Over the past two decades, I have hopped between different Linux distributions, eventually landing on Fedora in 2011.
Earlier this year, I decided to take a look at some other Linux distributions. This evaluation was driven by personal intrigue and not any specific issue with Fedora.
In this article, I wanted to share a summary of my findings, which has led me to what I believe to be the “best” three Linux distributions. It should be noted, this conclusion is very subjective and my choices are “GNOME-centric”, which is a personal preference that I respect would not suit everyone.
In my opinion, Pop!_OS achieves the best “out of the box” experience for Linux, covering Intel, AMD and NVIDIA hardware. It delivers the closest equivalent to the Apple “it just works” mantra, making it an ideal choice for anyone that is looking to get up and running with minimal effort.
Knowing that Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu (which itself is based on Debian), there is a huge developer/support community, with thousands of compatible software packages (over 68,000) and knowledge articles covering almost every conceivable scenario.
Pop!_OS includes two major releases per year (mimicking Ubuntu), with incremental updates delivering new features, patches, etc. This is a “tried and tested” update methodology, which delivers a highly consistent and reliable experience.
In addition to the standard Ubuntu features, Pop!_OS includes some unique capabilities, such as a custom installer, full disk encryption, power profiles, firmware management, and integrated hybrid graphics switching. These capabilities help to make Pop!_OS feel like an operating system that could rival Windows and macOS as a consumer product targeting the general public.
If you are looking for a “no-fuss” Linux distribution that is well optimised for productivity, gaming and development workflows, I would highly recommend Pop!_OS.
Manjaro is based on Arch Linux, which is a “rolling-release” distribution, meaning there are no “major” releases (like with Pop!_OS), with updates being delivered continuously (rolling) throughout the life of the product.
Although Majaro is based on Arch Linux, it dramatically simplifies the installation and support process, providing an opinionated software stack. For example, Manjaro includes different editions, specifically Xfce, KDE Plasma or GNOME.
Updates tend to be made available at a slower pace than Arch Linux, but are in theory more heavily tested to ensure interoperability and reliability.
Similar to Pop!_OS, Manjaro has great support for open and proprietary drivers, meaning NVIDIA graphics can be easily installed and maintained. Manjaro also has access to the Arch package repositories and Arch User Repository (AUR) which contain thousands of software packages, comparable to Debian. Package management on Arch-based Linux distributions is very different to Debian-based distributions but arguably more powerful and versatile. Manjaro includes a GUI application known as Paman which simplifies package management, covering all common use cases.
Another benefit of Manjaro is the ArchWiki, which is the ultimate Linux knowledge base. The level of detail, breadth of content and ease of consumption is unrivalled.
If you are looking for a rolling release Linux distribution, without the complexity of Arch Linux, Manjaro is a great choice.
Fedora, sponsored by Red Hat, is an upstream source of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). As a result, it is an incredibly robust Linux distribution, with a core that is “battle-tested” for enterprise use.
Major Fedora releases occur every six months, which tend to include the “latest and greatest” updates, covering the Linux Kernal and software dependencies. Fedora is passionate about open-source software, therefore does not come pre-installed with any proprietary software. This is a great philosophy but can be a pain when looking to use hardware that does not include open-source drivers (e.g. NVIDIA graphics, etc.)
As a result, Fedora delivers a very “pure” Linux experience, with minimal shell customisations (unlike COSMIC with Pop!_OS).
If you are looking for a rock-solid Linux distribution that focuses on cutting edge features and open-source software, Fedora is a great choice.
That’s it! Depending on your requirements, I believe these three Linux distributions represent the very best available. If I had to select one, I would go with Pop!_OS, which delivered a great balance of performance, reliability and compatbility.