Unlike Windows or Mac, Linux has a variety of distributions that use different graphical environments and applications by default. These combinations make some "distros" lighter than others or that some of them are better adapted to a particular activity or a specific type of hardware, such as netbooks. The list that we share below is not intended to be limiting; there are many more distributions that can work perfectly on a netbook. We simply encourage you to suggest the ones that, in our opinion, are the best or those that were specifically designed to be used on netbooks.
Table of Contents
Main characteristics of a netbook
- The emphasis is on its ease of portability (it weighs little and generally has a long battery life).
- Because the strength is its "mobility", it relies heavily on wireless connections (wifi, bluetooth, etc.)
- It has a relatively modest amount of RAM, typically 1GB / 2GB.
- It has a relatively small screen.
Characteristics of a good netbook distro
The characteristics described above make it necessary for the GNU / Linux distribution of our choice to have the following "strong" points:
- That it does not consume much battery and, if possible, that it makes use of as many energy-saving mechanisms.
- That there are no problems with the detection of wifi or bluetooth.
- That consumes little RAM.
- That it has a "comfortable" interface and that it fits the screen size (small) that we usually find on a netbook.
Jolicloud is based on Ubuntu, but it was designed to work on computers with more limited specifications in terms of disk capacity, memory, and screen size. The visual interface (HTML 5 + GNOME) resembles that of a tablet and stands out for its speed and low consumption of resources. As can be seen in the screenshot, JoliOS is mainly oriented to run web applications (ChromeOS style), for which it uses Mozilla Prism. In any case, it is also possible to install native applications, such as the VLC video player, and although it goes without saying that this distro will squeeze all the juice if we are connected to the Internet, it is possible to use it off-line.
Finally, it should be noted that it is possible to install JoliOS within Windows or Ubuntu (beta) as if it were just another application, which is ideal for those who want to test it before finally installing it.
It is an Ubuntu based distro that uses the LXDE desktop environment. It stands out for its very low consumption of resources and for the similarity of its visual interface with that of the now classic WinXP, which makes it very attractive for those who are taking their first steps in GNU / Linux.
While all the LXDE-based distros are highly recommended for netbooks, Lubuntu is undoubtedly the best for newcomers, not only because of the similarity of its visual interface to that of WinXP, as we already saw, but also because it shares the same huge Ubuntu community, making it easier to solve any eventual problem that may arise.
3. Bodhi Linux
It is a GNU / Linux distribution that takes advantage of the full potential of the Enlightenment window manager. In fact, it is one of the few distributions that Enlightenment uses. It comes, by default, with a minimal set of applications such as a browser, a text editor, a package management tool, etc.
Precisely, minimalism is one of the ideas behind Bodhi Linux, which is why it is not recommended for newcomers, although it is recommended for those with some experience in Linux. The most attractive thing about this distro is its exceptional speed and very low system requirements, while providing a very pleasant, easy-to-use and customizable desktop experience.
It is based on Debian and uses an Openbox window manager. This layout is designed to offer an excellent balance between speed and functionality. It is as stable as Debian itself, in addition to incorporating by default a minimalist and modern interface that can be easily customized, making it perfect for teams with limited resources.
I am not exaggerating to say that it is one of the best GNU / Linux distributions available at the moment.
It is a distro based on Puppy Linux but uses Ubuntu packages. It has a friendly desktop environment and with certain features that give it an appearance (although still quite distant) of a Mac OS X.
Macpup comes by default with several very light free applications, such as AbiWord, Gnumeric, SeaMonkey and Opera. The window manager used is, once again, Enlightenment, which stands out for its good graphical performance with few system resources.
It is a GNU / Linux distribution based on Arch Linux, a distribution recommended especially for more advanced users, but it has its own set of repositories. The distribution aims to be user-friendly while maintaining Arch features, such as the Pacman package manager and AUR (Arch User's Repository) compatibility. Besides the main version with XFCE there is an official version (lighter) that uses the OpenBox window manager. There are also community editions that use E17, MATE, LXDE, Cinnamon / Gnome-shell, and KDE / Razor-qt.
Manjaro stands out for its simplicity and speed, putting the power of Arch Linux within the reach of the "average / advanced" user.
It is a "cloud-based" operating system that comes with a good assortment of web applications by default. It is based on Lubuntu and uses the LXDE desktop environment.
Unlike other "web-centric" distributions, such as ChromeOS or JoliOS, Peppermint has a very friendly interface for those who come from Windows and prefer the classic "Start" menu.
8. Zorin OS Lite
Basically Zorin OS is made to emulate the appearance of other operating systems. You can choose Windows 2000 or Mac OS X. For Windows users this distro provides a familiar look. In addition, it is very easy to use, although it does come with few applications installed by default.
SolydX (XFCE) is a semi-rolling release based on Debian. Its goal is to be easy to use, providing a stable and safe environment. The recommended version for netbooks uses XFCE as the desktop environment, although it is reminiscent of KDE. SolydX uses the wicd network manager for the Internet connection and comes with flash and MP3 codecs installed by default. In addition, it includes a good variety of lightweight applications: Firefox, Exaile, VLC, Abiword and Gnumeric.
10. Google Chrome OS
A "web-centric" operating system, based on the browser of the same name and Linux. It is the system used in the increasingly popular Chromebooks.
One of the points that Google stands out the most is the speed of the system, with a boot time of 8 seconds and a fairly short shutdown time, in addition to the speed with which it opens its web applications. All documents, applications, extensions, and configurations are backed up online under the cloud computing concept. So if the user loses his machine, he can get another or access from another machine, and get exactly the same data that he previously kept.
As we see in the world of free software there are numerous options for netbooks. It should be clarified that the distributions mentioned here were not placed in order of preference. In reality, the best distribution will be the one that best suits the needs of each one and that obviously varies. Generally speaking, I would recommend "newbies" to try Lubuntu, Crunchbang or MacPup, while the more "advanced" might try Manjaro or SolydX.
Finally, I would appreciate all the users of these distros who could send us their comments so that this entry becomes richer and more useful for those who have a netbook and are thinking of changing the Operating System.