Some visitors to Ghacks have suggested that I review the top 5 current distros listed in the popular ranking (based on distrowatch site visits, not downloads) and the Distrowatch news website; and I liked the idea, so here is my take on the current holder of the # 1 spot: MX Linux.
MX Linux is a collaborative effort between the AntiX Linux distribution team and the MX Linux distribution team, based on the “Stable” branch of Debian. The About Us page of the MX Linux website states: “MX Linux began with a discussion of future options among members of the MEPIS community in December 2013. The developers of antiX then joined them, bringing the ISO build system as well as Live-USB / DVD technology. The name “MX” was chosen to combine the first letter of Mepis with the last of antiX, thus symbolizing their collaboration. “
MX Linux comes with three environment choices:
- Xfce – The flagship desktop environment
- KDE Plasma
For this install and review, I went with the Xfce version to get the full effect of what the team wants to present to users.
It should also be noted that MX Linux does not use Systemd, with the MXLinux website stating, “MX Linux uses systemd-shim, which emulates the systemd functions needed to run wizards without actually using the init service. This means that SvsVinit remains the default initialization, but MX Linux can use crucial Debian packages that have systemd dependencies such as CUPS and Network Manager. This approach also allows the user to retain the ability to choose their preferred boot on the boot screen (GRUB).
- Ryzen 5 3500X
- 16 GB DDR4 3000Mhz
- NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super
- System installed on a SATA SSD
Installing MX Linux from a Live-USB I created surprised me a bit, as they used an entirely different graphical installer than anything I had seen before; and frankly it looked very old fashioned and could perhaps seem a little intimidating to users who are not too familiar with installing linux systems.
That doesn’t mean it was complicated, I found it very easy to use … But I also installed distributions like most people change socks, for almost 20 years … However I will say it was very well documented with lots of help text all over the place, so reading and following the directions or reading the descriptions of the various menu items should still be pretty manageable. The installation itself had all the usual features, encryption options, automatic or automatic partitioning, etc.
The installation itself once it started was incredibly quick … I went down to get some water after it started, and it was done by the time I sat down; no more than 5 minutes, I would even say possibly 3-4 minutes. Overall, if you’ve installed an operating system at least a few times in the past, especially any Linux system, this should be manageable for you.
Software and features included
MX Linux has everything the average user will need to have fun, be productive, listen to music, watch videos, and more. From LibreOffice to Clementine music player, VLC, Thunderbird, Firefox … there’s a bit of everything, without having too much bloat where you have to start ripping your menu of unnecessary items. Something that impressed me quite enough is that MX Linux comes with an absolutely massive suite of ‘MX’ related tools, for almost everything, such as:
- MX Boot Options
- MX Boot Repair
- MX Conky
- MX Codec Installer
- MX Cleanup (think CCleaner)
- MX Live-USB Maker
- MX menu editor
- MX Network Assistant
- MX repository manager
There’s more, suffice to say, there’s an MX tool for almost anything you can think of related to managing your system, and that’s good … it shows the level of depth and care. contributed by the development team to create a cohesive, manageable and organized desktop system for all users. There was even a handy app to install NVIDIA drivers.
Xfce is a very light desktop environment and the MX Linux system itself is designed to be quite light as well. With LibreOffice Writer, Firefox with 3 open tabs, a file browser, and the default Conky running with my three monitors connected, I was using an average of 3-5% CPU with 1.5GB of RAM used. It all opened right away, and I never encountered any hiccups or stuttering.
I didn’t like that the main panel layout was on the side, and I’m not usually a big fan of Xfce … but once I organized things a bit more to my liking, I found MX Linux to be fun to use, responsive, fast, and had more tools than you can use … So new users probably won’t need to use the terminal for anything really, it’s all there in beautiful custom GUI tools, however, the power users may also find the simplicity of some of these tools very handy as well.
Being Debian based will also help ensure that MX Linux remains stable as a rock, and that there should rarely be crashes or broken packages. I would recommend MX Linux to anyone who cares more about stability than state-of-the-art package updates, as well as people looking for a solid distro that doesn’t use Systemd.
Have you tried out MX Linux? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!