Updated: February 3, 2016
Rosa and I had a rough start. Network-related regressions made the live session on my Lenovo G50 with its Linux-unfriendly Realtek card nigh impossible, I lost temper, and the distro scored zero. A few weeks after this fiasco, I calmed down, and upgraded the Rafaela setup, which turns out to be a top distro of 2015, to Rosa, without any issues.
Now, I want to give Rosa another chance. Xfce, and this time, on my older HP laptop, which still has a respectable 4 GB of RAM, four CPU threads, an Nvidia card, and a Broadcom Wireless adapter. In the distant past, it would sometimes give me trouble with this and that Ubuntu-based distro, especially when installed to external disks, so this is a great opportunity for Rosa to redeem herself. Let us.
Live session - Everything you need
Mint maintains a consistent look across different desktop environments, which is not always an easy thing to achieve. But the Xfce version is very similar to Cinnamon, or for that matter, MATE or KDE. You get the same silver-gray-green theme, and it looks quite all right. The system menu is perky. Good.
Network connectivity - Perfect
Thinking about it, I guess having a Realtek adapter in your laptop sucks, to be honest. In fact, after a whole bunch of years testing Linux on dozens of hardware platforms, it would seem Intel chipsets are probably the friendliest, but then not quite, Atheros is good but signal reception can be weak, Broadcom is good most of the time, and Realtek rather buggy.
There were no network issues with the Broadcom adapter, even without the proprietary firmware. Good, consistent signal strength, no drops, no issues. I will have to test again to see whether the disconnects I used to have back in the Pangolin era were because of the external disk installations, although I doubt it. Well, whatever the reason, luck or progress in the kernel space, things were looking quite sweet in the live session.
Samba sharing, fast and tight like a tiger, with great transfer speed. Samba printing, very good, very nimble. Bluetooth also worked without a hitch with my Ubuntu Phone. It was looking quite optimistic, I have to say.
Smartphone connectivity - Perfect
Another top score. I tried iPhone and the aforementioned Ubuntu Phone, and later my Nokia 520, but I don't have a screenshot of that one. They all worked without any issues, and I was able to play music files stored on the phones and whatnot. Lovely.
Multimedia support - Perfect
This has never been a problem with Linux Mint. Rosa 17.3 Xfce did its job loyally, playing all manner of files, including the typical combo of Flash, HD video and MP3. The only thing that I'd change is that music files open in the video player rather than either Banshee or VLC. Moreover, the system tray integration is there, but it's not as pretty as the one in the Cinnamon edition.
Installation - Jolly good
I had to be a little careful, as the system has a dual-boot setup with Windows 7. The other system happens to be Qiana. I made sure to format the root partition, but keep the home partition intact, as it hosts a handsome amount of data, and reuse the user name, which means lots of old but useful stuff accumulated over the years.
The installation was quick and painless. Soon enough, I had my dual boot reconfigured with the new version of Mint, and it was time for some post-install fun. Then again, everything had worked in the live session, so there was little left to explore.
The desktop loaded fine, and all my personal settings and even startup programs were preserved. The only thing that had changed was that desktop icons no longer had transparent backgrounds for some reason. Must be my fault.
Package management & updates
Fast, painless. The package manager asked me to switch to a faster local mirror, which is a nice little touch. We did see that when we upgraded Rafaela. Then, while the system was updating the cache, I tried to run the update manager, and it warmed me that the cache had not been fully rebuilt, and that I should be careful.
After that, I got a load of updates, and they completed without any problems. I also installed Steam and Skype to bolster the already impressive default set, which we will discuss in a jiffy. Finally, I went about installing some proprietary drivers. The only thing annoying about the whole thing is that you're being asked for password every single time, so maybe PAM needs a bit tweaking.
Nvidia and Broadcom drivers
I selected the recommended packages and let Mint 17.3 do its thing. Five minutes later, on next reboot, I no longer had the fancy high-def logo, but I did have the Nvidia splash screen, which is always a good sign. Everything was peachy.
The program set is quite respectable. You get a lot of great stuff in the 1.4GB image, including Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Pidgin, GIMP, VLC, Transmission, loads of utilities, and then some. The one issue is that the Gaming section has a link to Half-Life on Steam, but it won't work until you've installed Steam, so this looks like a very silly omission during the build.
Stability, performance, suspend & resume
Not a single error. Awesome. The responsiveness is phenomenal. Unless you do really intensive CPU tasks, you won't really know you're running Rosa on a laptop dating back to 2010. The boot time is quite fast, the shutdown sequence takes only about two seconds, and going to sleep and waking up tolls exactly 1/60 of a minute. A blast.
I checked the utilization before and after the setup of Nvidia drivers. In both cases, the resource usage was extremely low. The CPU was humble and quiet at 0% when not doing anything meaningful, and memory hovered around 8-9% on idle, which translates into about 320-360 MB. Very neat. A lightning fast Xfce, this one is.
Tiny tiny niggles really, the only serious one being the Steam & Half-Life thingie. Then, after installing the Nvidia drivers and rebooting, my desktop wallpaper wasn't preserved, but it must be because I changed it half a second before the restart. It didn't happen again.
The goodness abides:
Seriously, Linux Mint 17.3 Rosa Xfce is a blistering good distribution. If not for the issues I had on my G60 laptop, I'd be one super-ultra-happy bunny. But my faith is being restored by the moment. First, a smooth, flawless upgrade from Rafaela. Then, this fabulous experience today.
Honestly, I can't think of anything bad except for a couple of tiny glitches, and they are so irrelevant in the overall scheme that there's nothing to worry or even consider. Everything worked. Everything. There were no warnings, errors, stutters, doubts. No matter what I tried, Rosa Xfce handled it gracefully, with speed and elegance. This warrants a perfect score. It's been a while, but we're back in the game. 10/10. Rosa Xfce, YOUR next distro.