KDE Neon vs Kubuntu vs KDE Plasma

One of the best aspects of using a Linux system is that there are many popular desktop environments to choose from. If you do not like the style or behavior of yours, it is simple enough to install a different one.

When it comes to the KDE Plasma desktop environment, there are a few different ways to experience it. KDE Plasma comes not only as a graphical user interface, but also includes a slew of applications (over 200; some installed by default and some not) that integrate into the desktop environment and give the user a more unified experience that flows together.

If you are ready to try out KDE Plasma, you have a few choices. First of all, you can install it the same way you would any other desktop environment – right from your system’s package manager. But you can also choose from the KDE Neon and Kubuntu Linux distributions.

So, which one should you choose? We will go over all the details in this article and help you make an informed decision.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • KDE Neon vs Kubuntu vs KDE Plasma
KDE Neon vs Kubuntu vs KDE Plasma
KDE Neon vs Kubuntu vs KDE Plasma
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System KDE Neon, Kubuntu
Software KDE Plasma
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

KDE Plasma on Your Linux Distribution

As mentioned earlier, KDE Plasma is a desktop environment, as well as a bunch of default applications, and more that can be installed as extras. Typical staples include the Dolphin file manager and Kate text editor.

You do not need a special distribution dedicated to KDE in order to use the desktop environment and its applications. It can be easily installed on all major Linux distros, and most even have an option to download the distro with KDE preinstalled (such as Kubuntu for Ubuntu).

Many distros have a downloadable version of their system with KDE Plasma preinstalled, including Fedora, Manjaro, Linux Mint, and most other popular Linux distros. This way, you can start using KDE Plasma on your favorite distro out of the box.

Kubuntu Linux distro
Kubuntu Linux distro

KDE Neon vs Kubuntu – Latest Updates

KDE Neon is built on top of the latest Ubuntu LTS version, and released by the KDE developers. The biggest advantage of using KDE Neon is that you get access to the latest KDE software. You can even sacrifice some of your system’s stability and download the testing edition or unstable edition – both of which feature the newest KDE updates along with some bugs.

Even on the stable version of KDE Neon, you will get access to some newer KDE software than what is available on Kubuntu. It will not take Kubuntu long to catch up, but the newest versions are still released on KDE Neon first. For diehard KDE fans, this is huge advantage. If you don’t care much about cutting edge KDE releases, then this isn’t a big deal.

We have completely updated our KDE Neon (stable) and Kubuntu systems to see just how different their KDE Plasma versions are. Here’s what we found.

  • KDE Neon – KDE Plasma 5.23.5
  • Kubuntu 20.04 – KDE Plasma 5.18.5

As you can see from our test results, KDE Neon has a newer version of Plasma, despite both systems being totally up to date. As mentioned earlier, you can also opt for the testing or unstable editions of KDE Neon to get an even newer version.

There’s a lot more to a Linux system than just the desktop environment. So what about kernel version?

  • KDE Neon – kernel 5.13.0-28
  • Kubuntu 20.04 – kernel 5.4.0-99

According to our test, KDE Neon seems to stay a little ahead of Kubuntu even down to the kernel version. This is contrary to most of what I read online, but I will trust what I’ve observed in my own tests. Then again, it is possible that KDE Neon could fall behind Kubuntu at times in terms of non-KDE software.

So, it can summarized that latest KDE Neon stable edition is a little closer to the bleeding edge than the latest Kubuntu LTS release – not only with KDE Plasma, but in other areas also. This is not necessarily a bad thing for Kubuntu, as updates are intentionally held back a little longer to ensure maximum stability for its users.

Note that Ubuntu (and therefore Kubuntu) also releases interim versions every six months, which could feature newer KDE software, an updated kernel, as well as a bunch of other software. But, we are only interested in stable versions in this comparison. If you are not worried about stability, then both distros have unstable versions with newer software that you can download.

KDE Neon vs Kubuntu – Included Software

We have fresh installations of both KDE Neon and Kubuntu. Let’s determine which one comes with more KDE software installed by default.

First, we ran the df -h command on both systems. Here are the results:

  • KDE Neon – 5.9 GB
  • Kubuntu – 7.8 GB

Then, we ran apt list --installed | wc -l to see the total number of installed packages. The results:

  • KDE Neon – 1676
  • Kubuntu – 1769

Kubuntu comes with a bit more software preinstalled, which explains the size disparity in our df results.

The conclusion to draw is that you should choose Kubuntu if you want more applications installed out of the box – it will likely already come with nearly everything you could need. If you would rather have a lighter system and install extra applications as needed, then KDE Neon would be a better fit for you.

Here’s a real world example. Among the extra KDE applications I noticed on Kubuntu, one was KCalc – a scientific calculator application. KDE Neon did not appear to include this application by default. Are most people likely to need a scientific calculator? No, probably not. But the extra software is there just in case, and it can be easily uninstalled if you find it to be bloating your system.

Conclusion: Which One Is Better?

KDE Neon is the better choice for diehard KDE fans. For everyone else, Kubuntu is likely the more logical choice. It has a longer history as being a solid distro for tons of users, and follows Ubuntu’s release schedule with LTS, interim, and preview releases.

While Kubuntu comes with a bit of extra software, most users will find this more of a convenience than anything else, and it can all be easily removed anyway. Underneath their monikers and differences in approach, they’re both still Ubuntu, so you don’t need to worry much about making the wrong choice with either of them.

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