Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bodhi Linux 3.0.0 Review: Minimalist distro with superb performance

On 17th Feb, 2015 Jeff Hoogland has announced the final release of Bodhi Linux 3.0.0, a desktop distribution based on Ubuntu 14.04 and featuring a customised Enlightenment 19.3 desktop: "Today I am very happy to share with you the first stable release for the third major update to the Bodhi Linux operating system. Notable features in the 3.0.0 release: Enlightenment E19.3, Terminology 0.8.0, ePad 0.9.0, Numix icons, Linux kernel 3.16, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS core. The release images for 3.0.0 support a wide range of hardware including: non-PAE processors, UEFI BIOS, SeaBIOS Chromebooks. Our stable release is not the only thing that is new at Bodhi Linux this month. Our main website, AppCenter, Wiki, and Forums have all gotten complete overhauls to go alongside this new release. If you are new to Bodhi Linux please take a look at the Quick Start Guide that opens by default when you first boot the live CD / operating system."

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
I have used Bodhi 2.x quite extensively on a couple of low powered machines I have. I liked the attractive interface of Bodhi and it's simplistic design. Bodhi 2.x was based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and the present release is based on Ubuntu 14.04. Unlike Ubuntu Trusty, which is still running Linux kernel 3.13.0 series, Bodhi ships with kernel 3.16.0.

Bodhi Linux provides options to download 32-bit, 64-bit, legacy and Chromebook version. I chose 64-bit ISO, about 612 MB in size. I created a live USB using Linux Mint Image Writer on a 4 GB USB drive. First I did a live boot on my laptop and then installed it to a 100 GB drive to understand Bodhi's performance better.

Hardware Used
Asus K55VM Windows 7 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 Bodhi Linux on a 100 GB partition.

Bodhi Linux has a similar installation as Ubuntu 14.04 and should not challenge even Linux novice. The step by step installation process is intuitive and hardly takes 10 minutes to get the system running.

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Bodhi Linux has top notch hardware recognition and it was able to recognize my laptop's screen resolution, touch pad, wifi, sound card accurately. Everything worked as expected and I go with 100% score for hardware recognition.

Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

Bodhi Linux is geared for users who prefer a minimalist desktop with a panel (called Shelf) at the top. It has a very different design from other desktop environments I have used - possibly openbox is something which I can think of close to E19.3. Further, I have used E17 quite extensively and E19 looks somewhat different from E17 as well. It took me a bit of time to get used to E19.
From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0

The top shelf can be set to auto-hide and can be positioned at any part of the desktop. For example I put it here at the bottom to give a Mac-ish look.
From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0

The default wallpaper of Bodhi is a bit depressing and dull. But, Bodhi packs quite a few attractive wallpapers which can be accessed through left click on the desktop -> Settings -> Wallpaper.

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
E19 offers limited tweaking option to the overall minimalist design. One thing to mention here, upon first login, an window introducing Quick Start guide to Bodhi Linux pops up. It actually provides very good information on different FAQ items like connecting to internet, installing software, resources to find more information on Bodhi, etc. I found it quite handy for a first time user. The quick start guide is there in Menu -> Bodhi Linux -> Quick Start, but I feel Quick Start icon should be there on the desktop as well making it easier for new users to locate it. Netrunner OS does it.

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
Bodhi Linux provides some really cool animations as well. I really like the subtle effects and they didn't work as distraction for me.

Enlightenment desktop is significantly different from regular DEs like Unity, Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE, etc. Users not familiar with Enlightment may take a bit of time to get used to it. But, it is really worth it. I have rarely used a desktop environment as fast as Enlightenment. Once you get used to Enlightenment, you would actually start enjoying using it. The response time is really low and the desktop feels very lightweight to use.

In terms of aesthetics, I really like what I see in Bodhi Linux 3. It has a refined desktop, quite a few good wallpapers, simple minimalist design and some cool effects.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
As mentioned, there are very few packages in the distro. Essentially it is a bare-bone structure shipped by default and users can install their favorite apps from Bodhi and Ubuntu repositories.
  • Office: None
  • Internet: Midori
  • Graphics: Ephoto, Screenshot
  • Multimedia: None
  • Accessories: Elementary test, epad text editor, epulse, eSudo, Terminology
I don't score Bodhi here as pre-installed packages is not one of the criteria to assess Bodhi. However, I would suggest that before starting to use E19 desktop, users should go through some basics like how to change settings to enable autologin, autohide shelf, etc. Since Enlightenment doesn't have an integrated settings manager, it took a bit of time for me to get familiar with E19.

Like other normal distros, Bodhi doesn't have a GUI based package manager like Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic package manager. Instead there is an online AppCenter. It underwent a complete overhaul from Bodhi Linux 2.0 AppCenter. Now there are no application bundles like Nikhila or Pratibha. Instead users can access the appcenter and download their favorite packages and themes.

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
Installation of the packages from the AppCenter is very easy. Upon clicking the install button on the web page, applications get installed through the eSudo.
From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0

Further, I should mention here, that whatever applications that work with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS too work with Bodhi Linux. Since Bodhi Linux sources packages from both Bodhi and Ubuntu Trusty repositories, you can download packages like VLC, GIMP, etc. by running "sudo apt-get install <package_name>" command in the terminal.

From Bodhi Linux 3.0.0
Third party repositories are not added and users need to add repos like Skype, Google-Chrome, Google-Earth, etc.

Installation of Bumblebee for Nvidia graphic card
I installed bumblebee in Bodhi Linux by running the following command in the terminology:
 $ sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia primus linux-headers-generic bbswitch-dkms mesa-utils nvidia-331-updates
Once installed, add user to the bumblebee group
$ sudo gpasswd -a arindam bumblebee

Reboot and run the command optirun glxgears to ensure bumblebee is running.
I didn't review any 64-bit E19 distro recently and hence, there are perhaps no benchmark to compare. Hence, I'll compare Bodhi's performance with some of the popular LXDE distros I reviewed recently. One thing for sure, E19 desktop manager is more snappier than LXDE, as far as user experience is concerned.

RAM Usage
At steady state with task manager running, Bodhi Linux consumes about 300 MB RAM which is more or less comparable to what I recorded for LXDE distros in general. The CPU usage was always under 10% with multiple applications running.
Boot Time
Bodhi takes about 20 seconds to boot with autologin enabled. It is marginally faster than what I recorded for LXDE distros in general on the same laptop. Bodhi Linux boots up and shuts down pretty fast.

Power Usage
I guess here Bodhi disappoints a bit. I recorded 15.13 watts of power usage. It is about 50% higher than that of Lubuntu 14.10. I got lower battery life with Bodhi Linux 3, which is slightly unusual for a lightweight stripped down distro.
In overall, I guess Bodhi Linux 3 will iron out the slight inefficiencies it has. Otherwise, the distro is very fast and once you get used to it, you will really enjoy the experience with Bodhi Linux.

Score on Performance: 9/10

Bodhi Linux is really good as far as speed is concerned. Applications open up pretty fast, the distro consumes low RAM and boots up/shuts down faster than any other distro I have used. However, power usage is a bit higher than I expected for a lightweight distro and it may drain out laptop batteries faster than say, a Lubuntu 14.10. Further, Enlightenment desktop environment is significantly different from other DEs like KDE or GNOME and hence, may take a bit of time for users to get familiar. 

Personally, I liked Bodhi Linux over other Ubuntu 14.04 LTS spins as they ship more updated packages and Linux kernels, than say even Linux Mint. The issue with LTS distros is that they tend to get antiquated with a couple of years. With Bodhi Linux, I guess the users can avoid it. Also, did I mention that Bodhi Linux supports touch screen? So, it can be a viable alternative to Win 8 in the low powered touch screen Windows 8.1 laptops flooding the market.

Bodhi Linux is definitely recommended from my side with a score of 9/10. You can download Bodhi Linux from here. It is available in 64-bit, 32-bit, Legacy and Chromebook version.

Overall Score: 9.1/10

Criteria Weight(%) Bodhi 3.0.0
Installation 22.5 10.0
Aesthetics 22.5 9.0
Hardware Recognition 22.5 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 0 0.0
Performance 32.5 8.0
Total 100 9.1


  1. Great review (as always). Will it work for an old Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop with no 3D graphics? And do I have to install stuff like Java/JDK and Restricted Ubuntu?

    1. Hi Joakimk:

      Please check the legacy version of Bodhi Linux. And yes, you have to install all restricted codes, Java, Flash, etc. in Bodhi Linux. However, you can use Ubuntu After Install as a shortcut. It is really helpful and saves a lot of time.


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  2. I've tried Bodhi 3 as a live USB, but didn't get very far with it. Enlightenment is supposed to be highly customizable, but so far as I can tell the live version doesn't provide any alternative to the Medium Grey - Dark Grey - Black window decoration and theme. I couldn't deal with not even being able to see the scroll bars because of the lack of contrast, and gave up on trying Bodhi. Jeff Hoogland does great things for Linux and open source, and I know he wants the Bodhi download to be minimalist, but I can't understand why he would release a distro with no way to try some different themes before deciding whether to install it.

    1. The same reason we do not include a pile of software many people do not want by default - because they are easy to add.

      Additional Themes on the AppCenter

  3. Decent write up. I'm not sure why you think we should clutter the desktop with more icons like the Quick Start Guide though. It launches itself at startup and is included in the main menu.

    1. Hi Jeff, thanks for liking my article. I read through the release notes that Bodhi Linux 3 supports UEFI. However, Linux Mint image writer is not working for Bodhi on Win8 machines though it works well with other Ubuntu forks. Even unetbootin is not working for Bodhi, it throws errors after boot splash on Win8 machines. Is there a way out? Both these packages work well for Win7 laptops and I am able to live boot and install Bodhi. The issue is with Win8 machines.


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  5. Thank you for the good reviews.
    I don't want to sound like a fanboy but the truth is that never in my life have I seen such beauty combined with such speed in one single distro. Besides, Bodhi Linux is very functional. You just need to play with it for a little while until you get the hang of it. Here is a screenshot of my Bodhi Linux desktop:

  6. Hi Arindam,

    Very good review. I'm downloading this version of Bodhi to try it. Is there a chance you do a review of Peach OSI? I would like to know your point of view of Peach, specially compared with other similar distros.

    Thank you for your reviews, they are a great insight into Linux in general.
    Best regards.

  7. enlightenment has been been great for netbooks, works way better than even Lxde. I am trying Chromixium right now, give it a try once it is out of beta, it seems to last a while so it might have solved the power issue.

  8. So far the best touch screen distro

  9. Thanks for another lovely review Arindam! It looks like an ideal candidate for my sluggish Acer Aspire One 751h netbook, which struggles even with Lubuntu...

    Do you think that it might be more responsive than Lubuntu in terms of simple tasks? I would be grateful if anyone could provide some (at least basic) comparison between the two. I think I tried the latest version of Bodhi a couple of months ago (as a live USB) and had issues with the GMA500 GPU used by my netbook (distorted image); I will have to check it again but I would rather avoid installing it before I receive some feedback on its responsiveness.

    1. What's your opinion about this distro my friend (assuming you have used it a lot)?

  10. Off-topic though... But I am not able to any boot distro when I create usb bootinstaller from mint .. But it works when I do it in Rufus or yumi in windows... How do you do it...

  11. it's time for the next review... Ubuntu 15.04 has landed

  12. What happened to Arindam? Lost interest? Too busy? Settled on a distro so good to look no further?

    I'd like to see your take on Xubuntu 15.04 vs. Ubuntu Mate 15.04, now that Xfce 4.12 is in and Ubuntu Mate is an official Ubuntu flavor.

    Xubuntu Core 15.04 (installed from mini.iso) may be also something to look at.

    My good old Acer One 753 Netbook (used as main laptop connected to a 24" screen) is groaning under Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, I need something lighter without compositing but still fully functional for daily work that stays out of my way. I always look back at Xfce but Mate seems to become more dominant. Trying to find some good reviews because I just don't have the time to play around that much to make up my mind...

    1. Actually busy with shifting to Chicago from Bangalore with my family. Also, got settled with Linux Mint 17.1 finally as well. I'll resume reviewing Linux OS again in June, once settled in Chicago :)

  13. I don't like it because esudo broke so I like ubuntu 15.04.

  14. I hope to see you review Bodhi 3.1.0. It ships with a fork of e17 called moksha and is said to be better as a light weight DE. I would especially be interested in seeing power usage.

  15. Sir Please Suggest Me For old 512Ram laptop a good linux Bodhi 3.1.0 or elmentary os os lubuntu

    1. The bodhi crew suggests that 3.1.0 should work pretty decent on your system.

    2. Yes I know but I am confused between Bodhi , Zorin,and Lubuntu because they all derivatives of Ubuntu and require same type system .But I am concerned with there Performance.

    3. Hi Hrithik,

      In my experience, all of them work well and are comparable. Use whatever suits your taste and requirements. Some like minimalist desktop whereas some prefer a lot of glitz, you know what I mean.


    4. Thanks Arindam. For your reply I have installed ZorinOS 10 Lite It has give my old laptop a new breath of life. And I am pretty satisfied with it.

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  20. I read here and there Bodhi Linux has issues. Is that correct?
    How stable is this distro?

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