With the KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS out in the world, I decided to compile a list of the top 5 GNU/Linux distributions that offer the latest desktop environment series, for those who want to use it right now, out-of-the-box.
Released on February 11th, 2020, KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS brings lots of goodies for fans of the popular desktop environment including a new global edit mode for customizing the desktop, better integration of GTK apps, and improved notifications system that now shows when a connected Bluetooth device is low on battery power.
Also new in KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS is support for Nvidia GPU stats in KSysGuard, a new Emoji selector, a new system tray widget for enabling the Night Color feature, as well as an optional User Feedback page in System Settings for those who want to help KDE improve future release of the Plasma desktop.
If you want to use the KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS desktop environment right now on your personal computer and you don’t want to install the Plasma packages manually from a distro’s repositories, you need to download and install a GNU/Linux distribution that comes preloaded with KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS.
Why KDE Plasma 5.18? Because it’s an LTS (Long-Term Support) series that will receive updates for the next two years. This means that, in time, it will become very stable and well-tested. So without any further ado, here’s my top 5 list of GNU/Linux distributions shipping with KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS by default.
1. KDE neon
KDE neon is derived from Kubuntu, but follows a rolling release model where you install once and receive updates forever. Being maintained by a prominent KDE developer, KDE neon is the recommended distro for trying out the latest Plasma releases. It’s where the latest Plasma released are being tested.
The User Edition of KDE neon is what you want to download right now if you want to use the latest KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS desktop environment on your personal computer. Among other editions, KDE neon also offers a special Plasma LTS edition, but it’s not recommended as a daily driver.
KDE neon is only supported on 64-bit computers and installs as easy as Kubuntu, but you’re getting all the latest KDE software. All in all, I find KDE neon offering one of the best, most stable and purest Plasma experience.
2. PCLinuxOS 2020
The latest PCLinuxOS 2020.02 release comes preloaded with the KDE Plasma 5.18.1 LTS desktop environment. Just like KDE neon, PCLinuxOS also follows a rolling release model, but it provides regular releases as well. I find it the fastest to install KDE-based distro out there.
I really like the out-of-the-box experience of PCLinuxOS, starting from the boot menu, which has some sleek artwork to make your friends jealous, and continuing with the clean and all-dark Plasma desktop experience. PCLinuxOS is built from the ground up, uses the APT package manager and RPM packages, and supports only 64-bit PCs.
3. Bluestar Linux
Based on Arch Linux, the Bluestar Linux distribution offers a great and beautified out-of-the-box KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS desktop experience. Like the rest of the distros in this list, it also follows a rolling release model. It installs as easy as KDE neon and has regular releases for those who want to deploy it on new systems.
The best thing I like about Bluestar Linux is that it features no less than six predefined desktop layouts for the Plasma desktop, which you can configure during the installation or after. I also like the fact that the distro updates itself during installation so you’re getting an up-to-date system after the installation.
It’s definitely the best looking and most sophisticated of all five. If you’ve ever wanted to use Arch Linux with the latest KDE Plasma release and a lot of bling bling, give Bluestar Linux a try. It’s supported only on 64-bit systems.
4. openSUSE Tumbleweed
openSUSE Tumbleweed is also a rolling release distro, and just like the rest in this list it offers regular snapshots that you can download and install on your PC. I find Tumbleweed the slowest to install since it downloads all KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS packages from the repositories, but it has the most advanced installer of them all for tech-savvy users.
Once installed, openSUSE Tumbleweed offers a great and stable Plasma desktop experience with up-to-date components. Being an openSUSE system, Tumbleweed uses the RPM package management system. The KDE Live ISO images are available for 64-bit, 32-bit, and AArch64 (ARM64) architectures.
5. KaOS 2020.02
Last in my list of KDE-focused distributions is the independently built KaOS Linux. The latest release, KaOS 2020.02, comes preloaded with the KDE Plasma 5.18.1 LTS and offers a unique take on the Plasma desktop environment, which I bet you’ll like as much as I do.
The distro comes with the Calamares installer, which has some cool new features in the KaOS 2020.02 release, and supports only 64-bit computers. The whole installation process is easy and fast, and you have the liberty to customize the final system how you see fit for your needs.
Last updated 9 months ago