Additionally, there are also several special flavours that serve specific purposes, such as the minimal CoreCDX, and the HardenedServer based on a Gentoo Hardened kernel, for instance.

Although Sabayon is a rolling distribution, the developers have tweaked it to make the experience easily digestible for new users. Installation is handled by the re-branded Anaconda installer created by the Fedora distro. Also, the 64-bit images of newer versions are bootable on SecureBoot-enabled systems.

On the distro's website, you'll find lots of documentation relevant to a first-time user, including a step-by-step installation guide, and a detailed FAQ.

Verdict: The distro delivers all the power and slickness of Gentoo in a well-rounded and pleasingly user-friendly desktop package.

Rating: 9/10

Linux Mint

Linux Mint

Since it's 2006 debut, Linux Mint has slowly been crawling up everyone's list of favourite desktop distros. One of the major reasons for the distro's success is that, despite being based on Ubuntu, its default desktop is much more traditional than Ubuntu's controversial Unity interface.

Linux Mint offers users a choice of two Gnome-based environments, which it has dubbed Mate and Cinnamon. Mate is designed to be a faithful continuation of the out-dated Gnome 2 desktop. Cinnamon is a more modern affair, with a neat menu that gives access to all the system's settings and applications in one place.

The distro is also pre-loaded with a full complement of audio and video codecs, and has an impressive Software Manager.

Verdict: A simple to install and polished desktop that works out of the box. Ideal if the divisive Unity rubs you the wrong way.

Rating: 9/10

Rosa

Rosa

The distro is developed by the Moscow-based Rosa Labs that had worked on Mandriva's last release. Rosa then forked Mandriva into a distro of its own.

Their main focus is the KDE desktop, but the distro also puts out Gnome-based spins a few months after the KDE release. What sets Rosa apart from other Mandriva-based distros are the custom tools that make their KDE desktop unlike any other. They have a custom launcher and their own kickoff menu, which looks similar to Unity's Dash and Gnome 3's Activities menu.

In addition to the redesigned desktop, the distro also has a bunch of functionality improvements. The TimeFrame tool uses KDE's Nepomuk to visualise all your files, video, and music in a unique and appealing manner. The newer versions of the tool also support social networks, such as Facebook.

Verdict: Try it for the customised KDE desktop.

Rating: 9/10

Chakra

Chakra

It's arguably the best-looking KDE desktop distro, and it will work for most users straight out of the box. The distro was originally based on Arch Linux. It's a half-rolling release that, by its own admission, is meant for users who don't shy away from the CLI.

At the moment, its package manager is still under development, but it has an impressive fallback in the form of a bundles manager. The bundles are self-contained packages of popular apps that can be installed with a single click.

Installation is handled by its custom installer, that uses the KDE Partition Manager for partitioning the disk. It also has an impressive first-boot personaliser app.

Verdict: A very pleasing KDE desktop that helps you customise your working environment.

Rating: 8/10

Knoppix

Knoppix

Long-time Linux users fondly remember Knoppix as the first Linux live CD. The distro includes all kinds of open source software from Debian stable, testing and unstable repos. The distro is available in two versions - the Live CD image provides over 2GB of software and the DVD image manages to squeeze in well over 8GB of software.

In fact, it's the only live distro that contains three desktop environments - LXDE (default) as well as Gnome and KDE. On top of that there's also an officially supported variation intended for visually impaired users, that can also be used by computer newbies.