Ubuntu 21.10 Impish Indri is out there and it is packed with stunning new features like the all-new GNOME 40, Firefox ships as a snap package, Linux kernel 5.13, and Nvidia drivers now support Wayland(a communication protocol).
It also ships with a new package base giving us a revamped user experience. That gives us the choice of having two separate versions of Ubuntu one is LTS and another is an interim release (which comes in every six months).
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and the new 21.10 both are very different from each other in how they look, how they behave, their support period, their target user base, and many other things.
So in this article, I’ll be sharing the differences between them, comparing them in terms of performance, stability, and software availability, and helping you decide which version of Ubuntu is best for you.
I installed both Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and 21.10 on the same hardware to play with them and see how they perform and behave against each other.
One is a long-term support version supported till 2025 and the other is an interim release supported only for the next nine months until July 2022.
We’ll also settle the debate of LTS vs non-LTS versions, once and for all by objectively looking at both the systems. So let’s jump right in and see if you should stick with the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS or upgrade to the all-new Ubuntu 21.10.
Starting with the user interface, Ubuntu 21.10 gets the much-awaited GNOME 40. The desktop is super clean and from first glance, you have a uniform standard Ubuntu experience.
But it’s the newest gnome desktop with the newest of everything. We get streamlined horizontal workspaces that look elegant and feel smoother to use.
You can switch between applications and move between workspaces, drag and drop apps into new workspaces. These Horizontal workspaces feel so natural when compared to the old vertical ones.
We also get a much deeper sense of organization when using many applications here. Then the application grid is integrated into the workspace switcher.
This application grid is very customizable. You can directly rearrange the application icons here by dragging and dropping them. You can also create baskets to either organize similar apps or store away unused apps.
The new gestures are the shining stars of GNOME 40. If you’re using a laptop, you use three-finger swipes sideways on the touchpad to switch between workspaces.
Or summon the activities overview with a three-finger swipe upwards. It feels so natural to swipe with your fingers like that and see the response on the screen. Using your computer like this comes so instinctively and is smoother and more convenient.
The theme feels a bit more premium, compared to the 20.04. By default the application theme is light but the shell theme is dark. Of course, you can change this in the settings.
Overall, I liked how Ubuntu has implemented GNOME 40 here. Ubuntu 21.10 feels very close to the Ubuntu desktop experience and long-time users will feel just the same experience.
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS:
Coming back to Ubuntu 20.04, this is the tried and tested GNOME 3 desktop at its peak here. The desktop is very mature with best-in-class functionality and performance.
The desktop here is very similar to the newer one, except for the application grid and workspace switcher. Here we get vertical workspaces. The application grid is a different fragment here which is quite familiar too.
Sure, GNOME 40 is supposed to be better than GNOME 3, and it is. But GNOME 3.36 is in no way objectively inferior in any meaningful sense.
This is a solid desktop environment that delivers amazing performance while also being very stable and good-looking. I use this.
Applications, how you use the system, various settings, and all the other things are similar on both systems. While there are differences between user interfaces of Ubuntu 21.10 and 20.04, these differences are very marginal and we liked them both.
Stability and Usability:
These are the two areas of an operating system where a large portion of users considers an OS before choosing. Those who are using an OS for organization and operational use already know an LTS version is more stable than interim releases.
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS is a long-term support version that will be supported till 2025. Ubuntu 21.10 is an interim release supported for only nine months.
Although 21.10 is as usable as 20.04, This difference in life cycle manifests into huge differences between these two systems.
LTS versions are always more polished and bug-free than interim releases because they are around for a much longer time. The packages here are tested more thoroughly and more optimized. This leads to better software stability on LTS versions.
Interim releases on the other hand give you a fresher experience as they contain newer packages. They give you an updated experience.
Non-LTS versions have a shorter life cycle so newer packages are used and everything gets updated every 6 months. Throughout the system, you get newer tech and a more feature-rich experience.
But with snaps, this is changing. As the latest version of the software is packaged directly by the software vendors and the same package is distributed on all the Linux distros.
LTS releases are very low maintenance, you can install them and forget about them. How things work, the user interface, they’ll all remain the same for a very long time and there’s a very small chance of things breaking.
With non-LTS releases, You need to update the entire system every 6 months. While this is supposed to be mostly risk-free, there is a small chance of breakage.
If you’re an enthusiast and want to have the latest Ubuntu experience, go with 21.10 without question. But if you’re a developer or have critical computing needs then go with 20.04 LTS.
LTS is more stable and dependable while non-LTS get newer features and software versions. You always get newer packages and features in the Interim release.
With 21.10, you’ll need to update when the next version of Ubuntu comes out. With 20.04, you can update or go another three years without needing to update anything.
20.04 LTS are no dought more dependable and this one aspect will be the decider for most people because you want a stable system whatsoever.
Ubuntu 20.04 LTS came out as the culmination of a host of performance improvements. Ubuntu under the hood had been optimized to be very efficient and you get pretty much everything in one place.
At the same time, GNOME developers also pushed out major performance improvements like efficient GPU memory caching for much better desktop responsiveness. All these things made Ubuntu 20.04 a performance powerhouse when compared to the LTS that preceded it.
And now, Ubuntu 21.10 too is exceptional in terms of performance. It matches 20.04 in speed, but it doesn’t surpass it. Both are very good for gaming.
NVIDIA users will especially notice a very good gaming performance because of the significantly improved 470 drivers. In all the areas, Ubuntu delivers optimized performance.
Finally, in terms of performance, speed, a variety of tasks, and hardware both versions are identical. You get a top-notch performance for sure without any hiccups.
Out of all the Linux distributions, Ubuntu has the highest support from software vendors. Almost any software created for Linux will be available for installation on Ubuntu in a quick, convenient, and trustworthy way.
This advantage of Ubuntu, cannot be stressed enough. Both the Ubuntu versions have great software availability. For native .deb packages, 21.10 will have a higher number of packages in its repositories than 20.04.
On the other hand, the 20.04 is more stability-oriented and all the software is tested more thoroughly than the non-LTS version.
These days Ubuntu prioritizes snaps heavily, which means the pool of software available here has grown significantly.
Many big software vendors are bringing their software to Linux only in a snap format so you get a wide range of packages ready to use more conveniently.
And with snaps, there’s no waiting. The latest versions of packages will be available immediately after release. The same package will be installable on both Ubuntu 21.10 vs 20.04 LTS.
Overall, software availability and the ease of getting software is the leading standard in both these versions.
Gaming is another area where Ubuntu excels. Both versions of Ubuntu are fantastic in this area. There are a good number of free games available on the software store across a wide range of categories.
I love playing 0 AD and Nexuiz. Then there’s steam. Here, you’ll find many top games for Linux and with Steam’s proton feature, you can play thousands of Windows exclusive games on Linux.
Once you enable SteamPlay from the settings, you can install windows games on Linux with a single click. They install and run like they are Linux natives.
AAA titles like The Witcher 3, Doom, GTA 5, and Dark Souls 3 run flawlessly on Linux. And many more games like Cyberpunk 2077 are improving with every new release.
Proton has revolutionized gaming on Linux. With NVIDIA improving drivers for Linux significantly, you get amazing performance with NVIDIA 470 drivers available on both versions of Ubuntu. All in all, Gaming on both versions of Ubuntu is just fantastic.
INSTALLATION AND SETUP:
Both versions of Ubuntu have the same straightforward installation. Even the most complex operations are represented in an easy-to-understand and beginner-friendly way.
You can install them both in under 15 minutes. Just like any other distribution Ubuntu is very easy to install and configure, all the information is given and you just have to follow the step-by-step procedure.
First, download the ISO file from the official website (UBUNTU 20.04 – UBUNTU 21.10) and then create a bootable USB device by using the startup disk created in Ubuntu.
And now, both 20.10 and 20.04 LTS versions automatically install the latest drivers for NVIDIA GPUs. AMD drivers are preinstalled too. Both the versions have a very quick and hassle-free installation procedure and as a user, you just have to fill in some details, and the rest of everything will be taken care of by the installer itself.
Ubuntu has one of the best documentation and any issues you might face, are easily solved by following the beginner-friendly guides on the askUbuntu forums.
The community is very friendly and the solutions are highly accessible and easy to follow. And even if you have a question that is not already answered, the community members prove to be very helpful.
The community is one of the biggest strengths of Ubuntu. And for Linux newcomers, this is a huge advantage. The online guides and the how-to’s of an LTS version are much richer than the non-LTS versions.
This is because the package versions of the LTS versions are around for a long time for proper documentation and troubleshooting guides to be written around them.
This means solving issues and troubleshooting, in general, is easier and more convenient on Ubuntu 20.04 than on 21.10.
My Personal Preference:
Personally speaking, I need something very stable and dependable for my development work. So I always prefer to use an LTS version as my primary work. But that’s not the case for you, if you are someone who wants to use new features in the same Ubuntu platform then an Interim release is not a bad choice.
For general home use, I would prefer to use a non-LTS as it brings the newer technologies in the Linux world while also very dependable. A person with Long term computational needs cannot just use a non-LTS.
A study says more than 90 percent of people would like to use an LTS version like 20.04, But many people might also find the newer 21.10 more appealing.
So it completely boils down to the user’s preferences in between stability Vs the state-of-the-art computing experience. On 21.10, You get the latest Linux kernel, the latest user interface, and the latest technology out of the box.
On 20.04, you get stability, which can be invaluable. So I think Ubuntu 20.04 LTS wins over the 21.10 by a good margin.
And having said that we have covered all the aspects of the LTS vs non-LTS version and compared them. And I hope these things will help you pick the one that’s best for you.