Best Linux Distros to try for 2021

Linux has a lot to offer the modern digital pioneer: enhanced security, free use, an OS free from the walled-garden approach of other systems, increased flexibility, and much more. One of its main benefits is its continual evolution, and 2021 is certainly looking interesting.

Linux has seen something of a rise in popularity over the last year, in part due to the many lockdowns around the world. Those with time on their hands have been busy learning, or re-learning, the joys of the world of Linux; or simply distro-hopping (the act of jumping from distro to another to sample the benefits of each), among the popular releases.

This increase in popularity has spurred the Linux developer, and as a result we’re beginning to see some interesting spins on current, and some new, distros appearing on the open-source horizon. Let’s take a moment then to sample some of these excellent releases, and look at the best distros to try for 2021.

Linux Mint

We’ll begin with one of the more popular distros from the last few years, Linux Mint. While Mint certainly isn’t a new release in the distro world, it’s solid performance, excellent support, friendly community, and cutting edge development has put it firmly in the top few distros in the world – many would argue that it’s the best distro, but as with other distros, it’s a personal thing, so make your own mind up.

2021 sees the release of Mint 20.1 Ulyssa, featuring Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce desktop environments. There are some intriguing new elements to Ulyssa that may tickle your digital exploratory parts: a Web Apps feature, that can turn any website into a desktop application; Hypnotix, an IPTV player, as well as many enhancements and improvements behind the scenes that boost the performance and reliability of the OS.

Check out the latest editions available at: https://linuxmint.com/.

MX Linux

MX Linux is currently experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity, and as soon as you boot into its lush desktop environment you’ll begin to realise why. To quote the MX Linux site. “MX Linux is a cooperative venture between the antiX and MX Linux communities. It is a family of operating systems that are designed to combine elegant and efficient desktops with high stability and solid performance. MX’s graphical tools provide an easy way to do a wide variety of tasks, while the Live USB and snapshot tools inherited from antiX add impressive portability and remastering capabilities. Extensive support is available through videos, documentation and a very friendly Forum.”

With a choice of three desktop variants, Xfce (the flagship DE), KDE, and Fluxbox, MX Linux is a superb blend of stability, performance, looks, and potential. There are tons of elements and ground-breaking features available, which make it both the ideal choice of distro for the newcomer as well as those who have been around the Linux block a few times.

It’s one of the most compelling distros available at present, so nip on over to https://mxlinux.org/, and see what’s on offer.

Elementary OS

Thanks to its custom desktop environment, Pantheon, and many custom apps, Elementary is quite simply one of the best looking Linux distros that will grace your monitor.

Now on version 5.1 Hera, Elementary gives the user a fast, friendly, gorgeous, and secure setting in which to work, play or learn in. This new version for 2021 sees major performance improvements, security enhancements and a plethora of additions to help make the transition to Linux from Windows or macOS easier and more fluid for the novice Linux user.

There are a number of redesign choices in addition, which combine to further improve the already bewildering beauty of this superbly designed distro. The end result is a Linux distro that doesn’t just look good on a 4K monitor, but also performs as well as a Linux distro should, while still providing the usual customisations and advanced technologies we expect from a modern operating system.

This is one we highly recommend, and you’ll find everything you’ll need at https://elementary.io/.

Pop! OS

This Ubuntu-based distro is ideal for STEM and creatives, as well as those who are looking to create and utilise an excellent developer base.

Designed with improved performance in mind, including better workplace organisation and workflow, Pop!_OS has rapidly risen in the ranks of the distro world. Although designed primarily with its parent company’s (System 76) custom laptop and desktops in mind, Pop!_OS is perfectly capable of being installed and operated on any PC-based system – providing you have a 64-bit CPU and at least 4GB of memory, and 16GB hard drive space available.

Encryption comes out of the box, alongside a wealth of coding, deep learning, media production, and bioinformatic apps that will help professionals, and keen amateurs, get to grips with the latest technology and developments.

Pop!_OS is going places in 2021, so get downloading and see how it works for you at, https://pop.system76.com/.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux has been around for years, and still remains one of the best ultra-small distros available for those who want an extreme streamlined OS without any loss in functionality.

Now on version 9.5, FossaPup, this tiny distro requires just 300MB of memory and a 900MHz CPU. Out of the box you can browse the internet, play music and video, access file shares across the network, and write an essay – if you want. There are more apps on offer, of course, which will naturally increase the footprint of Puppy, but from the point of installation, Puppy has tons to offer.

If you’re looking for a distro that incredibly small, fast, and near perfect, then check out Puppy Linux at http://puppylinux.com/index.html.

Distro Galore

The above five distros should give you a few weeks’ worth of Linux tinkering; remember, once you’ve got the base installed you can customise the OS to your own personal preference, including removing or adding whatever apps and elements you prefer.

With that in mind, why not let us know what your distro of choice is for 2021. If you’re a Linux developer, why not share your distro with us in the comments below, and tell us all about it.

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David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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