Salient OS is the first Arch based distribution that I put any significant time into. Salient takes the heavy lifting out of Arch. The value of not building your own Arch system and using somebody else’s assembly can be debated but that is outside of the scope of this review. I am looking at this from my biased perspective as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user, another rolling release. Could I use Salient OS long term? Perhaps but what am I gaining? I am not sure.
This review was initiated as a BigDaddyLinux distro challenge. I am perfectly happy with my choice of openSUSE. I am just dabbling around to learn and experiment because, why not? Linux is a fun thing.
Installation of Salient OS is surprisingly easy. There isn’t an option to install it from boot but you can boot into a live media version of Salient and kick the tires before you commit to an installation.
My initial impression is, the desktop looks fantastic, it is themed just right and the wallpaper is pretty fantastic. I don’t know what it is from but it is visually quite interesting.
Since I am not a fan of testing things out in the live media mode, I wanted to install it but there wasn’t an icon on the desktop to begin the installation so I searched for it in the menu. Which, by the way, it should be noted that the this is a great menu.
Once I found the installer, by searching for “Installer”
Upon launching it, the welcome screen gave me a warning about my hardware, I paused for just a moment, but just continued anyway. It should be noted, I didn’t have any issues on my time with Salient OS. Next I set the location.
Next was the keyboard selection. It defaulted the proper keyboard which was welcoming. The partitioning, not my preference for the default but it seems to be more and more common, regardless of the benefits, I still prefer the default of a separate partition.
Next was setting the user information and finally a summary. Not a whole lot of options, perhaps a good thing since I am unfamiliar with Arch, this is likely a good thing.
The install process was pretty quick. There was a point at around 20% where it seemed like the installation stalled but the disk an CPU activity told me that it was indeed working hard.
Once the Installation was complete, I wanted to reboot immediately to see what I can do with this fresh installation.
The Grub bootloader is among the best I have ever seen. It sets the mood right from the beginning. This isn’t a bright, eye stabbing, desktop, this desktop respects light discipline.
The login screen was a bit of a puzzle to me, not a big deal, no worse than having to press ctrl+alt+delete to log into Windows, in this case, I just had to click on the robot image for my user name to appear.
The desktop appeared just as it had before and I saw that there were updates. Having heard the horror stories of Arch updates, I wanted to see how it would go for me. I know that Arch does require a bit of vigilance on ensuring it stays up to date and this was a fresh install so there should be no problems.
Authentication for completing the update was required, probably a good idea with Arch updates.
I appreciate how verbose the update process is. I can see not only what is being updated but what the version changes are. That is a very welcomed bit of information and appeals to my geek core.
I did get one warning but it didn’t see it as being anything significant.
I closed the window after the transaction successfully finished and rebooted the system. Everything came back just as I would expect.
This update didn’t fail, but if I let Arch go too long (which I will test) without upgrading, I am to understand that this could be a problem. I am going to put it through a similar test I put Tumbleweed through, just to see.
Interestingly, both Firefox and Chromium are installed by default. I am sure there are arguments against having multiple browsers initially installed but I have no problem with this and in a way, that is kind of a reoccurring theme in this distribution; Options.
This is the first distribution I have seen that has OpenShot installed by default. I find that fascinating.
You are also given Kdenlive to play around with, keeping in line with this idea of Options with this distribution.
Options don’t end there, either.
My impression of this distribution is that it looks like a work of high-energy art encapsulated in pleasant, modern, dark themed wrapper. The window decorations are almost electric in appearance with brilliant high contrast widgets in a pleasantly dark and slightly translucent frame. The desktop effects are clean and simple and it all just looks like it is absolutely not Xfce… but it is. It really gives me pause to think how wrong the notion is that Xfce is not a modern desktop when this clearly demonstrates that Xfce can in fact be morphed into something as modern looking as Plasma or Gnome.
This distribution is packed with all the gaming and gaming related applications of which I am aware. It has Steam and Lutris installed by default which essentially covers the entire gambit of gaming on Linux.
Salient OS is also packed with content creation software, Open Broadcaster Studio, SimpleScreenRecorder, Kdenlive and OpenShot for video related creation. Audacity and LMMS for Audio production. Graphic creation has Blender for 3D modeling, Darktable, Gimp and Inkscape.
For writing to a USB drive, SUSE Imagewriter is bundled by default, which is absolutely my favorite tool.
What I Like
Right out of the gate, this distribution has all the gaming applications, graphics editing, video editing and pretty much all the great, high profile applications are bundled in here. No searching or installing a long list of applications to get up and running.
The desktop is super nice looking. I am most accustomed to seeing a dark theme with green or blue accents but this one, instead has orange accents. It is a nice departure from the norm. It should also be noted that this is a very fine display of how Xfce can be configured to look slick and modern.
The settings panel in Salient is well done. It is pretty common now for the controls to be consolidated, which is appreciated, some are better than others and this one is pretty great.
What I Don’t Like
Due to my desktop layout bias, I prefer the desktop have the panel on the bottom. I can deal with it on the top or the side but you don’t get two sides. The desktop would be a lot more functional if you had the panel at the bottom with the quick launch icons embedded. Although the bottom panel is covered up on full screen, I just don’t understand the appeal. I know this is configurable and I am quite possibly just an old curmudgeon that likes my desktop a certain way.
The Firewall is installed but off by default. Not my preferred default behavior but probably the easiest for inexperienced users to have it get along with their home network… which seems in contrast to what an Arch distribution expects from its users.
Xfce is a generally nice looking desktop but GTK just doesn’t look as good as Qt, at least, GTK does a much poorer job of integrating Qt apps in a GTK environment than the other way around. There are configuration controls included in Salient OS but it just doesn’t have that level of integration that you see from Plasma.
SalientOS is a distribution that is truly built for gaming enthusiasts. It looks fantastic, works well and basically has all the necessary applications for gamers and content creators baked in and ready to be used. I have heard this argument against having too many applications included and getting the term “bloated” thrown around. I actually think that is kind of a silly argument. If there is something you don’t want, it is easy to just remove the application and if you want to go more minimal and build up from there, just go with Arch proper. Salient rolls everything up and gets you from zero to operational in short order with no fiddling around.
If you want to try out Arch but are a bit intimidated with the technical expertise required to get it going, this is a fine choice and I don’t see how you could be wrong in trying it. Personally, I don’t see the benefits of Arch outweigh the benefits I have in openSUSE Tumbleweed, but the fine compilation of software and sensible defaults of Salient OS certainly nips at the heels of openSUSE.