Samsung N145 Plus 10” netbook: single core (dual-threaded) Intel Atom N455 CPU (1.66GHz); 2GB RAM; Intel GMA 3150 graphics; 1TB Samsung 850 Evo SSD, MBR (ext4) format.
The aim of this investigation was to find a suitable lightweight Desktop Environment ( xfce , lxde , or lxqt ) or Window Manager ( i3, or openbox ) for the above hardware, trying these out on three different kernels i.e. 5.3, 4.14 and 4.4. These Manjaro versions were chosen, as they were readily available for download from the Manjaro website. All versions were 64-bit, except xfce which was available as both 32 & 64-bit, and were installed on the same SSD, as a multi-boot set-up, alongside two other linux distributions. The initial installs were carried out with the 18.1.2 minimal iso versions, with the exception of xfce32 which used 18.0.4. Five criteria were used for ranking relative suitability for the hardware, i.e: boot-time, idle CPU & RAM activity, launch-time for an application (i.e. the terminal), and the time taken for the combined process of installing a package (i.e. kernel 4.19) & the subsequent updating of the multi-boot grub-bootmenu. The ability of the hardware to play HD quality videos, stored on the SSD, and livestream YouTube videos, was also checked. A limited statistical analysis was used, being presented as mean values ± standard deviation.
What this investigation is not …
Given my limited skills-base in Linux generally, and the obvious time-limitation, this is not an in-depth study, just a relatively quick “suck-and-see” to get a rough idea which Manjaro DE/WM might be suitable for the above low-powered netbook. Even as a superficial study, it has taken a significant amount of time, e.g. 96 separate boot-ups to determine package installation times for the different DE/WM x kernel combinations alone !
Summary of results
(a) Overall ranking
The rankings shown in the Table 1 are for the two LTS kernels combined, i.e. 4.14 & 4.4. Kernel 5.3 was excluded from this table, as it was unavailable for xfce 32-bit. Table 1 shows that lxle (2.2) and i3 (2.6) were the best, whereas lxqt was ranked as the worst at 5.2. Xfce64 was also considered unsuitable, as there was a frustrating lag generally, especially when opening applications.
( b ) Effect of Kernel (see Table 2):
- in general, older kernel = faster boot-time
- no significant effect of kernel on idle CPU activity
- kernel 4.14 showed numerous ACPI errors on booting (not an apparent problem) as well as a significantly greater idle RAM usage than 5.3 and 4.4, for all WMs and DEs (except xfce32 )
( c ) DE/WM (see Table 2):
- lxqt is not considered suitable for the hardware used, as idling CPU ran at 11-13%, while idle RAM usage appeared abnormally high (> 600MB), and baseline CPU temperatures were significantly hotter (~46°C) than for the other DEs/WMs (~38-40°C), at ambient room temperatures (17-20°C)
- xfce64 was also unsuitable, as it was significantly slow when booting up and launching applications, as well as a high idle RAM activity (~500MB)
( d ) Playing videos:
- Using mpv Media Player, videos of 2500 bitrate/50fps (stored on the SSD) were unplayable on all DEs/WMs due to lack of audio/video synchronisation, i.e. audio ran ahead of video. However this problem was solved by reducing frame-rate to 25 fps (using handbrake app), which gave an enjoyable viewing experience. Live-streaming of YouTube videos works well (only tested in lxde), though this needs to be at either a 360p or 480p setting for a good viewing experience.
To enlarge Table 2, just click on it (once or twice) for full-screen.
I'm in favour of an install of lxde, running on kernel 4.4 on this single-core Intel Atom netbook, based on the results of the investigation. However, I'm equally tempted by i3. Oh, decisions, decisions ... !