Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Pop! _OS

Pop! _OS ranks fifth fromn the popular ranking site Distrowatch, based on the number of hits on the Distrowatch page for the operating system, not based on actual downloads / user base. You can read my reviews of the other four top spots by following these links: Linux Mint, Manjaro, EndeavorOS, and MX Linux.

There aren’t many Linux distros that I haven’t tried … but pop! _OS is one of them, and so it’s literally the first time I’ve touched the operating system doing this review … and I liked it and had serious problems with it.

For those unfamiliar with Pop! _OS, it’s an Ubuntu-based distribution from System76, a popular maker of Linux-centric pre-built computers. The distribution is widely considered to be stable, modern, feature-filled, and beginner-friendly, as well as fairly minimalist in terms of gas.

There is only one variant of Pop! _OS, GNOME, and the operating system is therefore specially designed for it.

My specs:

  • Ryzen 5 3500X
  • NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super
  • 16GB DDR4 3000Mhz
  • System installed on a SATA SSD


I wish I could say I didn’t have any problems installing it as Pop! _OS would sound so much less daunting at the beginning of this article … however, it didn’t. First, I decided to install Pop! _OS 20.04 LTS, using their special version for NVIDIA GPUs so I wouldn’t have to mess with Nouveau; However, an installation error occurred while trying to install no matter what I did. Googling the problem did not produce any meaningful or helpful results either. I created the Live USB with dd from another Linux system so I knew it wasn’t the tool / utility that was causing the USB error. So I decided to try 04/21 (NVIDIA) instead, even though it’s not the LTS and therefore has less long-term support … And voila! It worked.

I’ve never seen the installer utility before so I’m assuming that it was specifically designed for Pop! _OS and I have to say that it is very well designed. It was attractive, organized, easy to understand, and offered many opportunities. The installation itself, once I got it going, was painless and very, very quick.

Included software and features

Here PopOS is both minimal and fully functional. As for the software that comes with it, there really isn’t much … LibreOffice has been installed, as has Firefox and the Geary email client … but that was pretty much all aside from basic utilities, a dock, and the Pop! _Shop (software installer). Even proprietary multimedia formats such as MP3 and DVD decoders are not included as standard.

That makes Pop! _OS attractive to those looking for a super minimal system that can be built almost from scratch … but don’t confuse this with a lack of functionality. Pop! _OS comes with full-disk encryption enabled by default which is very rare (their website claims that they are the only Linux distro that does this, but I can’t confirm this), the ability to do an OS update that will quickly and easily reinstall the OS while keeping your home Folder, and that’s pretty much clarifying on their website about their stance on privacy,

Pop! _OS does not collect or store any information from user installations. Minimal operating system and hardware information is used – not stored – to provide updates and connectivity checks. Apps packaged via Flatpak require permissions to access more than what is required to function. “

It was also interesting that I didn’t have to enter my root password when installing software like GIMP from the POP! _Shop; something I think I’ve never seen before. I’m not 100% sure what to think of this, but it’s totally worth mentioning.

Overall, I was impressed by this side of Pop! _OS. I really don’t like GNOME, but this was probably the most organized and designed GNOME system I’ve used.


Pop! _OS was a little heavier than I expected. With LibreOffice Writer open and Firefox with four tabs open, my CPU had an average utilization of 16% with 2.9 GB of RAM used. I attribute this to the fact that GNOME is not very lightweight; but overall, I have never faced slowdowns, hiccups, slow launching applications, or hanging applications. As long as you are using a semi-modern PC, everything is fine.

Final thoughts

Personally, I’m not going to be using Pop! _OS because I loathe GNOME, but I have to admit it’s a really attractive operating system, with some good features under the hood, a minimalist approach in terms of gas, and based on Ubuntu, you can expect lots easy to find support. If all of this sounds good, I highly recommend checking out this distro, you may love it!

Now you:

Have you tried out Pop! _OS? What were your thoughts on that? Let me know in the comments below!


Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Pop! _OS

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Distrowatch Top 5 Distributions Review: Pop! _OS


Mike gives his report on the popular Linux distribution Pop! _OS from System76.


Mike Turcotte-McCusker





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