Pop!_OS is one of the most used Linux Distros. It's also a recommendation for beginners, gamers and even experienced users.
But is it worthy it? In today's post I will write about my experience using it, from the installation to the day-to-day usage.
Pop have one of the best installers there, I must admit. It's simple, beautiful and feels modern. The installation is pretty simple, you can just click in a few buttons to setup language and a few other options. It's also possible to encrypt the disk during the installation, which helps if you travel a lot and contain confidential information inside your laptop (like personal passwords, documents, photos, etc).
For the installation process, I will rate Pop 9/10. Why not 10? Well, it doesn't contain a option to dual boot automatically. You need to do it manually if you are using Windows for example. Other than that, it works really well and does a great job to provide you a nice experience.
Pop first boot is also a great experience. You will be able to create your user and password and login normally at your new Gnome environment. Pop helps you to customize a few options (dark mode, docker location and online accounts). Those are all great options for beginners.
The default apps are also well integrated with the system and everything feels just in place.
Overall, I hate the post installation as 10/10, I don't see anything to improve here, they just did great.
Details that makes Pop!_OS special
Probably this is the best part of Pop, that makes it a really really solid choice. These are some characteristics that are rare to find in other Distros:
- System76 Scheduler - Did you konow that Pop contains CPU optimizations by default? Yep, that is right. By defualt, Pop will reduce the latency and improve performance on apps, specially when the laptop is charging. This is also great for gaming, since you don't need gamemode anymore.
- System76-Power - By default, Pop provides three options for your Battery: Economy, Balanced and high performance. That is amazing because under pop, battery optmimizations are already applied by default. You don't need TLP and you have a easy GUI to control the battery mode. That is just awesome.
- Swappiness is set to 10. On most linux distros that I've ever used, swappiness is set to 60. This means that your Distro will start to use swap when ram usage reaches 40%. On Pop, swap will only be used when you use abour 90% of your ram. That feels amazing and much smoother since swap is really slow, even on a NVME ssd.
- Kernel isn't the same of Ubuntu 22.04. Pop does a great job on keeping the kernel updated. This is great specially if you are using a newer desktop/laptop. As far as I know, Ubuntu 22.04 is serving Kernel 5.15.x. Pop os already on 6.1.x
- Custom shortcuts. At first, I hated it, but after trying the "pop way", I loved it and I actually change other distros to their defaults on shortcuts! For example, instead of alt + f4 (which usually requires 2 hands), Pop uses "windows + q" which is more accessible and easier to use. Instead of ctrl + alt + t for the terminal, you can use "windows + t" on Pop. This is really great and helps when you are working with a lot of multitasking (pretty much anyone who works with CS will love it).
- Easy Firmware updates. Pop comes with a option inside gnome settings to make hardware updates. That is really great because it gives you more controls and details on these upgrades.
- Recovery as a option. On pop, you can have a "copy of the ISO" in the settings and "refresh the OS" if you ever need it. It may be useful if you broke something and want to restore the system without using a USB stick.
- SystemD boost instead of Grub. This doesn't makes difference for me, but a lot of people seems to praise systemdboot. I think it provides a faster boot time and it's "simpler to setup" (I'm used to grub, so grub is easier for me, but I barely customize anything on the boot)
- Pipewire instead of Pulseaudio. For years one of the softwares that people used to complain a lot about was Pulseaudio. It used to lag, crash, do not recognize devices, etc. Pipewire is the new guy that is leaner and has a lower latency. A lot of people praise it too. For much, I prefer Pipewire too as it just feels simpler and better to use than Pulseaudio.
- Flatpak theming right and not Snap. Snaps are being "forced" by Ubuntu distros, but a lot of people dislike them. Some dislike about the server not being open source, some complain about the bugs, space used some complain about auto updates (which can't be turned off). For me, I also prefer Flatpaks, and it's great to see that on Pop Flatpaks looks like native applications and flathub is Added by default. It's also nice to see that Pop_Shop integrates well with Flatpaks.
- Pop created popsicle. This probably doesn't get enough attention, but man! It's WONDERFUL to have a iso flasher by default. And this one is so beautiful and integrates well with Pop. I like it more than Balena Etcher and other common software used on linux to create bootable sticks.
Although Pop is amazing, I see a few downsides on it as well. Most of them are personal, so you may not actually see them as downsides.
- Gnome. I just don't like gnome at all. Feels heavy and changes all the time with major updates, breaking plugins and the user experience. The good part is that Pop is developing their own rust DE, which will be HOT when it releases.
- Pop_Shop uses 0.5GB of ram when idle. That may not be a issue for computers with more ram, but when you have less, that is kinda bad. If you have 4GB of ram for example (that is still common on third world countries) you will feel the difference. You can disable pop shop, but honestly the usage in idle should be lower.
- tracker-miner-fs can suck your CPU if you download folders that contains a lot of subdfolders. Once I downloaded a WordPress site backup and extracted it. It had a lot of subfolders. I did notice my laptop slower, but I didn't know what was happening. When I checked the task manage, tracker miner was acting and sucking all the CPU trying to index that subfolder. I tried to reset tracker miner, clean, see the status but it wasn't replying. In the end, I disabled it as a pop developer said it was 100% safe.
Performance overall after 6 months
After 6 months using Pop, I can say that I was quite satisfied with the performance. I had a issue while for a few seconds mouse was slow and audio was freezing, but that is probably due to something I did (or maybe due to my hardware not being able to handle encryption well. I'm on a 12GB ram Ryzen 5 5500U laptop with NVME ssd of 256GB).
Due to the issues with tracker miner and this freezing issue, I decided to leave Pop and try Linux Mint XFCE for a while (I love XFCE and Mint is stable enough, so I decided to give it a try). I will probably review it after using it for a while as well.
Overall, using pop was a pleasure and I could do a bunch of great work on it. I work as CS/Devops, so most of the time I was chatting with customers or using bash scripts on the server, and for that Pop worked fine. For gaming it also worked well so I'm not complaining and I definitely would recommend it for most people. Pop has the best defaults that I've ever seen. It's the distro that I tweaked less, because it comes with everything that I need and use.
Pop is awesome! If you like gnome, give it a try. It will give you a great performance and all optimizations that matters are there out of the box. Battery will be nice on laptops and drivers will probably be optimized for gaming. Vulkan is also enabled by default.
My dad is using Pop on his laptop (I installed it) and he loves it.
I will definitely try Pop again once they release their new DE. In the meanwhile, I will enjoy my XFCE experience.