8 of the best KDE distributions

Sabayon: The only distro with a demo of World of Goo on the desktop

Following Ubuntu's lead, many distributions offer a KDE version as an alternative download, and Sabayon is one of the best and most popular. Installation is through a GTK looking application that should guide you from the live CD to an installed desktop in under 20 minutes.

Annoyingly, KDE's standard System Settings panel can't be found in the settings menu, which left us floundering for the screen resolution tool before we could use the desktop. (The application can be found on the 'Computer' page of the menu, in a nod to Microsoft Windows.)

Sabayon also bundles its own package manager, called Sulfur. This is a mixture of download agent and configuration tool, and it enables you to see exactly what's changing and where when you install a new package. It's a great addition, but it's likely to scare newbies away.


It's easy to see the intended audience for the distribution, with quick links to KDE's IRC client, torrent download application and VLC all available from the launch menu, and the cool kids of the internet are going to love the black and shiny livery of the desktop.

OpenOffiice.org is a mixture of Crystal-like icons with the old GTK file requester, and Gnome's update manager is lurking in the toolbar. and all actions require a double-click, rather than the singe-click of most KDE desktops. Firefox comes augmented by a few extensions such as FastFox, Google Preview and Stumble Upon.

With no file manager immediately obvious, either through the launch menu or a link to your home directory on the desktop, KDE beginners might find the Sabayon desktop a little intimidating, which is our lasting impression of this distribution.

Verdict: Sabayon
Version: 5.0
Website: www.sabayonlinux.org

A powerful, good-looking distribution that's tailored for KDE power users.

Rating: 7/10

PCLinuxOS 2009.2: KDE Revisited

We've always liked PCLinuxOS, even going back to its predistribution days as a series of packages for Mandriva. But when PCLinuxOS 2009.2 was released at the end of June, we were just as surprised as most people to find that this KDE based distribution was still clinging to KDE 3.5 like the crew of a sinking ship.

As much as we can understand the sentiment, it's now time to move on. KDE 4 has been promised for the 2009.3 release, but as yet, this hasn't appeared. But PCLOS is still worth a look because we love the desktop and there are official instructions on how to upgrade to 4 in the PCLOS forums.

PC linux

KDE 4 on PCLOS is a great environment. There's still the old launch menu in the bottom-left corner, the Folder View takes over the complete desktop, and the Utilities folder is a nice touch. Hold your mouse over it and a window appears with the contents of the utilities menu easily accessible.

It's a little like stacks in OS X, and the only thing that spoils it is that it only takes one click to mess up the display – but that's KDE's fault, and perhaps vindication for PCLOS's reluctance to upgrading to KDE 4 before now.

You still get Mandriva's configuration and installation tools, which isn't a bad thing, while a distinctly GTK-looking AbiWord is the word processor of choice. Synaptic takes up the package management duties, and a link from the Utilities folder will install OpenOffice.org with a single click, which is a great idea.

We don't like the continual need to re-authenticate our root credentials though, and adding Google Gadgets through the Plasmoid window crashed Plasma – another problem with KDE.

Verdict: PCLinuxOS
Version: 2009.2
Website: www.pclinuxos.com

A great distribution that's hindered only by the lack of KDE 4 in the default installation.

Rating: 6/10