Updated: October 21, 2019
You know how the popular saying goes. When it rains ... people drive slowly just to annoy you. But as it happens, I received a bunch of emails from people asking me two things: 1) Why have I not recently done any more Cinnamon reviews (other than Mint)? 2) When am I going to review the latest version of Manjaro 18.1 Juhraya?
The answer to these question is: yes. At the same time! I decided to try Manjaro Cinnamon, not something I've done before, so it should be an interesting, refreshing and hopefully worthwhile exercise. The test box will be the same one I used for the Illyria Xfce test, so we can compare things in earnest - and accurately. This is an eight-book mixed Windows & Linux box, and it comes with UEFI, Intel graphics, 16 sweet partitions, and another instance of Manjaro that we won't touch in this review. Begin to start.
Similar to what we've seen before. I selected nonfree in the GRUB menu, and thereafter watched lines of text scroll. No fancy splash for the Cinnamon edition, it seemeth. The desktop loaded, all green and gray, signature colors of the distribution with a dash of Mint, not to be confused with the namesake distro. And you also get a dark theme by default, Mint-Y-Dark-Teal, which I found very hard for me non-developer eyes. Dark on the phone yes, dark on the desktop no. Dedoimedo for president, or something.
You are also asked what desktop layout you want, and whether you desire the icons-only Icing task manager instead of the classic formula. The live desktop feels a bit busy, with the Welcome screen, tons of icons left and right and such. Not bad, just the dark theme makes it all less airy, hence the sense of over-activity.
Look & feel
I promptly went into the Settings and changed the theme. And discovered a huge problem right from the start. The Mint-Y theme is too flat, too pale, with insufficient contrast. The old Mint-X works better, but it feels old school with gradients and whatnot. There's no way to change settings like you would in Plasma, so the alternative is command-line Gnome theme edits, which ain't fun.
I tried a whole bunch of stuff, and me eyes hurt. Right then. Whatever font color or anti-aliasing or who knows what wasn't tweaked for perfection, plus the theme choice, made the usage extremely difficult. Yes, there are many other aspects to desktop usage, but this is cardinal. If you can't look at it for more than 10 minutes, there's really no point. Alas, with Cinnamon, this has become worse over the years.
Then, there were inconsistencies, too. For example, the package manager uses its own theme, its own thick Adwaita-like borders and has a hard-coded 20-30px transparent border that catches whatever's in the background. An old problem with Gnome and Cinnamon, and carried over into Manjaro.
The system tray popup text is also inconsistent. In most cases, it shows above the panel, but a few icons had the text placed almost randomly, including "below" the screen, so the actual hint wasn't even visible.
Pretty good. Wireless, no issues. Samba sharing - out of the box and very fast too, twice the speed of most other distros and/or environments, go figure - the exact same laptop placement in the room, the exact same conditions. Printing also works, both Samba and Wireless. Bluetooth is the only element in this equation that disappoints, as I was unable to actually detect my Aquaris phone and initiate a pairing. Odd. And points out to the avalanche of inconsistencies across the Linux space, since forever.
Good-ish. The new media player, Pragha, looks like Rhythmbox, and in a way, behaves similarly. I double-clicked on a song, expecting it to start. Instead, the player launched, asked me to scan the library, listed all the songs in it, and then didn't play the song. Looks kind of bland. Xplayer handled HD content without issues, but I noticed tearing. Horizontal lines showing up in the upper third of the screen, which I guess falls under the category of vertical tearing. Not really cool.
Excellent. All three flavors - Android, iPhone and Windows Phone mounted without any issues whatsoever.
The distro was very fast in the live session, groovy babe. There's something called Kvantum in the Settings, and I'm not sure what and why it's there. Shouldn't it be for Plasma? Printing - speaking of, there are TWO applets, one called Manage printing, which takes you to a browser CUPS interface, and Print Settings, which does the classic thing you expect.
I suspended a laptop in the live session, and it woke fine - without a screen lock, and then it took the Wireless network a few seconds to start, something you don't normally see since you're challenged with a password in most other systems once you go out of sleep. Lastly, if you hit an arrow key, whichever, and there's nowhere to go to in the particular direction (say end of file in a text editor), the desktop brays loudly. It's an annoying, 1990-era beep. It's absolutely unnecessary.
Worked all right overall. First, the installer took a bit of time initializing, waiting for some module to start. Not sure why, but it took about two minutes for this thing to finish. You don't get partition labels, which is a little bit annoying, as you need to "guess" what you've got on the disk. I did manually select /boot/efi, not knowing whether the installation would fail if I did not. Another interesting step is the choice of the office suite. It would be cool if this section featured additional software, like Antergos did, so you can configure all sorts of goodies out of the box.
The installation took about an hour, the bulk of it the bootloader setup. But once it was done, it was done, and all my distros were listed correctly ( CentOS 8 recently was missing one entry). The menu is also set to remember the last choice, which is kind of neat and sensible.
I need spice in me life
Time to use Manjaro. Let's do it. Let's. The installed desktop did remember my Wireless settings, but the theme had reverted back to the dark one. I did a bit of spit and polish to get things in order, although to be fair, there was no need for any great customization, as the Cinnamon edition comes with a few extras. Shame about the font clarity.
A bit weird. The usual Manjaro identity crisis when it comes to this. You have a simple frontend, no fancy reviews or screenshots or anything. You can configure the AUR backend if you like - I thought AUR was discontinued, no? But I was able to complete updates, search for new software and include proprietary stuff like Google Chrome and Skype (built from AUR) without any great problems. The normal updates are quick, the build thingie is a bit slow, but the overall process was reliable. Steam setup also worked fine, despite the whole steam-manjaro steam-native issue of yore. Overall, feels more cohesive than what I experienced in either the Plasma or Xfce version, but still a far cry from a seamless, store-like management that people expect.
Solid. Very much so. The ISO weighs 2.2 GB, but it brings a lot of cool stuff. Firefox, Thunderbird, Deluge, Pidgin, LibreOffice (if you choose so), GIMP, and then some. While this is Cinnamon, you don't get all the various unique Mint applications, but you do have Timeshift. Overall, the arsenal is fairly balanced and useful, and then of course, I added the usual suspects - Skype, Steam, Chrome, VLC, and friends. Jolly good. And of course, let's not forget the very neat and practical Microsoft Office Online wrappers, which give you access to the free cloud office suite right from your Linux desktop, or in this case, your Manjaro.
If that ain't enough, there's also something called bauh (formerly fpakman), which lets you install snap, Flatpak and AUR packages, although the last bit isn't enabled by default. But this gives you access to even more software channels.
Hardware compatibility, suspend & resume, stability
No problems. Everything worked fine. There were no errors or weird glitches on any kind.
Performance & resource utilization
Okay-ish. The desktop felt more responsive than a typical Gnome one, but it's a bit slower than most Xfce or Plasma tests I've done. Memory usage was pretty high, 1.1 GB on idle. The CPU ticked about 2-3%, which isn't the most frugal effort, either. Not bad, but we've seen better, and that's part of the answer to my question why not Cinnamon. Alas, the underlying technology choice matters a lot, and it has precluded Cinnamon from making sufficient progress in some areas. Not how I thought things would be back then.
Customization & visual niggles
I didn't do - or need to do much. I did notice a few quirks. If you change the window theme to one of the Adapta themes, you lose window buttons. They simply disappear. You can apparently only use the Mint-* flavors. Moreover, opening a bunch on unpinned programs eventually forced the task manager to widen, which pushed the system tray icons out of the view area of the desktop. This feels like a bug. The icons-only area should change in some way, but the panel ought to stay fixed.
In the end, I added a few cool wallpapers, and that was that. Apart from the fonts, pretty!
Manjaro 18.1.0 Juhraya Cinnamon edition is a pretty solid distro. Good things: almost anything connectivity wise works without a hitch, you get a reasonably well styled desktop that is ready out of the box, it's stable and robust, part of the continuously improving Manjaro quality, the app selection is good, and you have a lot of freedom and flexibility in managing the system. The Cinnamon version does not feel neglected compared to either the Plasma or Xfce one.
However, the font clarity & contrast is an eyekiller; needs fixing urgently because it degrades the experience by a huge margin. Performance and resource usage can be a bit better, there should be a definitive graphical package manager slash store, and there are some niggles in various areas. Lastly, I'm not sure about the distro name, as it feels like a whole new version for a seemingly small number increment. But that's trivial. All in all, something like 8/10, but with a bit more tightened-up presentation layer and clear, smooth fonts for all manner of oculars, this could be a really top distro. Anyway, recommended and worth testing for sure.