Linux Mint 17 (Cinnamon) Review: Lightweight & Enhanced

Linux Mint 17 (code named ‘Qiana’) Cinnamon which was released a couple of days ago is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS core, and being as such, it will be supported until 2019. Linux Mint comes with four desktop editions: ‘Cinnamon’, ‘MATE’, ‘XFce’ & ‘KDE’, although currently, only ‘Cinnamon’ and ‘MATE’ editions are available, ‘XFce’ and ‘KDE’ should arrive shortly.

I was always more interested in ‘Cinnamon’ desktop as it is their primary desktop, so as usual, for this review I downloaded the 64-bit version of the ‘Cinnamon edition’ which includes the latest stable version of ‘Cinnamon’ (2.2), Kernel 3.13, X.Org 7.7 & MDM 1.6, mainly.

‘Cinnamon’ 2.2 includes lots of changes & new features, but I am not going to waste my time on that since you can read about them in the release notes page (screenshots included). I will however, as always, mention few new features that are of particular interest to most end-users.

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon desktop

Cinnamon desktop version shown in Terminal - LM 17

Below is a brief information of my hardware:

Intel Core i3-2330M CPU, Intel HD 3000 GPU, 4GB RAM (DDR3), Toshiba 7200 RPM (320GB) SATA HDD, Intel N-1030 Wireless adapter, Realtek network adapter ('RTL8168'), LED display with 1366x768 resolution (60Hz/60FPS). It's a Dell Vostro V-131 notebook.

As always, I measured few useful technical details of LM 17 Cinnamon such as the Boot-up Times, Memory Usage upon Desktop login, CPU & power usage at idle, Shutdown delay … and then compared them with the data that I have for Linux Mint Debain 2014.03 & Linux Mint 15 (I did not get a chance to test LM 16). Linux Mint Debian 2014.03 also features the previous stable version of Cinnamon (2.0), thus I have used it as a reference point, while comparing what is new with Cinnamon 2.2 in Linux Mint 17 as well.

Installer …

I prepared a Live USB drive for the installation and as soon as it finished booting, I executed the installer. Linux Mint uses Ubuntu’s installer so I will not go into details. But, as far as my hardware was concerned, Mint was able to recognize all of my hardware (except the fingerprint reader which is not yet supported by Linux) and configure them correctly. all in all, the installation was carried out without any issues whatsoever.

First Boot-up & the Desktop …

Once I rebooted the PC, I was greeted by the usual & ugly looking GRUB theme that Linux Mint always comes with :) .

GRUB of LM 17 Cinnamon

The boot-logo also looks pretty much the same.

LM 17 Cinnamon Boot screen

The Desktop …

LM 17 Cinnamon desktop with a different wallpaper

When compared with the Cinnamon 2.0 that came with LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) 2014.03, except for few subtle changes in the Mint start-menu and taskbar, the desktop looks pretty much the same.

Other changes …

Startmenu

*. Users can now uninstall installed applications through the start-menu by selecting and right-clicking on an application icon.

Application Uninstall feature of 'MintMenu' - LM 17 Cinnamon

*. It is said the startmenu has the ability to automatically highlight the newly installed applications, but it did not work while I tested it.

Taskbar

*.  Although it has received additional menu-entry, the right-click menu of the taskbar looks more simple and clean because they have cleverly arranged the order of menus & have gotten rid of a sub-menu that gave access to ‘Themes’, ‘Applets’ & ‘Panel’.

Before ...

Before …

After ...

After …

Sound Applet

Audio info display on Sound Applet - LM 17 Cinnamon

*. Sound Applet now has the ability to display the name and display the album-art (as an icon) whenever an audio track is being played by VLC & Banshee. This is disabled by default, but it can be enabled easily by right clicking on the applet and then choosing ‘Configure…’.

Nemo (file manager) 

*. On Nemo’s side bar there is a new menu entry called ‘Recent’ which once clicked displays the users recently opened files & folders.

'Recent' feature of 'Nemo' - LM 17 Cinnamon

*. On the main toolbar, there is a new shortcut for creating a new folder which can come quite handy.

'Create a new folder' icon on Nemo's main toolbar - LM 17 Cinnamon

*. The ‘Status-bar’ at the bottom has grown by a few pixels and as a result the icons (zoom level adjuster, ‘Show Places/Treeview, ‘Disable Sidebar’ …) look a bit bigger, which is also good!.

Before ...

Before …

After ...

After …

Hot Corners

'Hover enabled' option in Hot Corners - LM 17 Cinnamon

*. Now users can enable or disable the execution of a ‘Hot corner’ while hoovering. Another useful change.

Enhanced ‘Power Management’ Control Window

New Power Management window in LM 17 Cinnamon

All the power management related settings are now listed under a single window, finally!.

Better looking Fonts and a Theme

*. I do not know if it is rendering related or not, but the fonts now look slightly big, sharp and clear also. I did check to see if the fonts settings are different, but they are not, so I do not know what is behind it (it is perhaps due to the added Retina display support).

*. The default Cinnamon theme is also subtly changed, and as mentioned above, everything now look bigger (Title-bars, scroll-bars and other application window related elements -- window controls, icons etc, as a result).

 

Titlebars & scrollbar sizes Cinnamon 2.0 vs Cinnamon 2.2

*. The context background color of application windows are changed from being pure white to slightly blueish, the color of selected items (folders/files, menus …) & the ‘tooltips’ in Nemo look slightly darker when compared to their predecessors (darker green & darker yellow, respectfully).

Selected items color Cinnamon 2.0 vs Cinnamon 2.2

Selected items color change (here too you can see the context background color change as well) …

*. I have always loved the default collection of backgrounds that Linux Mint ships with. This time too I was not disappointed.

This is just a few ...

This is just a few …

Update manager

*. Upon clicking its icon, users no longer have to enter the administrator’s password for installing the updates. Although I did not test it, developers say that it is more faster and uses less memory when running as well. These are the ones that I found to be interesting, but you can get a complete list of changes from this page.

Other included applications …

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon ships with Firefox 28.0, Thunderbird 24.4, Pidgin 2.10.9, LibreOffice 4.2.3.3, GIMP 2.8.10, Banshee 2.6.2, VLC 2.1.2, gThumb 3.2.7, Synaptic 0.81.2, Evince document viewer 3.10.3. These are of course only a few to mention.

Performance Related Details …

I took 5 samples of each of these tests (except while measuring power usage as the tool that does it takes lots of samples spanned over a couple of minutes -- it is highly accurate) for obtaining accurate readings & I measured these details as soon as the installation finished & before touching anything to keep the readings as accurate as possible. Before I started to measure those, I booted the OS 6-7 times for letting things to settle down as well.

Boot-up Speed …

Boot-up times - LM 17, LMDE 2014.3, LM 15

As you can see, Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon was 28.5% times faster to boot than the current Debian based edition, but 1.9% slower than Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon (being 1.9% slower is not something one should be worried about).

Memory Usage …

Please remember that I took notes of the memory usage before the ‘Update Manger’ was being loaded (it gets executed with a slightly delay after the desktop gets fully loaded) into RAM. This is how I had measured the memory usage of other two as well. But in case someone is interested in, after the update manager gets loaded, the memory usage goes up and down for a few seconds (while it is checking for updates) and then settles down around 311-312 MiB range.

Memory Usage - LM 17, LMDE 2014.03, LM 15

LM 17 Cinnamon scored the highest memory usage of the three (20.7% more than LMDE 2014.03 & 3.6% more compared to LM 15 Cinnamon). Other than the LMDE edition which is known to be memory efficient than the Ubuntu based releases, 3.6% compared to LM 15 is totally forgivable.

CPU Usage at Idle …

CPU usage at idle - LM 17 Cinnamon

Except for the system monitor process itself that kept eating the CPU (2-4%), the rest of the processes did not interact with it for long periods which was pretty good.

Power Usage at Idle …

Power Usage - LM 17 Cinnamon

Power Usage - LM 17, LMDE 2014.03, LM 15

LM 17 consumed 0.4 Watts more than LMDE 2014.03 and 0.9 Watts more compared to LM 15, which is a bit too high as far as power usage of a notebook PC is concerned. But I was able to quickly resolve it (just like under Ubuntu 14.04 LTS) after installing ‘TLP’ -- a utility that automatically optimizes the power usage, and with it enabled, LM 17 scored the lowest power usage readings of the three.

After 'TLP' worked its magic ;) ...

After ‘TLP’ worked its magic ;)

OS Responsiveness …

A good OS should be responsive (the ability react well to user’s requests), to an acceptable degree (which depends of various factors), under a reasonable amount of stress. So I did what I always do which consists of copying a somewhat large file within the ‘Home’ folder & then trying to open multiple programs and observing how fast they are being opened and the how much sensitivity of the mouse pointer gets lost in the process.

OS Responsiveness test in LM 17 Cinnamon

Illustration only …

While the file was being copied, I tried playing a video file and then tried to open 3-4 somewhat memory hungry programs, & while all that was happening from the background, this time (wanted to try something new) I tried opening the file manager and tried to navigate into folders that contained somewhat large amount of files.

So did it all go?

It went good!. The multimedia playback was two times and the mouse pointer slightly less responsive here & there, but the file manager responded well. It was not exceptional but I was happy with the level of responsiveness that I received.

ACPI & Other Hardware Related Issues …

As mentioned in the beginning, other than the fingerprint reader, the rest of the hardware was recognized and configured by LM 17 & ‘Suspend’ works without issues too. The screen brightness gets reset to maximum at each login, but this is also how it is under Ubuntu and many other distributions.

However, if I tried to suspend the OS as soon as the desktop gets loaded (& before the update manager is executed), then the suspension only occurs after the update manager finishes its execution. Although the OS does not get stuck, the shutdown message box does and a warning arrives giving the ability to ‘kill’ the ‘not-responding’ application window. If you wait, then all goes well and OS gets suspended, if you kill the ‘not-responding’ message box then suspend does not occur and you will be taken into the login window. Now I know that most would not try to suspend their OS as soon as the desktop gets loaded, but if you were to do that, say in Windows, then the OS handles it without any issue. Other than that, all was good.

Please be aware that there are few hardware related issues that might give you a hard time while trying to boot into the Live desktop (let alone installing it). There are a few workarounds … so make sure to read the release notes & the ‘known issues’ section (I will put a link at the end).

Shutdown Delay …

Shutdown Delay - LM 17, LMDE 2014.03, LM 15

As you can see, LM 17 was the second fastest while shutting down. It was quite fast when compared to LMDE 2014.03 but slightly slower when compared to LM 15 (not anywhere near to a degree that one should be concerned).

Final Words …

Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon edition comes with quite a few new features and has enhanced some of existing ones. It boots & shuts down fast, memory efficient, performs well under stress, officially supported until 2019, consumes a bit more power at idle but that can be fixed, I cannot see why I should not recommend it!.

If interested, please visit this link for downloading, and go here for reading about the ‘known issues’. Thank you for reading.

27 thoughts on “Linux Mint 17 (Cinnamon) Review: Lightweight & Enhanced

      1. Eddie Wilson

        Wanted to give LM 17 a shot but it became very unstable after the install and updates. I installed it on a two year old laptop that I had Elementary installed on. I’m sure LM 17 is a very good system and you give a good review. It just wouldn’t work for me on this laptop. All my other systems are already using different distros and very happy.

        Eddie

        1. Gayan Post author

          Interesting, perhaps it has something to do with your hardware (Nvidia driver perhaps …). Thank you for the input.

          1. Eddie Wilson

            I believe that there is some problems with the nvidia driver. I installed LM17 on one of my laptops that had an AMD graphics system and the os was stable. I didn’t mention it before but I also had the same problem of the LM17 not being stable using the open source nvidia driver. I’ve always preferred nvidia over AMD but it looks like things could be changing.

            Thanks,
            Eddie

      2. Arnd

        I installed Linux Mint 17 about a week ago as replacement for my old Ubuntu 11.04 installation and after about one week of fiddling with it just dumped it and and reactivated my Ubuntu 11.04 while downloading Ubuntu 14.04.

        Now whys that? Well, for starters, the system tended to quickly freez as soon there had been traffic on the wireless interface. The more traffic, the more probable the freeze. I tried different drivers, different firmware and different kernel versions to no avail *sic*

        But thats not all. The hardware installer only installed support for my integrated intel VGA controller but not for my Radeon HD 6800. This led to very slow desktop performace .

        Later, while running “Exult” and switching from full-screen (low res) back to (high-res) window mode the window manager did get totally bonkers and did only display a very narrow “stripe” of the desktop. I.e. the Desktop had been broken. Removing configs, installing/deinstalling Xorg, Cinnamon and quite some other stuff didnt help.

        Then i couldnt get the default AMD driver to recognize the Radeon card neither could i get the the closed-source AMD driver to work.

        So its had been a very busy week fiddling with Mint 17. To be honest, it kinda felt like 1991 trying to convince an SCO unix system to run with a certain type if hardware or the early days of X11 on PC hardware.

        // Arnd

        1. Gayan Post author

          I know the feeling Arnd :)… but I guess thesedays I’m a bit lucky, because I have an Intel based Netbook, hardware of which, is reasonably well supported by Linux.

  1. CJ

    I’m using Ubuntu 14.04 and the brightness stays exactly where I set it. It has never reset itself to full brightness. Perhaps the Lenovo Y510p is an exception to the rule. I’ll be installing Mint 17 next week when the new SSD I ordered gets in to see if this is an issue. Either way, I’ll be keeping it around.

    1. Vaibhav D

      AFAIK the brightness control working/not-working is an acpi thing. On my Acer laptop I have to pass some relative value (20000-100000) to /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness. It’s annoying but I have come to accept it as the only solution for changing brightness.

  2. Jay

    Thanks a lot for the review:
    Looking forward to installing it myself over the weekend.
    Currently with Mint 16 Cinnamon, but want to stay up to date!

  3. Julian Assange

    I have to tell you that you are a very good writer. I don’t know what it was about your writing style, but I felt like you were talking straight to me, LoL. Maybe we think alike. Also, I am dual booting this with Windows 7. It’s my first experience with Linux and so far so good. I am an instant fan. One bug I have experienced is sometimes the sound (any system sound, music, startup etc..) does not play through my laptop speakers but will play perfectly if I plug external speakers to my audio jack. Strange.. I’ve heard bad things about Pulse Audio which is the default Mint sound driver..Don’t know if there’s anything I can do though. Thanks for the great review. Linux FTW! Peace!

  4. Dee

    Unfortunately LM17 can’t recognize my wireless modem. I’m a new LM user, switch from Ubuntu, in previous version my modem work flawlessly.

  5. SATHISH

    I’ve disappointed.. u should have compared with other linux distros (at least u/x-buntu 14.04) while reviewing mint 17 becoz mint has removed lots of gnome dependencies from the version 16..

    1. Gayan Post author

      I don’t understand the point Sathish. Linux Mint Debian 2014.03 comes with Cinnamon 2.0 which initially marked this transition you mentioned, which is also why I decided to include it in the comparison, to be fair.

  6. Rajesh

    I installed linux mint 17 cinnamon on my dell inspiron 5521 with amd 2gb graphics and touchscreen. It looks fine, except that , when I installed wine. Strange part is the font is antialiased in its default 64 bit prefix. but as soon as I create a 32 bit prefix, the fonts are back to the ugly non anti aliased or without the font smoothing. i tried re installing mint and doing all sorts of things available on the net for font smoothing, but to no avail. I did not have this problem in Mint 16. Strangely, i couldnt see this problem being posted in the net by anybody else. Is it that only me having this strange issue?

  7. John Weland

    I am relatively new to Linux, I installed it over Chrome OS on my CR-48 (the dev model chromebook). I’m not sure how to get TLP installed and running to trim down my power usage.

    1. Gayan Post author

      Hi John,

      It is fairly easy. Open the Terminal window and enter the below commands.

      sudo apt-add-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp

      sudo apt-get update

      sudo apt-get install tlp

      Now reboot your computer and you should be good to go!.

    1. Gayan Post author

      Hi Jose,

      Cinnamon is pretty lightweight, but whether your VGA is going to work smoothly on it or not mostly depends on the drivers and its compatibility with the desktop… & the best way is to try it out :) .

  8. Jack Bo

    Gayan,
    Just switched from Mint 10. Had to fix wifi rtl8188ce then and now I have an intermittant disconnect problem in Qiana. Do you think switching kernels would solve this?

  9. Steven Dietrich

    Excellent review. Having small problem with above average cpu (10-15%) at idle with only system monitor running (compared to Linux mint 17 kde which idles at 0-3%).

    1. Gayan Post author

      You’re welcome Steven. About the idle CPU usage… if you’re running the system monitor in the ‘Resources’ tab when monitoring the CPU usage, then try switching to the ‘Processes’ tab to see if it reduces it. Because since the ‘Resources’ tab shows graphs, it has a tendency of increasing the CPU usage, on most occasions.

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