|Main Screen + Xfce Menu|
Manjaro Linux is based on Arch Linux and primarily ships the Xfce desktop, though it also provides editions with KDE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon (as opposed to GNOME 3/Shell). It aims to retain most of the code simplicity and speed of Arch Linux while providing spruced-up desktop environments that are user-friendly. In that regard and in the DEs it provides (not just which ones, but also in which priority) it reminds me quite a bit of Bridge Linux, which I reviewed several months ago. As you may see, the differences don't end there (but I won't focus on that comparison too much because this is just supposed to be a review of Manjaro Linux).
I tested this using a live USB made with MultiSystem. On that note, I wanted to do this review yesterday, but I couldn't because I realized that since upgrading my installed system to Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce, I hadn't installed MultiSystem again. It wasn't until today that I could find adequate and not confusing documentation on how to install MultiSystem on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" and its derivatives, because a lot of the other documentation was obsolete. Anyway, that went smoothly. Also, I didn't test the installation fully (though I will have a word to say about that near the end of the post). Follow the jump to see what it's like.
After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text detailing the boot process. After that came the desktop.
The default desktop looks a bit like that of the Xfce edition of Linux Mint, at least in its layout. The background is of dark leather branded by the green Manjaro Linux logo. There is a thin Conky bar on top which functions like a panel in that maximized windows have their titlebars lie below the Conky display. While I agree that this Conky configuration is quite useful, I would prefer to have maximized windows cover that up so that as much vertical space as possible can be used. There is one panel on the bottom containing, from left to right, a standard Xfce menu, a window switcher, a workspace switcher, a clock, a notification area, and a button to end the current session. The only complaint I have about that is that the Manjaro Linux logo is not yet easily recognizable and the menu button is a bit small, so it isn't immediately apparent what it should do until it is clicked. At first I thought it might be a customized button to show the desktop thus requiring the user to right-click on the desktop to access the Xfce menu. I was still feeling confused by it until I right-clicked the button to give it a label next to the icon; I feel like the developers should do this to minimize user confusion. I know it's a small thing, but it's an important detail. Anyway, the Xfwm and GTK+ themes are Shiki, which are the same as in older versions of Linux Mint, so I felt completely at home; the icon theme is Faenza. Overall, the desktop looks quite polished, which is great.
There are no applications like LibreOffice or AbiWord/Gnumeric present. In fact, the default application list is fairly sparse, including Pidgin, Mozilla Thunderbird, GIMP, Viewnior (one of my favorite image viewers), and other utilities. Thunar is the default file manager as usual, and it works pretty well.
PackageKit is included for package management via a GUI. I was able to install and use Skype just fine with it.
Installing Google Talk was much the same as in KahelOS and Bridge Linux (UPDATE: the results were the same as in Bridge Linux, but not in KahelOS where it worked fine) before this. Unfortunately, so were the results, so I won't dwell on that. I will refer you to this post for more on that.
This distribution was quite stable on the whole. The command "free -m" showed that it used about 260 MB of RAM at idle with only Conky running in the background (besides the normal DE components). While this is about par for an Ubuntu-based distribution with Xfce, it is a little high for any other Xfce distribution, and considering that this is based on the lightweight Arch Linux, I'm a little disappointed given that Bridge Linux with Xfce only used 180 MB of RAM at idle. Then again, the developers of this distribution essentially say on their website to expect higher RAM consumption and slighter less speed, so I guess I shouldn't worry about that too much.
At the end, I double-clicked the installer just to quickly see what it might be like. It is essentially the same as the Arch Linux CLI installer, so I didn't go further with it (also because I was in the live session on real hardware rather than in a VM), but I assume it works essentially in the same way as in any other Arch Linux derivative.
You can get it here.