Updated: December 4, 2015
Kneel before Zorin. Uh, I messed that up a little, but never mind. Autumn time! Distro reviews! Zorin! That be the distro we are going to review today, after having looked at no less than four specimens of the Ubuntu genera, with the somewhat lukewarm and rather inconsistent results. High low high low, sort of.
On the other hand, Zorin is one of those Ubuntu derivatives that tries to be different. More so than Mint, as it strives to capture the flat looks and behavior of Windows and give its users a retro-feel. It does aim at new users and fresh converts. But can it deliver?
Zorin booted fine and with no issues on the G50 box, with its plethora of technological obstacles and such. The looks are familiar. Somewhat too bright, with low contrast, and way too much futuristic blue and white snatched from a sci-fi movie.
You also get a distinct theme, neat but not perfect icons, and a bunch of cool and slick transition effects, icon previews and like. All these help generate a professional feel, which has been improved ever so slightly from the last time. Progress, especially linear, is always a good sign.
Zorin OS 10, methinks, is based on Ubuntu Vivid, which means it ought to be good in this regard, unlike the more recent edition, which is quite flaky. So while the likes of Werewolf struggled with Wireless, Bluetooth, Samba sharing and printing, Zorin OS 10 only struggles with one aspect. Bluetooth. The rest works fabulously well.
The printing works, but if you type print or printer in the system menu, nothing comes up. This is a silly glitch. You can safely invoke the right functions from the system settings menu, but this omission needs to be fixed. Samba speed was good, but I was not able to view JPG images stored on Samba shares directly. Some distros suck in this regard.
Bluetooth simply refused to detect any devices. I don't know why, but it is broken. Then again, it didn't work all too well in 15.10, either, so I'm guessing dodgy hardware support or such.
Flawless. Firefox comes with all the right plugins, including iTunes and Flash. You can also play MP3 files and HD video without a hitch. All the goodies are there for a complete experience. As it should be.
When it comes to music, Rhythmbox does its job well. The volume button does have a contextual functionality when the music player is running, but rather than showing you all of the info in a large, vertical window, you have a small rectangle with scrolling info. This is highly unusable and annoying.
The obvious choices for testing include iPhone 6 and Ubuntu Aquaris. Both these phones were properly detected and initialized without any crashology on behalf of the Rhythmbox. Particularly important is the iPhone, as its support on Linux is not quite trivial. However, ironically, I was not able to play MP3 files from the Ubuntu Phone - this one did cause the player to close, and I was able to do some rather interesting magic with the iPhone, but we will discuss that separately. All in all, pretty decent.
There were a few other niggles in the live session. The screenshot tool does not have a focus on the Save button, so you can't Enter 'n' Forget, you actually have to use the mouse to commit images. Meh. The blue color underlines are also quite annoying. Not everything is a hyperlink, thank you. Plus it shatters the OCS harmony. And I just remembered that I should have showcased a different 90s song. One more suited to the theme.
Fairly fast and uneventful. Overall, it's the familiar deal. You can choose whether to install Zorin side by side with existing installations, claim the entire space or do something else. No problems in this regard. The slideshow is accompanied by music, and the images are somewhat underwhelming. The overall glamor effect is a bit tiring. But it went well, and there were no complaints from the resident half a dozen Linux distros and the lonely Windows 10.
The act of using Zorin, yes. Anyhow, the distro booted fine. In fact, this is probably the very first distro EVER that did not display the text console in any shape or form before going graphic. The first distro to actually be as presentable as possible.
The loveliness of the boot act is offset by package management choosing to gimp for no good reason. It was complaining about missing Wine dependencies, and eventually, after manually launching the updater and grabbing some 330 MB worth of data, the problem went away. The update process was rather slow, though.
The default set is fairly good, if a bit bland. You have Firefox, Geary, LibreOffice, GIMP, Cheese, and several other popular programs. Then, you also get online integration. This service lets you connect your various, well, online accounts with your programs. Some people will definitely find this interesting and/or useful. Except the visual misalignment of the legal notice, which really drives me crazy. How difficult is it to create a GUI with everything positioned properly?
The Browser Manager is another Zorin-specific tool you may like, but the choices it has are somewhat weird. Firefox is the only Gecko browser. Midori, Web and Chrome all share the same engine. Then, Midori has often been rather unstable for me, and Web, what the hell is Web? Are we back in 1990?
Right there, configured by default - and working well. Neat.
Hardware compatibility, stability, resource usage
Overall, pretty good. No crashes, suspend & resume works fine. So do all the Fn buttons on the laptop's keyboard. Resource usage is a tricky one, though. The CPU is somewhat noisy, and consequently, I guess partly because of desktop effects and Compiz, this is not exactly the fastest or the snappiest distro around. Memory usage is average.
The primary collateral victim of the increased CPU activity is the battery. Clocked at only about 2.5 hours with or without Bluetooth antenna turned on, this is not exactly in line with the Vivid family, more so like the recent bunch of Werewolves. Average.
You have the two main utilities to control the desktop appearance. One, you can use the Theme Changer, and then the Look Changer, both of which let you somewhat alter the desktop without massively deviating from the familiar Zorin brand. Cool, I have to admit. Add a nice wallpaper, and Bob's your uncle.
Problems, some more
Not too many, apart from what we've already discussed. One more visual glitch is that the system menu end-session buttons only include Switch off and Log off options. You must use the bottom panel button on the far right to actually be able to restart. This is such an unnecessary little inconsistency.
Zorin OS 10 is ever so slightly better than its predecessor, which is how it should be really. It's a nice, simple, elegant, incremental update and improvement of the ninth release, and it gives a well-rounded, Windows-like experience to the user, with only a bit too much color contrast for its own good.
On the software side, most of the stuff works well, there are some silly issues here and there, but the core of it is available for immediate and satisfactory consumption. The big problem is probably Bluetooth. A few other key areas need fixing like updates, search, visual placement of GUI elements, some additional software choices, and alike. But nothing too major really. I'm being picky. 9.53/10. A decent one, worth testing. Enjoy.