Linux Mint no longer may be an ideal choice for above-par performance out of the box, but it still can serve diehard users well with the right amount of post-installation tinkering.
The Linux Mint distro clearly is the gold standard for measuring Cinnamon desktop integration. Linux Mint’s developers turned the GNOME desktop alternative into one of the best Linux desktop choices. Linux Mint Cinnamon, however, may have lost some of its fresh minty flavor.
The gold standard for version 19.1 Tessa seems to be a bit tarnished when compared to some other distros offering a Cinnamon environment. Given that the current Linux Mint version was released at the end of last December, it may be a bit odd for me to focus on a review some five months later.
Linux Mint is my primary driver, though, so at long last I am getting around to sharing my lukewarm experiences. I have run Linux Mint Cinnamon on three primary work and testing computers since parting company with Ubuntu Linux Unity and several other Ubuntu flavors many years ago. I have recommended Linux Mint enthusiastically to associates and readers in my personal and professional roles.
However, my ongoing dissatisfaction with Tessa has led me to rethink my continuing allegiance. I’ve patiently waited for a kernel or core component upgrade to fix what has been giving Linux Mint a less than cool taste, at least for me. As I have waited, updates have come and gone — but not the fix for the maladies that linger within.
Comparing Tessa’s performance with a few recent distros that run the Cinnamon desktop apparently caused the self-appointed Mint police on a Linux Mint community forum to vilify my views. More on that situation later.
Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution that comes with four choices to provide a classic desktop experience. Version 19.1 (Tessa) is based on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver and is scheduled to receive long-term support (LTS) until April 2023. It is available in three desktop versions: Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce, as well as a Debian Linux-based offering — LMDE3.
The problem for some Linux OS reviewers — including me — as well as a cadre of users is that Tessa’s performance is not always optimum. Linux Mint requires overly long bootup times. It takes longer to load many applications compared to how quickly the same software loads in other distros.
Lots of stumbling occurred while I was running Tessa on three computers that ran previous versions without encountering those issues. Out of the box, the performance was sluggish. At times the desktop interaction and system activity become unresponsive for fleeting seconds. A collection of little things and a few major annoyances made working with Tessa into an unhappy computing experience.
I deal primarily with the Cinnamon desktop, but the issues were not isolated to it. Some published documents offering “performance booster” tips for Linux Mint include fixes for MATE and XFCE editions.
I got used to the performance malaise to an extent, and I tried to ignore the issues. However, in recently testing other Cinnamon desktop iterations, I noticed that those same issues were not present.
Two that come to mind are Feren OS and Condres OS. There are others.
Cinnamon Itself Remains Tasty
Overall, I consider the Cinnamon desktop to be one of the most configurable and productive desktop options in Linux. Linux Mint’s developers worked on numerous improvements in version 19.1, which was a major upgrade from Linux Mint 19.
For instance, they reduced input lag on Nvidia cards and made the window manager feel more responsive when moving windows. Developers made it easy to turn off vertical sync in the System Settings. This delegates VSYNC to your GPU driver.
If that driver performs well, the input lag goes away and performance improves, according to release notes. Again, this might account for some of the performance factors. Maybe not.
The Linux Mint team ported a huge number of upstream changes from the GNOME project’s Mutter window manager to the Muffin window manager, a fork of Mutter by the Linux Mint team. Might this be another possible cause for performance issues in 19.1 despite the community’s claims that the OS is now more responsive? Again, maybe not.
The code base for Mint 19 is different. Since I really started having issues with LM with the upgrade to 19.1, I suspect that the fly in the Mint ointment landed there.
Waiting, Not Switching
The Cinnamon desktop is the perfect fit for my workflow and computing productivity. Even with the availability of Cinnamon on other distros, I am hesitant to switch players and move to a smaller distro community. I see value in using an OS maintained by a large thriving Linux community that took on open source giants and developed an equally powerful Linux distro alternative.
This is what makes the Linux experience so different than using proprietary operating systems. Linux users have choices. We are not locked into a rigid single computing path.
If one variation of a favorite desktop or distribution style has a problem, users can change distros to try something similar or something very different. Linux applications are mostly interchangeable. So is the data we use.
It is relatively easy to move from one Linux platform to another — or change distros and still be able to keep a favorite desktop environment.
So waiting for fixes seemed a better option than leaving Linux Mint behind, at least for now. Some Linux distro developers put their own unique styles into a particular desktop to make it different or better than plain vanilla versions. That is the case with Linux Mint.
Critical of the Critic
I logged onto the Linux Mint user forum recently to look for helpful hints on solving performance issues. I used my own LM forum user credentials, which are not identifiable with this publication. Of course, I found nothing. What I did find was my name and reference to the Linux Mint-related comments from a few of my LinuxInsider reviews. That is when I discovered the vitriol directed at me.
One of the suggestions made to me in the LM forum was to buy a new computer or upgrade to lots of RAM if I wanted trouble-free performance. Merely upgrading from LM 19 or doing anything other than a clean install on a new computer would have been asking for trouble. The implication was that nobody else had trouble, so whatever was causing my so-called issues must have been my fault.
Really? My computers running Linux Mint all far exceed the recommended hardware requirements. Is Linux Mint falling into the required upgrade path just like Windows 10?
Other user forum comments included the alleged performance troubles I “claimed” to be having were simply my fault because I was obviously a newbie, didn’t know what I was doing, or was trying to “get more eyeballs” for my LinuxInsider reviews by making “snide, unsubstantiated comments” derogatory to Linux Mint.
The trolls rejected my polite explanation that I was a long-time Linux Mint user who went from having no issues with earlier versions to experiencing the same issues on the same three computers. Since nobody else had trouble, it must have been me, they suggested. Another suggestion was that maybe I was making up the problems.
One of the sticking points was that in my recent comments about other Cinnamon desktop Linux distros I reviewed, I suggested that they did not have the performance snags and thus might be better alternatives to Linux Mint. In general, the LM forum trolls were angered that anyone — particularly ME — would be so heretical as to make negative attacks on the Great Linux Mint god.
Of course, the Linux Mint god protectors had no way of knowing that LinuxInsider readers on several occasions had conversed with me via email about similar issues they experienced with Linux Mint. They had asked what better options I could recommend for running a Cinnamon-based Linux distro.
I tried to explain to the LM forum naysayers that my comments were neither snide nor unsubstantiated, and that I still used Linux Mint 19.1 Cinnamon, in fact. Of course, the flamers once again insisted that I had attacked Linux Mint unfairly and repeatedly. So I stepped out of the conversation.
Ironically, while the LM forum diatribe was unfolding, I received an email at ECT News Network from a supposed reader who claimed to be interested in my reviews about Linux Mint. She asked me to send her a link of all my published reviews on that topic.
One forum participant actually jumped into the fray to suggest there were performance issues that he had addressed in his own blog about Linux Mint. He posted a link to fixes I could try.
Mixed Success at a Price
That post was very useful and informative. It laid out fixes to try for all three Linux Mint Tessa desktops. I tried several of the suggested tweaks, and the improved performance speed was enough to salvage my faltering relationship with Linux Mint.
I noticed what appeared to be a pattern in the tweaks. Many of them address default settings. That makes perfect sense, since other than adding a few favorite applets to the Cinnamon bottom panel after installation, I had made few changes. I had not ventured to change the look-and-feel factors.
One major tweak involved overriding the memory swap settings. The speedup tips for Tessa noted that by default the “swappiness” factor (aka the inode cache) was set to 60. The suggested fix was to reduce the size to 10. The tweak tips author noted that this area was the “absolute number one” fix to try.
That process involved typing a string of commands into a terminal and rebooting the computer. It worked! Booting time still takes longer than booting other distros, but the overall system responsiveness definitely was improved.
LibreOffice presented a glaring example of unacceptable performance. Before the swap tweak, it took two minutes or more to load a document or spreadsheet. Subsequent reloads took a bit less time. Now that loading time interval is cut down by at least half the time.
Applying other speedup tweaks also improved performance system-wide, but those tweaks came at a price. The adjustments involved turning off most of the visual effects, such as animations. That resulted in turning Linux Mint into more of a plain vanilla experience without many of the special effects that made Linux Mint’s integration of Cinnamon, MATE and XFCE different from the rest.
I’d love to hear about your experiences in using the Linux OS. Use the link below to offer your perspective in our Reader’s Comments section.
If you now use or in the past used Linux Mint, what can you share about your experience with its performance?
Do you think distro developers should be more forthcoming with users in addressing issues such as how to tweak their distribution for better performance?
Want to Suggest a Review?
Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?
Pleaseemail your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.
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Hm, to me Linux Mint has been one of the fastest distros I have encountered. I was actually astounded by this since my computer has such low specifications.
Hi Jack, I myself (coming over from the dark side permanently last year) also like and prefer Mint + Cinnamon. Have to say the ‘noobie’ allegations against Mint are imho unsubstantiated, it is just a good user experience (of which many distro’s could learn). But indeed, there are some hiccups (like my screen is freezing when playing and going into sleep mode). The latest release seems to have solved for me. How about your performance issues? And yes trolling is crazy, waste of time. Btw: since i dont like the dependency of Mint on Ubuntu I am considering Manjaro Cinnamon. Next tp that Fedora has a Cinnamon edition also, as well as Debian. So since I prefer Cinnamon DE I am actively looking at Debian 10 and Manjaro, both with Cinnamon. Tbh: LMDE worked very well for me out of the box also… best regards Mark
I am pc illiterate. But found same bugs as written here with 19.1 which i loved. I was on a huge learning curve and added many things but even slow loading was not a worry to bliss away from Google , Windows etc. Finding the right commands and as a novice, was a nightmare.
Within 24 hrs of rejoicing about being away from " stinking google and Windows " etc on twitter I recieved an update titled Ubuntu something that was actually an orphan set of commands that took out my laptop and any access to get in to repair, not that i could have done it.
Presently looking at alternatives and found deepin linux to read up on. The Russians and Chinese can collect all they want, anything but corporate 5 eyes for me.
Thx for your article, I found some good altetnatives to look at.
I am a home user of Linux mint, as, such I am after a comfortable home based enviroment (as opposed to a file server type) my main daily use includes browsing the web watching and using multimedia, I am dual boot on win 7, but, very rarely use win 7 any more, apart from when playing windows based games, I found linux mint 19 quite buggy especially as I am using legacy hardware, probably like a lot of users in my situation, I have tried ubuntu 18 lts which has the same issues and peppermint 10 which does also, probably not surprisingly, my current mainstay is linux mint cinnamon 18.3, after plenty of tweaking to suit my needs, I have to say, that in its current state, my install is the most versatile, non resourse hungry, modern operating system I have yet to try out, bar non. For me linux mint 18.3 just works, including all the hardware attached (excluding intel microcode and nividia driver stuff) for those unaware linux I think in general works better on nvidia graphics cards, I am actually still using the nouveux driver at low resolution (it suits my needs) the nvidia drivers have caused me issues previously and I prefer reliability to out and out speed (I can boot win 7 to game and stuff) for me linux has come of age, it is now a viable alternative to windows (not for every situation, but, its getting there) I am very happy I discovered mint 18.3 for my own personal use, it is very highly configurable, very versatile and snappy in response, exactly what I wanted in effect.
read down after posting my own reply, all distros based on ubuntu 18.04 plus refuse to boot on my pc, including mint 19 peppermint 10 ubuntu 18.04 lts, something to do with video drivers, I have had them working using nomodeset but am happier with mint 18.3 because it just works without issues and there is no advantage to me using the others, maybe after 2024 I might swap the os, until then I am quite happy, as I am, linux mint 18.3 for me 😉
Hi, just read the article and also other linux distro reviews, thats great!
The past few weeks I have been distro hopping going through Ubuntu 18.04, 18.10, 19.04, fedora, open suse, debian 10, then ended with mint that was a lot of fun.
However, I stumbled across a problem with Ubuntu 18.04 and 18.10 with my lenovo carbon x1 gen5, the trackpad was not running after suspend. My problem was that I needed to use 18.04 for a software requiring some older system libraries. I did not have these problems in ubuntu 19.10, which uses the kernel 5.0.
Therefore I decided to have a go with linux Mint 19.1. Last time I tried mint, I was part of the unlucky ones who downloaded the iso on the weekend the site was hacked! Anyhow, this time around I decided to give it a go, I was surprised by the snappiness of the live iso. I wiped my computer and installed mint, it is still super fast. I again had the trackpad issue upon suspend, so what I did was to use the GUI to upgrade the kernel to 5.0. Problem fixed. I have lots of RAM, 16Gb, hence I did not notice any lag in mint in comparison to other distros.
I was just wondering if you may have tried Ubuntu 18.04 on the same hardware and also experienced any lag issues. I was also wondering whether an upgrade to kernel 5.0 and/or upgrade of your firmware may help improving performance.
My issues with linux mint 19.1 are graphic tearing, when I connect a second monitor (which I fixed by switching off the compositor), and also when I use libre office some odd graphics behaviour. Again, I did not have any performance lag. Hopefully these issue will be fixed, as I am inclined of suggesting mint over ubuntu to newbies. I love the backup options for the system and the home directory. I also appreciate how easy it is to click and install for example skype and other software we need for work, i.e. in ubuntu one would have to download and go through the cml to install, which is a hurdle for newbies.
Thanks again for the great reviews!
Thanks for sharing your Linux Mint experiences. Not a week goes by in which I do not get an email from a reader detailing troubles with Linux Mint 19.1.
I have tried Ubuntu 18.04 on the same hardware that LM 19.1 suffered. No issues. My dissatisfaction with LM really surfaced with version 19.1 Earlier versions ran absolutely fine on the same hardware, just as Ubuntu 18.04 performed.
In fact, I finally gave up on LM 19.1 and decided not to bother with the 19.2 beta recently released. Instead, I replaced LM with Feren OS with the Cinnamon desktop. What a difference. It runs flawlessly on the same machines. Look in my recent review lists for details on my Feren OS review.
This is what is so great about the Linux OS. If a particular distro or desktop environment doesn’t perform well, there are other very suitable replacements.
I too have the same issues as this article mentioned. And I have also did the speed tricks with some moderate success.
I’ve been using Linux since Red Hat 5 and my pc is an 8 core AMD with 8 Gb Ram. Not a newbie or using an old pc.
I switched to Mint when Maya was released with the Mate desktop. So it seems that these problems aren’t confined to Cinnamon.
Some programs, especially java based software, take so long to load and run that many times I have thought it never launched and re-launched it causing conflicts and wasted time.
I don’t want to switch. I enjoy using Mint (At least with previous versions) and hope for a fix soon.
What really irritated me while reading this article was the part about the forum and how some users reacted.
What a great way to treat a fellow user whether they are a newbie or experienced user.
They must be very narrow minded thinking that Mint could never have issues just because they don’t.
Bugs and bottlenecks can be caused by a certain combination of hardware.
I know, I deal with it on a daily basis at work!
Regarding the Linux Mint community forums where you tried to find help–
I am curious as to which ‘Topic’, or ‘Discussion Thread’ you might have chosen for help. There are several, among them are ‘Newbie Questions’, ‘Installation & Boot’, ‘Software & Applications’, ‘Other Topics’, ‘Non-Technical Questions’, and a few others.
I would simply like to see the other side of this issue, particularly with comments like this appearing in Mint’s (latest) Monthly Blog: "… Especially with the recent FRAUD article [emphasis mine] that got popular…".
I do NOT intend to get involved. I stopped my involvement with Mint when a question was posted on the Monthly Blog as to why every new version since Mint 17.3 involved more regressions than exciting new, useful features, and the response was something like, "…I guess the only thing you really like is nostalgia, huh?…". Life’s to short to try to engage in an objective dscussion when the ‘fanboyism’ extends to the very top.
I simply want to confirm what I’ve thought for a very long time: that Mint’s decline is due to a total lack of what made it great in the beginning: seriously listening to its user base–and an unhealthy dose of abdication of responsibility by M. Lefebvre to the fanboys he’s surrounded himself with.
Gone. Completely gone.
"snide, unsubstantiated comments"… what? You? When??
Not at all. I’ve read not a single comment like that in any of your reviews, ever. On the contrary, when something could be improved, you pointed at it, frankly and politely, just like a good reviewer must do.
What a bunch a childish losers those trolls in LM forum! I think you gave them too many explanations. They didn’t deserve any.
I admire all of you who use LM despite poor response times, on one hand, and deal with even poorer human quality from those crappy missing links in plain 21st century, on the other.
Someone said earlier in the comments that he preferred slow performance times in exchange for stability. I disagree. Because it is a false antinomy. There’s no reason at all for that nowadays and quite a bunch of distros are living proof that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds… Although all of you already know that, by agreeing that previous version of LM was such a blast.
I received comments and suggestions from a LinuxInsider reader that might help other LinuxMint users resolve some ongoing troubles with the OS performance. I suggested that he share his information in this discussion thread. He replied that I could share his information.
Thus, I am posting his comments here on his behalf.
FROM Dave W
I read your article about LM19. There is also an update manager bug that just recently the developer and coders figured out the cause. This bug has been ongoing since 2016. The effects of this bug caused me to reinstall 18.3 on my laptop.
LM18.3 If you use the update manager gui to update the installation this will cause changes to folders in home to root causing disappearing background and than panel to have just a black screen. The LM forum has a workaround which did not work for me which they said it was my fault hmm right ok.
In LM19.1 the bug is worse and effects parts of the OS. I figured out a way to by pass this issue by not using the update manager gui. I used the command line update and upgrade. I now use ubuntu on my thinkpad which is faster booting LM.
Most of unity is gone (but) parts of it remain but the slow down it caused it gone. I will update this with the LM bug link soon.
— Jack M. Germain
I quit following Mint on the Forums when the moderators and Clem himself became rude on the Monthly Blog.
When I pointed out that Mint 17.3 had NO problems, and that all Mint’s problems started when it adopted/copied, out-of-hand, Ubuntus 16.04 and 18.04 WITH ‘systemd’, I was told by a moderator that, "…if you don’t like what we offer, go someplace else…"
A frustrated person on the Mint Blog, after reporting an issue which should never have made it into "production", and after several attempts at "fixing" the problem via Mint’s suggestions (which didn’t work), complained about the poor quality of the product. Clem’s answer?–"Well, I didn’t know we were dealing with a quitter…"
Mint is the loser; simply look at the numbers. Any numbers.
Mint dropped out of first place with the introduction of Mint 18, has continued its slide, and will never recover, based on the position and attitude towards the user which has been adopted.
Oh, and by the way, the distribution which leads Mint by a factor of three on DistroWatch (approximately 6000 to 2000) does not use ‘systemd’. Strictly coincidental, I’m sure.
After sitting "on the fence" (WinXP vs. Linux) for 2-3 years, and extensive distro-hopping, i settled on Mint 16. Then upgraded to 17.*, 18.* and staying on 18.3 for my production/community systems. LM 19.0, though quite polished, was disappointing on my older systems. The upgrade to LM 19.1 (Ubuntu 18.04.+ code base) brought on issues with my wifi & BT-dongles, so i fell back to 18.3. On a different note: i had stability issues with Mint’s Cinnamon-DE (leaks, crashes, config limits) and gave up playing with it. Though dated in looks & feels, I am sticking with XFCE as my DE of choice: it is rock-solid, no leaks, rarely hangs, never crashes, and decent eye-candy. Hopefully XFCE’s 4.14 beta now underway will finally bring order to the theming-mess created by XFCE’s straddling the Gtk2/Gtk3-fence.
My main issues with Mint: the "developers" seem to work in a vacuum, don’t actively participate in Mint’s support forums, thus are likely to be out-of-touch with what the everyday Mint-user is dealing with. Since their funding-stream is solid, thy ought to pay more attention to stability-, configuration- and performance issues, and less on eye-candy and font-color tweaks.
Thanks for your review! l4a
Thank you for your suggestions, Dan. I think that follow up articles are definitely in order. I have begun to rid my primary work/productivity computers of Linux Mint 19.1 in favor of other Cinnamon desktop distros. Same hardware but none of the sluggishness. Best wishes.
And thank you for your supportive comments. I also am quite fond of XFCE and LxQt. — Jack
I totally agree with your impressions. I’m stubborn, I’m still liking and using Linux Mint, but it is slow. The boot process is extremely slow. Thanks for publishing it. @Linux Mint team: Common, your work is fantastic, let’s improve the LM performance!
Actually I have ran Q4OS and was impressed with it. Your are also correct that I am very traditional. Additionally I would use Cinnamon if Mate ever goes away. Really with today’s processors, I rarely find speed a problem. I really just don’t care about benchmark tests, I care about what I like.
Great article. Like many, have used Mint from its inception, love it, still love it – but also acknowledge that with the state of today’s desktop environments the advantages have narrowed. I’ve recently been running KDE Plasma on my laptop (tough to settle on Neon, Kubuntu or Manjaro) – and find that the progress made the past few years with Plasma are astounding ! I abandoned KDE back in the transition to its KDE 4.x desktop, it was horrendous imo – but KDE Plasma 5.x is ruling in the desktop arena. Low memory usage, beautiful, fast and I still find QT a better overall framework. All in one, the linux desktop is still strong 🙂
I’d happily give up some performance for better stability. Cinnamon hasn’t been terribly stable for me, on 3 different laptops across 2 different hardware vendors.
It crashes randomly sometimes. It crashes frequently when I change accounts without first logging out.
"Alt-F2 r" helps, but it’s far from a solution, and it’s usually when I have to resort to this that Cinnamon segfaults.
I agree with the point of snaps that are slow in the launch of software. However, I can also attest that the boot up times of Mint 19 is very slow compared to v18.
Ave you tried modifying the configs as I pointed out in my article?
Quote: "while keeping the dead duck MATE."
Well, you gave me a good laugh. After talking about trolls, you troll the Mate Desktop. While desktops are a matter of opinion, I find the Mate desktop the best for myself, and it is the only one I use. When Gnome introduced Gnome 3, Cinnamon was the first desktop I used. It froze and crashed all the time. If I remember correctly they eventually added a way to restart the desktop it crashed so often. I found the task bar applets confusing and useless for myself. I tried Mate and found it met my needs perfectly and was very lightweight with great task bar applets. I find KDE bloated, yet I would never tell someone that KDE or Cinnamon is a "Dead Duck". I love choice.
I’m not saying there are no things to iron out in Mint, which is one of my favorites, but you have to understand that this sluggishness doesn’t stem from Mint or Cinnamon, but from Bionic Beaver itself, and snaps.
Are you using snaps ? Get rid of them and find another way of using apps founds in snaps.
And give this article a read, it has helped some people speed up their bionic-beaver based anything !
Hi jack. So glad you highlighted the terrible responses from the mint forum. I’ve been using mint since it’s first stable release (Ubuntu before) and though not an expert, I gave out advice when I could. I was doing some file system bench marking and talking about stability with different filesystems and one of the experienced contributors was being extremely rude. One of the moderators (gm10?) commented but was obviously a friend of this rude contributor. Being a scientist I try always to be objective and factual, but the responses were childish and insulting and I discontinued my account following this. Certainly for me a negative aspect of mint is the failure of moderators to control some of the obtuse but experienced contributors on the forum that seem to try and goad others. I also had slow boot up times (I use MATE because of historical problems with Cinnamon, and so no problem on DE). I stopped my contributions to Mint developers and have been looking towards Sorus as faster bootup alternative.