back to article We tested all the Ubuntu remixes for resource usage so you don't have to

The Reg FOSS desk has lined up the official Ubuntu remixes to see which ones hog the most or least of your computer's resources. Whenever Linux users get together, an eternally popular subject for advocacy (which is the polite word for arguments) is desktops. Here at The Reg FOSS desk, we're as complicit as anyone. But oddly …

  1. Tom 7

    I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

    It seems it runs under a VM I'd get more details but my third new EE router in the last 2 weeks wont connect to the LAN2 for some reason.

    However IIRC it stopped upgrading for a few years and then one day I booted it up to see what I could do with it offered me a distribution upgrade and off it went. It say something about smallest Kube of something on log in but its low priority to get it back online.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

      Later Atoms support x86-64: some post-2012 models, including the "Diamondville" and "Pineview" cores.

      You *also* need 64-bit firmware and a 64-bit chipset.

      However, the original netbooks, such as the Asus EEE series, do not have x86-64 and cannot run any version of Ubuntu since 2019. That was when the last Ubuntu remixes dropped x86-32 support.

      Not even under a hypervisor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

        LMDE5 still has a 32-bit edition so that could be an option for really old netbooks.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

          Yes it does, and I mentioned LMDE 5 in this story. :-)

          LMDE 5 is *not* a lightweight distro, though. I'd only recommend it for a fast box with a hardware 3D GPU and a big fast disk. Perhaps a machine which has 3 or 4 GB of RAM and it would cost a significant amount to expand that.

          As I said in the article, for a low-end machine such as a 32-bit Atom which is maxed out with 2GB of RAM -- because I own such a device myself -- then I recommend the Raspberry Pi Desktop OS.

          It's good, it's light, it's fast, it comes with the essential tools and a nice desktop. It takes very little RAM and it's based on Debian so it's easy to add other apps.

          If you have the skills and are not afraid to roll your sleeves up, the other option would be the x86-32 variant of Alpine Linux. I am planning to try this myself but it will take more time than I have had to spare recently.

          1. Steve Graham

            Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

            My "musicbox" is an Acer netbook with a 32-bit Atom N270 and 1Gb of RAM. My music collection currently fits in the 150Gb disk.

            It's running Devuan stable, but I've been considering what to do if they drop 32-bit. I have downloaded Raspberry Pi Desktop and booted it in a VM, and it seems fine, but to be honest, probably a more cost-effective and longer-term solution is to buy an actual Raspberry Pi.

            Pi 4s are unobtainable new (Farnell are showing lead times of a year) but a decent second-hand Pi 3 would be a major step up in power.

            1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

              Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

              The Pi 3 is not very powerful. I know, I have a couple of 'em. More cores, yes, but cores are not great for everything.

              I rather like Devuan but it's not actually very lightweight. The old guard do dislike systemd, but to be fair, not because it's big or slow, because it isn't.

              Alpine is considerably lighter and equally systemd-free.

          2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

            Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

            I'd suggest 32-bit Void before Alpine, and 32-bit Peppermint OS instead of LMDE.

            1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

              Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

              Void is not at all bad, but one thing to look out for is that the light weight of Void is partly down to musl libc instead of glibc -- and the 32-bit editions are glibc-only.

              TBH I am not much impressed by Peppermint. YMMV, of course.

        2. gpsblake

          Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

          I got a few old HP Mini that use the Atom N210 chip, aka 32 bit. The choices of 32 bit distros is very thin and nearly all are now based directly on Debian. However, not all things are equal. The two I recommend for 32 bit computers.

          1. Antix - the lightest of them all, but it's quirky out of the box, but also a lot of fun.

          2. MX Linux - probably the preferred choice, light enough for Atom based 32 bit computers but a fully featured OS.

          3. Lubuntu or Xubuntu 18.04 - it's still supported for 32 bit, you'll get all the latest web browsers, security updates and such. Official Ubuntu LTS support ends April 2023 BUT you can sign up for free ELTS support and it should be good until 2028.

          4. Plain Debian - get your hands dirty but if you get all the drivers running, this is an option for those who want to tinker around.

          Mint 32 bit is a bit heavy on a Atom based processor BUT you can always install LXDE, XFCE or something lighter and switch to that with the backbone of Mint.

      2. druck Silver badge

        Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

        The later Atoms do run 64 bit OS's, but with limited cache and memory sizes they run noticeably slower than 32 bit OS.

        I dual booted Linux Mint 32 bit and 64 bit variants on an old Atom N450 netbook until 32 bit was dropped after version 19. The 32 bit OS being just about usable on such a low spec machine, the 64 bit OS was actually a little quicker when first booted, but then a lot slower when a few applications were running - the maximum of 2GB of RAM being the real killer.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

          I can believe that.

          In theory, x86-64 suffers less from the x86 family's notorious register starvation than does x86-32.

          Long ago I saw some close analyses of this and yes, for things which are memory-intensive, for example manipulating large image files (i.e. in the gigabyte file size range, things which nearly fill the memory space available to a single x86-32 binary -- which means 2 or 3G depending on OS) then x86-64 is measurably and noticeably faster _if all other factors are kept the same_.

          But it's also bigger. So if you are short of space, that's bad.

          Given that I know Mr Ruck here and that he is more than proficient enough, I'd probably suggest trying x86-32 Alpine Linux. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it ran on an old Core 2 Duo in testing.

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

            Thanks Liam, when it next appears from the old laptop graveyard under the sofa, I'll give that a try.

            I think our his & hers EEE PCs are still under there too, last seen running Debian 8 with LDXE, so might see if they'll run x86 Raspbian.

      3. Tom 7

        Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

        I'd always assumed it was just a 32 bit jobbie! I bought it for its lack of power consumption! It was probably 2019 that is stopped updating until the 20.04 (or so) when it offered an upgrade and installed a Snap or something to get it running.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

          Sounds like a 32-bit box, then.

          Try Raspian.

    2. Toe Knee

      Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

      MX Linux isn't "lightweight", per se, but it does have 32 bit support. It also has a really good (IMHO) implementation of vertical panels in XFCE...

      1. nautica Silver badge

        Re: I've got Xubuntu 20.4 running on an Atom. So I guess Lubuntu could too.

        It's important to remember that this is only a comparison of Ubuntu re-spins.

        It is just as important to remember that 32-bit machines have NOT been relegated to the dust-bin simply because one distro developer decides to no longer support 32-bit; there are many distros which still do, and in an elegant fashion; and legions of people who still use 32-bit machines because they "just work"...and work very well.

        "MX Linux MX-18 & 10-year-old EeePC netbook - Fantastic"

        "Updated: April 1, 2019"

        "...It's fast and responsive. LibreOffice, which wouldn't even start previously, opens within about 10 seconds..."

        "...remember, this is a 10-year-old machine that until three weeks ago was destined for scrap. Now it's chirping melodies and videos, I'm using the latest software just fine. Only 280-290 MB memory footprint.

        ...MX Linux MX-18.1 Continuum has restored life to my netbook. It runs beautifully fast, it's elegant, loaded with real, practical goodies. The tremendous part is really the speed. This mini-laptop was weak even when I bought it, but to be able to keep using it in a nice fashion a decade later is truly an achievement."

        or read it here .

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Thank you for the report

    This kind of thing is time-consuming and not really easy to do, so thank you for the effort and the information.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Thank you for the report


      You're welcome. It was quite a big job.

      I'd _like_ to include performance info as well, but that would mean installing them all on bare metal, which would have taken about a week longer, and really would require a well-equipped testing lab, which sadly El Reg does not have.

      1. quxinot

        Re: Thank you for the report

        Even without a bare metal test, it's nice to see, as I'm in the process of using up spare parts to build a machine to play with--which oddly, requires ordering more spare parts, as it would be clearly terrible if I ran out [this may be tongue-in-cheek, but anyone with a big stockpile of spares knows this as it's why we have so many spares!].

        If nothing else it makes me think that I'll do some back-to-back playi... testing, myself. I was going to just stick Mint with MATE on it, but it raises my awareness that I haven't run Lubuntu for awhile and have never tried Ubuntu with MATE, so I'll have to have a good tinkering session to see how it goes.

        Thanks for that!

  3. Arkeo

    Keep it up fella!

    Very, very nice job! Would it be possible for this to become a sort of continuing series? Like, for example, how do the Mint flavours compare to Ubuntu, all in the same chart? And also, since IIRC it's also .deb based, what about KDE Neon? It would be a cool, very comprehensive guide useful to many of us...

    Cheers! :)

    1. NATTtrash

      Re: Keep it up fella!

      And a big "Thank you" from this side of the globe too, Liam!

      Really curious what the picture will be if we go into slightly more diverse comparisons.

      With the danger of starting a ranting flame war: curious to see how the sysD and sans-sysDs of this world compare...

      For what it's worth: I agree on the locale settings BTW. It does require some fiddling if your location, linguistic abilities and prefs, and hardware aren't bog standard. But then again, just leave it to users to find a way to mess up something in ways never imagined (moi included). Am amazed every time however how many locale variations of en_** there are...

      1. Arkeo

        Re: Keep it up fella!

        Oh man, if we ever ask Liam to do such a comparison (+ or - SysD) it would bottle him up for about a year! :)

        Good thought though -- but then all of these comparisons should be made on bare metal, not a VM...

        You piqued our attention very much Liam, with celebrity come responsibilities! :)

        Better get an early start! ;)


    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Keep it up fella!

      I agree on the Mint comparisons. I've got a bunch of mostly low end machines that I've been running Mint MATE on, but now it's time to upgrade to Mint 21, I'm wondering if the Xfce version might squeeze out a bit more performance.

      Any spare RAM will just be gobbled up by Chrome though, so it's probably moot.

      1. Arkeo

        Re: Keep it up fella!

        Sounds like Liam has got a bunch of stuff to do! :)

      2. Arkeo

        Re: Keep it up fella!

        Why not Firefox?

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Keep it up fella!

          Because the customer wanted Chrome.

          Although, I have to admit that administering Chrome is a lot easier, you can set policies for basically everything with just a json file in the right place. More importantly, it's really well documented.

      3. Arkeo

        Re: Keep it up fella!

        Mint DE (Debian Edition) is not bad... Cinnamon + Debian current, it works pretty well, at least for me... :)

        Nice modern desktop, the most stable kernel you can get AND all of the drivers! :)

  4. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

    Well, at the current frequency, once every 9 years, yes, I can do that. ;-)

    1. picturethis

      The future, so unpredictable

      Hmmm, have you ever thought about what you'll be doing 9 years from now? Or maybe, what you want to be doing...

      1. Arkeo

        Re: The future, so unpredictable

        I believe that in 9 years I'm gonna be dead, so I don't worry that much :)

  5. 3arn0wl

    A "Thank you" from me too.

    Perversely : I've come to prefer the minimalist look, and rather like Xubuntu for that.

    (I still mourn the passing of Unity though... That seemed to work okay on my 2007 MacBook.)

  6. pavel.petrman

    Surprised by Kubuntu's comparatively small memory footprint

    For some years I've been using KDE Plasma on nearly all my desktops, usually fairly recent (3 to 12 years) with enough memory (8 to 64 GiB), so I haven't been giving the KDE's memory footprint much thought. But I've always suspected it must be quite resource heavy, with all that functionality (in my view KDE is functionally on par with modern Windows, with which it can't be easily compared for Windows' default preloading of favourite programs and DLLs).

    Now I'm pleased to learn that KDE actually requires way less memory than Gnome, and actually has the smallest but one memory footprint of all tested variants. Well done KDE.

    And thank you, Liam Proven, for the test!

    1. Zolko Silver badge

      Re: Surprised by Kubuntu's comparatively small memory footprint

      KDE is functionally on par with modern Windows

      I think it's way over Windows. And actually even macOS.

      The kwin window manager can do all the things and more than Windows or macOS: multiple desktops (how can anyone do anything useful without that ?), presenting windows (no more taskbar !), nice translucent effects, highly customizable, rock solid (I measure uptimes in week or months), detects and connects any external monitor (how many times did I see Mac users struggle and give up on presentations) ...

      The dolphin file-manager is without concurrence, and can show remote directories (FTP, sftp, smb ...) as if they were local, whereas you need extra software to do this in Windows or MacOS (Cyberduck, FileZilla...).

      The Kmail + Korganizer + Kontact suite is professional grade mail and calendar and adress-book application. May-be not better but as good as its counterparts.

      To see now that they do this all with a reduced RAM footprint is quite impressive.

      1. pavel.petrman

        Re: Surprised by Kubuntu's comparatively small memory footprint

        Actually, I'm with you on that one, I just didn't want to start a flame war. To be fair, I find the preloading function on Windows 10 quite effective. If I find the time, I'll try to switch it off on my work PC to get an idea what is the actual memory requirement of Windows itself.

    2. druck Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Surprised by Kubuntu's comparatively small memory footprint

      KDE was known as memory hog when the machines RAM was still measured in MB rather than KB, but rather than shrinking their footprint what they have done is resist the bloat that the others, particular gnome, seems to have acquired over the years.

      Back in the 2000's I used to run KDE on the high spec machines at work, but my more modest home system struggled, which lead me too picking Mate desktop. But well done to the KDE developers for opening up the choice of desktops to all classes of machine.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge


    It geo-located the test machine to Prague, which is correct, and installed Czech localization, which isn't – we picked English as the system language

    If you're running English in a non-English country you might want a localisation that defaulted to the local currency and metric measurements but maybe you might not want local numeric separators.

    The easiest way is to switch to Ireland's localisation. Windows 10 has got something called English (Europe) but a lot of software gets confused by it.

    1. DrSunshine0104

      Re: Localisation

      I wish some of the big DE (I think GNOME in particular) were a bit more flexible on locales without cli/manual intervention. I live in the States, so number/currency I want in US, but I prefer CA/UK spelling, with ISO dates/time. Also Monday is the first day of week.

      Oh well, once you set it you shouldn't have to change it. Though I had trouble with locale-ctl not holding my settings between boots, probably user error but it is systemd.

      1. Arkeo

        Re: Localisation

        I think you're absolutely right. If I'm not mistaken this incredibly stupid "locales" thing was actually first implemented by Windows. But even if I'm wrong about that, i *really* understand your point:

        I live in Italy, so my keyboard layout *must* be Italian. But for the GUI I prefer US English. But I want my clock as a regular 24hrs EU clock, I don't wanna see 3pm, I wanna see 15.00 -- but hey, you chose US English!

        I'm mystified, who is the idiot that came up with this system? Especially in the EU, many Countries using English as a "lingua franca", very much like Latin in the Middle Ages -- for simplicity's sake we choose US English as the default language for the GUI, but all the other parameters should be *easily* adjustable by the user... MHO

        Cheers! :)

        1. gggeek

          Re: Localisation

          @arkeo I used to do the same as you. After living for a few years in the UK, I started preferring to default to british english everywhere. Lo and behold, I found out that the british locale has settings closer to italian taste than the US one for almost everything.You do not need to fall into the trap of letting "US english" become the defacto universal choice only because that's where a lot of software houses are headquartered...

          1. Arkeo

            Re: Localisation

            You're right, although I never tried English/UK myself (does it have am/pm for ex?)... I defaulted to US English since System 7.1 on a Classic, way back in '92 I think... But my point is fairly simple: all this "locale" stuff makes things much more complicated, especially for bi or tri-lingual users -- ie, keyboard layout, GUI language, date and time should be separate settings, easily modifiable by the user...

          2. Arkeo

            Re: Localisation

            Strangely enough, Android works much better (with GBoard) -- everything is in US English, time is set to 24 hours, and I only need to long-press space to switch input between EN, IT or ES...

        2. margu

          Re: Localisation

          I agree. I want English as language but Swedish locales and keyboard. This is something I think is difficult too configure with Ubuntu. After some tweeking I almost got it right, but Gnome just does not respect my preferences everywhere. This is the reason I finally gave up and switched to KDE (kubuntu). I still have some ugly formatted dates somewhere, but this is the best I can do with *ubuntu. I also have an installation of OpenSuse and there it just works the way I want it without any effort. I just don't understand why Ubuntu and Gnome are so inflexible and bad to handle locales.

    2. Arkeo

      Re: Localisation

      You're right. I just have to change the keyboard layout to Italian but everything else works just fine by just selecting English/Ireland (24 hours, the € and whatnot) -- but it is a bit absurd, would you agree? Really, some devs should *actually* read the old Macintosh User Interface Guidelines. I'll buy a copy on eBay and give it as gift, as long as this madness stops...

  8. Sin2x

    Lubuntu backports is two full releases newer than vanilla -- 1.0 and 1.1 after 0.17. I would say that begs a retest.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      I do take your point, but I was intentionally testing something as baseline as possible across all the remixes. So, no VBox guest additions, no extra drivers, etc.

      TBH I am very surprised that they shipped such an old version. I mean, LXQt came out *last year*.

      They have had abundant time.

      OTOH, the vertical-taskbar functionality is broken in LXQt 1.0, and LXQt 1.1 came out just a couple of weeks before 22.04.

      I could understand reluctance to ship a one-point-zero version of anything.

      It is worth pointing out that only the vanilla GNOME Ubuntu is technically an LTS: if you want Canonical's paid support, that is what you must run. Remixes do not qualify, official or not.

      As such, I think it would be perfectly fine to ship LXQt 1.0 in 22.04.1 and LXQt 1.1 in 22.04.2, which is due next February.

      1. Arkeo

        Liam, I think you're doing an extremely wonderful job, really! In any way it is possible for you, please keep it up, it's fantastic!

        Cheers fella, keep going! :)

  9. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Bodhi is probably the most minimal unofficial spin

    As title, and they're also preparing a 32-bit version, but it will be Debian-based.

  10. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Article upvote

    I wish I could upvote the article, and not just comments.

    I want to do the same as others and say a big "Thank you" to Liam for this article. Good work, and very much part of the choice of things I like to see on El Reg.

    Perhaps the article author(s) could place a first comment when the article is published that acts as a proxy for the article that commentators could vote up or down as they wish?


    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Article upvote

      I was delighted to read that. I am very happy people are enjoying it and finding it useful.

      Re the Slashdot-esque "frist p0st" idea... That would require something of a hair trigger on our part! ;-)

      I think the idea of upvoting _articles_ is great, though, and I will put it to the Powers that Be.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Article upvote

        IIRC we used to be able to up/down vote most articles here (except Andrew Orlowski's), but that practice ended with one of the site redesigns.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Article upvote

        I also like the idea of voting for articles.

        It would give useful feedback to The Register and the article authors.


  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sceptical ingestion

      Code for Broke,

      A simple 'google' finds in the first result the following:


      skŏf, skôf

      intransitive verb

      To eat (food) quickly and greedily.To eat greedily.To show or express derision or scorn.

      The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.


      This means that your less than polite comment is somewhat erroneous in its content and intent.

      (Well done knowing, at least, some of the meaning of the word !!!)

      Scoff is not just an americanism, I am sure I have read it being used in 'The Beano' comic of yesteryear.

      Perhaps, checking the ground you stand on is always justified before you take aim at others.

      I suspect that this was missed as you were too busy placing your 'whole' foot in your mouth !!!



      Comments on my Grammar and English sentence construction will be redundant, as I am well aware of my failings in this arena and do not care if it annoys you/others. !!!



      Have a nice day, y'all !!!! :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sceptical ingestion

        Scoff is not just an americanism, I am sure I have read it being used in 'The Beano' comic of yesteryear.

        So much so that I didn't even know it was an Americanism! It's certainly in common use in that context in my neck of the woods - North west UK - and has been for as long as I can remember

  12. Duncan Macdonald

    Linux has grown !!!

    I remember many years ago installing Linux from floppies on a 386 - IIRC the system had the grand total of 16MB of RAM.

  13. DenTheMan

    Brilliant data

    For some of us , stuff like this is a must read.

    Those marketing their distributions either do not want you to know, or are wary of dissing more Ram hungry distributors.

    From comments,I suspect that the move towards 64 bit is a most unwelcome change, it giving too many negatives.

    1. nautica Silver badge

      Re: Brilliant data

      ..."From comments,I suspect that the move towards 64 bit is a most unwelcome change..."

      There exists very many valid technical reasons for the move to 64 bit, but it cannot be denied that not a small portion of the trend is due to a sizeable portion of the user base whose only claim to technical expertise lies in the phrase, and mentality characterized as "If it's not the latest, [which, unfortunately, includes "fastest", and "bigger than last time"] then it's simply no good".

      [A prime example of this "need-for-the-newest, AND RIGHT NOW" mentality was on display recently in a weekly poll of a venue called "Distrowatch". The poll consisted of a question similar to "When a new distro version comes out, do you run the "x.0" version immediately, or do you wait for a later 'point release' which will likely have some of the initial bugs worked out?. Yep; you guessed it: the VERY largest majority of the respondents replied that they IMMEDIATELY run the "x.0" version]

      This mental set is one of the major contributors to Linux distro developers feeling like they absolutely must churn out a newer, bigger, faster, more feature-filled and burdened version than the bug-laden version of just six months ago. This is also the reason that the inevitable bugs and regressions do not and cannot be fixed---there's simply not time to perform the validation testjng and Q-A which would have been done in the past, and which, rightfully, ought to be done now. Your well-thought-out and meticulously documented bug reports are now handled via the simple expedient of being ignored. Distro developers now have no choice,

      Perhaps we all need to quit putting this kind of pressure on the distribution developers.

  14. stuff and nonesense

    Does it run Sounblaster Z

    I try new Linux installs each year, pc config has gone from B450 to B550, processor from 2700x to 5900x, gpu from AMD390 to 2060 and now 3070. The constant has been a Soundblaster Z.

    Everything I’ve used has been recognised, installed and run. One problem has been constant, no analogue audio. I’ve read that this has been patched, applied the instructions diligently, got all excited as I rebooted only to be deflated as no sound is heard.

    Everything works under windows.. 7 through to 11, omitting 8.

    Any gurus got any clues?

    Oh, I forgot, no errors are seen just no audio..

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