It is official, 2023 is the year of the Wayland display server. It has become very obvious that there is quite a bit of momentum behind the Wayland Display Server project and as of today, in October of 2023, Wayland is the best experience you are going to have with the Plasma desktop, especially if you have a mix of HiDPI and well, regular DPI screens.
Bottom Line Up Front: Everything works in Wayland (except one but I’ll get to that later). I am having a great experience on Wayland, and I will add that if you have a screen with any more pixels than 1080p, you should probably be running Wayland for the smoothest experience.
This is my experience using openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshot 20231008 with KDE Plasma version 5.27.8 on Linux Kernel 6.5.6.
Wayland over the Years
I have written about this very subject twice before, once early this year and another time back in 2021 but moved back to X11 due to various difficulties that prevented me from being productive. Issues would be a drag on my ability to get my work done and that is a show stopper for sure.
As of today, I now have two machines running Wayland full time, both of these machines are Intel based laptops.
Main reason for going full Wayland was the need for scaling per screen as my Framework Laptop has a high DPI screen which I need to have scaled to 125% to see anything with any clarity. I have some portable screens of similar size that have a resolution of 1920×1080 which is essentially far off from the 2256×1504 the Framework has built in. There isn’t an easy way to get the 3:2 ratio screen to adjust to match my external screens with X11 for the display server that would leave me satisfied with the results. The only option was Wayland.
The big question, anytime you talk graphics is going to be on performance, how well something performs. X11 has been around a long time and we are well aware of the performance we get from it. I can say, with great confidence, if you are using X11 on 1080p or even 1440p screens, your performance is somewhere between good and great, assuming you have the GPU to push it. For Wayland it is somewhere between X11 and great. Now, I am not doing anything graphically intense. This is all being evaluated with the desktop experience and in my last article, I mentioned the performance issues of Wayland how too many application windows would slow the machine down and using Kdenlive was choppy, etc. That is not the case now. In fact, Wayland, with my particular hardware, now performs much better. If I go to X11, I can see some noticeable drops in framerate on my main 2256×1504 screen. It isn’t annoyingly noticeable and if I turned off the wobbly windows effect, I probably wouldn’t notice it at all. So it really is splitting hairs. Any of my previous gripes are also now a thing of the past in reference to performance. No strange desaturating of applications at odd times. It really is rock solid.
I don’t do a lot of gaming with my computers since I purchased the SteamDeck but one game that still begs to be played with keyboard and mouse is Minecraft. I don’t think anything beats that interface for that game. Minecraft performs as good as or better than X11 with Wayland as the display server. Any other games I would play are 20 to 40 year old so there isn’t going to be any performance gains using Wayland there.
Performance on Wayland is great. I am exceptionally happy with how it is working. The developers, testers and everyone involved in the Wayland project have done a fantastic job and I truly appreciate it.
Microsoft Teams screen sharing with Wayland
One issue I had early on with Wayland was that I could not use Wayland and share my screen during a Microsoft Teams meeting that I would have for work. I would have to switch back to X11 if I intended on doing any meetings. As of about mid-August or so, that is no longer an issue too. The quick fix is to just use the Microsoft Edge Flatpak or the Teams for Linux Flatpak but early on, the application would just crash out as soon as you tried to share your screen. Maybe it was a Pipewire thing, I don’t know but it worked correctly on X11. I can, with great confidence, say that any sort of work function with Wayland is top notch.
Video editing is smooth
I previously lamented about the incredibly poor performance using Kdenlive on Wayland. It was painful, real painful, but now it is fantastically smooth. Scrubbing the timeline is just as I would expect. So much so I thought that I was running X11 and had to double check when I realized how wonderfully well it was working. Bottom line here, I don’t even think about the display server when editing video and that is a beautiful thing.
Outstanding Wayland Issues
It’s not all butterflies and lollipops on Wayland. There are some issues that need to be stomped out and I think, in time, it will be worked out just fine.
Zoom is now usable on Wayland, as in, within the last month or so of writing (October 2023). It does seem to have a kind of rubber-banding effect at times when I am using it but that may be some other issues that are caused by using OBS in concert with Zoom. OBS on its own doesn’t seem to have issues as I am using that for a number of things so I do point to Zoom as being the culprit. I do want to note that Zoom is far better on Wayland than it has been. It was either painful to use or would outright crash so much improvement has been accomplished here.
Not to knock on Zoom but it is regularly painful to use but it still might be the best, despite the pain points it seems to have. For the purposes of keeping this as positive as possible, I am grateful for the work that has been done to make this work as well as it has been working so lets just keep it there and for one case, I will use X11 until the rubber banding can be a thing of the past.
Barrier / Synergy
One of my favorite features I have used is still not possible in Wayland, that is the virtual KVM I have enjoyed so much. This still hasn’t been tooled up to work with Wayland regardless of the chatter in the feature requests and the like. I have found this project called “Waynergy” that is supposed to work with Wayland and other clients that use Synergy but I couldn’t get it to work in the short amount of time I toyed with it. The project is largely rough and incomplete so I will have to way on that for the time being.
LibreOffice works and really works well but there seems to be some sort of issue relating to the varied scaling of the screens and how LibreOffice responds to that scaling. Some applications seem to struggle with the varying scaling between screens. This has caused me to look at other office applications but each of them have their own usability issues not relating to the graphics display.
This is a screenshot of the two displays. It’s the HiDPI screen on the left with the 1080p screen on the right.
This is largely annoying, not a show stopper. I do hope this can be resolved in the near future to remove that papercut.
The only other application that gives me trouble is Audacity. Not horrible but certainly quite annoying is how slow the UI is on Wayland. Also, the playback doesn’t show you were it is playing exactly. That is almost a show stopper but not quite, exactly. It just happens to make using Audacity a miserable experience. I will be looking for alternatives.
I do believe that 2023 is the year of the Wayland display server. At least, it is for me. The tools I use most work great and although LibreOffice has its issues yet, I am sure it will be worked out in the near future. I can mostly deal with it. The only issue that is a real bummer is the lack of Barrier / Synergy functionality. I know that Waynergy is a thing that, given enough time, I could use, it would be nice to have the graphical tool that has worked for me for the last 8 years. This too, I am confident, will be worked out in the near future as it looks like the hard work has been done, it is just a matter of putting the polish on the framework.
I have attempted to use Wayland on my Commodore 64 Impostor machine which does run an AMD APU and that was a bit rough. There is some pretty serious screen flickering so that machine will stay on X11 for the time being. I don’t know if it is an AMD thing or something else that is causing the flickering. I suppose I need to do more digging there.
Now that Wayland has arrived, what’s next? Pipewire in conjunction of Wayland is now providing even cooler functions and capabilities that haven’t been previously available to Desktop Linux (yes, this is another article I’m working on). HiDPI displays can be fully embraced in Linux as well as per-monitor fractional scaling. Truly, a fantastic capability. Wayland is also giving users the ability to use DisplayLink displays on Linux quite smoothly too. I can honestly say that I have never been more content as a desktop Linux user, or, for that matter, desktop computer user… ever. These are some marvelous times to be using Linux.
SteamDeck resource on CubicleNate.com
Wayland is So Close | Back on X11
Wayland Display Server on openSUSE Tumbleweed in 2021
DisplayLink on openSUSE Tumbleweed