Hands-On with Manjaro Linux ARM on Raspberry Pi 4: A Gem!

Manjaro Linux Raspberry Pi


My search for the perfect GNU/Linux distribution for the Raspberry Pi 4 computer continues with Manjaro Linux ARM, which appears to be one of the best on the market for the tiny computer.

Manjaro Linux ARM on the Raspberry Pi 4, where do I start? An amazing operating system for the Raspberry Pi computer, whether you want to use it just for fun or as a daily driver for your home office. Whoever did the Raspberry Pi port of Manjaro Linux ARM is a genius and knows what he’s doing.

Don’t be scared away by the first-time text-mode configuration, because this is Arch Linux and needs to be properly installed on the microSD card of your Raspberry Pi before you can actually use the system.

Getting Manjaro Linux ARM on the Raspberry Pi is easy like a Sunday morning. All you have to do is download one of the available flavors, with the Xfce, KDE Plasma or MATE desktop environments pre-installed, uncompress the .xz archive and write the image file to a microSD card with the Manjaro ARM Flasher tool.

Yes, that’s right, Manjaro even has its own flasher utility that you can install on your existing Manjaro Linux laptop or desktop computer from the software repositories. If that’s not the case for you, just use the Raspberry Pi Imager utility.

One-time configuration

After you insert the microSD card on your Raspberry Pi and boot the Manjaro Linux ARM operating system, you will be prompted by a one-time configuration that asks you for a few things, including to:

  • choose keyboard layout
  • add a default username
  • add additional groups if necessary (optional)
  • add a full name to the default user
  • add a password for the default user
  • add a password for the root account
  • choose a timezone
  • choose a locale
  • choose a hostname for the system

Once you did all these things, which shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, the system will configure itself and reboot automatically. After that, you’ll be promoted by a login screen where you have to enter the username and password you set during the first-time setup.

Join the dark side, we have cookies

Once logged in and after you connect to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll enjoy one of the best made GNU/Linux distributions for the Raspberry Pi computer. Manjaro Linux ARM features a gorgeous dark theme where everything is… well, dark.

I love dark themes and Manjaro doesn’t disappoint with its default system and icon themes. The default layout is simple, with a single panel located at the bottom of the screen, and two virtual workspaces that you can switch using the mouse wheel.

I choose to review the Xfce flavor of Manjaro Linux ARM because it’s Manjaro’s flagship edition, and probably many of you out there will want to use this one instead of KDE Plasma or MATE desktop environments, but in the end is your choice what you want to use and the quality of the latter two shouldn’t be different.

The current Manjaro Linux ARM release comes with the Xfce 4.14 desktop environment by default, but after updating the system by running the sudo pacman -Syu command in a terminal emulator (you can also use the shield icon in the system tray area), you’ll get the latest and greatest Xfce 4.16 release.

Manjaro Linux Raspberry Pi
About Xfce 4.16

The system is powered by the long-term supported Linux 5.4 kernel series and comes with a decent selection of software installed that includes Mozilla Firefox as default web browser, MPV and SMPlayer as default media players, Audacious as default music player, and LibreOffice as default office suite.

You also get a bunch of useful utilities, and if you need more apps they are a click away. The shield icon (a.k.a. Add/Remove Software) in the system tray area is your best friend if you want to install more app, remove existing ones, or update the system.

Adding, removing or updating apps

What works? Everything that’s essential for your daily computing needs works out of the box! Connecting to Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks works, sound works, Bluetooth works, watching local Full HD (1080p) videos works, and watching Full HD (1080p) YouTube videos works too in Firefox if you enable WebRender in about:config.

Bluetooth connection

What doesn’t work? As expected, none of those proprietary video and audio streaming services will work (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, etc.). But this is a general problem with all GNU/Linux systems that have an AArch64 port due to missing Widevine CDM plugin. Fortunately, this is an easy fix if you install a patched Chromium web browser using these instructions.

In conclusion, Manjaro Linux ARM is a must-have, a gem of an operating system for your Raspberry Pi computer, whether you want to turn it into a home office workstation or replace your older desktop system with a less costly and more effecting one.

This review was done on a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B computer with 8GB RAM. Everything is snappy, apps open quite fast, and the memory usage stays around 1.5GB with Firefox, LibreOffice, and a few other apps opened.

Last updated 5 months ago