For this review, I’m taking a look at Manjaro KDE 0.8.11. I have to say, I was really interested in doing this for a couple of reasons. The first is that I really like Manjaro, but the second is that I’m a KDE user and their KDE release has lagged behind their GTK desktops for a long time. I should also mention that I am reviewing KDE as both a Live CD/USB and an every day desktop OS. Okay, let’s take a look.
This is what we’re greeted with after booting the USB.
I have NVIDIA graphics, and normally use Nouveau, but it’s nice to have both boot options since a lot of cards work better with or require the proprietary driver. I also like being given the choice of both on the same USB, rather than having separate free and non-free images.
Alright, this is our greeting upon starting up KDE.
The Manjaro welcome screen is very beginner friendly and there is even a desktop shortcut for immediate support, I like this a lot. At first glance I see that we have Yakuake as a drop down terminal over Konsole (good choice!). Now, let’s start by reviewing it as a Live CD
The most important feature of a Live CD, to me, is the included browser. This is the one major area where Manjaro KDE falls short for me. Our default browser is ReKonq, which I am not a fan of. Let me show you why:
Okay, Spatry’s website displays fine and works properly.
I advise in the future to write your article using the rich text editor... your bbcode prevents SMF from properly parsing your images.
The browser just hangs, not good.
Now let’s try Youtube and BBC videos.
This is an annoying bug with NVIDIA graphics cards that was fixed some time ago in Firefox/IceCat, but is still present in ReKonq. Again, not good. Now for the BBC:
Sound for the video is playing fine, but the video itself is broken.
So, where does this leave us? Well, thankfully VLC is included as a media player, so I can watch Youtube videos that way. With the BBC and Imgur I am just out of luck.
Let’s look at some more included software. One of my must haves in a Live CD is GParted (sorely missing from Mageia KDE, which relies on the not very good KDE Partition Manager).
Another nice tool is a GUI for writing .iso and .img files. I was pleasantly surprised to see the excellent SUSE Imagewriter included.
Okay, what about CD burning? We have K3b, which is IMHO the best available application.
The only disk or partition management tool I didn’t find that would be nice is Clonezilla. It’s not a big deal, though.
Now let’s check out the Manjaro specific tools. One of the areas where Manjaro has lagged behind Mageia for me is in regard to the Control Center/Settings Manager. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Manjaro Settings Manager has improved and is very usable now.
How about Octopi? The last time I ran Manjaro KDE, the panel applet was broken. Now it works fine and is blazing fast. Nice!
Okay, let’s take a quick look at the installer. One thing I REALLY like about Manjaro is that we have both a CLI installer for advanced users and (for the first time in my experience) a fully functional GUI installer. The only gripe I have, which is small, is that there is no option to use the LILO bootlader. Here are some screenshots of both installers:
The GUI installer strikes me as both very nice looking and easier for a beginner to follow than something like Fedora’s Anaconda.
The CLI installer is, well, a CLI installer that is perfectly functional and again has every option I would like outside of LILO.
All of that is a lot to take in, so let me sum up my thoughts first on the live CD and then as an every day OS.
As a Live CD, Manjaro KDE is now my favorite. The key addition for me is GParted out of the box, which makes it a better option than Mageia KDE with the KDE Partition Manager. I also like the Imagewriter application, K3B and LibreOffice all out of the box. Beyond that though, having the option to use both non-free and free drivers from the same iso AND HAVING THEM WORK PROPERLY is critical, making it a truly nomadic Live CD rather than tied to a specific use case. This is the first hybrid iso I have found that configures my GTX 650 properly with Nouveau and the proprietary driver. It needs two things to be perfect, in my view: Clonezilla and either IceCat or Chromium as the default browser. It’s like the devs went halfway here; they gave us Gparted over KDE’s Partition Manager, but leave us stuck with ReKonq. Why, just why? Leaving out Clonezilla isn’t critical, but it’s an application I would like to see on any swiss army knife type of live distro.
Now, for the KDE Desktop on my actual install. I can’t say enough good things about it. My hardware was detected and configured properly, there is a properly working GUI for everything now (from the installer to updates and package management with Octopi), it is pleasant to the eye unlike the old vanilla, upstream KDE releases and it is blazing fast. I think I am ready to say that if you want a user friendly, rolling KDE distro this is the one to go with. It looks great, runs great, and everything works after installing a better browser. There is one annoying thing Manjaro inherits from Arch, which is reliance on the AUR. I am not a huge fan of the lack of application approval and try not to use it; I will say Manjaro has more packages in the official repos that I want than Arch, but I still find myself needing some from the AUR. I would suggest that in they future they create and implement an additional Manjaro Users Repository with more stringent standards for submitting applications, then allow the AUR to be added with an explanation about package security if the user so chooses.
I want to address one more thing in closing. I have read a lot of reviews critical of Manjaro, claiming that it is not truly beginner friendly, but I couldn’t disagree more. There is now a nice looking, properly working GUI for everything a beginner might need to do and the Manjaro Settings Manager is shaping up well in that regard. It lacks a few of the niftier Mageia Control Center features (toggling Pulse Audio on and off and importing Windows fonts), but those are very, very minor complaints. I have also been running Manjaro on and off for awhile now, and have to say that I like their Update Pack design philosophy a lot. I’ve tried running Arch in the past, but broken X.Org updates have made me want to pull my hair out. I realize security diehards may not like it, but dialing back core components like the graphics stack to make a stable, but rolling desktop is worth the sacrifice in my opinion.
I still think that for an Enterprise stable, beginner friendly distro I would go with Mageia and their yearly (or thereabouts) release cycle, but if you want the latest, greatest software and fleshed out GUI tools, you can’t go wrong with Manjaro. It is flexible enough to be used by a novice or a power user, praise that I would only give to Mageia as well. On that note, I certainly would no longer say that Mageia has a better KDE implementation or is a clear winner in user friendly tools specific to the distro, something I would have said in the last release. I think your preference on release cycle and .RPMs versus using the AUR are the deciding factor, but the fact is that both are great options.