A Mint derivative where the main color is BLUE. Yes I know that it is less than a month before Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat arrives, and then Linux Mint will follow with their releases soon after, but Mint 9 KDE warrants special attention.

For those of you who have been following I have been looking for the perfect KDE 4 distro. Yes I have been neglecting it a little, and I have no excuse for it besides hoping to drag it along that I can review Kubuntu Maverick as part of my quest. The current incarnation of Kubuntu (Lucid) is a wreck.

Back to Linux Mint 9 KDE then…

First Impressions

Polish. KDE 4 brings elegance to the desktop. If you ever thought Linux Mint Gnome edition was impressively polished, you should experience the KDE incarnation of it.

Yes KDE4 and Gnome2 are radically different desktop environments, and I know you might not like KDE. If you want to experience KDE4 to decide if you want to make the switch this is one of two distros I’d recommend, the other being Mandriva Spring KDE.

One thing that completes Linux Mint is the inclusion of all the possible codecs and extra tweaks that you would install on Ubuntu as part of your post install housekeeping. Thinks like Flash are installed, and for me who keep to the 64bit end of the pool installing and getting stuff like flash to work

It is quick, well implemented and feature rich. I also like the fact that alternatives to the regular KDE fare are installed, for instance: Thunderbird instead of Kmail and Firefox instead of Konqueror.

Mint Splash

Mint is pretty throughout. Even when booting the live environment the polish is apparent.

Installation

Linux Mint, like most mainstream Desktop Distros, are really easy to install. In my opinion the Ubuntu installer is one of the best in the business. It mixes simplicity of use with a few power options for those who need it. Linux Mint uses this installer and it guides the user nicely through the process of installation.

Twenty-Four part test

On to the tests. You will note that the percentile scores of all the distros in my tests have dropped by about ten percent or so. It is because I am now testing out of a maximum score of 2400 as opposed to 2000.


OpenSUSE 11.3 KDE MandrivaKD Mint 9 KDE
Win7 Ubuntu
Join Wifi Network 80.00 100.00 80.00 80.00 100.00
Join Wired Network 100.00 100.00 100.00 50.00 100.00
Set Proxy 66.67 57.14 70.00 57.14 66.67
Get Network Info 100.00 100.00 80.00 25.00 50.00
Change Desktop Background 100.00 100.00 100.00 80.00 100.00
Change Theme 66.67 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00
Set Screen Rez 66.67 80.00 80.00 100.00 80.00
Set up Network Share 50.00 57.14 66.67 80.00 100.00
Access Network Share 100.00 100.00 100.00 66.67 100.00
Get Hardware Info 40.00 40.00 66.67 100.00 66.67
Get System Usage Info 66.67 40.00 66.67 100.00 66.67
Play Audio CD 100.00 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00
Access USB Drive 100.00 100.00 100.00 50.00 100.00
Play Youtube 66.67 100.00 100.00 33.33 50.00
Play MP3 66.67 50.00 100.00 100.00 50.00
Open PDF 100.00 100.00 100.00 33.33 100.00
Look For Specific Software 33.33 50.00 100.00 28.57 66.67
Check For System Updates 33.33 50.00 100.00 50.00 66.67
Supported Architecture (32bit/64bit) 100.00 75.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Shut Down 100.00 100.00 66.67 66.67 66.67
Battery Life 100.00 100.00 80.00 90.91 50.00
Atheros Support 100.00 50.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Codec Support 71.43 55.56 100.00 100.00 66.67
WEP Support 33.33 33.33 33.33 100.00 100.00
TOTALS 1,841.43 1,838.17 2041.01 1,791.62 1,946.67
Percentage Score
76.73 76.59 85.04 74.65 81.11

Linux Mint 9 KDE does very well. It scores the highes of any distro in this test so far. (Since the three extra criteria have been added at least)

Note for this test I included a WEP support criteria. I have given 33.33 percent since you can fix the problem with WICD or other trickery. The fact that you can fix something like that flaw in KDE4 is not an excuse though, the fact that you can fix it at all allows me to give it at least *some* score.

It fares better than Ubuntu on the battery life test, but there is still something that causes it to use more battery than RPM based distros like Mandriva and openSUSE.

Mint does very well in offering a complete package for the desktop. That point brings me to:

Mint KDE4 Desktop

One of the best KDE4 Desktop Implimentations around. (Click To Enlarge)

Desktop Readiness

Mint is desktop ready. Really, it is one of the most desktop ready operating systems available out there. It feature rich and stable. It benefits from the excellent Lucid Lynx Ubuntu release and is improved by the time and work Clem and the people at Linux Mint put into it.

I do have some reservations – I have been using it for more than a month, and noticed some issues cropping up.

One of the things is the flashplugin going crazy. At least twice a day while using Firefox to view pages with flash content it gets stuck and quickly builds to 100% and more CPU usage. I have not come across this while using Ubuntu or any of my other reviewed distros.

I also noticed unusually high usage by Xorg as of two updates ago. I thought it might be caused by me messing with settings to see what KDE4 can do, so I reset KDE4 to defaults by renaming a folder in my /home directory.

This has improved things slightly, so I hope that this was me and not a glitch with the OS.

Below under “User Friendliness” I will expand on this, but KDE4 wifi management is a mess. WEP network support is all but non-existent. I originally thought that the WEP issue was specific to the Mandriva Atheros issue or even a quirk of the RPM specific distros. I can now confirm that KDE4 has an issue connectin to WEP networks.

Taking all of this into account I cannot give Mint 9 KDE full marks, so 5/5 is out of the question. Given that I may be partly to blame for some of the issues I cannot knock it too hard either. The good points are very good too – so 3/5 it is for Desktop Readiness.

Mint Scores 3/5 for Desktop Readiness

User Friendliness

KDE4 contains some quirks – Wireless Network Management is a nightmare. This has caused me to create duplicate Wifi profiles, not be able to connect to some networks until I remove them and recreate them.

To continue the WIFI complaint mentioned under “Desktop Readiness,” WIFI management from the users point of view is a mess in KDE4. Try and add a wireless network. Fine and dandy. Now go to a new wireless network and add one you see detected in the Network Application on the bottom panel. You will notice that often the new WIFI access point you want to access is listed with the same name as your older network.

You have to go through the longer process of adding a new one from scratch. Why this has not been fixed for KDE4 is a mystery.

Network Applet

Dear KDE4 Team - please fix your Nework Management Application. It's Broken.

Another gripe – often I have been without networking because the network manager could not manage my networks for whatever reason. This and the WEP connection issues have forced me to penalise Mint 9 KDE under “Desktop Readiness” and also under “User Friendliness” due to the hoops you have to jump through to connect to wireless networks.

As for everything else Mint 9 KDE is sublime – everything you want to do can be done.

It is one of the most user friendly distros available today.

I must mention another negative here: The Kickoff Application Launcher. Elzje also commented on this. She said it “gets in the way” and I have to agree. Mint would do well to replace the Kickoff application launcher with the Mintmenu that is used in the Gnome versions of Mint.

That would improve the experience tenfold for me. Others who enjoy the Kickoff launcher might disagree.

Given all this, and also the inclusion of nice touches like having Wine pre-installed leads me to be generous and give it a 4/5 for User Friendliness.

User Friendliness 4/5!

Q-Rating

As always, this is the part of my reviews where the rubber hits the road, let me try and break down for you guys:

Likes

  • Look and feel is AWESOME.
  • Nice touches make your life easier.
  • Distro is rock solid – openSUSE and Mandriva Spring KDE is still a bit better in this department though.

Dislikes

  • WEP support lacking.
  • WIFI setup is a pain.
  • One or two software related problems.
  • Should have used Mintmenu instead of Kickoff launcher.

Other Factors

  • It scored highest of all in the 23part test.
  • Overall a good OS.

Linux Mint over the years has improved greatly. With the recent launch of Mint Debian there is an exciting new direction for Mint. Mint endears itself to the user in such a way that it is often very hard to criticize the OS. It has been, and is continuing to be, a fresh look at how Linux can be done. While it still might fall a little behind the likes of Mandriva in some departments, it is a clear indication of what (K)Ubuntu might have been had it not been shackled by a need to satisfy certain laws and regulations.

Thus I give Linux Mint 9 KDE a solid 4/5.

Q Rating is 4/5 for Linux Mint

Disqualifier Rating – Lower is Better.

This is a new rating system. This is thanks to suggestions from commenters, among them some of those who commented below.

Even though an OS can score well in other areas, there might be something that can disqualify it completely from use for some, or even all, users.

In the case of the disqualifier rating less is better. A rating of zero here means that there is nothing that disqualifies an OS from use by all users, and then a disqualifier rating of FIVE out of five means that the OS is completely unsuited for use.

In the case of Linux Mint 9 KDE the disqualifying factor that weighs the strongest is the broken WEP support. According to on-line sources there are no problems for some, while others are having problems.

For me the problem is serious, I need to access WEP networks from time to time, and hence this renders Linux Mint 9 KDE unsuitable for my daily use, good as it is.

I therefore give Linux Mint 9 KDE a disqualifier rating of THREE. Lack of WEP support is serious, but I have been getting away without it for about two months. Linux Mint 9 KDE is good enough in the other departments to preclude a total disqualification, and installing WICD cures the problem.

THREE OUT OF FIVE IT IS.

Disqualifier rating of THREE

Summary

Ahhh, Linux Mint 9 KDE – I am sad to leave you behind one of these days for Kubuntu. Even if it is for Kubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat.

There are better KDE4 Distros out there – Mandriva Spring and openSUSE are basically the only two – but few evoke the same feeling of joy that Mint does. It’s character lets you allow it to get away with things that you would fault other distros for, I have lived with the Wifi irritations for more than a month where with Mandriva and openSUSE it frustrated the heck out of me.

I still believe Mandriva Spring 2010 is the best KDE4 distro around today, and openSUSE just tops Mint9 KDE, but if you are willing to wait a few months I will bring you a review of Mint 10 KDE when it arrives.

I have a sneaky feeling that given the track record of the guys at Linux Mint there is a world beater on the horizon.

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