SolydXK is a Debian-based distro that describes itself as, "An open source operating system for small businesses, non-profit organizations and home users. SolydXK focuses on stability, security and ease of use and will help new users make the transition from Windows to Linux easier."
Also, as a disclaimer, I am an average Linux user. I have been using and reviewing Linux distros for two years, I use Linux on my home computer and at work. I am not an extremely advanced user, but I like to think I can solve most problems. Now that I've put that out there, let's get to the review.
The installer worked well, but I see that it doesn't match my computer's screen resolution exactly. This bothers me because I know there are always a lot of issues with various Linux distros and displays. And unfortunately this is going to be a big issue for me and SolydXK.
I had to partition the hard drive myself. The installer does not have a good partition manager and opens GParted to do the editing. This is fine for a regular Linux user, but perhaps not for a beginner. Although, if you are just replacing your operating system completely, this should not be an issue as you're just going to use the whole drive.
SolydXK 201701 -- The system installer (full image size: 86kB, resolution: 800x600 pixels)
After installing, and upon first boot, SolydXK used 895MB of RAM out of my 16GB, kind of a lot when compared with most other distributions.
SolydXK has apparently no touchpad support for my Asus laptop. This is an Asus (one of the most popular brands) and it is from 2016. A year later and touchpad support doesn't come with the distro? Why is that? Well after looking it up, it is a kernel issue (so not technically SolydXK's fault). The kernel SolydXK uses is Debian 3.16.39-1 (from 2016-12-30). Although this is Debian's kernel choice, I must point out that SolydXK chose to be based off of this Debian kernel. The kernel is not old, as you can see it is from the very end of 2016, but it still doesn't have support for my touchpad. This applied both in the installer and after my first boot. Of course I had a mouse laying around, but I'm still disappointed by this lack of touchpad support. Installing Debian's 4.9 kernel broke the machine (first full re-install of my trial). So I opted to use the mouse for the remainder of this review, but that is not always possible for a regular user. It is a laptop, and is to be made to be mobile, after all.
After installation, I did not have to run my very first boot with extra settings (such as nomodeset) on the Linux line in GRUB. That was a relief! Now I'm thinking, maybe it runs well out of the box? The NVIDIA card is well known to be an issue with some initial installations, and usually the NVIDIA proprietary drivers fix the issue. The same may be true for newer AMD graphics cards.
SolydXK does run out of the box! It runs very well. That's because it is using my Intel card (my laptop has Intel and NVIDIA cards). I will be referring to most of everything in this review in terms of how SolydXK worked with my Intel card. SolydXK caused a nightmare when I tried to get my NVIDIA card working. I tried every work around (including everything I could find on the forums) and couldn't figure it out, so if you can, let me know. The NVIDIA issue resulted in the second, third and fourth complete re-installs of SolydXK. So, finally I decided let's just use the Intel card.
Getting past the hardware issues, SolydXK comes with Debian Backports already in the APT source list. I am using the SolydK (K for KDE) version of SolydXK. It comes with KDE version 4.12.2. This is another big disappointment. I love KDE! But I do not love KDE 4. I love KDE 5, and KDE 5 was released on 15 July 2014. KDE is now shipping KDE Plasma 5.9.2. KDE 5.9 is beautiful and glamorous! But KDE 4 looks old. It has all of the modern conveniences of a full desktop environment, but it just looks like 2014. This version of SolydXK was released in January 2017, so I'm confused as to why it is using KDE 4.
Things I typically use my computer for: gaming, office suite, Internet surfing, watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and casting from Chrome to my TV. Firefox works great on SolydXK, but it doesn't allow you to use Netflix or Amazon Prime Video out of the box (or cast for that matter). I was able to easily install Chrome with the standard gdebi installer. A very nice and easy procedure.
SolydXK 201701 -- The KDE 4 desktop (full image size: 140kB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
I game with Steam. Steam is great and installs easily with APT. But I was only able to play games with the Intel video card, so I wouldn't get very far personally. Software Manager also works great (but it doesn't have Steam), and I was able to easily install and use software from Software Manager. The System Settings application is very standard, but there are some very nice features on SolydXK. Debian Driver Manager and Debian Plymouth Manager are nice little features, as are the USB Creator and LightDM login screen manager.
SolydXK works great for an operating system. If you need something stable and your hardware is not on the newer side, SolydXK may be for you. This Debian spin is solid, simple, and has advanced features that make it easier to use than Debian. I would use this over Debian, but there are other distros I would definitely use before SolydXK. But some people are looking for a Debian spin that works a little bit easier than Debian out of the box.
SolydXK did not work well with my hardware (touchpad and NVIDIA GPU). This was a big disappointment. The KDE version is old, and this was a disappointment too. I was hoping to see KDE Plasma 5, but I did not. I think that SolydXK is keeping KDE back for a reason, and that is to maintain some simplicity.
SolydXK 201701 -- Running the GNU Image Manipulation Program (full image size: 247kB, resolution: 1920x1080 pixels)
SolydXK bills itself as having the following characteristics: "Focuses on stability, security and ease of use and will help new users make the transition from Windows to Linux easier." I would say this is true. It is stable and secure! Debian is well known to be both secure and stable. KDE 4 is easy to use and easy to transition to. So coming from Windows would be pretty easy. There are also a lot of neat tools that users can utilize in making this solid distro work better for their machines. SolydXK is still solid, yet sadly only satisfactory.
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Hardware used for this review:
Intel Core i7-6700HQ Mobile Processor (4x 2.6GHz/6MB L3 Cache)