Ubuntu GNOME vs. openSUSE vs. Fedora

Ubuntu GNOME, openSUSE, and Fedora are all popular Linux distributions. To help you decide which is right for you, we compared how easy each distribution is to install, how they look and feel, how they perform, and how easy it is to install multimedia codecs. We also looked at each distro's pre-installed applications and package management, as well as common issues that may arise.

Ubuntu GNOME vs OpenSUSE vs Fedora

Overall Findings

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Easiest distro to install. Installer is a bit complicated. Anaconda installer is fairly easy to use.
Good selection of wallpapers. Utilizes activities window well. Desktop feels "squashed."
Installing multimedia codecs can be a headache. Has 1-click install packages for multimedia codecs. Install codecs one at a time.
YouTube videos don't seem to play correctly. Features GNOME music player. Features GNOME music player.
Uses the Software Centre as a graphical package manager. Uses the GNOME package manager. Uses the GNOME package manager.
Overall good performance. Overall good performance. Overall good performance.
Stable for the most part. Most stable of all three. Can be laggy at times.

These three operating systems have many similarities, as they use the same desktop environment, GNOME. Ubuntu GNOME is the easiest distro to install, while Fedora has overall good performance as well as easy, one-click installation of multimedia codecs. openSUSE is a good alternative to Ubuntu, with some nice extra applications, and is more stable than Fedora.

Installation: Ubuntu Gnome Is Easiest

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Straightforward installation process. Trickiest installation process. Anaconda installer is fairly straightforward.
Partitioning drive is simple. Partitioning process is unclear. Partitioning is less obvious than with Ubuntu.
Dual-boot setup is easy. Difficult to see what's happening. Delete all partitions if you want to install to entire disk.

Ubuntu Gnome

Ubuntu GNOME is the easiest of the three distributions to install. The steps are very straightforward: choose your language, connect to the internet, check prerequisites, partition your drive, choose location/time zone, choose a keyboard layout, and create a user.

The partitioning can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be. If you want Ubuntu to be the only operating system, choose to use the entire disk. To dual boot, choose to install alongside an existing operating system. Dual-booting on a UEFI-based machine is fairly straightforward these days, anyway.

Fedora

The second-best installer is Fedora's Anaconda installer. The process isn't quite as linear as it is for Ubuntu, but the essential steps are to choose your language, set the date and time, choose your keyboard layout, choose where to install Fedora, and set the hostname. Again, partitioning can be as involved or as simple as you want it to be. It isn't quite as obvious as it is with Ubuntu, however, as you have to "reclaim space." There is an option to delete all partitions, though, if you want to install it to the entire disk. The final steps for the Anaconda installer include setting the root password and creating the main user.

openSUSE

The openSUSE installer is the trickiest to fathom. It starts easily enough with steps for accepting the license agreement and choosing the time zone, but it gets more complicated when you must choose where to install openSUSE.

The main issue is that you are provided with a long list showing the plans openSUSE has made for partitioning your drive, and the way it's listed is just too much, making it difficult to see what's going to happen.

Look and Feel: All Use the Same Desktop Environment

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Uses GNOME desktop environment. Uses GNOME desktop environment. Uses GNOME desktop environment.
Best selection of wallpapers. Utilizes the activities window well. Look and feel seems a bit crowded.

It's difficult to compare these three distributions based on their look and feel because they all use the same desktop environment, GNOME, which isn't highly customizable.

Undoubtedly, Ubuntu GNOME has the nicest selection of wallpapers installed by default, even including one just for kitten lovers.

openSUSE utilizes the activities window well, and the icons and workspaces fit perfectly into the screen. When we installed Fedora, everything felt a little bit squashed.

Installing Flash and Multimedia Codecs: Some Headaches

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
There's an option to install third-party components during installation.  Provides one-click package installers for Flash and multimedia codecs. Install third-party components one at a time.
Less intuitive option is to install multimedia codecs with Ubuntu Restricted Extras package.   For MP3 audio, add the RPMFusion repository.

Ubuntu GNOME

During the Ubuntu installation, there's an option to install the third-party components required to play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio. The other way to get the multimedia codecs within Ubuntu is to install the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package via the Ubuntu Software Centre. Unfortunately, using the Ubuntu Software Centre causes all sorts of headaches when installing this package, as there is a license agreement that must be accepted and, unfortunately, it's never displayed. The easiest way to install the Restricted Extras package is via the command line.

Fedora

Within Fedora, the process is installing items one at a time. For instance, to install Flash, go to the Adobe website, download the file, and run it with the GNOME package manager. You can then attach Flash as an add-on to Firefox.

Visit our guide to learn more about how to install Flash on Fedora as well as multimedia codecs and STEAM.

To get MP3 audio to play within Fedora, you need to add the RPM Fusion repository, and then you'll be able to install the GStreamer non-free package.

openSUSE

openSUSE provides a series of one-click install packages to enable you to install Flash and multimedia codecs.

Applications: Standard, With Some Interesting Extras

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Comes with GNOME's standard set of applications. Comes with GNOME's standard set of applications. Comes with GNOME's standard set of applications.
YouTube videos falter on Totem video player. Includes Liferea RSS reader and other extras. Comes with the GNOME music player.

Like their look and feel, it's also hard to compare the application options of these distributions because all use the GNOME desktop environment. GNOME comes with a standard set of applications, which includes an address book, mail client, games, and more.

openSUSE has a couple of interesting extras, such as ​Liferea, which is an RSS viewer. It also has Midnight Commander, which is an alternative file manager, and k3b, which is an alternative disk-burning package.

openSUSE and Fedora both have the GNOME music player, which integrates nicely with the desktop environment. All three have Rhythmbox installed, but the GNOME music player just looks and feels nice.

Totem is the default video player within GNOME. Unfortunately, within the Ubuntu version, YouTube videos don't seem to play correctly. This isn't an issue with either openSUSE or Fedora. 

Installing Software: Various Ways to Install Applications

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Uses Software Centre as its graphical package manager. Uses the GNOME package manager. Uses the GNOME package manager.
Software Centre lists all software in repositories. GNOME package manager sometimes omits results. GNOME package manager sometimes omits results.
Use command line to install applications. Alternative package manager is YAST. Alternative package manager is YUM Extender.

There are multiple ways to install applications using Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE.

Ubuntu uses the Software Centre as a graphical package manager, whereas Fedora and openSUSE use the GNOME package manager.

The Software Centre is a little bit better because it lists all the software in the repositories, although this can take a little fiddling. The GNOME package manager seems to omit results such as STEAM, even though it is in the repositories.

Alternatives for openSUSE include YAST, while Fedora can use the YUM Extender (these are more rudimentary graphical package managers).

If you want to get your hands dirty, use the command line. Ubuntu uses apt-get, Fedora uses YUM, and openSUSE uses Zypper. In all three cases, it's just a matter of learning the correct syntax and switches.

Performance: All Perform Well

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Faster than openSUSE. Performs well. Best overall performance when using Wayland.

Fedora using the Wayland desktop server protocol provides the overall best performance of the three Linux distributions, although Fedora with the X Window System was slower.

Ubuntu is faster than openSUSE and runs very well. But openSUSE is no slouch, either, in its overall performance.

All three distributions ran very nicely on modern laptops.

Stability: openSUSEWins

Ubuntu Gnome openSUSE Fedora
Very stable, with minor issues. Most stable distro. More error messages across the board.

Out of all three, openSUSE is the most stable. Ubuntu is fine, as well, although the issue with installing the Restricted Extras package can cause the Software Centre to hang.

Fedora was a little bit different. When used with the X Window System it worked fine but was a bit laggy. When used with Wayland it was very slick but had issues with certain applications, such as Scribus. There were definitely more error messages across the board.

Final Verdict

All three operating systems have their benefits and drawbacks, and it's a matter of choosing or trying out what appeals to you.

Ubuntu is the easiest to install, and once you get the multimedia sorted out, you're good to go. The GNOME version of Ubuntu is probably preferable to the Unity version.

Fedora is more experimental. If you want to try out Wayland, it's worth installing. Fedora implements GNOME in a more traditional way, which means it uses GNOME tools as opposed to tools more traditionally associated with Ubuntu, such as GNOME Boxes and GNOME Packagekit.

openSUSE is a great alternative to Ubuntu and is more stable than Fedora. As with Fedora, it provides tools mainly associated with GNOME but has a few nice extras, such as Midnight Commander.