Manjaro version 21.3 – codenamed “Ruah” – is here, along with kernel 5.15, but don’t let its beginner-friendly billing fool you: you’ll need a hint with this one.
Manjaro Linux is one of the most popular Arch Linux derivatives, and the new version 21.3 is the latest update to version 21, released in 2021. There are three official variants, with GNOME 42.2, KDE 5.24.5 or Xfce 4.16 desktops, plus community versions with Budgie, Cinnamon, MATE, a choice of tiled window managers (i3 or Sway), plus a Docker image.
The Reg took its last look at Arch Linux a few months ago. Arch is one of the oldest streaming distros, and it’s also notoriously minimal. The installation process isn’t trivial: it’s driven from the command line and the user does a lot of the hard work, manually partitioning disks, etc.
Manjaro describe himself as “a different type of beast”. The team maintains its own hierarchy of repositories, with more testing and integration – that’s why it has releases, rather than a rolling release. Manjaro claims to be “designed to be accessible to newcomers”: it has a simple installer and comes with a choice of ready-to-use desktops, making it much easier to set up and run. Arch. The user guide compares the relationship between Manjaro and Arch as being similar to that between Ubuntu and Debian.
The installer is Calamari, a distro-independent tool also used in GeckoLinux and OpenMandriva, so installation is a pretty smooth and neat experience. Before loading to the desktop, a splash screen asks you to choose a language, a keyboard layout and offers the choice to load only FOSS or also proprietary drivers. We like the approach of describing them with Linux locales (such as
en_GB) – it’s concise and space-saving – but still tricky questions for a total beginner.
We tried the new version on a Thinkpad W520 testbed using our normal Ventoy bootable USB, but worryingly, the Xfce edition wouldn’t boot, despite running fine in VirtualBox.
The GNOME edition loaded fine, but then refused to boot from another distro’s GRUB menu, failing with a kernel panic. It loaded fine from its own GRUB menu. GNOME ran smoothly, so we tried loading the Nvidia drivers for the onboard Quadro 1000M GPU. Installing from the distro’s repository went fine, but the drivers didn’t seem to work. GNOME settings reported that only the Intel graphics processor integrated into the processor was used.
We find glitches like this disturbing. A simpler, easier Arch Linux sounds like a good thing, but we think big issues like this shouldn’t show up in a point release. Manjaro is, as it says, easier to install and more beginner-friendly than Arch, but this distro is still not the one we recommend for a rookie. ®