Need help deciding between Mint and Ubuntu? Let’s break down the key differences to help you choose the best distribution for your needs.
Suppose you’re looking to switch to a Linux-based operating system or are curious about the differences between two of the most popular distributions. In that case, you might wonder: Linux Mint or Ubuntu? Both are excellent choices for beginners and experienced users but, at the same time, have their unique features and advantages.
This comprehensive comparison will deeply dive into Linux Mint and Ubuntu, exploring their similarities and differences in the user interface, software availability, support, and more. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand which Linux distro best fit your needs and preferences. So, let’s get started!
What is Linux Mint?
Linux Mint is a popular, user-friendly Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It was created in 2006 by Clement Lefebvre to be easy for beginners and experienced users and provide a complete out-of-the-box experience, including multimedia codecs and proprietary drivers that are not included by default in most other Linux distributions.
The distro comes with several desktop environments, including its in-house developed flagship Cinnamon, MATE, and Xfce, which provide different looks and feels for the user interface. On top of that, Mint also includes a set of custom tools and utilities, such as the Software Manager, Update Manager, and System Settings, to make it easier for users to manage their systems and install new software.
In addition to its main release, which is based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint provides an LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition). Based on the Debian stable branch, it is being developed alongside the core Mint release to guarantee that if something happens to Ubuntu, Mint can continue to exist and give the same experience to its users as before. If you want to know more about it, here’s our review.
Over the years, Linux Mint has gained a reputation for being one of the most user-friendly and easy-to-use Linux distributions, especially for beginners or users with a Windows background.
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is a name that needs no detailed introduction, but let’s say a few words anyway. Based on Debian, with its initial 4.10 ”Warty Warthog” released in October 2004, for the last 19 years, Ubuntu has become probably the most popular and recognized Linux distribution in the world.
Developed and backed by Canonical Ltd., the distro is widely used in personal and enterprise environments and is known for its stability, security, and flexibility. In addition, it has a large community of developers and users who contribute to its development and provide support.
In addition, the distro offers a wide range of flavors or editions designed to cater to different user needs. These Ubuntu flavors differ mainly in their desktop environment, pre-installed software, and visual style. Some of them are Kubuntu (KDE Plasma Desktop), Xubuntu (Xfce Desktop), Lubuntu (LXQt Desktop), Ubuntu MATE (MATE Desktop), Ubuntu Budgie (Budgie Desktop), etc.
Thanks to Canonical’s strong financial backing and focus in recent years on the enterprise Linux segment, Ubuntu gained popularity among developers and cloud providers and nowadays is widely used as a platform for building and testing software applications.
Mint vs. Ubuntu: Desktop Environment
Desktop environments are one of the fundamental differences between the two distributions. As a significant component of the operating system with which the user interacts, the desktop environment could be the deciding factor in the Mint vs. Ubuntu debate.
Ubuntu relies on the GNOME desktop environment. However, because GNOME developers have different views about how users should interact with the desktop environment, Ubuntu developers have taken measures to bring back many things to normal in their operating system’s desktop interface.
For example, panel functionality is provided by a modified version of the Dash to Dock extension. At the same time, extensions have been added to Ubuntu’s GNOME implementation to provide desktop icons and system tray functionality.
These and other factors, like the decision to bundle the main browser, Firefox, as a Snap package, resulting in some limitations and performance issues, give the desktop experience an overall feeling of inconsistency.
Let’s see how things go with Linux Mint now. The distribution’s in-house developed Cinnamon – the Mint’s hallmark powered the desktop environment. It is something that users coming from Windows will feel right at home with.
Cinnamon provides users with everything they’ve come to expect from a desktop environment, with no surprises or unusual design concepts. You’ll find a panel with a built-in system tray area, a start menu, and all the other components you’d expect to see and function as expected.
Furthermore, the Cinnamon desktop environment, similar to the concept of the GNOME extensions, has so-called desklets – small graphical applications or widgets that can be placed on the desktop of the Linux Mint operating system.
Desklets can display various information, such as weather forecasts, system performance statistics, news headlines, notes, etc. They can be customized in size, appearance, and functionality and are easy to install and manage. Overall, the desklets are a fun and helpful way to enhance the functionality of the Mint desktop and make it more personalized and informative.
Returning to the main topic, Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu, we can conclude that, unlike Ubuntu’s modified GNOME, Mint’s Cinnamon provides a more consistent and straightforward user experience, making Linux Mint our recommendation for all users switching from other operating systems to Linux.
Performance is another key factor to consider when comparing two Linux distributions. Again, Linux Mint comes out on top. A comparison of memory utilization for Mint vs. Ubuntu on freshly booted systems is shown below.
The main culprit here is the desktop environment. Ubuntu makes use of GNOME, which is currently the most resource-intensive desktop environment used among Linux distributions. Cinnamon, on the other hand, is more user-friendly in terms of system resource utilization.
Yet, while the difference is negligible when using them on modern hardware, it is not the case when looking for a way to breathe new life into an older machine. There, Linux Mint will do better, while Ubuntu will result in a not-so-pleasant user experience.
Furthermore, Ubuntu includes a few extra services running in the background that are removed in Linux Mint, further contributing to making it the lighter of the two Linux distributions.
Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu: Software Sources
Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and thus uses its package base, the two distributions are nearly identical regarding available software. Additionally, Mint has its software repository called “Mint repository,” which contains some additional software packages not available in the Ubuntu repositories.
Furthermore, both rely on the APT package manager for software management. The big difference, however, comes in the additional software sources to which the distributions are oriented. To put it another way, Snap vs. Flatpak.
Ubuntu relies on Snap – an in-house developed packaging system that allows developers to package their software, including all dependencies and libraries, into a single “snap” package that can be installed and run on any Linux distribution that supports the snap system.
The concern is that while the Snap format was designed to be distro-agnostic, it doesn’t enjoy a good following among the Linux community, limiting it to being used almost entirely in Ubuntu and its derivatives. Additionally, Canonical’s latest moves have only made that status even worse.
On the other hand, Linux Mint relies on Flatpak. So again, we are talking about a distro-agnostic package format, but this time it is widely recognized by the Linux world. It has become the primary source for distributing software in Linux, aside from the native package format used in the specific Linux distribution.
But Mint’s developers have gone even further, removing the Snap binding completely from the distribution and replacing it with out-of-the-box Flatpak support.
All of this leads to the logical conclusion that by betting on Linux Mint, users have a broader set of software choices by default while staying closer to the widely accepted approach adopted and followed by the Linux community.
GUI Administration Tools
The available GUI tools that assist management and maintenance are crucial when discussing desktop-oriented Linux distribution. Of course, there will always be Arch or Gentoo for experienced users who are okay with digging into the command line to get their hands dirty, but the focus here is entirely different.
GNOME Settings serves as the central point of management for Ubuntu.
Similarly, Linux Mint provides the System Settings app to satisfy these needs.
Both tools provide similar functionality, but Mint’s System Settings provide more comprehensive system customization options than Ubuntu’s due to the limitations the GNOME desktop environment imposes there.
The main software management app is also relatively similar, so the capabilities of the two distributions are comparable.
However, users benefit from built-in support for Flatpak apps in Mint.
Furthermore, for more advanced users who need extra options in their system’s package management tool, Linux Mint comes preloaded with the good old Synaptic Package Manager.
Both distributions offer user-friendly tools for backing up user data – Ubuntu relies on Déjà Dup and Mint on mintBackup.
However, Linux Mint goes one step further by including the helpful in-house developed system restore Timeshift utility, which takes incremental rsync or BTRFS snapshots of the system at regular intervals. This way, even if something goes wrong with your system, you can always restore it to its previous working state.
Both distro’s update managers have comparable capabilities. Still, the one in Linux Mint is more user-friendly, notifying you of available updates in the system tray area, whereas with Ubuntu, you get a popup message on your screen asking you to install them.
So, on the topic of Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu considered in the light of system management tools, Mint offers more options, with greater attention to detail and user care. At the same time, Ubuntu’s approach is rougher and more inconsistent.
Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu: Support
Because the major Linux Mint releases are based on Ubuntu’s LTS ones, both distributions receive five years of support. However, here comes the big difference, which is entirely in Ubuntu’s favor.
Supported and funded by Canonical, Ubuntu has a lean and robust system for reporting and fixing package security issues. However, with Mint being primarily a community-driven distribution, this process is fuzzier, and the distribution relies heavily on security updates from the Ubuntu repositories it is based on.
Furthermore, Ubuntu has launched a free-to-use Ubuntu Pro Subscription, which can extend Ubuntu’s support lifespan to ten years and provide a considerably faster reaction to critical security vulnerabilities.
At the same time, both distros have active and supportive communities. However, Ubuntu has a larger user base and, therefore, more community support.
Of course, none of this means that Linux Mint is insecure. On the contrary, it is one of the most reliable distributions. It’s only that the distribution’s model and scale cannot compete with Canonical’s financial backing or Debian’s massive number of volunteer developers, resulting in more limited support options.
Everything we’ve said so far leads us to a conclusion on Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu. Which is the superior choice? Here is our take on the subject.
In almost every case, if you doubt which to choose between Mint and Ubuntu, we strongly advise you to go with Linux Mint. This is because, based on Ubuntu, Mint has done an excellent job of addressing all of its weaknesses and growing on them.
Mint offers a more consistent desktop environment than Ubuntu, with a clear focus and attention to detail. Everything about it is geared at providing a pleasant and seamless user experience, with no weird design concepts or limitations placed by business interests and technologies. In addition, it uses fewer system resources and offers better administration tools.
We recommend Ubuntu as the preferred option if you are a corporate user needing additional enterprise capabilities or a longer support period.
That brings us to the end of our article, and we hope it was helpful to you in the Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu topic. We’d love to hear your thoughts and views in the comments section.