Sunday, September 29, 2013

SolydX 201309 Review: Simple, effective and efficient, as good as Linux Mint!

All those users fretting over the demise of Mint Debian XFCE spin can now rejoice with SolydX. It aims to provide users a simple, stable and secured operating system and targeted to small businesses, non-profit organizations in addition to the home users. SolydX is based on Debian testing branch and hence, gets updated applications more quicker than Debian stable. I tested the earlier releases and was very happy with it. However, I didn't get time to pen down a review. So, here I am finally with a review of one of my favorite distros, SolydX, more specifically the 201309 release of the same.

From SolydX 2013.09
The present release of SolydX brings on the table XFCE 4.10 and Linux kernel 3.10.2. I downloaded the 1.1 GB 32-bit ISO and created a live USB using Unetbootin. Next, I booted it on my Asus K54C laptop (2.2 Ghz Core i3 processor and 2 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel HD graphics 3000), checked if everything worked fine and when satisfied, installed it on a 12 GB HDD partition.

On live boot, I was greeted by a Welcome screen, detailing the driver and community help options. Definitely good for a newbie. Post installation also, the same screen appeared and I unchecked the "Show at startup" option at the right bottom. Otherwise, it may become a bit annoying.

From SolydX 2013.09
SolydX comes with a single panel XFCE like Mint, professional looks and the typical crisp SolydX wallpaper. Though I use XFCE as one of my production distros but never prefer the two panel look. So, single panel works well for me along with a docky.
From SolydX 2013.09

Though SolydX looks clean but it appears a bit boring to me. All the pre-installed wallpapers are variants of the default SolydX wallpapers making it further monotonous. However, even in office I like to jazz up my desktop a bit. So, I installed a docky, set it's theme to greyscale and installed a conky to spice it up a bit.

From SolydX 2013.09
The standard XFCE menu in SolydX is a bit complex for me and finding applications isn't easy without typing the name. I prefer a more simplified menu. So, I found docky very helpful in easy access of the preferred applications.

Enabling Compositing
Compositing is not enabled by default in SolydX. To enable, simply go to: Settings Manager -> Window Manager Tweaks -> Compositor and check "Enable display compositing".

From SolydX 2013.09
Conky and docky don't work properly without compositing. Especially the conky looks a bit ugly with black shadow as background.

To add further glamour, I checked "Show shadow under regular windows"; it gave a subtle shadow at the edges of the open windows and a 3D like effect.

Hardware Recognition
Like it's predecessor, Linux Mint Debian, SolydX, too, worked right out of the box. It correctly recognized my laptops display, touchpad, wifi, LAN and soundcard. Everything fell into place right from the live boot itself and I didn't face a single issue while using the distro for about a week.

Though SolydX automatically recognized my touchpad and allowed vertical scroll, but I had to enable single and double tap functions manually, from the settings managers.

From SolydX 2013.09
I like the application list I see in SolydX. It has got almost all essential applications and barring one or two, rest all qualify to be lightweight.
  • Office: Abiword 2.9.2, Gnumeric 1.12.4, Dictionary, Document viewer, Orage calendar, Orage Globaltime
  • Internet: Firefox 23, Thunderbird 17, Pigdin IM, Transmission, Xchat IRC
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.6, Ristretto Image Viewer, Shotwell Photo Manager, Simple Scan
  • Multimedia: Exaile, VLC 2.0.8, Xfburn
  • Accessories: Application finder, Bulk Rename, Catfish file search, Clipman, Calculator, GtkHash, ImageWriter, Luckybackup, Mousepad, Notes, Root terminal, Screenshot, Synapse, Xarchiver, Firewall, Gdebi Package Installer, Gparted, Print Settings, Terminal
The good point about SolydX is that it doesn't dump the entire repository with obscure applications which anyway I am never going to use. It provides only the utility applications required for daily usage.

Multimedia codecs and Adobe flash plugin are pre-installed in the distro which is definitely helpful for the new users. I could watch my favorite YouTube and Dailymotion videos in Firefox immediately after installation.
From SolydX 2013.09

I used Abiword and Gnumeric earlier and they are not as versatile as a LibreOffice. But never-the-less usable and runs well under low resource environment. In case, you have installed in a Dual core or more advanced laptop, my recommendation is to install LibreOffice from the Debian testing repos.

Also, I found Exaile music player to be quite good, lightweight and offer me decent performance. VLC is of course VLC and un-parallel as a video player. Too good!

Except Luckybackup, I tried out rest of the applications and all of them work as expected. Specially bulk rename was very helpful in renaming the snapshot files. Also, I feel Imagewriter is a good addition from the Linux Mint stable. I found the Mint image writer to be more versatile than unetbootin and it even works with Arch based and PCLinuxOS to create live USB.

Steam is not present by default in this update but can be downloaded from the repository. 

Settings are integrated like any other XFCE 4.10 distro. Further, I saw a lot of settings option available in the menu including printer settings.
From SolydX 2013.09

From SolydX 2013.09
Installation is similar to Linux Mint and definitely easier than Debian 7. Questions are usual, language, location, keyboard layout and language, user ID creation and finally, place where to install SolydX. SolydX uses Grub2 to boot and supports multiple booting with other distros.

From SolydX 2013.09
As mentioned earlier, SolydX sources it's packages from Debian testing repositories. I checked the /etc/apt/sources.list and found that SolydXK provides some of it's own packages from third party repositories as well. For example, Mint specific applications, Skype, etc.

From SolydX 2013.09
The default GUI for package installation is Software Manager. It is exactly similar to Linux Mint Software Manager and works efficiently. Applications are nicely classified into categories and sub-categories, e.g. Internet and inside, Web, Chat, Email and File Sharing. I installed docky, conky and Skype using the same. The Skype for Linux doesn't look as attractive as the MS counterpart but never-the-less works well.
From SolydX 2013.09

From SolydX 2013.09
Further, Synaptic package manager is there as well. I found Synaptic to work faster than the Software Manager and is more efficient.

As I mentioned, like Linux Mint, everything worked as expected in SolydX. I got a decent battery life (unlike Debian 7) and pretty low resource consumption in SolydX. Generally the CPU consumption stayed at 0% while idle and hardly went beyond 50% during the usage with multiple programs running. At steady state, SolydX consumed about about 140 MB RAM and 0-5% CPU with task manager running. It is actually lower than the average RAM consumption (~ 160 MB, median) of all XFCE distros I used during 2012-13 (all 32-bit and recorded on the same machine - Asus K54C, under similar conditions).

Operating System (XFCE) Size of ISO Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU Usage RAM usage Size of installation
Snowlinux 4 Glacier XFCE 727 MB Debian XFCE 4.10 3.5.0 1-5% 87 MB
Debian Wheezy XFCE 868 MB Debian XFCE 4.8 '3.2.0 1-5% 100 MB
Porteus 2.1 XFCE 147.9 MB Slackware XFCE 4.10 3.9.11 1-5% 100 MB
Snowlinux 3.1 Crystal XFCE 639 MB Debian XFCE 4.8 3.2.0 1-5% 110 MB
Linux Lite 1.0.4 XFCE 755 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.8 3.2.18 1-5% 120 MB
Mint Debian XFCE 1.2 GB Debian XFCE 4.8 3.2.0 1-5% 125 MB
Bridge XFCE 696 MB Arch XFCE 4.10 '3.6.7 1-5% 130 MB
Linux Lite 1.0.0 XFCE 916 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.8 3.2.0-32 1-5% 130 MB
SolydX 201306 1.1 GB Debian XFCE 4.10 3.9.6 1-5% 138 MB 3.7 GB
Mint 14 XFCE 914 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.5.0-17 1-5% 140 MB
Mint 15 XFCE 992 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.8.0-25 1-5% 140 MB 3.8 GB
SolydX 201309 1.1 GB Debian XFCE 4.10 '3.10.2 1-5% 140 MB 3.79 GB
Fedora 17 XFCE 705 MB Fedora XFCE 4.8 '3.3.4-5 1-5% 160 MB
Fedora 19 XFCE 617 MB Fedora XFCE 4.10 3.9.8 1-5% 160 MB 2.46 GB
Manjaro 0.8.3 XFCE 817 MB Arch XFCE 4.10 '3.4.24 1-5% 160 MB
Manjaro 0.8.7 XFCE 1.1 GB Arch XFCE 4.10 3.4.60 1-5% 160 MB 3.84 GB
Mint 13 XFCE 850 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.8 3.2.0-29 1-5% 160 MB
Sabayon 11 XFCE 1.3 GB Gentoo XFCE 4.10 3.7.0 1-5% 160 MB
Xubuntu 12.04.1 LTS 715 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.8 3.2.0-29 1-5% 160 MB
Xubuntu 12.10 727 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.5.0-17 1-5% 160 MB
Xubuntu 13.04 827 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.8.0 1-5% 160 MB
Emmabuntus 12.04.2-1.04 3.5 GB Ubuntu XFCE 4.8 3.2.0-39 1-5% 170 MB
Fedora 18 XFCE 694 MB Fedora XFCE 4.10 3.6.10/3.7.2 1-5% 180 MB
OS4 OpenLinux 13.6 1.8 GB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.2.0 1-5% 180 MB 5.3 GB
Sabayon 10 XFCE 1.3 GB Gentoo XFCE 4.10 '3.5.0 1-5% 180 MB
Sabayon 13.08 XFCE 1.4 GB Gentoo XFCE 4.10 3.10.0 1-5% 180 MB 4.96 GB
Manjaro 0.8.2 XFCE 1.1 GB Arch XFCE 4.10 '3.4.18 1-5% 200 MB
OS 4 13.1 1.5 GB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.2.0 1-5% 200 MB
Voyager 12.10 991 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 '3.5.0 1-5% 200 MB
ZevenOS 5 734 MB Ubuntu XFCE 4.10 3.5.0 1-5% 220 MB

Numbers aside, SolydX is very smooth to use and except the convoluted menu, quite intuitive. Though I have used more efficient XFCE distros than SolydX, but as a package it is quite good and comparable to Linux Mint 14 XFCE, in terms of performance.

SolydX occupies about 3.8 GB of space which is quite decent and is not a space hogger.

SolydX is a kind of distro which grows on you as you start using it. It works definitely as efficient and stable as any Ubuntu or Debian XFCE spin I have used, including Linux Mint XFCE. Further, SolydX gives the advantage of a semi-rolling release and users need not to re-install a fresh distro every year (6 months now). Rest of the rolling release distros may not be suitable for Linux newbies and I myself broke quite a few times my Arch installation while updating. SolydX is definitely a better bet in this regard.

In terms of aesthetics, definitely I have used better looking XFCE distros. But, XFCE being highly customizable, I won't consider it as a barrier to adopting SolydX. I highly recommend SolydX to all Linux newbies as a distro worth trying. I guess the experts have already appreciated and started adopting this relatively new distro. As far I am concerned, I am using SolydXK for quite sometime and found it to be really good. 

You can download the 32 and 64 bit versions of SolydX from here.


  1. Hello...thank you so much for al your reviews...those tables with the resources every distribution uses is really helpful ...can you do please a review of KDE on the latest Netrunner?thank you again!

    1. Hi Dofrey:

      Netrunner is simply awesome but unfortunately it only comes as a 64 bit OS. I didn't include the CPU/RAM consumption of Netrunner 64bit in this table as in general 64 bit OS consume 50% more RAM than their 32-bit counterparts. You can check my review of Netrunner and comparison to other 64bit KDE spins here:

      And thanks for liking my reviews.


    2. Hi Arindam, thanks for putting up this review so quickly. For myself, I will keep using SolydK as my distro, as I like KDE so much for its aesthetics. Take care and till next time!


  2. Hi,Arindam, Use this distribution of 40 days. Very good review.

    1. Hi Dred, Sure. I am going to retain the distro for sometime. As you said, it is very good. Also, I like it's rolling release support. It is way better than re-installing a new distro every 6 months, especially on production machines.

      And thanks for liking my review.


  3. I have been enjoying your reviews for some time now. It is good to see a review on a distro I have put on one of my new builds. I have set SolydX up as the base for a home server and it has been working well.

    I like the comparison charts you have put together for each operating system based on the desktop. This has been especially interesting to me as I prefer to use Xfce and KDE. Keep up the good work.