If you’re looking for a new Linux distro for your desktop, then you must have stumbled upon Linux Mint and Ubuntu. They are the two most popular desktop Linux distros.
Both Linux Mint and Ubuntu have several editions (flavors) to choose from, so we’ll have them in mind while doing this comparison.
This comparison doesn’t really have anything to do with servers or web hosting, but it’s what our readers want to read the most, so we’ll keep these kinds of articles coming.
Quick overview – Linux Mint Cinnamon vs Ubuntu 16.04
If you’re too lazy to go through our detailed comparison, check the table below for a quick overview. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, so they are quite similar to begin with.
|Desktop Environments||Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, KDE||Unity (default), GNOME, LXDE, KDE, Xfce, MATE, Budgie...|
|Software||Everything you need, including proprietary software||Everything you need, excluding proprietary software|
|Best suited for||Anyone, anything||Anyone, anything|
|Release Cycle||Unscheduled, LTS only||Scheduled, LTS, and 6-month|
|Community & Popularity||Popular Linux distro with a large community||The most popular Linux distro with a large(r) community|
|Installation||Ubiquity installer (easy to install)||Ubiquity installer (easy to install)|
Intro to Linux Mint and Ubuntu
Basic information about both distros and the first things you need to know.
Both distros are free and open source.
Linux Mint is a popular choice for a desktop Linux distro that offers a wide range of customization options and an easy to use user interface. For more information, visit the official Linux Mint website.
Ubuntu is the most popular choice both for Linux desktops and servers. The popularity of the distro and the active community make it easy to find a solution to any Ubuntu-related issue. For more information, visit the official Ubuntu website.
The most important part of a desktop distro is the desktop environment it uses. The look, feel, and usability of the OS itself depends on the desktop environment.
Both Linux Mint and Ubuntu have different releases/flavors/desktop environments to choose from. By default, Ubuntu (16.04, 17.04) comes with Unity, which is a desktop environment specifically created and designed for Ubuntu. Starting from 17.10 and onwards, Ubuntu will ship with GNOME by default. As for Linux Mint, there is no “default”, but a choice of different desktop environments to begin with, the most popular being Cinnamon.
You can install any desktop environment you want to use on both distros, but Ubuntu has more options for environments that work out of the box and come pre-installed depending on the Ubuntu release you choose. Some Ubuntu releases include Lubuntu (LXLE), Xubuntu (Xfce), Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu MATE…
We mentioned some of the desktop environments you can use on both distros in our comparison table above.
Both distros are beginner-friendly and are ready to use out of the box. Both Linux Mint and Ubuntu have all the software you’d need pre-installed, including a browser, a media player, an office suite and more.
Both use the same package manager (dpkg). If some application is available for Ubuntu, you can also install it on Linux Mint. So the software should not be a deciding factor when choosing between Linux Mint and Ubuntu, other than what software is installed by default. Even if you want a different application than the default one, you can easily uninstall the default one and install an alternative through a GUI.
By default, Linux Mint includes proprietary software (like Flash), but Ubuntu doesn’t. If you want to use proprietary software on Ubuntu, you’ll need to update your settings, which takes less than a minute.
Best suited for
Linux Mint and Ubuntu are both easy to use, easy to install, and easy to configure, so both distros are best suitable for beginners.
Both distros offer many customization options, so if you are familiar with Linux, you can customize both distros to your needs. So they are also suitable for experienced users.
Given their beautiful and modern user interfaces and compatibility. You can use the distro on a small laptop, or on a big computer screen, so they are suitable for any kind of use, on any kind of a device.
Linux Mint is more suitable for Windows users – Mint’s interface is quite similar to the Microsoft Windows interface. So if you’re switching from Windows to Linux and you want a familiar interface, you should go with Linux Mint.
By default, Linux Mint offers more customization options compared to Ubuntu, at least in their GUI settings.
Ubuntu releases a new version every 6 months, so its release cycle is scheduled. Every 2 years, there’s an LTS (Long Term Support) release, which provides support for 5 years for the desktop and server version of Ubuntu. The duration of the support is relevant because you will only receive updates until the release is officially supported.
Linux Mint releases are not scheduled, but they do come a month or so after every Ubuntu release. All Linux Mint releases are LTS releases. When a new Ubuntu LTS release comes out, a new Linux Mint version comes out. Mike F from the comment section below explains it well.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. Other than the user interfaces and the default settings, both distros are quite similar.
Ubuntu is based on Debian.
Community and popularity
Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distro. Given the popularity, Ubuntu has the most users out of any Linux distro. With that large of a user base, you can easily find a solution to your issue on online communities. There are detailed tutorials and explanations for just about anything, especially for beginners.
Linux Mint is a popular Linux distro for desktops. It’s one of the most popular desktop distros, other than Ubuntu. The Linux Mint community is very helpful and active. Although they have a smaller user base, you can still easily find solutions or ask for help in the official Linux Mint community.
Both distros use the same installer – the Ubiquity installer. So installing the distro itself will be very similar for both distros.
Not as (relatively) easy to install as Windows or OS X, but still very easy to install, even for beginners. Everything is explained during the installation and everything is done via a GUI.
You can install both using a flash drive and you can use them as a “live” distro – meaning you don’t even need to install them on a hard drive, you can use them straight from the removable drive.
Frequently asked questions
There are a few questions that people usually ask when comparing Linux Mint with Ubuntu. We’ll answer all of them. If you have any additional questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Which distro is better for beginners?
Both are great for beginners, but if you had to choose one, go with Ubuntu.
Can I use both distros at the same time?
Yes, you can use “dual boot” to have both distros installed at the same time. When booting the computer, just pick one of the distros.
Can I test the distros before deciding to use them?
Of course. First, you can check out some demos, videos, screenshots and online reviews. If you want to personally try the distros, you can use VirtualBox or similar software and use a virtual (temporary) installation. You can also use a Live CD/USB and test-drive the distro on the computer you are planning on using them.
Which one is better for older PCs and laptops?
This mostly depends on what desktop environment you use. If you use a lightweight desktop environment like Xfce or LXLE, you can use it on older PCs and laptops. For more options, see 50+ Best Lightweight Linux Distros for 2017
Linux Mint Cinnamon vs MATE
Cinnamon and MATE are the two most popular “flavors” of Linux Mint. Cinnamon is based on the GNOME 3 desktop environment, and MATE is based on GNOME 2. The desktop environments are based compared by actually using them, or, alternatively, you can check out some screenshots.
If you want to read more Linux distro-related stuff, see:
- Debian vs Ubuntu: Compared as a Desktop and as a Server
- 50+ Best Lightweight Linux Distros for 2017
- Best Linux Distros for Gaming in 2017
- CentOS vs Ubuntu: Which one is better for a server