with screenshots on partitions) on how to install Linux Mint because we are not all experienced but would love to try Linux.
    Thank you.

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