Tearing down Garuda Linux in 2021

Today we will be taking a harsh look at the recently popular Garuda Linux. We want to tear it down and see if it is worth it? Does it bring anything new to the table? Or is it just a themed Linux OS with a brand slapped on the front? While Garuda is not that new of an OS in the Linux world, it has been gaining lots of traction according to Google Trends.

If you’re not familiar with Garuda, it is an OS built off of Arch Linux similarly to Manjaro. Now, to make this fair enough, iIam actually someone who has not really used Arch Linux very much if at all. Personally, i have been more of an Ubuntu/Debian, OpenSUSE and recently Fedora user. So today you will be getting a critical review of Garuda from a non-Arch user.

I will be conducting this review in the form of an every day user and not so much of a power user. So if you came here for technical graphs and hardware speed tests, ehhh this might not be the article for you.

What will I be reviewing?

  • First Impressions
  • Acquisition
  • Installation Process
  • Aesthetics
  • Ease-of-use and Software
  • Long Term OS?

New to Linux?

If you are here and are actually new to Linux, maybe stop by and pick up a book to get started learning Linux!

First Impressions

I don’t know if it is just a “me” thing or more people do this as well. But the first impression that I get from a company or product, is always the website. A tacky looking 90’s website usually makes me feel like its a dead project, just a concept or it is not consistently developed.

First impressions I get from the website is they are very, very stylish! Actually, probably would be my kind of desktop looks. It is simple, not too detailed or cluttered like other websites. Some pages are either cluttered with design or images, some have just way too much text it’s like reading an article.

Acquisition

One thing that did give me a bit of a confusing or bad vibe was the really bad Microsoft confusion of “Editions”.

From the Downloads page, these are the current available editions:

  • Garuda KDE Dr460nized
  • Garuda KDE Dr460nized Gaming
  • Garuda KDE Dr460nized BlackArch
  • Garuda Xfce
  • Garuda GNOME
  • Garuda LXQT-Kwin
  • Garuda Wayfire
  • Garuda Qtile
  • Garuda BSPWM
  • Garuda i3WM
  • Garuda Sway
  • Garuda Barebones GNOME
  • Garuda Barebones KDE

HOLY COW, that is WAY too many editions to have all at once… Sure this seems like it is for more advanced users by default but not for new users who have no idea what to get. This can get confusing and really leave a bad taste in new users’ mouth about Linux. It would be better to have a list of DE’s (Desktop Environments) within the installation media to choose from. That way everything gets condensed into one installation media and also provide a little guidance to new users, perhaps recommend a one DE to use?

Now as far as actually downloading Garuda, it is pretty standard. You have the option to download it from SourceForge, Torrent or a direct mirror just like any other Linux distribution out there.

Installation Process

Interestingly, the grub options actually offer the option to boot from proprietary NVIDIA Drivers. It makes sense since it seems to be a gaming geared OS, but I am going to be installing the KDE Dr460nized Edition on a VirtualBox VM. For now I will be running “Boot with open source drivers“.

The installation screen is pretty interesting and colorful. Has a very gaming type of vibe to it like “battlestations”. It follows the pretty standard installation of setting your Location, Keyboard, Partitioning, Users and Final Installation.

I did find it interesting how by default, it will try to use the Btrfs File System instead of something more mainstream/common like Ext4.

I would say the entire process took nearly around 30 minutes but it all is very simple to install. However, since I am using a VM, I’m sure it will be quicker on physical hardware.

Overall the installation process is very easy to navigate and user friendly like most Linux distributions nowadays. Something that is nice is Garuda offers a post installation wizard that lets you update the system and install packages. This is good for users who are not familiar with Arch at all making it very user friendly. I skipped it because I prefer to get my hands dirty and like Linux Mint, there is a Welcome window with various essential tools/applications to choose from.

Aesthetics

Now we will look at the prettiness of Garuda which at first glance it really has a nice default theme unlike most distributions. The best way i can describe the default theme is Firefox, yep, Firefox. At some point Firefox had a really neon and gradient logo. Definitely not saying that they ripped off Firefox in any way, no, it just reminds me of one of their past logo designs.

The Appearance settings offer plenty of customization settings, though not many options. At most there is only 4 other icon packs, window decorations etc. to choose from. Although, I don’t think i would be changing that default theme any time soon.

Now, something as a power user that i like to have is a sexy looking console and Garuda really does a good job at this. Translucent background, fish command, fancy terminal prompt and this is bash? Wow… Everything about the UI is very consistent!

Ease-of-use and Software

By default, Garuda is setup to have a Guest account. Not sure how i feel about that though, I really don’t like the idea of anyone having remotely any access to my computer who I don’t know or trust. But you can easily disable this so its not too much of an issue but new or less tech savvy users may overlook this detail.

One thing I find brilliant is that they really make use of the Btrfs snapshot feature using Timeshift instead of using a third-party backups solution.

Garuda ACTUALLY offers a free Nextcloud based cloud? From the Garuda Welcome window, there is a Garuda Cloud shortcut that gives you access to their Nextcloud solution. Though I can’t seem to find out how to make an account.

For a Web Browser, Garuda comes with FireDragon which is a fork project of Firefox and comes pre-installed with some add-on’s geared towards privacy.

  • CanvasBlocker
  • uBlock Origin
  • Dark Reader
  • ClearURLs Add-on

Basically anything that comes with the standard KDE Plasma DE you will find in Garuda. Now, since it is a Gaming Geared OS, i really want to focus on what it offers Gamers’.

The Garuda Gamer application offers easy installations for anything a Gamer would want. Applications include:

  • Discord
  • WINE
  • Mumble
  • OBS Studio
  • Steam
  • PlayOnLinux

And many more applications including ROM Emulators like:

  • PCSX2
  • Citra
  • mupen64plus
  • VGA-M
  • Dolphin-Emu

Just to name a few! Easily, the Garuda Gamer application is definitely easy to use and does not require users, new and experienced to get their hands dirty manually installing any emulators or gaming software. Just like most distributions nowadays, Garuda provides a software center for easily installing software.

Long Term OS?

Would I use Garuda as a long term OS? Well, for aesthetics I probably would and although I don’t play games too often anymore, I would still find it useful to get something up and running quickly. Most likely I would need to get seasoned with Arch Linux if I want to get my hands dirty. Eventually I will also need to setup some development applications if Garuda doesn’t provide a way to do that.

Bottom line is, I definitely see Garuda having a long term future for both power and new users. If you are someone that is interested in learning or going into Arch Linux, Garuda and Manjaro could be a good fit for you. If you don’t care and just want to play then i would say Garuda is probably the best fit to date.


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