Ubuntu derivatives: 5 of the best Ubuntu-based distros

Kubuntu also includes its own package manager, Moun, and the HomeRun launcher, which runs full screen and is similar to Unity's Dash and Gnome's Activities.

The one spin that doesn't have any custom tools is Ubuntu Gnome. The distro includes the stock Ubuntu Software Center and is, in fact, missing some Gnome tools like the web browser and the Boxes virtualisation app. This is further confused by the fact that the distro includes two User Accounts apps, one from Gnome and from Ubuntu.


Ubuntu Gnome - 1/5
Kubuntu - 2/5
Lubuntu - 3/5
Bodhi Linux - 5/5
Zorin - 5/5

Configuration options


Most distros delegate the task of customising the desktop to the GUI. This is quite a disadvantage for Ubuntu Gnome as its default customisation settings will work for the average user but the more advanced Linux user will need to get additional tools to tweak their desktops. On the other end of the spectrum is KDE and its endless configuration options, which can be overwhelming.

Lubuntu also has lots of configuration options. There's an Openbox configuration manager and a customiser from the LXDE project. There are also different apps for modifying keyboard, mouse, monitor and power management etc.

Kubuntu, in contrast, doesn't have its own set of configuration tools like OpenSUSE's Yast or Mageia's Control Center.

Bodhi Linux lets users select a theme and a wallpaper to change the desktop layout. You can also load different desktop gadgets, such as battery and clock. There's a settings panel which you can use to change the wallpaper and theme of the desktop and apps, as well as adjust the number of virtual desktops, customise the menu, launchers, file manager, setup power management and so on.

Zorin is the only distro here that ships with the Ubuntu Tweak tool, and also uses the Ufw firewall app that can be configured with the gufw front-end.


Ubuntu Gnome - 2/5
Kubuntu - 4/5
Lubuntu - 4/5
Bodhi Linux - 4/5
Zorin - 4/5

The verdict


All the distros in this roundup use a different desktop environment and some even target a totally different user base. Logically then, If you're a KDE user you should be using Kubuntu; if you want a distro for the old machine gathering dust in the attic, pick Lubuntu.

Unfortunately the same logic doesn't apply to Ubuntu Gnome. The current release of the distro (13.04) is handicapped by the fact that its parent still uses the older Gnome 3.6 release, forcing it to do the same. While this might not stop fans of Gnome and Ubuntu manually pulling the latest Gnome desktop from the PPA, we can't recommend the stock distro to inexperienced Linux users.

A stock Bodhi Linux release also necessitates a visit to the package manager, but the distro's online app store and its package management system makes the process really simple and straightforward. Plus Bodhi lets users select from several desktop layouts and thanks to the distro's minimal hardware requirements you can run it on virtually any computer.

A view to a kill

The winner of the roundup and by a comfortable margin is Zorin OS (named after the Bond villain Max Zorin). The distro successfully uses its Ubuntu core to create a ready-to-use Linux desktop that will also appeal to users coming from different operating systems.

While the default look of the Zorin desktop mimics Windows 7, fans of Gnome 2 can change the desktop to appear and function like their favourite desktop, with a single click.

The distro is packed with applications for the average desktop user and as well as the freely available Core edition, the distro produces several premium editions (starting at €7) tailored for particular use. For example, the Business edition has tools for accounting, book-keeping, stock analysis etc.

Other premium editions include Gaming, Multimedia and an Ultimate edition that contains - as you might expect - all the tools included in the other editions.

Final scores

Ubuntu Gnome - 1/5

Lubuntu - 3/5

Kubuntu - 4/5

Bodhi Linux - 4/5

Zorin - 5/5

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.