Top 5 Favorite Linux Distros of 2021

It was around this time last year I took a look at my 5 favorite Linux distros of 2020. A lot has changed since then. I’ve explored many different ecosystems and environments, checked out new released, and forced myself to use thing I did not like. After a year of playing around these distributions have come out on top as my personal favorite. This isn’t necessarily in order from best to worst. It’s in order based on the time I spent in these distros over the last year.

1. EndeavourOS

I love Arch. There are many reasons for this; familiarity, easy package management, fairly up to date, but the main thing is the AUR. With the AUR you will have access to a huge library of community managed packages. With this I do not enjoy installing Arch. Luckily EndeavourOS just makes this easy. I’ve tried out many Arch based Linux distros, but many of them are shipped with bloat or end up not working well. EndeavourOS has not given me any issues. This is a install only includes a few extra tools and make the experience better overall and some very light theming depending on the desktop environment you select.

Notable Additions:

Easy Installation

EndeavourOS features a simple Calamares installer that will do all of the heavy lifting for you. Within this installer you have some simple options including your base packages, desktop environment, and some additional drivers and printer support. The install also gives you easy btrfs support. Install and that’s it. You now have a clean Arch install.

Easy Setup

When you first boot into EndeavourOS you are greeted with a simple start wizard that will help you get a running head start into your fresh Arch install. This will include updating your mirrors, updating the system, display manager configuration, wallpapers, and much more.

2. Fedora

Fedora is a recent favorite of mine. This system gives you a perfect middle ground between bleeding edge and stability. I discovered the love for Fedora when I used it for a month to make a long term review. Fedora gave me such a good experience I went into the review a KDE Plasma simp and came a a daily GNOME user. Everything within Fedora just worked, flatpaks were awesome, and I switch back to it for a while after the 1 month review was over.

Vanilla GNOME

Fedora by itself is a fairly featureless Linux distribution. This is what I love about it. Using Fedora gives a pure and up to date GNOME experience. Within Fedora 35 I was able to try out GNOME Boxes and some other features. As of writing this not even Arch has GNOME 41 available in the repositories.

3. Zorin OS

Zorin OS 16 was by far my favorite overall release and update. There were so many changes and improvements over the previous version. If someone asked me to recommend any Linux distribution for the first time Linux user, with no hesitation I would suggest Zorin OS. It is incredibility user friendly especially to users whom are familiar to the Windows ecosystem.

Even if you’re an advanced Linux user there will be some features that you’ll appreciate, such as including sources selection options within the Zorin store.

Notable Additions:

Layouts

Layouts is the one of the things that makes Zorin awesome. Depending on the version of Zorin you have (free or paid) the layout selection will differ. This will include various Windows-like layouts and some family Linux style layouts.

Windows Sideloading

This feature is newer to Zorin, but it is a very welcome addition. This will redirect people trying to install Windows .exe files to a alternative Linux native application. Additionally when there are no native alternatives it will help you install the application with Wine, Lutris, or another tool.

4. Feren OS

Feren OS is an distribution based on the latest LTS version of Ubuntu. Feren features a customized KDE Plasma desktop environment that goes well beyond what you’d get from using something like Kubuntu or another Plasma counterpart. Including some awesome layouts, accent colors, and wonderful selection of pre-installed software.

Feren OS is currently my go-to Linux distro of choice when I want to be in a KDE Plasma environment. Plasma is great for the intermediate user who want’s a easy start, but will eventually want to customize and configure their system exactly as they want.

Notable Additions:

Browser Selection

By default Feren OS will ship with Vivaldi as the default web browsers. Luckily there is a tool built into Feren OS that will allow you to install some of the more popular web browser on your Linux system. If you install Firefox in Feren OS you will get a custom configuration that will improve the overall look of the application

Layouts and Accents

This is one of the favorite aspects of Feren OS, Within the KDE System Setting you will have a suite of predefined layout that you can chose from. Some of the layouts include Mac ‘n’ Cheese, a macOS-like layout, Doors, a Windows-like layout, and much more. To go with these layout there are predefined global themes that will properly color the layouts. Unlike the distro above (Zorin) everything here is completely configured and you can pull anything from the KDE Store.

Additional Features

Transfer Tool

This allows you to transfer your files, and a few settings, effortlessly to a new Feren OS installation. Currently supports Windows, Linux, and Feren OS. All you need is your old installation, an external device to backup data to temporarily, and an external device for writing the Feren OS ISO file or (when you restore the data) a Feren OS installation to restore the data to.

5. Pop!_OS

The team over at System 76 took Ubuntu and turned it into a good desktop operating system. With Pop!_OS you get the perfect amount of configuration options mixed with a strong, sable, and highly compatible platform. Pop!_OS is commonly placed high up on top distro lists for advanced users and noobs alike.

Notable Additions:

NVIDIA Support

On the Pop!_OS download page their is an option for both a regular .iso image and an image that features full NVIDIA support. In addition to this Pop!_OS is well know for having great hybrid graphics support out of the box. In the image above you can see the integrated graphics selection tool integrated within the GNOME shell top bar.

COSMIC Desktop

COSMIC stands for “Computer Operating System Main Interface Components”. Essentially COSMIC is the first step for Pop!_OS to get away from the GNOME desktop environment. At the moment COSMIC is simply a set of extensions running on top of GNOME giving you their custom “desktop environment”. With that said it is a beautiful and customizable experience. When I configure COMSIC I got for the floating dock look on the bottom.

6. Ubuntu 20.04 Server (BONUS)

This video in this post is sponsored by Linode! I use Linode to host a few different instances of the latest Ubuntu server. The website you’re reading now is actually hosted on a Ubuntu Linode. Out of all of the Server focused Linux distributions I have had the best luck getting my services to work on Ubuntu server. Ubuntu server is widely used so there are a ton of community resources out there to help when you run into any issues.

Right now, I have a local Ubuntu server running all my media though Jellyfin and 3 different Ubuntu server Linodes (Minecraft, Nextcloud, and TechHut Forums)

Get a $100 - 60 day credit on Linode!

2 Likes

My personal list is

  1. Arch (Either BSPWM or GNOME)
  2. Endeavour (Either BSPWM, GNOME or KDE)
  3. Pop
  4. Feren
  5. KDE Neon

I honestly can’t wait for Pop 21.10, hopefully it releases on schedule unlike 21.04 lol

2 Likes

Zorin layouts are same as Manjaro.
Who do the development of that layout system first? :thinking:

1 Like

My top 4 (I’ve just used 4) is:
FerenOS
Solus
Ubuntu Budgie
Ubuntu (GNOME and XFCE)

My list:

  1. Endeavour
  2. Arch
  3. Fedora
  4. Pop!
  5. Mint
1 Like

Currently running Endeavour on my laptop with KDE.
I’m starting to dig the macOS layout ive created for myself.

Ones I’ve tried in the last Year and like the best:

Manjaro
PoP! OS
OpenSuse
Fedora
MXLinux