Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS Review: Better Than Ever

Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS is undoubtedly one of the most popular official flavors of Ubuntu.

It’s not just me, but Ubuntu 20.04 survey results also pointed out the same. Popular or not, it is indeed an impressive Linux distribution specially for older hardware. As a matter of fact, it is also one of the best lightweight Linux distros available out there.

So, I thought of trying it out for a while in a virtual machine setting to provide you an overview of what you can expect out of it. And, whether it’s worth trying out.

What’s New In Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS?

The primary highlight on Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS would be the addition of MATE Desktop 1.24.

You can expect all the new features of the MATE Desktop 1.24 to come packed in with Ubuntu MATE 20.04. In addition to that, there have been many significant changes, improvements, and additions.

Here’s an overview of what has changed in Ubuntu MATE 20.04:

  • Addition of MATE Desktop 1.24
  • Numerous visual improvements
  • Dozens of bugs fixed
  • Based on Linux Kernel 5.4 series
  • Addition of experimental ZFS support
  • Addition of GameMode from Feral Interactive.
  • Several package updates

Now, to get a better idea on Ubuntu MATE 20.04, I’ll give you some more details.

User Experience Improvements

Ubuntu Mate 20 04

Considering that more users are leaning towards Linux on Desktop, the user experience plays a vital role in that.

If it’s something easy to use and pleasant to look at that makes all the difference as the first impression.

With Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS, I wasn’t disappointed either. Personally, I’m a fan of the latest GNOME 3.36. I like it on my Pop OS 20.04 but with the presence of MATE 1.24, it Ubuntu MATE was also a good experience.

You will see some significant changes to the window manager including the addition of invisible resize borders, icons rendering in HiDPI, rework of ALT+TAB workspace switcher pop ups, and a couple of other changes that comes as part of the latest MATE 1.24 desktop.

Ubuntu Mate Desktop Layout

Also, MATE Tweak has got some sweet improvements where you get to preserve user preferences even if you change the layout of the desktop. The new MATE Welcome screen also informs the user about the ability to change the desktop layout, so they don’t have to fiddle around to know about it.

Among other things, one of my favorite additions would be the minimized app preview feature.

For instance, you have an app minimized but want to get a preview of it before launching it – now you can do that by simply hovering your mouse over the taskbar as shown in the image below.

Ubuntu Mate Minimized App

Now, I must mention that it does not work as expected for every application. So, I’d still say this feature is buggy and needs improvements.

App Additions or Upgrades

Ubuntu Mate 20 04 Firmware

With MATE 20.04, you will notice a new Firmware updater which is a GTK frontend for fwupd. You can manage your drivers easily using the updater.

This release also replaces Thunderbird with the Evolution email client. While Thunderbird is a quite popular desktop email client, Evolution integrates better with the MATE desktop and proves to be more useful.

Ubuntu Mate Evolution

Considering that we have MATE 1.24 on board, you will also find a new time and date manager app. Not just that, if you need a magnifier, Magnus comes baked in with Ubuntu MATE 20.04.

Ubuntu Mate Magnus

Ubuntu MATE 20.04 also includes upgrades to numerous packages/apps that come pre-installed.

Ubuntu Mate Apps

While these are small additions – but help in a big way to make the distro more useful.

Linux Kernel 5.4

Ubuntu MATE 20.04 ships with the last major stable kernel release of 2019 i.e Linux Kernel 5.4.

With this, you will be getting the native exFAT support and improved hardware support as well. Not to mention, the support for WireGuard VPN is also a nice thing to have.

So, you will be noticing numerous benefits of Linux Kernel 5.4 including the kernel lock down feature. In case you’re curious, you can read our coverage on Linux Kernel 5.4 to get more details on it.

Adding GameMode by Feral Interactive

Feral Interactive – popularly known for bringing games to Linux platform came up with a useful command-line tool i.e. GameMode.

You won’t get a GUI – but using the command-line you can apply temporary system optimizations before launching a game.

While this may not make a big difference for every system but it’s best to have more resources available for gaming and the GameMode ensures that you get the necessary optimizations.

Experimental ZFS Install Option

You get the support for ZFS as your root file system. It is worth noting that it is an experimental feature and should not be used if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

To get a better idea of ZFS, I recommend you reading one of our articles on What is ZFS by John Paul.

Performance & Other Improvements

Ubuntu MATE is perfectly tailored as a lightweight distro and also something fit for modern desktops.

Ubuntu Mate System Reosource

In this case, I didn’t run any specific benchmark tools- but for an average user, I didn’t find any performance issues in my virtual machine setting. If it helps, I tested this on a host system with an i5-7400 processor with a GTX 1050 graphics card coupled with 16 Gigs of RAM. And, 7 GB of RAM + 768 MB of graphics memory + 2 cores of my processor was allocated for the virtual machine.

Ubuntu Mate Focal Neofetch

When you test it out yourself, feel free to let me know how it was for you.

Overall, along with all the major improvements, there are subtle changes/fixes/improvements here and there that makes Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS a good upgrade.

Should You Upgrade?

If you are running Ubuntu MATE 19.10, you should proceed upgrading it immediately as the support for it ends in June 2020.

For Ubuntu MATE 18.04 users (supported until April 2021) – it depends on what works for you. If you need the features of the latest release, you should choose to upgrade it immediately.

But, if you don’t necessarily need the new stuff, you can look around for the list of existing bugs and join the Ubuntu MATE community to know more about the issues revolving the latest release.

Once you do the research needed, you can then proceed to upgrade your system to Ubuntu MATE 20.04 LTS which will be supported until April 2023.

Have you tried the latest Ubuntu MATE 20.04 yet? What do you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.



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