Review: Sabayon 9 KDE

Main Screen + Kickoff Menu
Over the last several months, I have become a fan of Chakra GNU/Linux. It seems like the best combination out there of stability, newness, and ease-of-use, as it uses KDE and is a rolling-release distribution. But even since before I found out about Chakra, there has been another distribution that aims to do all that, and that is Sabayon.

The last version of Sabayon that I reviewed was version 7, and it has been a while since that review. (If your memory needs refreshing, Sabayon is based on Gentoo and also uses KDE as its primary DE.) Since then, Sabayon has changed its GUI package manager and has of course brought in the usual round of application updates; I think it is now trying harder than ever to appear less amateurish, more professional, and more user-friendly, so we will see how that works out.

I tested [32-bit] Sabayon 9 KDE using a live USB made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what it's like.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a pleasant blue boot splash that seems the same as previous such splash screens in Sabayon, save for the updated background. At first, it seemed a little stretched, indicating that Sabayon didn't quite recognize my laptop's graphics card, but a few seconds later, it corrected itself. After that came the desktop. Incidentally, the heavy metal rock song played upon booting/logging in has been removed, and the only sound audible when logging in is the standard KDE 4 login sound. Yes, Sabayon has lost a little bit of its original character with this, but it has certainly brought a better measure of polish and professionalism with it.

The desktop has not changed much from before. The only differences that I can see are the updated wallpaper (which is the same as the boot splash background) and the "Air" Plasma theme, which looks a lot less drab than in the last version for some reason. The Kickoff menu does now have the web browser as one of its "favorite" applications, as well as shortcuts to "writer" (LibreOffice Writer) and "calc" (LibreOffice Calc), but unfortunately the latter two shortcuts were inoperable, so hopefully the Sabayon developers may fix that with an update. Otherwise, the desktop is pretty much the same as before. I will also say that the Lancelot menu, which is included as an additional Plasma widget by default, works much better here than in Netrunner; although the no-click mode requires that the Lancelot menu be stopped and restarted a few times, it does soon work as expected, and that's what I like to see.

Chromium + LibreOffice Writer + Desktop Cube
Chromium is still the default browser. Proprietary codecs are still included, YouTube and Hulu still work, and so do my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts. Also, the integration of Chromium into KDE, which was something that I did not think was possible, is vastly improved and is almost as good as the integration of Mozilla Firefox into KDE (save for some minor issues like the scrollbar theme). That's a great improvement, and hopefully it will become available as an extension of some sort for Chromium/Google Chrome users who also use KDE.
As mentioned before, LibreOffice is included, and it works well. Other installed applications include some KDE games, VLC, Clementine, and XBMC.

The old GUI package manager, Sulfur, has been replaced with the new Rigo Application Browser. Other reviewers have called its interface very simple and "Google-esque", and I could not agree more; the only controls are a settings menu (represented by the wrench icon) and a search bar below which results appear, while notifications about updates and upgrades appear on their own in bars above the search bar. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, in the live session, it doesn't work at all; searching for even common applications like Mozilla Firefox (which, as I checked later on the website version of the Sabayon Entropy Store, is definitely present in the repositories) yields no results. This is either because the it does not work at all, or because its functionality has been disabled in the live session in the interest of optimizing performance, and I sure hope the latter case is what is true. In any case, I was annoyed that I could not use the Rigo Application Browser because I do like to see if it can properly install in the live session the applications that I like, and I am sure that I am not the only one who would want this.
Thankfully, the CLI package manager, Equo, is still present, and its syntax is very similar to that of APT-Get; plus, its performance is vastly improved over previous versions, and although it is still a bit slower at downloading packages than APT-Get, it does not cause the system to grind to a halt like it did before. I was able to use this to successfully install and use Skype, Google Talk (which is now in the official repositories (!)), and Redshift, and these all worked perfectly fine after the installation.
I should also mention that the first time I tried this, I thought that the Rigo Application Browser not working meant that none of the repositories would work. To install Skype, I followed some forum instructions for extracting and installing the dynamic TAR file, and thankfully, even with newer versions of Sabayon and Skype, that worked fine as well.
Dolphin + Rigo Application Browser
Mupen64Plus is also in the official Sabayon repositories, and interestingly, it is listed as being at version 1.5. Unfortunately, that does not appear to actually be the case, because installing it yielded no binary or source packages installed in the root folder. I had to download the binary TAR file and extract and install it myself; although it worked just as I wanted, it gave me the same issue as it did in Netrunner by not adding itself to the Kickoff menu.

Sabayon 9 KDE used about 420 MB of RAM at idle. At first I thought it was 480 MB, but then I saw that a zombie process originating from an instance of the Rigo Application Browser that I had closed earlier was hogging 60 MB of RAM, so I corrected that. I'm glad to see that Sabayon is somewhat resisting the trend that I have seen in other KDE distributions to use more and more RAM at idle with each successive release. Plus, Sabayon is the stablest and smoothest that I have ever seen it.
Desktop effects worked well, though I had to enable the desktop cube effect myself. For some reason, when that happened, the panel became more transparent, as if the desktop cube needed more graphics capability to be turned on and that the side effect of that would be a more transparent panel. In any case, the issue went away when I chose to use a different Plasma theme ("Caledonia", which I think looks really amazing).
One other weird thing about Sabayon is that its Google search result still says "Sabayon Five-Oh!", as if Sabayon is still at version 5.0. Even more weirdly, looking into the directories of the main repositories yields the same thing, though thankfully this is of absolutely no consequence anywhere else.

That is where my time with Sabayon came to an end. The lack of functionality in the Rigo Application Browser was a slight annoyance. Other than that, I am extraordinarily pleased with Sabayon, and assuming that the installation and the 64-bit edition are OK, I could see myself using this regularly. I still wouldn't quite recommend this for total newbies to Linux, but any relatively new Linux user who is at least comfortable typing specified commands to install packages using a CLI package manager (like "sudo apt-get install [something]") would feel at home using Sabayon, and that is a very high recommendation.
You can get it here.