When one thinks about open-source desktop OSes, the buck stops at Linux. The Linux kernel has spawned numerous use case-specific distros; Ubuntu and elementary OS continue to be some of the best options available in the Linux universe.
While both distros continue to command respect, nonetheless, they continue to battle it out on the battlefield. Both distros have unique points of mention, which make them stand out in their respective categories.
Here’s a comparison between Ubuntu and elementary OS to make your decision simpler.
Ubuntu delivers a highly functional system with a GNOME-based desktop environment into your hands. The default desktop environment establishes a stable and performant Linux system.
GNOME Shell extensions and Tweaks tool further help you customize the Ubuntu desktop as per your liking. Ubuntu is versatile enough to serve multiple use cases, from casual computing to serious programming.
elementary OS runs the Pantheon desktop environment, based on the Vala and GTK3 toolkit. Pantheon, as a desktop, offers a fresh and customizable desktop outlook. You can get around faster in Pantheon with its intuitive keyboard shortcuts.
The multitasking view helps you populate various desktop views with different application groupings based on your usage. If you are transitioning from macOS, you will fall in love with the translucent menus and clutter-free desktop approaches.
Pantheon offers rapid adaptability to Windows and Mac users alike.
Software Repositories and Package Managers
Ubuntu brings in a huge software repository that easily outshines other contemporary distros. The Ubuntu repository provides the essential software required for your desktop to function appropriately, and a lot more. Everything else is available with Personal Package Archives (PPAs).
You can install any software from the official repository with either apt-get or apt. Be wary of Ubuntu’s recommended snap applications, lest your desktop gets bogged down by bloatware. Nonetheless, they are safer than non-snap installations.
elementary OS brings forth a large software repository through its AppCenter. elementary’s out-of-the-box software support will help you kickstart productivity right off the bat.
AppCenter dispenses a resourceful repository including both free and pay-what-you-want software certified stable for the distro.
Its strictness for native software support, user privacy, and security guarantee a reliable app store for the end-users.
User Interface and Experience
Ubuntu’s UI resembles its flagship Unity desktop environment. The modernized menus, icons, and color schemes make Ubuntu’s UX fluid and accessible.
This feature plays into Ubuntu’s workflow enhancements. Instead of replicating Windows and Mac-based UX nuances, the distro rethinks desktop computing by selectively integrating the best qualities from both OSes.
You can access activities, notifications, system settings, date and time, etc., directly from the desktop task panel available at the top. The Activities panel is malleable enough to allow switching between virtual workspaces.
The GNOME environment dispenses a customizable desktop with tweaks, enhancements, and themes available to spruce up your system.
It’s no secret that elementary OS borrows aesthetic UI/UX qualities from macOS. The vibrant icons and menus create a subtle balance between productive functionalities and visual appeal.
Since the distro is GNOME/Ubuntu-based, elementary OS has adopted a dark-styled theme that enables it to deliver a more elegant experience. The desktop environment renders a performant UI that easily outshines other contemporary distros.
Release Cycles & Staying Up-to-Date
Ubuntu treats you with the latest software repository and distro enhancements in its LTS releases every two years. You also get to enjoy unwavering support for the next five years, even if you do not upgrade to its successor versions.
The benefit of this feature is that you always have access to older software versions on the repo for a more stable, compatible operating environment.
You can access the non-LTS “interim” releases every six months and a new OS version every nine months. However, non-LTS Ubuntu users must wait for the parallel LTS release before specific bugs and issues are addressed.
elementary does not offer any set release cycles for its new versions. The developers follow a release-when-ready model, which means that as soon as a new version is ready, it is rolled out for the wider masses.
The previous release cycles have been somewhat erratic, and have not followed a specific release cycle between each of their versions. The latest version 6.1 Jólnir was released on Dec 20, 2021, and it continues to be supported till April 2025.
Privacy and Security Features
As an Ubuntu user, it’s imperative for you to know that your user and behavioral data is shared with Canonical. While this primarily includes software usage and computing data, those hard-pressed about privacy may wish to reconsider their Ubuntu usage.
In the long run, you can rest assured that this data collection activity aims to optimize the overall distro, including its security. Under data statutes, Canonical doesn’t monetize your data for advertisements.
elementary OS’s privacy model is a tremendous step-up over Ubuntu’s privacy features. The developers optimize the distro based on community feedback and Ubuntu’s improvements. Canonical does not collect user data, as a part of its privacy disclosure policy.
GNOME demands memory to a tune of 750MB in an idle state. As the customizations (extensions and visual improvements) increase, so does resource consumption.
Ubuntu is not ideally a lightweight OS, especially if you want to run it on low-end hardware configurations. Nonetheless, its performance is a sight worth beholding on moderate to high-end systems. You can also try out its other flavors, like Xubuntu, Kubuntu, or Lubuntu if you want a more lightweight desktop out-of-the-box.
Despite Pantheon’s bulkiness, elementary OS aims to boost performance while hanging low on memory consumption. elementary OS consumes about 500MB worth of memory resources when it’s idle, which continues to be a drastic improvement over its upstream source.
Additionally, you can turn off the distro’s flashy animations if you are fussy about appearance.
elementary OS vs. Ubuntu: Which Is the Best Linux Distro?
elementary OS is a general-purpose, open-source Linux distro that serves basic desktop computing and works well for meeting advanced needs. It is one of the more popular and unanimously adopted Ubuntu derivatives in the market currently. It is incredibly customizable, and privacy-oriented, with many Ubuntu-derived perks.
On the other hand, Ubuntu is also a free distro and a dedicated competitor within the league of premium desktop OS solutions. It is user-friendly for Linux newcomers and is immensely stable and tech-supported.
So which distro will you choose today?
Looking for a new Linux experience? Learn about the best Linux distros for all user levels, from beginner to expert.
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