Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn" Review: Fantastic performance and upgradable to GNOME 3.14

Ubuntu GNOME is the youngest official flavor from Ubuntu stable. The first release was in 2012 with 12.10, followed  13.10, 14.04LTS and now, 14.10. Though I am not a big fan of GNOME 3 but of late, GNOME 3 has stabilized and offers some real cool customization ability. The latest release of Ubuntu GNOME, Utopic Unicorn, ships with GNOME 3.12 - the latest offering from GNOME stable 3.14 can be downloaded from launchpad ppa's. The development of this distro started before GNOME 3.14 became stable and hence, not included, as explained by the release note. I checked the distro as it is and after a couple of days of usage upgraded to GNOME 3.14. The release note states of some incremental improvements, namely: "The Ubuntu GNOME team is proud and happy to announce the release of Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn). Ubuntu GNOME is an official flavour of Ubuntu, featuring the GNOME desktop environment. Features: most of GNOME 3.12 is now included, the few missing bits of 3.12 are available in ppa; gnome-maps and gnome-weather are now installed by default, gnome-photos, gnome-music and polari are available to install from the Ubuntu archive; a set of 10 new high-quality wallpapers are included by default; GNOME Classic session is included - to try it, choose it from the Sessions option on the login screen; new themes (like numix) are available in the archive."

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
I downloaded the 998 MB 64-bit ISO for this review and created a live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer. I installed it on 250 GB partition on my Asus K55VM laptop. But, before I jump into the review, lets check what's new in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10.

What is new in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10?
  • GNOME 3.12, but GNOME 3.14 can be downloaded from the ppa's. Even GNOME 3.12 is not complete. But, the few missing bits of 3.12 are available in ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
  • Linux kernel 3.16.0
  • Updated applications
  • gnome-maps and gnome-weather are now installed by default. gnome-photos, gnome-music and polari are available to install from the Ubuntu archive.
  • A set of 10 new high-quality wallpapers are included by default.
  • GNOME Classic session is included. To try it, choose it from the Sessions option on the login screen.
  • New themes (like numix) are available on the archive.
Hardware Used for the Review
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. I installed Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 on a 250 GB partition.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Ubuntu installation is the same as before and nothing has changed in this version. It is the same easy installation with the same steps, as shown below. Please remember to check the third party software to download third party multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin. Many new users forget during installation and subsequently are unable to play multimedia files or watch online videos. Overall, installation may take about 10-20 minutes of time depending on internet speed.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 worked impeccably on the system I used, recognizing the screen resolution, sound card, graphics, WIFI and LAN along with touch pad. Post-installation, I installed bumblebee from the Ubuntu repositories by typing the following commands:
$ sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia primus linux-headers-generic bbswitch-dkms

One installed, add username (in my case it was arindam) to bumblebee  group:
$ sudo gpasswd -a arindam bumblebee,

Reboot and then check by running optirun glxgears command in the terminal. If bumblebee is working, you'll see something like this.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

Bumblebee will run your system on Intel graphics for normal use. For gaming and other purpose, you can start Nvidia by running the command optirun <application_name>. It actually helps to bring down laptop heat and increase battery life. Power usage comes down by 50% (I checked!) with and without bumblebee.

Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

GNOME 3.12 desktop in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 looks neat and uncluttered. Like the previous release, the default wallpaper is still green.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

However, Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 has 10 new wallpapers to showcase. You can check them by a right click on the desktop.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
It doesn't have any menu (without Tweak Tool) in the GNOME 3 session but has a dash like Unity. However, I find Unity dash to more functional with online search integration, photo lens, video lens, social lens, etc. GNOME has a less functional dash comparatively.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

Ubuntu 14.10 GNOME edition also ships with a Gnome classic session which can be opted for during logging in. I checked it and didn't like it at all. Cinnamon, XFCE or Mate would be a better choice, I feel, than Gnome classic.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
For users comfortable with conventional menu, GNOME Classic view has it along with Places to open folders from the top panel. But, that's it! It doesn't have the refinement of the GNOME 3 session.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Instead I guess tweak tool is a better option to try out conventional menu along with dash. I find it very handy to install different GNOME extensions and mold the desktop as per liking.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Tweak tool also has options to change settings as well. As I said, it is a definitely handy tool to have for GNOME 3.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Anyway, I didn't use GNOME classic much and instead tried to work with the stock GNOME 3.12 desktop. Files 3.10.1 is the default file manager. The gnome theme for icons look pretty bad in the overall refined desktop environment. Fortunately the Tweak Tool is there to change the icon appearance to a more Ubuntu-ish Humanity theme or a more geeky Hicolor theme.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
There are hundreds of other themes and extensions to download from internet, if you start searching and experimenting. Last time I tried the Mac OS X theme for the LTS release and it came out quite good. Like other good distros, Ubuntu GNOME has a graphical boot splash as well.

One thing I should mention, I feel the the GNOME 3 desktop, as it is, is quite empty. So, I tried out a docky and a conky with Ubuntu GNOME 14.10. You can see the results.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

In overall, I am very happy with the refinement and user customization options I see in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 and go with 100% score on aesthetics.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
Ubuntu GNOME ships with a host of pre-installed applications and packages good enough for regular users, namely:
  • Office: LibreOffice suite (Calc, Draw, Impress, Math, Writer), Document viewer
  • Internet: Firefox 33.0, Empathy Internet Messenger, Transmission bit torrent client, Evolution Mail Client
  • Graphics: Shotwell, Simple Scan, Screenshot, Image viewer
  • Multimedia: Brasero CD/DVD writer, Cheese webcam booth, Rhythmbox music player, Videos 3.10.1
  • Accessories: Archive Manager, Calculator, Passwords and Keys, Terminal, Gnome Tweak Tool, Additional Driver, dconf Editor, xdiagnose, Screen Reader, Network connections, Personal File Sharing, Backups, Contacts, Documents, gedit, Maps, Weather, Power
As mentioned, if you click the Install third party software option during installation, multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin should be installed by the time you login for the first time. For me, every multimedia file and format I tried worked perfect. I could also watch online videos in YouTube and Dailymotion without any issue.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Firefox is the default (and only browser) in Ubuntu GNOME and it is the best browser I have used till date with a handful of extensions and plugins. Of course, the world is now divided in between Firefox and Google Chrome. I recall 3 years back, most of the visitors in my blog would come from Firefox and now it is split 50-50 between the two most popular browsers. Don't worry, you can download Chromium and/or Google-Chrome in Ubuntu 14.10 as well. Anyway, back to Firefox, Ubuntu GNOME has by default some plugins enabled - rest you have to download.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
LibreOffice complete suite is a definitely good package to have for users like me who use only Linux. You can also install MS Office using PlayonLinux and Wine, as discussed here. It supports Office 2010 but is yet to support Office 2013.

Instead of discussing rest of the apps, let me go to the GNOME specific new additions like Maps and Weather. To utilize maps effectively first enable location services from Settings Manager -> Privacy.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Maps is similar to Google Earth (although not as good) and provides both map and satellite views. Google Earth is definitely better but it is a good beginning. I had a fun time with maps. It automatically picked up my city but could not pin point my location like Google Earth. It also gives navigation options like Android Maps but is less effective.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Weather provides options to see weather in multiple location simultaneously and should be a handy tool for travelers. With location services enabled, Weather accurately identified my city and gave weather forecast for today and next day.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Music, Photos and Polari (IRC channel) are other GNOME tools, not pre-installed in the distro; but they can be downloaded from Ubuntu repositories. I installed Music and it automatically picked up all music files copied in the /home/music folder. It works quite good to shortlist by Albums, Artists, Songs and Playlists. I would like to see a volume control and equalizer option in gnome-music.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
In overall, I am happy with the mix of applications provided in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 and I go with a score of 8/10 as it doesn't have some basic tools like live USB creator, a Photo editor (like GIMP), etc. It would have been better had these packages been part of Ubuntu GNOME.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 8/10

Ubuntu GNOME sources applications from Ubuntu Utopic repositories and Ubuntu Software Center 13.10 is the default application manager to browse and install the packages. Synpatic package manager is not present by default in Ubuntu GNOME. Of the Ubuntu distros, I guess I saw Synaptic package manager only in Lubuntu 14.10.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Upgrade to GNOME 3.14
As mentioned in the beginning, I upgraded to GNOME 3.14 during my use. The release note states of possible issues you may face (stability, bugs, etc.) but in my case GNOME 3.14 worked pretty good right from the beginning. First, I take you through how to upgrade. In terminal, I entered the following commands to upgrade:
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

It downloaded about 150 MB of upgrades from the gnome3-team ppa that I added and upon reboot, I was greeted with GNOME 3.14 desktop. The GNOME specific applications like Maps, Weather, Files, gedit, evince, etc. got upgraded to 3.14 version.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Per se, I didn't note visually any major change, except an updated weather application and more animation in the dash.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
But, the change in GNOME 3.14 is actually deeper than these, with multi-touch support and gestures. I guess GNOME is gearing big time for tablet interface and the current upgrade is a step towards that direction. Right now I use Asus X200CA (Core i3-3217U CPU 1.8 Ghz, 4 GB DDR3 RAM with a touchscreen) for production purpose with Ubuntu 14.04.1 installed in the machine. I don't want to tinker with it but I am keeping my eyes on GNOME 3 development for future use on touch enabled machines. If Unity 8 goofs up anything, GNOME can be a really really good alternative.

Keeping continuity with the last paragraph, I would compare here Ubuntu GNOME 14.10, both GNOME 3.12 and GNOME 3.14 versions, with Ubuntu 14.10 with Unity.

RAM consumption of Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 is 14% lower than Ubuntu 14.10. However, after GNOME 3.14 upgrade, RAM consumption increased to around 630 MB, 5% higher than Ubuntu 14.10.

From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
Boot time is the fastest in Ubuntu 14.10, 6 seconds quicker than Ubuntu GNOME 14.10. With GNOME 3.14 upgrade, boot time improved to 35 seconds.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

Power usage is 7% lower in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 over Ubuntu 14.10. Even after GNOME 3.14 upgrade, the power usage increased by 5% but was still lower than Ubuntu 14.10 with Unity7. So, you can expect more battery life in laptops with Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 over Ubuntu 14.10.
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10
From Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

So, in essence Ubuntu 14.10 boots faster but is less efficient than Ubuntu GNOME. Even the GNOME 3.14 upgrade maintained the low power usage advantage though RAM consumption increased a bit. It is understandable given the animations in the upgrade.

Operating System (64 bit) Release Year Size of ISO (GB) Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation (GB) Boot time (sec) Power (Watt)
Pardus 2.0 2013 1.7 Debian Testing GNOME 3.8.4 3.10.3 0-5% 278 6.40 52
Mint Debian 201403 Mate 2014 1.4 Debian Testing Mate 1.6.1 3.11.2 0-5% 282 4.40 40
Mint Debian 201403 Cinnamon 2014 1.4 Debian Testing Cinnamon 2.0.14 3.11.2 0-5% 285 4.90 49
Mint 15 Cinnamon 2013 0.9594 Ubuntu Raring Cinnamon 1.8 3.8.0 0-5% 307 5.10 32
Mint 16 Cinnamon 2013 1.3 Ubuntu Saucy Cinnamon 2.0 3.11.0 0-5% 312 4.10 45
Ubuntu GNOME 13.04 2013 0.9878 Ubuntu Raring GNOME 3.6.3 3.8.0 0-5% 321 3.90 24
Tanglu 1.0 GNOME 2014 0.973 Debian Testing GNOME 3.10.1 3.12.1 0-5% 321 4.00 44
Mint 15 Mate 2013 1.0 Ubuntu Raring Mate 1.6.0 3.8.0 0-5% 325 4.50 30
Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 2013 0.9 Ubuntu Saucy GNOME 3.8.4 3.11.0 0-5% 335 4.10 27
Mint 17 Ciinamon 2014 1.3 Ubuntu Trusty Cinnamon 2.2.13 3.13.0 0-5% 345 4.50 44
Mint 16 Mate 2013 1.4 Ubuntu Saucy Mate 1.6.0 3.11.0 0-5% 355 4.50 31
Siduction 13.2.0 GNOME 2013 1.0 Debian Unstable GNOME 3.8.4 3.12.0 0-5% 357 3.50 53
Linux Deepin 2013 2013 1.3 Ubuntu Raring GNOME 3.8.1 (DDE) 3.8.0 0-5% 358 4.70 33
Zorin OS 7 2013 1.7 Ubuntu Raring GNOME 3.6.2 3.8.0 0-5% 364 5.60 28
Ubuntu 12.04.3 2013 0.7 Ubuntu Precise Unity 5.20.0 3.8.0 0-5% 370 3.00 39
Antergos 2013.11.17 2013 0.8 Arch GNOME 3.10.1 3.12.4 0-5% 376 4.10 43
Ubuntu 13.04 2013 0.8 Ubuntu Raring Unity 7.0.0 3.8.0 0-5% 377 4.00 26
Deepin 2014 2014 1.2 Ubuntu Trusty Deepin 2.0 3.13.0 0-5% 400 4.50 27
Ubuntu GNOME 14.O4 LTS 2014 0.9 Ubuntu Trusty GNOME 3.10.0 3.13.0 0-5% 416 4.50 33
Gajj 0.1 Cinnamon 2014 3.7 Ubuntu Precise Cinnamon 2.0 3.11.0 0-5% 419 9.20 75
Fedora 20 GNOME 2013 1.0 Fedora GNOME 3.8.2 3.9.5 0-10% 433 4.00 34
Elementary OS 0.2 2013 0.7 Ubuntu Precise GNOME 3.6.3 3.2.0 0-5% 440 3.10 22
Zorin OS 8 Gaming 2014 4.0 Ubuntu Saucy GNOME 3.9.90 3.11.0 0-5% 440 9.20 31
Zorin OS 8 2014 1.6 Ubuntu Saucy GNOME 3.8.2 3.11.0 0-5% 445 5.60 31
Zorin OS 9 2014 1.4 Ubuntu Trusty GNOME 3.10.4 3.13.0 0-5% 460 5.00 30
Ubuntu 13.10 2013 0.9 Ubuntu Saucy Unity 7.1.2 3.11.0 0-5% 466 4.40 30
ExTix 14 2013 1.5 Ubuntu Saucy GNOME 3.10.1 3.12.0 0-5% 468 4.80 33
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 2014 1.0 Ubuntu Trusty Unity 7.2.0 3.13.0 0-5% 486 4.20 31
Pinguy OS 14.04 2014 2.3 Ubuntu Trusty GNOME 3.12.2 3.13.0 0-5% 500 7.00 54
Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 2014 1.0 Ubuntu Utopic GNOME 3.12 3.16.0 0-5% 515 4.80 39 11.21
OpenSUSE 13.1 GNOME 2013 4.4 OpenSUSE GNOME 3.10.1 3.11.6 0-5% 531 4.90 37
Ubuntu 14.10 2014 1.1 Ubuntu Utopic Unity 7.3.1 3.16.0 0-5% 599 4.60 33 12.06

On my laptop, Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 gave a flawless and trouble free performance. It is really smooth to use and offers very good user experience along with a refined distro. I didn't find any instability even with GNOME 3.14 upgrade. However, GNOME 3 is not meant for low powered laptops and it may give you issues if your machine is anything less than a dual core and 2 GB RAM. You can try out Lubuntu for the same.

Score for Performance: 9/10

I must say, GNOME 3 has come up a long way from being really unintuitive desktop environment to a more intuitive and efficient one. I really like what I see in Ubuntu GNOME 14.10. It is aesthetically very refined, intuitive, supports multi-touch (with GNOME 3.14 upgrade) and is very efficient. Plus, the customization options are good and you don't need to be a techno wizard to make those changes.

Though the distro has a support period of 9 months, you can safely try it out. I bet you'll definitely enjoy it. Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 is definitely recommended from my side with the 2nd highest score I gave to any GNOME or GNOME forked (Cinnamon, Mate, Unity, etc.) distro that I reviewed during 2013-14.

Ubuntu GNOME 14.10 is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit spins and you can download them from here.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

Parameter Weights (%) Score
Installation 20 10.0
Aesthetics 20 10.0
Hardware Recognition 20 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 10 8.0
Performance 30 9.0
Overall 100 9.5


  1. You will make the previous Ubuntu Mate 14.04.1 or 14.10?

    1. I am using Ubuntu Mate 14.10 right now and hopefully will pen down a review this weekend.

  2. Thank you so much for this great review :) we really appreciate it. Ubuntu GNOME needs this kind of help and we are looking for people who are good in writing reviews, making videos, etc. It is an open invite for everyone who has experience and skills with reviews to join us. Once more, thanks a lot for everything :)

    Ubuntu GNOME Community Manager

    1. Thanks for liking my article. Initially I used to hate GNOME 3 like anything, having been a big fan of GNOME 2. But, now I guess GNOME 3 looks much friendlier than before! Anyway, please keep up the good work.

  3. Heah! Who "baptized" you "Ubuntu GNOME Community Manager" ? Dude, you really need to throw away this arrogance.

  4. By the way, very thorough article.

  5. One of the best distros I've ever used was AriOs which was gnome based. It was fast, slick, pretty and consistent. For some reason it died late 2012. I'm keen now to try Ubuntu's latest gnome offering and hope that it gives me a similar experience.

  6. After I read your review about Rosa Fresh R4 Distro, I installed and started using it. It is a Very Nice Distro.I am planning to install Netrunner Rolling and Open Suse 13.2 along with it. Thanks for your Review.

  7. I am using ubuntu gnome 14.04 and love it . I decided to give try with the 14.10 version. I have not install it and run it from a stick. I am getting some issues. it keep on freezing on me when I use the web browser.
    I have to reboot it in order to use it again. My laptop is an ASUS X.200M

    1. You get much better performance when you install an OS in hard drive compared to running live from a stick. I guess this is the reason of your problems. Plus, there may be graphic driver incompatibilities. I am using Ubuntu 14.10 on a similar system and it works like a charm for me.

  8. I get a feeling not every gnome app is updating. gnome-terminal doesnt have the new "emo mode" in alternatives? What should i do?

  9. Seems like i just wast plain wrong. lol

  10. Nice review.
    Note that the gnome3 staging ppa is not needed to get GNOME 3.12, it's all in the gnome3 ppa.
    Maybe it wasn't at the time of the review.

  11. Nice review sir.
    I would suggest you to review India's own BOSS Linux. So that people come to know about it through your popular blog.

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