Once the year has been left behind, it is possible to analyze which ones have been the best GNU / Linux distributions of 2021. Although, as I usually comment, it is a matter of taste and that each user feels comfortable, here are the most outstanding ones to help choose the undecided, or users who have just arrived in the world of Linux distros who do not know very well why which one to start.
Table of Contents
What is the best distro? (Criteria)
There is no one best fit for everyone. The best Linux distribution is the one you feel most comfortable with, be it Gentoo, Arch, or Slackware. No matter how difficult or rare it is, if you like it, go ahead. However, some undecided users or newcomers to the Linux world, need a guide, a reference to choose from.
To users who need some recommendation and come from other operating systems, you can see these articles:
How to choose a good distro
When in doubt, it is best to analyze certain parameters or characteristics of Linux distros. The most relevant points in which you should pay attention to choose the best are:
- Robustness and stabilityIf you are looking for an operating system to use in production, you surely do not want to waste time with bugs or problems. Therefore, it is important to choose the most robust and stable distros that work like Swiss watches. Some good examples are Arch, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora.
- Safety: security could not be lacking, it is a priority issue. Many Linux distros respect your privacy much more than other operating systems, since they do not report user data, or at least give the choice not to do so. Although GNU / Linux is a secure base system, do not trust it, cybercriminals are increasingly attentive to this system and there is more and more malware that affects it. Therefore, if you are going to choose a distro for a company or server, this should be a priority criterion. Some like SUSE, RHEL, CentOS, etc. could be good server cases. And you also have more specific projects focused on security like Whonix, QubeOS, TAILS, etc.
- Compatibility and support- The Linux kernel supports a multitude of different architectures, such as x86, ARM, RISC-V, etc. However, not all distros offer this support officially. Therefore, if you are going to use the distribution in a different architecture, it is important that you find out whether or not they have such support. On the other hand, there is the issue of drivers and software compatibility. In that case, Ubuntu and the distros based on it are the "queens", since there are so many packages and drivers for it (it is one of the most popular).
- Parcel: Although the standard packages should be the RPM, as specified in LBS, the truth is that popular distributions such as Ubuntu have made DEB predominate. With the arrival of universal packages, some problems have been solved, but if you want to have the largest amount of software, be it apps or video games, the best option is DEB and Ubuntu.
- Usability: this does not depend on the distribution itself, but on the desktop environment, and on other parts such as the package manager, whether or not it has utilities that facilitate administration such as those included in Linux Mint, or YaST 2 in openSUSE / SUSE, etc. Although, in general, current distributions tend to be quite easy and friendly, with a few exceptions ...
- Light vs heavy: many modern distros tend to be heavier, that is, they demand more hardware resources or only already support 64-bit. Instead, there are some lightweight desktop environments such as KDE Plasma (which has "thinned out" a lot lately and is no longer the heavy desktop it was), LXDE, Xfce, etc., as well as lighter distributions intended for older computers or with few resources.
- other aspects: Another factor to take into account is your preferences or tastes for certain systems. For example:
- SELinux (Fedora, CentOS, RHEL,…) vs AppArmor (Ubuntu, SUSE, openSUSE, Debian…)
- systemd (most) vs SysV init (Devuan, Void, Gentoo, Knoppix,…)
- FHS (most) vs others like GoboLinux.
With that said, come on go for the list updated this year ...
Best Linux distros 2021
As in the article of the best distros of 2020, this year there are also Featured projects that you should know:
Debian is one of the oldest Linux distros and serves as the basis for many other distributions such as Ubuntu. The first time this distro was released was in 1993, and since then it has maintained a great community that continue their development incessantly. And, although at first it was an eyesore intended for advanced users, little by little it has become friendlier and easier to use.
This distribution has gotten many recognitions, and it is quite loved by GNU / Linux veterans. A really robust, stable, and secure mega project, with an endless number of software packages available and its DEB-based package manager. That makes it an ideal distribution for both the desktop and servers.
Solus OS is another interesting project with Linux kernel. This would also be among the best distributions of 2021. The project started with Evolve OS, and later became Solus. It was presented as an operating system for personal use, focusing on that sector in terms of the packages that you will find in its own repositories, leaving aside business or server software.
The first Solus release was made in 2015, and it is currently considered a fairly distro. stable and very easy to use. And, as with many other distros, you can choose the Budgie, GNOME, KDE Plasma, or MATE desktop environment as you prefer.
Zorin OS also has to be present in the list of the best distros. A distro based on Ubuntu and with a very easy-to-use desktop environment and with similar mechanics to Microsoft Windows. In fact, is intended for beginners switching from Windows to Linux.
This distro launched in 2009 by the Dublin-based company Zorin OS Company, keeps another great secret, in addition to being safe, powerful, fast and respectful of user privacy. And it is that it allows users run native Windows software transparently for the user. In addition, you can choose between several editions, such as the Core and Lite, which are free, and the Pro, which is paid.
Arch Linux is another one of the most popular distros, but everyone knows that it is not for users who are new to Linux. However, there is the project Manjaro, based on Arch, but much easier and more friendly for users who do not want so many complications.
This distribution also continues to use the pacman package manager, like Arch Linux, and it comes with a GNOME desktop environment, among others.
Of course, the openSUSE project could not be missing from the list of the best distributions of the year. This is another of the projects with a strong community and with the support of companies like AMD and SUSE. Is a distro that stands out for its robustness and because it is easy to use, for all types of users.
You can choose between two download options:
- On the one hand you have openSUSE Tumbleweed, which is a distro that follows the rolling release style of development, with constant updates.
- The other is open SUSE Leap, which is intended for professional users who need the latest hardware support and the latest versions. Furthermore, it follows a Jump concept, combining openSUSE backports and SUSE Linux Enterprise binaries.
Fedora is a distro sponsored by Red Hat as you know. It is very easy to use and it is quite stable. It has a DNF package manager, based on RPM packages. You can find a large number of pre-installed packages, and many others packaged for this system.
The first time Fedora was released was in 2003 and since then it has always been among the best distributions of each year. Also, if you like 3D printing, this distro is one of the ones with the best support for it.
One of those distros that falls in love with the naked eye for its graphic appearance it's elementaryOS. An operating system based on Ubuntu LTS and developed by Elementary Inc. It has been designed to have an environment that looks similar to macOS, so it can be a good start for those arriving from the Apple system.
Use a custom desktop environment named PantheonIt is fast, open, respectful of privacy, has many packages available, is easy to use, and elegant. And, of course, it includes a multitude of pre-installed applications so that you do not miss anything.
MX Linux is also considered one of the best Linux distributions. It is based on Debian and was released for the first time in 2014. Since then, this project has caused a lot of talk, among other things for offer an easy experience for novice users.
It started as a project within the MEPIS community which was joined by antiX for development. And, among the fabulous things of this distro, you will find simple GUI-based tools for easy administration, such as a very simple graphical installer, a graphical system to change the kernel, a tool to take snapshots, etc.
Of course, in a list with the best Linux distributions Ubuntu can never be missing, since Canonical's distro is a favorite. It is based on Debian, but since this project began they focused on offering an easy and user-friendly distro. It has several flavors to choose from such as Ubuntu (GNOME), Kubuntu (KDE Plasma), etc.
Has one of the best hardware mounts, in addition to having the best software support, since being one of the most popular distros many developers only package for it. On the other hand, having so many users, there is also a very active community so you can ask questions or solve your problems.
Lastly, another of the best Linux distributions is Linux Mint. It is based on Ubuntu and Debian, it is free and powered by a large community. It has a large number of packages available, its interface it is quite simple to use, and it has a multitude of its own tools to facilitate its use and system administration.
Since its initial launch in 2006, has not stopped evolving and improving. And of course, you can also choose multiple desktop environments.