Linux Mint Mate 18 or Ubuntu Mate 16.04

Today Bob writes:

I am trying to decide between Ubuntu Mate 16.04 and Linux Mint Mate 18.0. I am moving from Windows 7 to Linux. My computer is a 6 year old HP DV6 Pavilion laptop with 4 GB RAM, 320 GB HD. I have watched video reviews of both and both seem to have or had problems Are they ready for prime time? Which of these distributions would you recommend for a Linux newbie? Thank you.


Hi Bob,

First off, huge props to you for asking before jumping into this with both feet. I was also impressed to hear that you also did your homework and discovered some of the issues these distros have.

So here’s the meat and potatoes of the situation – the problems you describe are most likely centered around an issue coming directly from Ubuntu. Still, the distros do indeed have distinct differences. In the included video, I’ll touch of some of these differences and provide you with a side-by-side comparison of core features and functionality.

Linux Mint 18

For newer users, this is perhaps one of the most important features. After all, it helps keep your system up to date! Linux Mint 18 takes an interesting approach in that they’re making what I believe to be conflicting recommendations. I explain the issue at length in the above video but suffice it to say that any setting that isn’t installing security patches is a bad idea.

mint-update

One positive with Linux Mint’s update tool is that their Software Sources dialog box is pretty slick. It’s laid out cleanly, it’s easy to understand and it also provides great maintenance tools. So while I’m reluctant to suggest utilizing its ability to run Ubuntu PPAs, it’s a feature Linux Mint makes pretty easy.

Next up, we have the Linux Mint Software Manager. I won’t go so far as to suggest that it’s amazing-looking. However, I’ll be first to admit that it’s presented in a logical way that will appeal to Linux newbies. Just click on the software categories and choose the application that appeals to you! Can’t get much easier than that.

mint-software-manager

The final consideration is the Linux Mint Welcome menu. Overall, it’s not bad. The Welcome menu offers immediate access to stuff like documentation, the Software Manager, restricted driver management and community assistance.

mint-welcome

Ubuntu MATE 16.04

Full disclosure: I have been involved in the project as a “user experience” consultant. That said, I do my best to be completely honest in my observations with any review or recommendation.

ubuntu-updater

Just like Linux Mint, I believe the most important feature provided by Ubuntu MATE is the Software Updater. Where the two distributions differ greatly is how updates are presented to the user. Instead of making stability suggestions, Ubuntu MATE takes the security first position. To be fair, this doesn’t mean that you won’t ever see problems with updates causing regressions but it will ensure you’re not ignoring potentially important security patches for your system. Food for thought, if nothing else.

ubuntu-welcome

Offering all of the same functionality found with Mint’s Welcome menu, Ubuntu MATE goes a step further in that it dials in extra features for folks. One example is using Ubuntu PPAs for the latest software located in the Software Boutique (part of the Welcome interface). Another difference is that the Ubuntu MATE Welcome tool even provides a hand-holding GUI that goes beyond what’s found in traditional documentation. I cover this in-depth in the above video.

Ubuntu MATE Welcome also provides you easy access to the distro’s restricted driver management. Should any of the restricted drivers give you problems, Ubuntu MATE Welcome has a “What’s inside my computer” tool that empowers newbies with details about their PC specs.

There is no right answer

Surprisingly, I don’t have one single answer for you. For my friends and family, I recommend Ubuntu MATE. It’s familiar to me, plus I am willing to support it because I known the distribution backwards and forwards.

On the other side of the coin, Linux Mint is also a great distro. I don’t care for their update manager preferences, but that aside it’s perfectly usable. And conversely, by keeping folks to Ubuntu LTS base code, you are indeed preventing any unneeded surprises.

In short, I’d try out both for a period of time and see which one suits your needs best. You’ve been given a tour of the features in the video. Now the best answer is to try each and see which feature set best meets with your expectations.

UPDATE: According to Ubuntu MATE’s Martin Wimpress: “Just a couple of observations, if you subscribe Ubuntu MATE Welcome updates, you’ll get search capability. And, the reason official Ubuntu flavours don’t pre-install VirtualBox guest additions is because is violates the license agreement “

Do you have Linux questions you’d like Matt to help with? Hit the link here and perhaps you too, can Just Ask Matt!

More great Linux goodness!

Matt Hartley
Freedom Penguin’s founder & talking head – Matt has over a decade working with Linux desktops, his operating system experience consists of both Windows and Linux operating platforms. In addition to writing articles on Linux and open source technology for Datamation.com and OpenLogic.com/wazi, Matt also once served as a co-host for a popular Linux-centric podcast.

Matt has written about various software titles, such as Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, openCRX, Alfresco, Liferay and more. He also has additional Linux experience working with Debian based distributions, openSUSE, CentOS, and Arch Linux.

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14 Comments on "Linux Mint Mate 18 or Ubuntu Mate 16.04"

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bcpoet
Guest
Kudos to Ubuntu for blazing the trail! I joined the Revolution when Win 8 assaulted my laptop. I’ve been using Mint ever since and can see no reason to ever give up OS freedom again. What one discovers after cutting the corporate cord is that one of the greatest strengths of Linux generally is freedom of choice. Whether the ‘herd’ ever escapes from their corporate overlords (MS & Apple) is irrelevant the fact is the multi flavoured universe of software freedom is here and available to anyone conscious enough to make their own choices. When I was a newbie Mint… Read more »
Dragos Lucian
Guest

The only thing that keeps me from using Linux Mint 18 (which I have it on my second HDD) all the time, is the fact that there’s no “Intel Control Center” that would let me tweak the screen colors (gamma, saturation, contrast), and the absence of “Dolby Digital Plus” which would give me a better audio experience and the ability to tweak the sound to my desire with the Dolby EQ. Oyher than that, Linux is a great OS.

lightweight
Guest

The “Color” app I see in my Mint 17.3 might do what you (colour profiles) want regarding colour management…

Dragos Lucian
Guest
The color profiles are not even close to what you can do with “Intel Control Center”. In Mint, you can only choose a color profile as is and all that I tried were almost the same. For example, I want to increase the color saturation so the colors look better. You can’t do that on Linux. Probably there will never be an app similar similar to the “Control Center” Intel made for Windows. And for the sound, I’m using the Dolby Digital Plus app to tweak the sound (frequencies + effect) and also something called “Equalizer APO”. 2 EQs offer… Read more »
lightweight
Guest
Fair enough. I’d suggest telling the vendors (Intel and Dolby?) that they should be creating (open source) apps for Linux. Adding proprietary apps to Linux isn’t really a useful step forward in my considered opinion. For the record, you can do a LOT of sound management tweaking with Linux – the main issue is that *patent encumbered* technologies like Dolby (and probably Intel’s colour management, too) are anathema to free and open source software, so vendors trying to push them tend to shun Linux as a platform. I personally don’t use their products as I think patents are actually anti-innovation… Read more »
Dragos Lucian
Guest

Maybe. But, as a user, I can’t worry about that. I got used to the best I can get on Windows, and I’d just want to see it on Linux too. Seriously, these 2 tweaking apps are the ONLY thing that keeps me from fully transitioning to Linux 18. I compile my favorite ROM on Linux but as soon as the process is over, I switch back to the other Hard Drive.

Kunal Ghosh
Guest

Dragos, have you tried VLC? It has very good features for tweaking sound.

Dragos Lucian
Guest

It’s only for media that’s saved on my laptop, like movies and music. It doesn’t apply to a system level, unfortunately.

Kunal Ghosh
Guest

VLC plays both audio and video stored locally. it has many plugins. It also has an equalizer, compressor, and spatializer for audio and a host of adjustments for video. Just try it, you will not regret it. VLC is available for Windows also.

Dragos Lucian
Guest

Does VLC do any sound processing when I’m watching videos on YouTube ? Does it process sound while I’m playing a video game ? I doubt that. But maybe it does and I don’t know how.

Kunal Ghosh
Guest

No. VLC only processes individual audio and video files when you play them through it. For a system-side application you have to look at Pulse Audio. Take a look at http://www.webupd8.org/2013/10/system-wide-pulseaudio-equalizer.html. Only, it is no longer maintained, as I understand.

Stephen Green
Guest

You forgot two critical issues in this release, printer recognition is gone, and how about that network??

matthartley
Guest

Network issue was patched in Ubuntu, I assume also in Mint by proxy. Haven’t tried printer in Mint, works fine for me in Ubuntu MATE 16.04. Which distro are you having issues with?

Eddie O'Connor
Guest
Having used Linux since 2004 I can attest that both Ubuntu AND Linux Mint are perfect for beginners. I have helped to “turn” almost everyone in my family, from my mother to my sister, her hubby, my younger brothers and some cousins, aunts, and neices and nephews. All in all…..I always recommend the Linux Mint distro for the newcomer. Only because it has enough “Microsoft-ness” inside it that someone won’t be completely lost, also it has a lot if the familiar features and actions (right-click……create new document…etc.) Plus most of what someone would be looking for is right where it… Read more »
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