|Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu|
SolydXK is a pair of distributions that are basically like Linux Mint Debian, except with KDE (SolydK) or Xfce (SolydX) rather than MATE or Cinnamon, given that Linux Mint Debian discontinued its Xfce edition a while ago (and never really had a KDE edition). As far as I can tell, unlike Linux Mint Debian, SolydXK remains a semi-rolling release, as its website says that users never need to reinstall (which wouldn't be true if it had pegged itself to Debian Stable).
I tested SolydK as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.
After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text during the boot process. This quickly gave way to a SolydK-branded KDE splash screen that was frozen for a second or two, and this gave way to a black screen for several more seconds, until finally leading to the desktop.
The desktop is fairly standard for KDE in terms of the layout, so there isn't much to say about that. That said, the window title, Qt, and icon themes all seem to be unique (though the Plasma theme is standard for KDE). The icons look really nice, but I'm not a fan of the Plasma theme choice, nor of the window title theme; the issue with the former is that the light-colored icons on a light-colored translucent panel on a light-colored background make the icons very hard to distinguish, while for the latter, the issue is that the window buttons are too light a shade of gray to easily make out from the light color of the overall window titlebar. I can imagine that this would be especially frustrating for people who need better-contrasting colors to be able to use the desktop environment, so I hope to see these things change in a future release (though it's easy enough for me to change these things myself).
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser as usual. As is expected for a distribution that derives (in some way, at some point) from Linux Mint, proprietary multimedia codecs are included, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts.
The rest of the applications included are fairly standard for KDE, aside from a few extra network-related applications. Dolphin is of course the standard file manager. The only reason I bring that up explicitly is that I'm not a fan of how it shows the full folder path as a modifiable text box; while that will likely please power users, I think the option of breadcrumb-style navigation makes more sense for Linux newbies.
The Linux Mint Software Manager is the default software management tool that new users will most likely see first, but as I have mentioned on many prior occasions, I personally prefer the Synaptic Package Manager for its combination of power, flexibility, and relative ease of use. I was able to use it to install Skype, Mupen64Plus, and Redshift. All of those installed fine, though it is worth noting that as SolydK is 64-bit only, installing Skype from the repositories means installing the 32-bit version and all of the associated libraries, which together take up a nontrivial (~250 MB) amount of space. Anyway, Skype and Redshift worked fine, though there were some smaller issues with Redshift that I'll touch on later.
|LibreOffice Writer + Gwenview + Dolphin + Desktop Cube|
According to the "free -m" command in the terminal, SolydK uses 810 MB of RAM at idle, which is quite hefty, and it isn't clear why it is so resource-hungry. Moreover, when I tried putting the Redshift Plasma widget or other Plasma widgets on the panel, that whole virtual workspace became unresponsive for about a minute, and while I could still switch to other virtual workspaces, those were also unresponsive during that time, so I just had to wait it out. In fact, on the first such occasion, KDE crashed and had to restart itself in the background; this is the first time I am seeing KDE crash like that in a while, which doesn't inspire confidence. On the bright side, though, desktop effects work great.
That is where my time ended with SolydK 201506. The stability issues with KDE are enough to make me stay away and not recommend this; although it would seem like these issues would be hidden away if users could avoid messing with the panel, I would not want that for myself, and I don't think there's any way (in view of the current desktop layout and settings) to guarantee against new users accidentally messing with the panel.
You can get it here, though as mentioned above, you had best be careful not to customize the desktop too much; also, note that only 64-bit ISO files are available.