The next version of Linux Mint has reached the beta test stage. Reg took a look at what’s new.
Earlier this week, the Mint team released beta ISO images for the upcoming Linux Mint version 21, codenamed “Vanessa”. As with any version since Mint 17 in 2014, it is based on the latest Ubuntu LTS version. For Mint 21, it means 22.04, so even though this is a beta version, it is built of pretty solid components. The latest Mint blog describes some of the changes, and we also touched on some of them recently when we discussed the Timeshift backup tool.
As usual, there will also be editions with three different Windows-like desktops: one with Mint’s own Cinnamon version 5.4, one with MATE desktop forked from GNOME 2 and one with the lightweight Xfce desktop.
We tried all three versions in World Cups. Mint’s installation process is very smooth these days, and all three installed perfectly and worked fine, although they did not detect that they were running inside a VM – it did not even Driver Manager – so no variant offered features such as automatic scaling to fit to the window.
The Xfce version of Mint 21 shares its cool chunky icons with the other versions
In fact, it is striking how much alike all three are. All have the same muted color scheme, more restrained and tasteful than many distros. There is a friendly welcome screen which makes it easy to change the color scheme if you prefer and choose overall light or dark mode. This also provides easy access to updates, system snapshots and other handy tools. One of these is a Software Manager, which includes access to Flatpak’s Flathub repository, which means it includes useful proprietary freeware such as Chrome, Skype, Teams, and Steam.
It is worth noting that no apps are installed as Flatpak by default, but as we noted by Mint 20.3 – the latest release – Mint includes a built-in current version of Firefox, directly from Mozilla – unlike Ubuntu and in fact also unlike to Debian. Nor will it include the systemd-oomd tool, which has caused problems for other distros.
The MATE version of Mint 21 has a more customizable app launch menu, but otherwise it is strikingly similar
The Xfce edition remains the lightest, but only marginal. We saw it use 556 MB of RAM and 8 GB of disk when it was newly installed and updated. The MATE edition used 571 MB of RAM and 8.2 GB of disk, only slightly more, according to this recent comparison of resource consumption. Although MATE’s ancestor GNOME 2 was not a lightweight desktop in its day, it was a long time ago – GNOME 2 is 20 years old. In 2022, MATE and Xfce are closely comparable, and both are relatively light by modern standards.
Cinnamon, on the other hand, is a fork of GNOME 3, which uses 3D acceleration and composition to a great extent, although thanks to LLVMpipe it performs reasonably well on a fast 64-bit PC without hardware OpenGL acceleration. Cinnamon is a more complex desktop, and in the Mint 21 beta it uses slightly more RAM – 630 MB – than the other two, but only 7.9 GB disk.
Although Mint is a mature product and this is based on an LTS version of Ubuntu, it is still beta products. The figures for resource consumption may well change, and it would not be fair to measure performance. Suffice it to say that we did not encounter show-stop issues with any of the editions at all. The last few Mint blog posts suggest that the big effort now goes into testing upgrade and update functionality.
The Cinnamon desktop uses GNOME technology, so it’s better at hiDPI and fractional scaling, but it’s more clumsy to customize
There is one lot of overlap between the three desktops, however. Xfce is perhaps a bit more responsive in use, and it handles vertical panels the best of the three. If you prefer horizontal panels, MATE is highly customizable and works well. If you need fractional scaling or different screens with different scaling factors or refresh rates, Cinnamon handles them better.
Mint 21 is shaping up really well. If you want an effortless, hassle-free desktop operating system, perhaps to replace an old and crooked copy of Windows or a now unsupported Mac, it looks very likely that Mint 21 could be. ®