Friday, June 20, 2014

LXLE 14.04 Review: The best LXDE distro I've used till date

LXLE's USP in previous releases used to be Lubuntu with long term support, as Lubuntu didn't have a LTS spin till recently. And hence, the acronym LXLE from Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension. However, in 2014 with Lubuntu itself releasing an LTS version, I wanted to check how LXLE can entice users to continue using it over Lubuntu. As Ronnie Whisler's release notes states, it is time for the distro to evolve:
"LXLE acronym change, originally 'Lubuntu eXtra Life Extension' which made sense before Lubuntu had an official LTS release, since 14.04 however, LXLE will now adopt the nomenclature 'LXDE eXtra Luxury Edition' and we think this release doubles down on that; to better support 32-bit hardware we updated 12.04.4 to be virtually identical to LXLE 14.04 64-bit release including features, updated software and system components; PCManFM additions such as open directories and text as root, create shortcuts, rename base icon names, copy to folder, right click desktop trash to empty; Launch (Fehlstart), Run (Gexec), and Terminal (RoxTerm) all have hotkeys enabled to open them using the keyboard for faster access...."

From LXLE 14.04
On 14th June, 2014, LXLE released it's 64-bit spin, LXLE 14.04. There is no 32-bit spin yet. I guess I can understand the reason why these days even lightweight operating systems prefer 64-bit OS over 32-bit. Just check any e-commerce site for low budget laptops, you'll see the market is flooded with Windows 8 laptops under $500 with Intel Celeron/Pentium/Atom processors and under 4 GB RAM. I could not install 32-bit version in Secureboot and UEFI enabled systems. However, 64-bit worked with elan. Possibly, these distros are targeting users who bought these modern low powered systems but will soon get tired of Windows 8's crazy desktop and switch to Linux. I know quite a few people did it, even I did it myself!

Anyway, coming back to the topic, I downloaded the 64-bit ISO, about 1.5 GB in size. I created a live USB with Linux Mint Image Writer and booted it on my test laptop, Asus K55VM. LXLE 14.04 ships with LXDE desktop with Linux kernel 3.13.0 and PCManFM 1.2.0bas the default file manager. It is based on Ubuntu Trusty Tahr, the recently released LTS spin with 5 years of support. I am not sure if the support on LXLE 14.04 is also 5 years just like it used to be earlier or is it 3 years like Lubuntu 14.04.

System Used for Testing LXLE
Asus K55VM laptop with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 3610QM processor with 8 cores, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 1366x768 resolution, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphic card.
Installation is stock Ubuntu and it is a step by step user-friendly process which took about 10 minutes for me.
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Everything on my laptop worked as expected including WIFI, LAN, touch pad, screen resolution, sound card (sound was very good on the Altec Lansing speakers), etc. I didn't have to do any manual intervention at all with LXLE. Unlike Lubuntu, the Wifi bug is taken care of in LXLE, thankfully!

Further, the installation process recognized my graphic card and installed Nvidia-prime. At the first boot, I had to change settings from Nvidia graphic card as default to Intel graphics, log-out and log-in again to make it work. It is definitely user-friendly for the users who are not sure of the graphic card in their system or unaware what approach to take, to later regret about Linux causing a lot of heat and draining out batteries from their system. My laptop offered zero heat performance after switching to Intel graphics.
From LXLE 14.04
Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

LXLE ships with an attractive LXDE desktop with semi-transparent panel, left hand side docky, cool looking conky showing system info and attractive wallpapers, an interface similar to the previous release.

From LXLE 14.04
The menu is simple like Lubuntu and very functional. It has some shortcuts in the menu like Alt+z for Application launcher, Alt+x to launch terminal, etc. which is not there in Lubuntu.

LXLE ships with 100 attractive wallpapers to choose from. Also, there is an app, Random wallpaper, clicking which changes the wallpaper to a random one. It is not as functional as variety but is less irritating; unless clicked, the wallpaper stays the same in Random wallpaper.

From LXLE 14.04
In addition to the regular icons in the panel, like volume control, Network, time and recycle bin, LXLE has a control to show/hide the conky and another weather application. I found the weather application pretty appealing. However, the battery icon is not there by default in the panel but it can be added.

From LXLE 14.04
Another interesting feature is in the top panel of application interface - there are options to make the app visible on all workspaces, roll up / roll down and decorate/undecorate to remove this option. Pretty interesting indeed.

From LXLE 14.04
In addition, LXLE has a stylish grub and a graphical boot splash with LXLE icon. In overall, the distro looks very refined and has one of the best aesthetics among LXDE spins.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
LXLE ships with an enviable collection of pre-installed packages, viz.
  • Office: Dictionary, Document viewer, E-book reader, HomeBank, LibreOffice (Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math, Base), Osmo
  • Internet: BitTorrent Sync, Claws Mail, FileZilla, Firefox 30, Gitso, Linphone, Pidgin IM, Transmission, uGet download manager, Xchat IRC
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.10, Mirage, Shotwell Photo Manager, Simple Image Reducer, Simple Scan, Screenshot
  • Multimedia: Arista Transcoder, Audacity, Guayadeque music player, guvcview webcam booth, Minitube Openshot video editor, Pithos, Videos, vokoscreen, Xfburn CD/DVD writer
  • Accessories: Activity log manager, App Finder, Backups, ClamTk, Galculator, gedit, KeePassX, Parcelite, Random wallpaper, Weather, Xarchiver, Xpad, Bleachbit, Gdebi Package Installer, Gparted, Printer Manager, ROX Term, Firewall, Startup Disk Creator
  • Others: Font Manager, Steam
Definitely it is not an application collection for low resource systems. It seems that LXLE's target group is not antiquated P4 systems but rather low powered advanced Win 8 systems or full fledged powerful gaming laptops. I spotted a few interesting apps in LXLE, which I marked in bold in the app list. Of these, Gitso is a frontend to reverse VNC connections. It is meant to be a simple two-step process that connects one person to another's screen. It is available for Mac and Windows as well and can be an excellent option for professional use.

Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash are in built in the distro and I could readily enjoy movies, YouTube videos in LXLE, even in the live boot.
From LXLE 14.04

For applications like LibreOffice or uget, LXLE has ppa's of Launchpad repositories and hence, offer more updated version than Ubuntu LTS distros or Trusty repos. Further, 32 bit architecture is also there in LXLE and programs dependent on 32 bit architecture like Adobe Acrobat reader, Skype, etc. can be installed and used in LXLE without any additional headache.

In addition, LXLE ships with a whole lot of games and Steam for avid gamers. I am not a big user of games and hence, skipping it from my review.

Like Lubuntu, the settings options are discrete and it doesn't have an integrated settings manager, as you see in PCLinuxOS LXDE or ROSA LXDE. However, there is an LXSession Configuration which works pretty good in selecting applications for autostart, changing default applications, reloading core packages, etc. 
From LXLE 14.04

Except Skype and Wine, almost every package I can think of is here in LXLE. This is perhaps the best pre-installed package list among the LXDE distros I've seen and I go with a 9/10 in this section.

Score for Pre-installed Packages: 9/10

LXLE primarily sources packages from Ubuntu Trusty Tahr repositories primarily along with a host of Launchpad ppa's and LXLE's own repositories. 
I specially like the addition of trusted Launchpad ppa's for applications like VLC (though the VLC player is not pre-installed), Libreoffice, Claws mail, etc. and even Kubuntu backports (I didn't get the reason of including Kubuntu backports!). I guess only the GIMP ppa is missing, which I added post installation. These ppa's ensure that the important packages stays updated to the latest stable version and not get antiquated quickly. For example, if you haven't added LibreOffice ppa, I guess you would be using the version; however, LXLE has more updated version of LibreOffice.
From LXLE 14.04

Lubuntu Software Center is the default option to browse and install packages in LXLE. It is not as functional as Ubuntu Software Center but never-the-less works pretty decent.
Synaptic Package Manager is also present for those who like to install packages faster.
Further, LXLE has Y PPA Manager for easy addition/deletion of ppa's. It is a very handy tool for ppa management, if you don't like hitting the terminal often.
LXLE, even with all the tweaks and packages, gave performance comparable to Lubuntu. At steady state, LXLE consumes about 245 MB RAM and 0-5% CPU with task manager running. Under similar circumstances, Lubuntu 14.04 consumed about 230 MB RAM. LXLE takes about 56% lower RAM than average KDE distros and 37% lower than average GNOME distros, under identical condition and measured on the same laptop during 2013-14.

RAM Consumption Average (MB) Best (MB)
KDE4 558 423
GNOME 390 262
LXLE 14.04 245
From LXLE 14.04

However, LXLE took a bit of more time to boot with autologin enabled, at 41 seconds. Lubuntu took about 26 seconds. Possibly all the tweaks are showing impact in time to boot. 

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO (GB) Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation (GB) Boot time (sec)
Lubuntu 14.04 LTS 0.7 LXDE 3.13.0 0-5% 230 3.2 26
LXLE 14.04 1.5 LXDE 3.13.0 0-5% 245 6.9 41

However, even the high boot time for LXLE is 20% lower than the average boot time for KDE distros (51 seconds) and almost equal to GNOME 3 (42 seconds).

Boot time Average (sec) Best (sec)
KDE4 51 35
GNOME 42 22
LXLE 14.04 41
Otherwise, the distro is very smooth to use and in my usage, it was totally without any issue. Everything worked as expected and I feel LXLE is perfect for production purposes.

Score for Performance: 8/10

As expected, LXLE 14.04 is another beautiful release with lots of tweaks in it to ensure it looks attractive, works beautifully and stays more updated than the parent distro Lubuntu 14.04 LTS. In my rating as well, LXLE scored higher than or equal to Lubuntu in all departments, except performance. It is because of the higher boot time. Otherwise, the distro is a strong candidate for daily production use and those who are looking for a lightweight distro for gaming can definitely try out LXLE. I haven't tried out Linux gaming seriously yet, but may be I should try with LXLE. I am keeping this distro for sure.

You can get the 64 bit version from here. I hope the 32-bit version comes out soon, I guess a lot of users with 32-bit systems are eagerly waiting for this release.

Overall Score and comparison with Lubuntu

Criteria Weight Lubuntu 14.04 LTS LXLE 12.04.4
Installation 20 10.0 10.0
Aesthetics 20 6.0 10.0
Hardware Recognition 20 8.8 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 10 9.0 9.0
Performance 30 10.0 8.0
8.9 9.3


  1. Thanks for the review, just wanted to let you know there is a 32 bit version, titled 12.04.4 32bit revisited. :)

    1. Hi Ronnie, Isn't LXLE 12.04.4 revisited based on Ubuntu Precise? Or is it based on Ubuntu Trusty? My statement referred to Ubuntu Trusty spin of LXLE :).

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Yes, it is Precise, and I don't think they have plans to release a 14.04 32 bit version. Their reasoning is 12.04 better suits older 32 bit hardware.

      On the contrary as far as underpowered systems. I installed this, 32 bit of course, on my daughters very old IBM T40 Thinkpad and it runs really well.

      Note: 12.04.4 is listed in the score chart, but 14.04 was the version tested.

    4. Hi David:

      Thanks for pointing it. I have changed it to 14.04 in the score chart. Sad to know that LXLE doesn't have any plans to release 32-bit 14.04 version.


  2. Hallo everyone, i'm still using LXDE previous version, but i think that LXDE is the best distro i've used till today. I was a distro-hopper, and only Debian 7.0 was a distro that i've used for over three months. Today is four months that i use LXDE!
    I love this Linux distro, and i suggest it to everyone!
    Thanks a lot to the developers :-)

    Forgive please, my poor and horrible English language

  3. Is the application launcher that is in your first photo included in the distribution or did you have to install it separately? By the way, I enjoy your reviews and like your rating system. Keep up the good work.


    1. Hi Eddie:

      That's a docky and comes pre-installed in LXLE, once you take your mouse to the left hand side of the screen. And thanks for liking my reviews and rating system.


  4. 32bit revisited is based on 12.04.4 but with all the updates of 14.04 including updated software and system components. Essentially 14.04 wrap in a 12.04.4 kernel/drivers/modules for better 32bit support.

    1. Cool! Thanks for the information - will try it out soon.

  5. Battery level is report via conky. :)

    1. Yeah, LXLE's conky is pretty amazing!

  6. Performance and aesthetics are superb in LXLE. However, I encountered a few glitches that have put me continuously on the guard while using this distro: after updating the system through the software updater, I started customizing it to suit my needs. So the first thing I did was add a battery monitor to the panel, install psensor, dropbox, google chrome, vlc and a few other applications that I use on a daily basis. The next day when I booted the system, I noticed that the battery indicator has vanished from the panel. I also noticed that instead of one, now I have two network indicators. Well, with some googling I learned that I have to edit ~/.config/lxsession/Lubuntu/desktop.conf and remove the line 'network_gui/command=nm-applet'. That worked and solved the network indicator problem. The remaining issue now is that I couldn't add the battery icon thing. It's there in the “add plugin to panel” list. I click the add button but nothing happens. The battery icon wouldn't show up in the lxpanel. Is there a workaround? Please let me know? Thank you in advance.

    1. Surprising. I'll check and let you know on the battery icon piece.

    2. That was Lubuntu's fault, they updated lxsession, even after I warned them of the bug, they then released another update (probably backtracked). The bug caused ~/.config/autostart to be ignored and /etc/xdg/autostart directory to load everything. In other words, it didn't have to happen but did. You could have solved the double network icon but unselecting 'network' in 'default applications for lxsession' I had to tackle a bunch of 'bugs' in lubuntu 14.04 and the network icon was one of them. Which is why after the 'update' you had two. Glad you figured it out, as for the battery icon, not sure, but conky reports its anyway. :)

    3. Thank you Arindam. Thank you Ronnie. I've solved the battery monitor issue. It was my mistake. I have the habit of removing the battery and plugging my laptop to the electric socket when I'm working at home. So naturally the battery monitor would not be there in the panel when the battery was removed. It showed up again when I placed the battery back into the laptop. I'm sorry for the inconvenience that I have caused by reporting a “false positive”. Now I'm wondering about a way to place a “shutdown” button on the panel. Any suggestions will be hugely appreciated.

    4. Hi Abdelkader:

      Please check if this helps.

      1- Open LXTerminal

      2- Type this command (just copy and paste it there):

      sudo leafpad /usr/share/applications/lubuntu-logout.desktop
      3- Now, copy the content below and paste it in that file, double check, save and exit.

      [Desktop Entry]
      Comment=Shutdown or Reboot
      4- Right Click on LXPanel > Add/Remove Panel Items > Add > Application Launch Bar > Double Click on Application Launch Bar > Preferences > Select Shutdown from the list and Click "Add" > Close > Close


    5. Works like a charm. Thank you so much.

  7. LXLE's slower boot time is due to the use of 'preload' this system component is used to enable faster loading of commonly used apps once you reach the desktop, its not really slower at startup because its not as good or something is wrong, its slower on boot because its loading a feature that will speed up your use of the computer once you hit the desktop.

  8. Hey,
    Does the 32 bit revisitied version support non pae cpu's.

    1. Yes, all 32-bit version of any Linux OS supports older architecture. By PAE what they mean is that it will work if your RAM is greater than 4 GB. Non-PAE versions are unable to detect more than 4 GB RAM. What are the specs of the system where you want to install Linux?

    2. The system has a P4 1.7Ghz processor and 1.5 Gb's of ram.
      When I tried installing Elementary Os Luna 32-bit it showed Please use a pae enabled cpu and Peppermint OS % didnt't even boot just a black screen.

    3. Yes, for older systems, this may happen. I have a machine similar to you and Linux Lite works very good on it. Can you please give it a try?

  9. On thing that disappointed me is the lack of a composer, I had to manually install compton. I know it might be to save some resources, but anyway, it should be an option.

    1. Yes, but pre-installed compton may screw up things a bit on a low resource system. I am LXLE on a low powered laptop and enabling compositing makes it terribly slow.

  10. great review, really caught my attention! I am using openSUSE and can easily install LXDE but this really made me think about the advantages of installing LXLE on older machines. They seem to do a very thorough job of taking LXDE a step further... with a lot of care and consideration. I am not scared of rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty, so to speak, but this gets some of the groundwork done. I like Ubuntu in many ways (although Unity is not for me), so I feel ready to give this a try on some of my machines

    1. Please give LXLE a shot. It is very good and works like a charm on older machines.