Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn" Review: Amazing performance and with KDE 5!

I did not get many exciting things in Ubuntu 14.10, in my previous review. But, my experience with Kubuntu's new release over the last couple of days has been really exciting. The release note states of a couple of options, one with stable KDE 4 and another with the next gen KDE 5.
"Kubuntu 14.10 is available for upgrade or install. It comes in two flavours, the stable Plasma 4 running the desktop we know from previous releases, and a tech preview of the next generation Plasma 5 for early adopters. Plasma 4 is our recommended stable offering and what you get from the default download, but is now in maintenance mode. It runs the software you are familiar with and will be getting updates and bugfixes but not new features from now on. Plasma 5, the next generation of KDE Software is still a work in progress. You can test it and install it from the Kubuntu Plasma 5 image but beware it will remove your stable software. We love testers but no support is offered. If there are problems you may need to reinstall to revert back to Plasma 4."

I tried both the releases for this review, first the stable release and then upgraded it to KDE 5. The experience has been pretty awesome I must say. But, let me first start with what is new in Kubuntu 14.10.

From Kubuntu 14.10

What is new in Kubuntu 14.10?
  • KDE 4.14.1, upgradable to KDE 5.
  • Linux kernel updated to 3.16, enhanced support for the latest Intel CPUs (Cherryview, Haswell, Broadwell and Merrifield systems), initial support for Nvidia GK30A and GK110B GPUs and enhanced audio support for ATI Radeon devices
  • Updated Packages, like Ubuntu 14.10
  • Animated wallpapers, was not there in the 14.04 LTS but present in Linux Mint 17 KDE

From Kubuntu 14.10

I guess all users in Kubuntu 14.04 LTS would have anyway upgraded to KDE 4.14.1 using Kubuntu backports. So, nothing special there. Also, users with launchpad ppa's would anyway have the latest version of LibreOffice. Applications like Firefox and Chromium or Google Chrome are self-upgrading irrespective of the operating system version. So, I don't see anything compelling in Kubuntu 14.10 to shift from the LTS version if it is working for you.

Now I begin my usual sections including upgrading to KDE 5. I created a live USB of the 1.1 GB 64-bit Kubuntu 14.10 ISO using Linux Mint Image Writer. I installed it on a 250 GB partition of my Asus K55VM laptop.

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 on a 250 GB partition.
Kubuntu installer and steps are the same as before. It took me about 10 minutes to get over with the installation process. Kubuntu / Ubuntu has the easiest installation I have seen and it should not challenge even a Linux novice. However, I could not record the installation steps for Kubuntu 14.10 properly due to a bug in the Ksnapshot package. So, I present here the screenshots from Kubuntu 14.04 LTS. The steps are essentially the same and there is no difference at all between the two version.
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Hardware recognition is actually better than the previous releases of Kubuntu and it detected my laptop's screen resolution, sound card, wifi, LAN, touch pad, etc. accurately without any manual intervention. I checked that Nvidia Prime works very good in Kubuntu Utopic.
Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

KDE 4.14.1 looks quite stunning with all it's semi transparent theme. It looks good but the KDE default wallpaper is the same as Kubuntu 14.04 LTS and looks as bad as before. However, the animated wallpapers make the desktop look quite fantastic, as you see below.
From Kubuntu 14.10

I didn't see any notable change in Kubuntu from the previous release. From boot splash to desktop, everything looks familiar and the same in KDE 4.14.1. So, I decided to upgrade to KDE Plasma 5 and experience something new.

Upgrading to KDE 5
Directly picked from Kubuntu 14.10 release note: "You can install Plasma 5 on a 14.10 install - it will remove your stable software. Ensure you have no unsaved work then in a console run:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/next
sudo apt update
sudo apt install kubuntu-plasma5-desktop
sudo apt full-upgrade
sudo reboot
I upgraded my Kubuntu installation to Plasma 5 and it took me about 15 minutes. 

KDE Plasma 5
On reboot, I was greeted with a new boot splash, a new login screen and a new plasma 5 interface. Like Windows 8, the icons and the overall appearance is a lot flatter. I give directly from the website a release note on Plasma 5:

On July 15, 2014. "KDE proudly announces the immediate availability of Plasma 5.0, providing a visually updated core desktop experience that is easy to use and familiar to the user. Plasma 5.0 introduces a new major version of KDE's workspace offering. The new Breeze artwork concept introduces cleaner visuals and improved readability. Central work-flows have been streamlined, while well-known overarching interaction patterns are left intact. Plasma 5.0 improves support for high-DPI displays and ships a converged shell, able to switch between user experiences for different target devices. Changes under the hood include the migration to a new, fully hardware-accelerated graphics stack centered around an OpenGL(ES) scenegraph. Plasma is built using Qt 5 and Frameworks 5.

From Kubuntu 14.10
Major changes in this new version include:
  • An updated and modernized, cleaner visual and interactive user experience
The new Breeze theme is a high-contrast, flat theme for the workspace. It is available in light and dark variants. Simpler and more monochromatic graphics assets and typography-centered layouts offer a clean and visually clear user experience.
  • Smoother graphics performance thanks to an updated graphics stack 
Plasma's user interfaces are rendered on top of an OpenGL or OpenGL ES scenegraph, offloading many of the computational-intensive rendering tasks. This allows for higher framerates and smoother graphics display while freeing up resources of the main system processor."
From Kubuntu 14.10

The default wallpaper is more attractive than the previous version.

Menu has two options: a simple one and another full fledged menu (default option). You can see here how ksnapshot program was bugging me in full screen mode.

From Kubuntu 14.10
May be because of the novelty factor, KDE 5 appealed to me more than KDE 4. The effects are smoother than the previous version.

There are a couple of default theme options available in KDE 5: Breeze and Breeze Dark. The default Breeze theme looked better to me.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Applications
Kubuntu 14.10 ships with the default set of applications, good enough for regular use like:
  • Office: LibreOffice Suite (Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base), Okular document viewer, Sieve Editor, Kaddressbook, Kontact, Korganizer, PIM Setting Exporter
  • Internet: Akregator Feed Reader, BlueDevil, Firefox 33, KDE IM Contacts, Kmail, KRDC, Ktorrent bittorrent client, Quassel IRC, Kmail import wizard
  • Graphics: Gwenview, Ksnapshot, Skanlite
  • Multimedia: Amarok music player, Dragon video player, K3b disk burning, Kmix sound mixer
  • Accessories: Ark Archiving tool, Kate advanced text editor, Kmag screen magnifier, Kmouse tool, Knotes popup notes, KDE parition manager, Konsole, KDE wallet, Startup disk creator

From Kubuntu 14.10
Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin gets installed during installation and I could play my online and offline video/music files perfectly.

I guess most of you would be familiar with what to expect in KDE 4. If not, you can go through my review of Kubuntu 14.04 LTS. Kubuntu 14.10 is not much different from the previous version. The package list is also very similar. I am already using the updated version of the packages in my 14.04 installation from launchpad ppa's.

Only one thing to mention here is a bug in ksnapshot. Even in Kubuntu Trusty Ksnapshot or the screenshot taking program would work perfect. But, in 14.10, I had a hard time making it work. It would include the screenshot window as well along with the intended screen in Full Screen mode. I was able to manage using Rectangular Region mode somehow but it wasn't easy.

In KDE 5, it did not improve either. Further, it would not start when I pressed Print Screen button in the keyboard. I had to manually start it every time from the Menu.

It is a bug definitely and possibly get ironed out soon. So, let me take you through the KDE 5 experience here. Apart from the Ksnapshot bug, more or less other updated KDE specific packages worked pretty fine. Social network integration is yet to be part of KDE 5 but, the System settings manager is much improved with a lot of customization options available. The basic structure remains the same as KDE 4 but the clutter is less. One really nice addition I noted is the addition of video preview of the special animations like desktop cube, etc. in the settings manager. It is really helpful for novice users.
From Kubuntu 14.10

From Kubuntu 14.10
Another bug I noted in KDE 5 is I had to type in Wifi password every time I logged in. KDE wallet, present in KDE 4, was no longer there in KDE 5 when I upgraded. Further, while connecting to Wifi, everything just froze for about 4-5 seconds. It was a bit annoying, I must say.

As far as the packages are concerned, Kubuntu 14.10 lacks a photo editor, a download manager (like Kget), VoIP, etc. which other competing distros provide as a part of pre-installed packages. Further, even though Ksnapshot is there but it didn't function properly. I go with a score of 7.3/10, given these short comings.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 7.3/10

Ubuntu Utopic repository is the source of packages by default. Packages can be browsed and downloaded using the Muon Software Center. Like Kubuntu Trusty Tahr, even Utopic Unicorn has the same version of Muon Software Center.

From Kubuntu 14.10
Neither of the Ubuntu spins these days, unfortunately ship Synaptic Package Manager, by default. I prefer Synaptic more than any other package manager. It is, however, available in the Utopic repositories and can be downloaded by running the following command at the terminal:

sudo apt-get install synaptic

Kubuntu 14.10 with KDE 4.14.1 consumed about 547 MB of RAM and 0-5% CPU usage at steady state. It is about 3% lower than the average RAM consumption of all KDE distros reviewed by me between 2013-14. The same laptop (Asus K55VM) was used for all the reviews.

From Kubuntu 14.10
Kubuntu showed the lowest boot up time (with autologin enabled) among all KDE distros I used till date. It booted up in flat 34 seconds which is quite amazing for a KDE distro. Kubuntu 14.10 boots up 33% faster than average time taken by all KDE distros reviewed between 2013-14.

From Kubuntu 14.10
Overall, Kubuntu 14.10 gave me quite amazing a performance. Even after upgrading to KDE 5 the performance did not deteriorate much. The KDE 5 actually feels lighter than KDE 4 and is a pleasure to work with. It was stable during my usage. However, there are a few minor bugs here and there and I guess they would be weeded out with further update to the distro.

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO (GB) Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation Boot time (sec)
Debian KDE 7.3.0 0.7 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-5% 423 4.1 49
Neptune 3.3 1.9 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.11.2 3.10.12 0-5% 439 7.2 53
Netrunner 13.06 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 475 5.9 40
Siduction 13.2.0 1.2 Debian Unstable KDE 4.11.4 3.12.0 0-5% 478 3.7 60
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 483 7.0 45
Solydk 2013.11 1.6 Debian Testing KDE 4.11.3 3.10.3 0-5% 484 6.2 59
Bridge Linux 2013.06 1.0 Arch KDE 4.10.4 3.12.5 0-5% 490 4.6 39
Mint 16 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.3 3.11.0 0-5% 496 7.0 37
PCLinuxOS 2013.12 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.4.70 0-10% 496 5.8 65
Kwheezy 1.4 4.0 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-10% 511 12.4 49
Kubuntu 13.04 0.9 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-10% 523 4.9 35
Manjaro Linux 0.8.9 KDE 1.8 Arch KDE 4.12.2 3.10.30 0-5% 528 4.9 45
Mageia 3 1.4 Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 0-5% 530 3.9 46
Calculate Linux 13.11 KDE 2.3 Gentoo KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19 0-5% 537 7.1 64
Mageia 4 3.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.4 3.12.8 0-5% 540 8 56
Kubuntu 14.10 1.1 Ubuntu Utopic KDE 4.14.1 3.16.0 0-5% 547 4.6 34
Kubuntu 13.10 1.0 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-5% 547 5.2 53
Mint 17 KDE LTS 1.4 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.1 3.13.0 0-5% 560 6.9 36
Chakra GNU/Linux 2014.05 1.8 Arch KDE 4.13.1 3.12.15 0-5% 560 4.8 41
Kubuntu 14.04 LTS 1.0 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.0 3.13.0 0-5% 590 4.6 39
OpenSUSE 13.1 4.4 OpenSUSE KDE 4.11.2 3.11.6 0-5% 593 6.0 53
Chakra 2014.02 1.7 Mandriva KDE 4.12.2 3.12.6 0-5% 618 4.1 41
Netrunner 14 1.5 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.1 3.13.0 0-5% 605 8.0 36
ROSA Fresh KDE R4 1.7 Mandriva KDE 4.13.3 3.14.15 0-5% 620 5.4 74
Netrunner 13.12 1.6 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-10% 623 7.2 48
Netrunner Rolling 2014.09.1 2.4 Manjaro KDE 4.14.0 3.14.18 0-5% 640 6.0 49
Manjaro Linux 0.8.8 KDE 2.0 Arch KDE 4.11.3 3.10.24 0-10% 655 5.0 66
Fedora 20 KDE 0.9 Fedora KDE 4.11.3 3.12.5 0-5% 691 8.4 77
Korora 19.1 2.4 Fedora KDE 4.11.1 3.11.2 0-5% 697 9.2 79
OpenSUSE 13.1.1 Education Li-f-e 3.3 OpenSUSE KDE 4.12.1 3.11.6 0-5% 730 9.3 57
Korora 20 2.3 Fedora KDE 4.11.5 3.12.6 0-5% 750 8.0 58

Score for performance: 9/10

I won't actually recommend this release for users looking for a stable distro for production purposes, primarily because of the limited 9 months of support. I guess Kubuntu 14.04.1 is a better proposition for the same with almost identical performance and more long term support (till April 2019). However, make no mistake, Kubuntu 14.10 is a good release with amazing performance and KDE 5 is of course, an added attraction. Having used KDE 5 for quite sometime, I feel it is worth upgrading. KDE 5 did not show significant instability or a whole lot of bugs and seems almost there for daily use. It has an interface which has a high resemblance with Windows 8 with flat icons and is attractive.

For users who want a taste of KDE 5, please give a shot to this distro. I am definitely waiting for installing KDE 5 in my Kubuntu 14.04 LTS installation shortly. It is totally worth it.

You can download both 32 bit and 64 bit versions from here. I go with a very high score for Kubuntu 14.10 in spite of the Ksnapshot bug primarily because of KDE 5 experience

Attributes Weights (%) Kubuntu 14.10
Installation 20 10.0
Aesthetics 20 10.0
Hardware Recognition 20 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 10 7.3
Performance 30 9.0
Overall Score


  1. talking about "STABLE" LTS of the UNSTABLE fork of Debian (which all ubuntas are) makes no sense.
    Kubuntu is always fresh and running fine.
    If someone wants a STABLE release, he should use Debian Stable (but also as old as dino's shit :-)))))

    1. I guess you are right that Ubuntu is based on Debian testing. But, i am using Ubuntu LTS for quite sometime, never encounteted any serious instability issues till date. Debian is of course the grand daddy of all Linux :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Replies
    1. You can expect the review this weekend. Currently using Xubuntu 14.10.

  4. Nice review. My experiences are the same as yours. I've been a Kubuntu user daily since 9.04 and each release gets better. I found the performance of Plasma5 to be noticeably much faster and gtkperf ran twice as fast as on 14.04 with KDE4. One thing I'd suggest is trying MUON to locate and install packages rather the MUON DISCOVERY. MUON is a package management tool like Synaptic but without all the GTK

  5. Here's the Ksnapshot bug you mentioned, it's not just in Kubuntu:

    1. Thanks for sharing it. It is definitrly an issue of KDE. It is a bit annoying and hopefully will get resolved soon.

  6. can you review android x86 4.4r1

    1. Most of the reviews that I read of android x86 are on virtualbox. I'll check if I can install it on a real computer and run it successfully.

  7. Could you do another Ubuntu 14.10 "Utopic Unicorn" Review and comparison: Ubuntu 14.10 vs Kubuntu 14.10 vs Xubuntu 14.10 vs Lubuntu 14.10 vs Ubuntu GNOME 14.10

    Would be quite interesting with KDE 5 and the upcoming LXQt on Lubuntu 15.04.

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for reading my blog. Sure, I will compare thr Ubuntu distros next week, once I am through with my reviews of Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Ubuntu GNOME.


  8. I really like all your reviews but.. what do you think about reviewing the new version of openSuse? it would be great!

    1. I second that. would be happy to read it :))))