Review: Manjaro Linux 0.8.13 "Ascella" KDE

Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
It has been several months since I last checked out Manjaro Linux. That review was of its Xfce edition, whereas this is of its KDE edition. As I mentioned in my recent review of SolydK, I wanted to originally compare the two in a single post. However, Manjaro Linux uses KDE 5 (again, I know this is a deliberate abuse of notation) whereas SolydK still uses KDE 4, so I feel like it wouldn't be fair to compare the two in one post. Instead, I have kept the two posts separate, and will make reference to my review of SolydK as needed.

I tested the 64-bit version of Manjaro Linux on a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Interestingly, unlike my previous review of Manjaro Linux, no extra modifications were needed after UnetBootin finished doing its thing. Anyway, follow the jump to see what it's like. (Regarding the title, some sites say that the codename for this release is also "Ascella", but this doesn't seem to be officially used in an entirely consistent manner.)

After the boot menu, I was greeted by a scrolling wall of text, which quickly gave way to a Manjaro Linux-branded KDE splash screen. This then gave way after a reasonably short time to the desktop.

The desktop layout, despite (or perhaps because of) being KDE 5, generally feels the same as KDE 4. However, as far as I can tell, the icon, KDE Plasma, Qt, and window titlebar themes are all unique to Manjaro Linux, and they all work really well together. What I really liked was the high contrast between the panel icons/text against the background, the panel itself against the desktop background, and the window titlebar buttons against the titlebar itself; although translucency is a nice effect when used properly, I am almost preferring the opacity in this theme. The only thing that seemed a little weird to me was the solid teal desktop background; I thought there might be a nicer wallpaper that simply failed to load, but it turns out that is actually the background. Otherwise, this desktop looks just as slick as the Xfce edition, if not more so. Moreover, I do like the added functionality to the KDE Kickoff menu, as well as to the other panel applets.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
Mozilla Firefox is the default browser. As expected, it comes with proprietary codecs enabled, as YouTube and Hulu worked fine, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts. Interestingly, it uses a different theme from other native KDE applications, though the difference does not feel jarring in any way.
LibreOffice is the default productivity suite. With regard to my recent review of SolydK, I really appreciate that the various components of LibreOffice are labeled according to their separate functions, without combining them into a single "Office" label that may confuse new users who are expecting Microsoft Office. Also, I do like the custom icon theme used in LibreOffice; it doesn't look like the standard icon themes in GNOME or KDE, yet it blends into Manjaro Linux remarkably well.
This distribution includes a rather large selection of preinstalled software. A lot of it is comprised of graphics applications, along with a few other things here and there. Interestingly, Steam is preinstalled; this should be helpful in pulling in users switching from Microsoft Windows who may be casual gamers (provided that they actually play games on Steam).

Octopi replaces Pamac as the default GUI package manager. It seems a little easier to use without sacrificing any power; for example, it is no longer required to manually authenticate various steps in the installation process in the command-line portion of the window. I was able to use it to install Skype, Mupen64Plus, and Redshift. All of those installed fine, and Skype & Redshift worked fine. I should note that although this is also the 64-bit version of the distribution, this distribution, unlike SolydK, did not require a ton of 32-bit libraries to be installed for Skype to work correctly. Additionally, Skype doesn't integrate properly with the rest of the desktop theme; that said, this is a minor issue, and it appears to be known to the Manjaro Linux community.

Dolphin + Gwenview + Desktop Cube
Oddly, Google Talk has been moved out of the official repositories, so I have to install it from the AUR in the terminal; this is also true of M64Py. Both of those installed and worked just fine. Additionally, M64Py seemed to run a bit smoother than in SolydK, because it or Mupen64Plus is at a more recent version here.

The system was smooth through the entirety of my testing (except for one minor error message that was of absolutely no consequence when I was playing around with window settings). Also, desktop effects worked just fine. Even so, the system used 610 MB of RAM at idle according to the command "free -m", which is a little heavy but still acceptable.

I was also able to test something that I don't normally test in my reviews: using Dolphin to log into the remote server I use for my computational physics research. It worked fine, although there were a few annoyances: I had to enter my password for every file that I opened, Dolphin changed the view settings (from "icon view" to "tree view") when I went to the remote folder, and after I closed Dolphin, I would have no way of going back to the remote folder except by logging in again. These are all minor issues though, and I'm sure I would find ways to get around these if I were to use this distribution on a daily basis.

That's where my time with Manjaro Linux 0.8.13 "Ascella" KDE ended. Overall, this distribution is quite polished, it seems to cater to newbies well, and I can't find much that is wrong with it. Of course, if I were to use it on a daily basis, there are other things that I'd have to get used to, such as the way KDE and its applications do things compared to MATE/Xfce, the way the KDE Kickoff menu is best used (because the KDE Lancelot menu does not appear to be available for KDE 5), and so on. In any case, though, I can heartily recommend it to newbies and more experienced users alike, and I would seriously consider using this on a daily basis.
You can get it here.