I’d like to create a mega-thread that is very high-level for anyone new to Linux to understand and get a recommendation for a distro. There are many threads asking for recommendations and my hope is that this post will be stickied and can be referenced to answer those questions! Ideally I will avoid the below situation.
A quick refresher for those wanting to know about Linux and the Framework laptop support
Links to Official Framework Support Docs
So! Onto the recommendations! I created a (hopefully) nice flow chart below that presents some binary choices for new Linux peeps to look at decide on which distro to try first! Remember guys, distro-hopping is totally acceptable and even encouraged! Try anything and everything until you find something that clicks with you! This is the way.
Below will be a more in-depth look at each distro, feel free to ignore or check them all out with links to various guides and threads dedicated to each one! Let me know if I missed something or edit this post yourself if you find useful links! Links to forum posts and install guides may eventually get out of date!
Fedora and her various flavors should be chosen by those not only wanting official support but also want leading edge updates to packages. This distro should be chosen by gamers or anyone who thinks they might need this update cycle. Be warned, Fedora has a strict policy of not including non-free software in the base image, you will need to do some configuration to add some common codecs and software most users will want. It isn’t stupid easy but if you have decent Google-fu skills, everything is quite solvable. Like Ubuntu, Fedora is not rolling release so you will need to move to new versions of Fedora as they lose security updates.
Are you pretty chill? Worried that you might screw something up? Want minimal user intervention to get a decent “Out-Of-The-Box” experience? Have no fear Ubuntu is here! Choose this distro if you have pretty minimal needs or are exceedingly troubleshooting averse. Pick LTS version for maximum stability or non-LTS for some feature updates. You will need to update to new versions of Ubuntu regularly if not LTS. Good documentation and wide compatibility are hallmarks of this distro. If you want things to update quickly or want more freedom to really change how your OS looks, feels and operates…this ain’t for you. Pick something else!
Much like Ubuntu, Mint tries to provide as much of an “Out-Of-The-Box” experience with common apps and software preinstalled for the user to make switching to Mint utterly seamless.
Pop!_OS was created by System76 for use with its own brand of laptops but has gained popularity for its ease of use. Built off of Ubuntu, it maintains much of the same compatibility of software. Our very own Linux Support Lead actually used to work for System76 before Framework poached him away (Hi Matt)!
This is the only community-supported distro based on Arch Linux. What’s that mean for you? Arch has a reputation of being the most tweakable Linux distro out there. Vanilla Arch can be built from the ground up to being everything you want and nothing you don’t! That’s pretty scary though and so Manjaro exists to help people new to Arch get their feet wet and learn the systems and settings with Arch. Being rolling release like EndeavourOS, you never need to worry about major point releases (think like Windows 10 vs 11, those are point releases) instead, you just get Manjaro, always up-to-date. You also get the power of the incredible Arch Wiki if you have questions about deeper systems involved in how your machine runs!
Currently no dedicated forum threads or Install Guides
This is the only other Arch derivative on this list. This distro is known for its beginner-friendly attitude and thanks to being Arch-based, the incredible Arch wiki is chock-full of useful information directly applicable to your distro! Several desktop environments are available to choose from! Being rolling release like Manjaro, you never need to worry about major point releases (think like Windows 10 vs 11, those are point releases) instead, you just get EndeavourOS, always up-to-date.
Elementary OS is based off of Ubuntu and has similarly broad compatibility but is stylistically much different. Like the other suggestions, it is dedicated to offering a clean user experience with a minimal learning curve.
Whew! That’s a lot of choices! Welcome to Linux, I hope you like choice because that’s all this ecosystem is! Hopefully the flowchart helped you pick a distro but as always, there are others and if you are willing to invest in the time, you can get most other distros working too! I’m sorry that I wasn’t quite as able to give every distro as good of a description as they deserve, I’ve distro-hopped in the past but haven’t used all of the above distros so I have less hands-on experience as I would like. If this post gains traction, I may try my hand at desktop environments next. Now that this post is a Wiki, I invite long-time users of suggested Distros to replace my less than stellar descriptions with a good, high-quality, one paragraph summation of a distro that describes best it’s philosophy and what makes it unique.