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Linux VS Windows - Which is Better?

kailyons profile image KaiLikesLinux ・10 min read

This article is going to be a better one compared to my previous two articles. The two that blew up beyond expectation.
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Now those got a lot of comments saying "I have no proof of my claims" and this article is a sequel to both, trying to set the record straight. If I knew I was going to get over 78 thousand views for these, I would have spent more time. Knowing that it can happen, might as well up the quality altogether.

This article was originally going to be a direct comparison of Ubuntu 20.04 to Windows 10. However, I decided to do something much bigger, and much different. Instead of comparing the best of Linux, I have decided that I want to take the worst of Linux functionality (As represented by AntiX), add a couple of mid-range distributions, then compare to Ubuntu and the flavors/remixes. Each one will be compared to Windows 10.

Here is our distribution list:

Quick Key:
WM is a window manager
DE is a desktop environment
The difference is that DE has more features and
WM has fewer features with the aim to be lighter and faster

Distro Name Version Default Graphical Environment
AntiX 19 Fluxbox (WM)
Manjaro 20 XFCE (DE)
Pop!_OS 20.04 GNOME (DE)
Solus 4.1 Budgie (DE)
Deepin 15.11 DDE/Deepin (DE)
Ubuntu 20.04 GNOME (DE) + Flavors

While I understand that there are flavors for Manjaro as well as Ubuntu, and probably also for Pop!_OS and Solus as well, and that Manjaro has a higher flavor/remix count compared to Ubuntu, I feel like it is not within my best intentions to compare Desktops. If it is a flavor for a desktop we will cover in another distribution (so knocking off Ubuntu Budgie and Ubuntu DDE), it will not be covered twice.

I will do each distribution individually, and also will keep it rather short for the ones I didn't get as much use out of (I.e Deepin and AntiX) and mostly know surface-level information.

AntiX

I used this distribution once ever, and it has two deals. One, it mostly keeps to Window Managers for purposes of speed. I have seen it run on really low-end hardware with little to no issue. While yes TinyCore is smaller, both on RAM usage and even installation size, AntiX allows for a bit of style + functionality.

I will score the distributions as similar to this method - This is also why the inclusion of AntiX happened, to better describe the data used later, and also show off what Windows will score.

Everything is done from a 1 to 10 scale. 1 being terrible, 10 being excellent.

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 8 3
Fast 8 4
Easy Install 4 4
Easy for beginners 1 6
Kind community 5 2
Updates 9 2

Now each time this is done, we focus on these points. How lightweight it is, compared both to size and system resource usage. How fast it feels, this one is subjective to an extent, however, the higher lightweight score usually means the higher the "fast" level is. Easy Install is how easy it is to install from a beginner selection. This score is decided on how easy it is to understand what you are doing - from a beginner viewpoint. Easy for beginners means how easy it is for a brand new person who just got to the OS will find it. Kind Community is how kind the community is. Updates are a little tricker, it is based on update control, speed, and live-ability. Live-ability depends on if you can update without having to wait, or reboot.

Let's explain Windows's score. It totals to 21. this list has a maximum score of 60, however, the score compared to 60 doesn't matter, it is the ratio of Windows to Linux score. Windows will equal one, so it is easier to understand. I wanted to include purpose modifiers, but that complicates things a little much, so they won't be included.

For the Linux distribution to have a victory, the score needs to be 1:1.75, or one and three quarters if it is easier to read as text. In this case, it is 1:1.33 - so Windows 10 wins.

Also, notice - the user who I am aiming to represent used neither Linux or Windows.

Notice I keep a couple of things Linux proves better in out of the score, same with where Windows 10 will decimate Linux. Linux pros being customization and stability. Windows being app support. While yes, these are valid arguments for many people, some will not care as much.

So in this case,
Windows 1 and Linux 0.

We will not be counting AntiX, as it was more of an explaining tool.

Manjaro

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 7 3
Fast 7 4
Easy Install 7 4
Easy for beginners 1 6
Kind community 3 2
Updates 1 2

To explain Manjaro's score, it is lightweight and fast, but it having a DE does complicate speed a tiny bit. The installer is wonderful and easy to use. For beginners it is horrible. I used it a couple of times, and it has bug after bug, error after error. If you love tinkering, good, Manjaro is a wonderful tinkerers toy. However, I prefer to not deal with that all the time. The community is kind but has some MX feels. I wrote about how I felt about MX Linux in the past. So, therefore, Manjaro will be lower on that. For updates, while not as invasive as Windows 10, you have to update a lot, including the repos with Pacman. As a package manager, Pacman is fine, but the syntax sucks and it's constant upgrading and rolling release nature will cause some issues.

Score: 1:1.24 - This means Windows wins.

Pop!_OS

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 3 3
Fast 5 4
Easy Install 9 4
Easy for beginners 8 6
Kind community 9 2
Updates 9 2

To explain Pop!_OS's score, it is just as heavy as Windows 10, but feels a tad bit faster. The installer is easy as heck to follow, even better than Ubiquity on Ubuntu or Calamares (the general installation tool, not for one specific team). Pop!_OS also has great tools for new users to the OS and a decent welcome screen. The community is always there to help, and also gets a lot of love from the also-kind Ubuntu community. You control the updates, you can get it live, and it works similarly to Ubuntu's LTS, however, Pop!_OS support beyond the 2-year point (when a new LTS is released) is then only supported by Ubuntu for the next 3 of an LTS cycle, so that bumps the score down a bit.

With a score of 1:2.05 with 43 points for Pop!_OS - Linux wins here.

Solus

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 4 3
Fast 6 4
Easy Install 7 4
Easy for beginners 5 6
Kind community 6 2
Updates 5 2

To explain Solus's score, Budgie is a forked version of Gnome 3, which Pop!_OS uses. It is a little more lightweight than Gnome 3 and feels a little faster. For beginner use, well it is mostly in the fact that the community is small and documentation a little smaller, so it falls behind on Kind community - as one is limited - and beginner usability comes in that it is imperfect and documentation needs a little work. Updates are something I do not remember too well for Solus, but it was average. While a fantastic distribution, I feel like it needs a little more of a community with specific information, but other distributions can help too.

With a total point count of 33, the score is 1:1.57 - Good alternative but Windows 10 still wins here.

Deepin

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 1 3
Fast 6 4
Easy Install 7 4
Easy for beginners 7 6
Kind community NULL 2
Updates NULL 2

To explain Deepin's score - It has a lavish desktop that looks fantastic but is a bit heavy. Feels snappy but overall is heavy. The installer is good, solid 7, and beginner friendliness is solid too. Uh, oh.. there are two nulls - I have never worked with the Deepin community, almost at all. I also do not know how well Deepin updates, as my hardware is hard to support it long term. So, the score Windows has for here is 17 to 40.

Windows 10 wins with 1:1.24, Deepin having 21 points.

Ubuntu

So for this section, note that I will be using Ubuntu proper. Proper being the version with Gnome 3, the flavors will be after - with sightly less scoring to deal with.

Score Windows Score
Lightweight 3 3
Fast 6 4
Easy Install 8 4
Easy for beginners 8 6
Kind community 9 2
Updates 10 2

To explain Ubuntu's extravagant score of 44, well note it gets a lot of the information from Pop!_OS. Pop!_OS is a fork of Ubuntu, so Ubuntu's score is similar. It is as lightweight as Pop!_OS, so as big as a forklift compared to a bike. Doesn't feel too snappy, but as snappy as Pop!_OS - funnily enough, their other package manager is called Snap, and Pop!_OS (as far as I remember) does not include snaps. Just a funny thought. - and the ease of use is lower, mostly because Pop!_OS aims to be much easier for newbies while Ubuntu is struggling in some areas. For the community, it is the exact same as Pop!_OS's so it keeps the 9.

Ubuntu wins with 1:2.1

For flavors - here is how we decide. It is done by adding and subtracting. So if it is faster than Ubuntu, how much faster? If it is slower, how much slower. This will be done with Lightweight, Fast, Install and Ease. Most of these will not be too much different from Ubuntu, and I will mention if it somehow fails against Windows 10 - even if Ubuntu didn't.

Kubuntu

+/-
Lightweight +2
Fast + 1
Install -1
Ease -1

To explain: Kubuntu is lighter, about as light as Xubuntu, so note Xubuntu will be the same score for fast and lightweight. Feels a tad faster than Ubuntu. However, the installer is Calamares, which is a bit buggy sometimes so it docks one point. Kubuntu gets a net positive of 1 against Ubuntu.

Xubuntu

+/-
Lightweight +2
Fast + 1
Install +0
Ease -2

To explain: Xubuntu is similar spec to Kubuntu - At least as far as my testing told me. The installer is the same as Ubuntu, and ease is a little harder as XFCE is a little much for a beginner. Still a net positive of one.

Ubuntu Studio

+/-
Lightweight -1
Fast -1
Install +0
Ease +3

To explain: While Ubuntu Studio uses KDE, like Kubuntu, it is slower in the fact it is meant for creative work and those apps are larger. Installation is the same as Ubuntu. Ease is +3 as it adds software for its purpose. Net positive of one.

Lubuntu

+/-
Lightweight +3
Fast + 3
Install -1
Ease -2

To explain: Lubuntu uses LXQt, which is super lightweight, It's installer is Calamares, and ease is lower as Lubuntu takes a little bit of getting used to. It also (according to experience in what I do) is faster than KDE/XFCE. Net positive of 3.

Ubuntu MATE

+/-
Lightweight +2
Fast + 3
Install +0
Ease +0

To explain: Ubuntu MATE uses MATE, which is a fork of Gnome 2 to continue it. Solid, fast, and not much different in ease to Ubuntu. Solid net positive of 5 to Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Kylin

I won't do this one, as this is a specific distribution for China, also I have never once tested or used Ubuntu Kylin.

Ubuntu Cinnamon

+/-
Lightweight +1
Fast + 0
Install -1
Ease +3

To explain: Ubuntu Cinnamon uses the Cinnamon desktop. Cinnamon is rather a light desktop, PLUS it is very Windows-like. The familiarity with Windows is why it is +3, as the Windows workflow is awesome - but a little slower than Cinnamon. Since Windows 10's workflow is easy, par a little slow, and Cinnamon is very similar to it, Ubuntu Cinnamon improves on that.

Net positive of 4.

Ubuntu Lumina

Yes, I am the developer of Ubuntu Lumina. I do understand the Limits of Lumina.

+/-
Lightweight +1
Fast + 1
Install -1
Ease +1

To explain - It uses Calamares as the installer, and compared to Lubuntu it is similarly speedy, if not a little faster. Lumina on the desktop is a little clunky, but the familiarity to the workflow of Windows and fewer modifiers to mess with it is still getting a positive with ease... somehow. It gets a lightweight dock as it is ever so slightly heavier on the space it needs compared to Lubuntu.

Net positive of 2 - Not too shabby - be mindful I am very biased here.

Conclusion

While most distributions do not hit the mark to beat Windows, even if Windows has a terrible score in some areas, Ubuntu is just what we need. Keep Linux to the Ubuntu and flavors of it, and it will be fine. The flavors also are there to give a decent gateway to different desktops, and speeds. Other than Ubuntu, Linux doesn't fully compare to Windows.

I tried my best to be as objective as possible. Also, yeah I know I never explained Windows's score, but I wanted to keep it at the end.

Score
Lightweight 3
Fast 4
Easy Install 4
Easy for beginners 6
Kind community 2
Updates 2

Lightweight - I mean it is big. But Ubuntu got the same score. Speed is a little better for how snappy it is, but not great. Installation doesn't take OEMs into the equation, pure installation. The main issue here is that you have to type the key by hand and that some areas aren't too well described. A 4 is still average, I have seen worse on Linux cough cough Arco cough cough. For beginners - if they never used Windows before, it can be a little slow and weird at times. 6 is still very solid compared to things like... oh I don't know... Debian. Or AntiX. Community... fun fact, one of the three big reasons I left Windows was how awful the community was. Heck if you look at my other articles about Linux. You know, the popular ones I mentioned. Yeah, that was really kind compared to regular Windows. For updates, it hits hard that you have to wait many hours, and if it fails you have to wait much longer... if it even is successful. Windows Update also has skipping update issues and deleting stuff issues.

21 is still solid, I can probably see something like Debian - used by NASA - being lower. Here for fun let's do an unexplained Debian score.

Debian scores (in order) are 6, 6, 1, 1, 5, 5. In total being 24 - already super close, and if the community wasn't as average, then it would be the same as Windows. Arch has 8, 8, 1, 1, 1, 1. in total being 20 - and that is only with the edition Arch is SUPER LIGHT... including desktop. A heavier desktop like Gnome would kill Arch Linux's dreams of success.

I hope this is a better article compared to my other two - I hope you find it fair enough. Mind you I am doing my absolute hardest this run to be as objective as possible. If you have objections, please keep it reasonable.

Discussion (1)

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yujiri8 profile image
Ryan Westlund

I would take issue with the categories chosen. I think app support and customizability are the two most important areas, "kind community" is an iffy thing to count and "fast" I think has very little to do with the distribution itself and more to do with what's on it. (I think open source and price are also very important comparisons.)

If I had to score Windows with the categories given, I would say something like 1, 1, 9, 7, 5, 1. To explain that:

While I can definitely imagine an operating system that's more "heavyweight" than Windows, I've never seen one (and can't comment on Deepin). We might define it differently, but I think of "light/heavyweight" as basically "how much stuff does it include on install". So since Windows is the extreme of my reference for heaviness, I would have to put it at the end of the scale.

The same thing for fast. I've never seen a Linux distro that seemed particularly sluggish, but Windows... it seems to be fine most of the time, but sometimes programs just take like a minute to start, and especially on old Windows computers (even if it's Windows 10), it seems like it goes into a mode where everything, including control panel and whatnot, takes more than a minute to open.

For easy install, I've installed Windows 10 before and it was basically just clicking OK a bunch and I don't remember it asking any questions that required much knowledge or anything.