One reason why Ubuntu has remained so popular for such a long time is the availability of several flavors of this open source Linux distribution based on the Debian architecture. In this article, we compare the original creation, Ubuntu, with the most popular Ubuntu flavor, Lubuntu, highlighting both their similarities and differences.
What Are Ubuntu Flavors?
An Ubuntu flavor is a variant of Ubuntu, which was initially released in 2004. There are currently ten Ubuntu flavors: Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu, Mythbuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, and Ubuntu Budgie.
Even though all of the ten flavors share the same repository for downloading updates as well as the same base, they ship with different packages and target different use cases. But just because a piece of software isn’t present in one flavor doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to install the software from the included package management tools.
In theory, you could start with just about any Ubuntu flavor and end up with an operating system precisely customized according to your needs. That said, it’s highly advisable to start with a flavor that’s already close to how you want your operating system to feel like and function, instead of spending hours and hours trying to change the default configuration.
Differences Between Ubuntu and Lubuntu
We have already established that Ubuntu and Lubuntu share the same core system components and repositories. So, what’s different? The default desktop environment and applications.
As you may already know, a desktop environment (DE) consists of toolbars, icons, windows, widgets, and other graphical user interface (GUI) elements, providing the user with a way how to easily control programs, access files, and change various settings.
Ubuntu’s DE is called GNOME 3, and it’s the latest version of the same free and open source desktop environment that shipped with the first release of Ubuntu, Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog). GNOME 3 does an excellent job when it comes to maximizing the vertical screen space thanks to its modern approach to user interface design. Its most characteristic feature is the combination of a vertical application switcher on the left side with a space-saving horizontal multipurpose top menu bar and a virtual desktop manager on the right side.
According to GNOME 3 developers, this modern desktop environment was designed from the ground up to make common tasks simple and easy. It features the so-called Activities Overview, allowing you to view all open windows, launch applications, or check if you have a new message with a press of a button.
Lubuntu, on the other hand, uses the LXDE desktop environment. LXDE stands for Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, and it is an open source DE characterized by its low resource requirements and adherence to a desktop metaphor that is guaranteed to feel instantly familiar to all Windows users.
LXDE comes with several lightweight alternatives to common applications, including a file manager (PCMan File Manager), terminal emulator (LXTerminal), desktop panel (LXPanel), or GTK+ theme switcher (LXAppearance), just to name a few.
Why Choose Lubuntu Over Ubuntu?
Because the LXDE desktop environment has such low resource requirements, it runs on just about any old or low-end computer with at least a 266 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, 3 GB of hard drive space, and basic graphics card.
Ubuntu, on the other hand, requires at least a 2 GHz dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, 25 GB of hard drive space, and VGA-capable graphics card with the minimum resolution of 1024 × 768 pixels.
Lubuntu’s low resource requirements also mean that the operating system runs faster on newer computers. Modern web browsers such as Chrome and, to a lesser extent, Firefox are known for being notoriously hungry for memory. By choosing Lubuntu over Ubuntu, you will have more RAM left for applications.
Because Lubuntu has virtually no visual effects to make tasks such as switching between applications more visually appealing, you may find it more responsive. Ubuntu’s GNOME 3 relies heavily on animations and other visual effects, and many Ubuntu users disable them right away with the GNOME Tweak Tool.
Finally, Lubuntu is also suited for people who are used to the Windows operating system, especially Windows XP. Lubuntu mimics the look and feel of Windows XP quite closely, and so do many of the included applications.
- Lubuntu runs well on old and low-end computers.
- Lubuntu consumes less resources.
- Lubuntu has less visual effects, which can be potentially distracting.
- Lubuntu should feel familiar to the users of the Windows operating system.
Why Choose Ubuntu Over Lubuntu?
Ubuntu is significantly more popular than any of its flavors. Consequently, its user base is larger and more active. If you visit a Linux discussion group and ask a question regarding Ubuntu, you will get an answer much quicker than if you were to ask the same question about Lubuntu.
Despite being heavier on resources than the LXDE desktop environment, GNOME 3 is arguably one of the most visually appealing desktop environments out there, and it has many useful features that make things like finding documents or opening applications much faster. What’s more, GNOME 3 is optimized for HDPI displays, which is something LXDE struggles with.
Because Ubuntu is the original from which all of its flavors originate, it’s the first to receive updates and bug fixes. Enterprise users can even pay for 24/7 phone and web commercial support through the Ubuntu Advantage program. Those who decide to participate in the program also get access to a landscape systems management tool, Canonical Livepatch Service, and Canonical Knowledge Base, IP legal assurance that provides indemnification against claims of intellectual property infringement, and other useful benefits.
- Ubuntu has a much larger user base than any of its flavors, including Lubuntu.
- Ubuntu is arguably much more visually appealing than Lubuntu.
- Ubuntu has many useful features that greatly simplify common tasks such as finding documents.
- Ubuntu users can pay for commercial support from Canonical.
Despite sharing the same base, Ubuntu and Lubuntu are two different operating systems, each with its own distinct look and feel. Lubuntu is a lightweight operating system that runs great on less powerful hardware, while Ubuntu is known for constantly pushing the Linux desktop in new, interesting directions.