The next in our Linux desktop review series is often overlooked, except by those who are most passionate about it – Budgie. A product of Project Solus, Budgie is a beautiful desktop that aims to provide healthy defaults and a beautiful interface. This review covers Budgie Desktop user experience, notable features, user experience, and makes recommendations on where to experience Budgie and who should use it.
When I first watch Budgie, the first thing I think of is “Wow. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen it before. I look at the desk and think it looks a bit like GNOME, a little like OR, a little like Cinnamon, and a bit special in a way I can’t really describe. It’s the same thing but a little different. It looks awesome, and I find myself looking at my designated USB drive to reinstall my system. This is immediately engaging.
The experience of using Solus is much like using KDE Plasma or GNOME with the Dash to Panel extension. Much like a very traditional desktop paradigm that you would be used to with Windows, all of the desktop components are contained in the bottom panel.
On the left you have a search menu, panel icons for pinned apps, and then you have a system tray on the right with settings for networking, notifications, sound, and time. It’s a simple and user-friendly interface, but even more intuitive. Having everything pinned at the bottom gives a bit more space at the top of the screen for apps. It’s small, but it can make a big difference.
Budgie Desktop Settings
One of the things you don’t always see in DEs is an intuitive place for all of your personalization. The Budgie Desktop Settings app is a major exception to this, giving you access to a huge volume of customization settings without having to go elsewhere to install special programs.
Under Style, you can set things like window and icon themes, whether you want an overall dark theme, and whether you want windows to use animations or not.
In Windows, you can set many different options related to rendered windows. You can choose whether the context menus are attached to the window, set the sides of the button layout, choose to center new windows on the screen, and focus on hovering rather than clicking. These are all small changes, but users who feel comfortable with a particular workflow will find it easy to settle into Budgie. I especially like the ability to toggle the button layout to the left as I’ve used macOS for many years, and that’s what I’m used to.
Another cool feature is that under the bottom panel are options to set the applets you want in the panel. It’s easy to add, move, and remove applets to customize panel content. I especially like this because when you click on Settings and turn on Dock mode, it’s best to remove some of the extra stuff from the lower dock and put it in a panel at the top.
With Budgie it’s really easy to tweak little things on the DE, and I think that’s awesome. As a GNOME user, many of these particular settings are hidden behind tweaks and extensions, which is usually fine, but can be tedious. Budgie is great, because it looks and works a lot like GNOME, but it has a lot of these user-friendly features for customization and preferences built in.
As I said above, Budgie is very similar to GNOME. Appearance, function and applications are all basically GNOME but better, or GNOME +. There are many GNOME-based desktop environments out there, but they all try to take a completely different direction.
MATE, Cinnamon, and Pantheon are all specifically meant to do something different from GNOME 3, but Budgie is a little different. Budgie feels like someone took the good stuff about GNOME, took out all the not so good stuff, set some good defaults, and sent it out into the world. As a GNOME user, I really like the way they’ve tweaked things, and I feel like it’s really GNOME but better in a lot of ways.
Another area where Budgie is better than GNOME is in performance and system resource usage. Rebooting a fully updated Solus VM uses just over 620MB of RAM and CPU usage hovers around 1%. This is on par with desktop environments like KDE Plasma and Cinnamon. It’s great that there is something so tightly integrated with GNOME that runs so light on the system. Those who don’t like the weight of a GNOME desktop but want the look and feel would love Budgie.
In addition to using system resources, Budgie also performs better in general tasks. This VM has no GPU passthrough and no 3D acceleration, so the fact that the animations for opening windows and switching virtual desktops are so smooth is a credit for the software magic that takes place behind the scenes. I could put this on a system with very little graphics power and still have a good time using a very modern desktop.
The cons of Budgie
While Budgie is excellent, there are a few things that limit his potential. For me, the main thing is availability. While I know there are ways to get Budgie to work on any Linux distro, I find it hard to recommend it to anyone outside of a select few users. It’s not widely available, so Fedora and Ubuntu users won’t be able to just run a simple command and install the desktop on top of what they’re currently running. There is a lot of great work behind the scenes to make this happen, but until then your options are limited.
Where to discover Budgie
While you are limited, there is one heartfelt recommendation I can make on where to check out Budgie. Only is an independently developed Linux distro that the developers created Budgie for, and the tight integration and overall experience shines together. It’s a great distro all around, given that it comes with a great desktop environment and has access to Flatpaks, but if you’re looking for Budgie as expected then look no further than Solus.
Who should use Budgie
Any GNOME user looking for something a little lighter would appreciate Budgie. They’re incredibly similar, down to most of the same apps, but Budgie is massing GNOME in a form that works best on older hardware and for users who just don’t want the extra stuff.
Be sure to check out a more in-depth Solus review, check out other great distros for Mac users, and check out some of our other desktop environment reviews.
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