Kubuntu: Sorry, but we couldn't just pretend it doesn't exist…
Despite being part of the Ubuntu stable, Kubuntu rarely garners the same amount of coverage as its Gnome-based sibling. And that's a pity, because Kubuntu is a genuine candidate for being the best KDE distribution you can get your hands on.
The main reason for this is that the Kubuntu team spend a lot of time trying to integrate KDE's specific quirks and peculiarities into the Ubuntu desktop environment. You get to use KPackageKit for package installation, for example, and many of the KDE configuration panels can be used to change Ubuntu-specific options.
The fantastic network manager has always been top of the priority list, for example, and Kubuntu's version is the best we've seen for connecting to wireless networks on the go.
Our only real disappointment is that the default blue of the standard desktop is quite a contrast to the highly customised and themed version of Gnome that Ubuntu is famous for, and KDE could really do with getting a share of the attention.
Admittedly, you can change something like the backdrop yourself with just a few clicks, but it would be nice to see a professional team of designers tackle KDE's widget and window themeing engines.
Kubuntu's best feature is unofficial. It's the updated versions of KDE that appears in the PPA repositories. These are the best packages we've found for keeping KDE up to date, which is especially important when so many changes are still being made.
Even the latest release of KDE, version 4.3.2, was available for Jaunty through the PPA, and thanks to improvements made in Karmic Koala, adding PPA repositories to your current package manager has never been easier.
A solid desktop, brilliant packages and a good stream of updates help make Kubuntu a serious contender.
OpenSUSE: Forget brown and blue, green is the new colour for your desktop
Another mainstream distribution that has always taken care to bundle KDE is OpenSUSE. It's also one of the few distributions that takes the trouble to create its own artwork for the KDE desktop, and version 11.2 in particular makes great use of OpenSUSE green with KDE's new Air theme.
It's the best we've seen, and we think the most beautiful KDE desktop available from a standard distribution. OpenSUSE even hosts a useful 'Getting Started with KDE' guide, but if you're installing from the live CD, you'll need to make sure you have more than 1GB of RAM for the installation to work.
Even in these times of supercheap RAM this seems a touch excessive. We blame OpenSUSE's all-singing, all-dancing config tool, Yast.
Beyond the graphics, OpenSUSE features plenty of usability tweaks too. Despite using the new launch menu, for example, the version that bundles with OpenSUSE forgoes the hover-over switching of the original, and removes the backwards arrow in a successful bid to add some much needed clarity.
You still have to resort to one of the clunky Yast control panels to change settings, although you have a choice when changing screen resolution, as the original KDE tool is still present.
On the desktop, there's the usual array of Plasmoids, although 11.2 is the first time we've seen the World Clock addition.
As you'd expect from a company that's made a considerable investment with OpenOffice.org developers, the office suite is well tailored for the KDE desktop, including icons and file requesters. It's easy to see why OpenSUSE has jumped to KDE as the default desktop.
A distribution where the KDE desktop gets the same amount of love as Gnome does in Ubuntu.