Updated: January 10, 2022
Alternative spelling: veri najs, high fiive! Anyway, 'twas a wintry afternoon just a few short [sic] days back when I set about testing Manjaro 21.2 Qonos Gnome, a worthy mental exercise before setting down to watch the best Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard. Overall, I was happy-ish. It wasn't the most polished distro edition I've sampled in my life, but it was okay enough to make me want to try the Plasma version, too.
Today, I will try to accomplish that. Bear in mind, I'm going to do pretty much the exact same thing as with the Gnome flavor, so this will give us a good reference point of how stable and consistent Qonos truly is. In general, Linux distros struggle with consistency, length and breadth wise, and it's not uncommon for different desktops of the exact same thing to behave like total strangers. So here we are, my IdeaPad 3, triple boot, AMD processor and graphics, and off we go.
Live session & installation
The endeavor had a promising start. The boot menu is pretty enough, and you can start the session with either open-source or proprietary drivers. The boot sequence was all text. So far so identical to Gnome. The desktop itself is, of course, totally different. The most notable difference is the use of a light-colored theme, whereas Gnome comes with a dark one. This is a much better choice, but the font colors are all wrong. Too pale, not enough contrast.
Manjaro Qonos Plasma also gives you Yakuake, which is unnecessary if you use Krunner, some news utility, whaaat, and the Manjaro Settings Manager (MSM), which lets you manage kernels and such, but it is also redundant, because the whole MSM thing is nicely integrated into Plasma Settings anyway, so you don't need it. We shall discuss this more later on.
As always, Manjaro brings you the latest in whatever it ships, so you have Plasma 5.23.4, plus thick scrollbars in Dolphin, which significantly improve the overall ergonomic grabability. Now, speaking of themes and fonts and all that, changing these is a breeze. Get it? Breeze! Quick, simple, thoroughly enjoyable, and no need for any command-line hackery like in every other desktop environment out there. Just nice.
The installation was much like the one we've seen in the Gnome version. The wizard will wrongly warn you about your EFI partition being too small, the slideshow is blurry and low contrast, and if you maximize the installer window, you still get to see a tiny slide in the middle. Needs rework. The procedure took about five minutes, maybe a few seconds shorter than the previous one.
Once you're done, you get a nice, tidy GRUB menu with big entries and all that. Very few distros bother giving you anything other than the most basic (and always scaled to full resolution, which means usually tiny) menus, and Manjaro, MX Linux and openSUSE really stand out in the crowd here.
The boot sequence was about 6.5 seconds in duration, which means a wee longer than the Gnome one, and slightly slower than the predecessor at this very same box. Either way, Manjaro holds the speed record on this machine, with the Qonos Gnome edition and Nibla Plasma edition tied being the leader at 5 seconds or so. Hint, some distros do easily 4x that much, and the resident Windows 11 (test thing, sigh) can't beat this.
The Wireless connection was preserved. The updates were served immediately, but this being a rolling distro, there was only a small update for Thunderbird, nothing else. However, as far as consistency goes, Manjaro surprises. Really cool.
Customization, HD scaling
I only had to invest a little bit of work. I changed the theme to Breeze, edited the color scheme to use black fonts, and upped the scale factor to 131.25%. Lovely jubbly. No artifacts. Smooth as silk. That's all. Polished and elegant and modern, and nothing compares to Plasma. It's so much more slick and refined and accessible.
I did clean up the autostart list, I removed MSM and the news applet, whatever it is, and whatever it does. I really have no idea why this would be included in the system, and what kind of benefit it offers the users. But hey, you can quickly toggle it off, and then move on.
But there were some, albeit small differences. Firefox here ships with a standard, non-modified profile. The application selection, another thing. You get VLC, and Steam is pre-installed, too. The Online Account functionality remains slim, but it's been revamped, and it works fine. Then, you have the awesome KDE Connect. The one thing I didn't like, the system menu has a scrollbar in the categories section, and there's no setting to change the menu size, and here you do need to go to the command line! Hopefully, new versions of Plasma will add the necessary tweaks to make the menu resizable.
The MSM tool is redundant, as mentioned, and I also discovered a possible bug in Settings. In the Systemd section under System Administration, you get a task manager-like view with a list of units, configurations and whatnot. Notice the text shown under the table, and the 18N_PLURAL_ARGUMENT_MISSING message. Seems like something is indeed missing.
Package management & updates
As always, this remains the weak point of this distro. I don't see why Discover can't be a thing. Well, I know why. When a distro needs to maintain multiple editions, then problems arise. But this can be solved by offering a single desktop. Today, you have an okay if somewhat rudimentary tool to grab software. However, it does not integrate well with the Plasma desktop. It uses its own theming, and quite badly, too.
Hardware compatibility, stability, performance, resource utilization
The boot sequence remains clean. There is no screen dimming to zero when you plug the charger in. Here's some inconsistency, finally! The desktop is super fast and responsive, and the toll on your CPU and memory is quite low. We're talking 700 MB memory and almost 0% processor noise on idle. Samba speed is in the range of 15 MB/s, a bit slower than Nibla (inconsistency), but decent. Suspend & wake are instantaneous, taking less than a second each. Very cool. Manjaro Qonos is speedy.
Good, but nowhere near as good as what we've seen in the past. With light usage and brightness at 50%, Qonos only does 5.5 hours. I've seen 6.5-7 hours before. Not sure why, but warrants some extra attention. This ain't a bad result, but it's not what I expected.
Some pretty pictures, then!
Manjaro 21.2 Qonos Plasma is a pretty darn good distro. Let's start with the negatives. A few small bugs here and there, the system menu needs to be resizable, the package management is under-developed, and the battery life is only solid+, but not more than that. Everything else? Well, quite nicely done.
I have to say that Qonos Plasma is one of the more cohesive distros I've tried in a while, and the level of consistency with the Gnome edition is quite admirable. The system delivers beauty, speed, a good arsenal of programs, decent defaults, even more decent configurability thanks to the Plasma desktop, elegance, and stability. If not for the rolling nature of this distro, I might even consider doing some risky production-level experimentation. We ain't there yet. But. But. Manjaro is constantly improving, and so, who knows what might happen a year or two from now. All in all, quite recommended and more than worth your time and testing.