[SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

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bensatlantic
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[SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by bensatlantic » Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:07 pm

I'm running Linux Mint 17.1 with Cinnamon on two machines and it works flawlessly on both of them. But one (Toshiba Satellite) has a slower processor and less RAM and begins to struggle with videos and multiple open browser tabs, etc. I'm trying to improve performance in whatever way I can. I know that KDE (edit - sorry, not KDE, it's resource-heavy) MATE or XFCE desktops are often suggested for older, slower computers - but why does that help? Is it because a 'heavier' desktop environment like Cinnamon tasks the limits of the slower CPU or is it having less RAM that is the problem?
Last edited by bensatlantic on Wed Dec 20, 2017 5:22 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: How does a Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by Joe2Shoe » Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:16 pm

That's probably because the other variants of LM use less overhead.
You can try another variant of LM, or I personally would upgrade the RAM to a minimum 4GB and upgrade the CPU to a minimum 2.20GHz.
I upgraded all 4 of my 10 year old laptops and they work well on LM18.3 Cinnamon 64-bit.
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Re: How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by jimallyn » Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:20 pm

Both CPU and RAM, actually. I compared RAM usage in XFCE, MATE, and Cinnamon a while back when I installed on a laptop for a friend of mine:

Cinnamon used 730 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 1.1 GB of RAM with Firefox running.

MATE used 514 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 895 MB of RAM with Firefox running.

XFCE used 303 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 680 MB of RAM with Firefox running.

I have not done comparable tests for CPU usage, but my understanding is that you would get similar results for CPU usage. I didn't bother to test KDE because this testing was done on an older, not-so-powerful laptop, and I knew KDE would be too much for it.

I use Cinnamon on my desktop computer with i7 processor and 12 GB of RAM, and XFCE on my old laptop with some puny processor I can't remember, and 2 GB of RAM. I am planning to update my desktop to Mint 18.3 soon, and will probably move it to XFCE at that time. Why use up my RAM and CPU just running the OS and leave less for applications to use?

Use XFCE or MATE.
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Re: How does a Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by Schultz » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:04 pm

bensatlantic wrote:
I know that KDE or XFCE desktops are often suggested for older, slower computers . . .
That should be Mate and Xfce. KDE is the heaviest of all four.

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[SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by bensatlantic » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:44 pm

jimallyn wrote:Both CPU and RAM, actually. I compared RAM usage in XFCE, MATE, and Cinnamon a while back when I installed on a laptop for a friend of mine:

Cinnamon used 730 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 1.1 GB of RAM with Firefox running.

MATE used 514 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 895 MB of RAM with Firefox running.

XFCE used 303 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 680 MB of RAM with Firefox running.

I have not done comparable tests for CPU usage, but my understanding is that you would get similar results for CPU usage. I didn't bother to test KDE because this testing was done on an older, not-so-powerful laptop, and I knew KDE would be too much for it.

I use Cinnamon on my desktop computer with i7 processor and 12 GB of RAM, and XFCE on my old laptop with some puny processor I can't remember, and 2 GB of RAM. I am planning to update my desktop to Mint 18.3 soon, and will probably move it to XFCE at that time. Why use up my RAM and CPU just running the OS and leave less for applications to use?

Use XFCE or MATE.
Thanks - this is what I was after and what I suspected but didn't have the actual data - that it was mostly due to RAM limitation. Good information to know and understand. Thanks again.

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Re: How does a Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by bensatlantic » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:46 pm

Schultz wrote:
bensatlantic wrote:
I know that KDE or XFCE desktops are often suggested for older, slower computers . . .
That should be Mate and Xfce. KDE is the heaviest of all four.
Right, my mistake - - thanks.
Last edited by bensatlantic on Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How does a Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by Flemur » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:01 pm

I fiddled with desktops a bit; here are some (IIRC) used memory at boot ("free -m"):
- fluxbox: ~110-150 MB
- xfce: 250-300 MB
- Mate: ??
- Cin: a lot
- KDE: 500+ MB
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Re: How does a Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by Topken » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:18 pm

The heavier the Desktop Environment the more resources it needs to run think of Windows and how newer versions require newer and thus more powerful hardware and more ram as well. So yeah there are a few lighter DEs that are available such as Mate since its based on Gnome 2 while Cinnomin is based on the newer Gnome 3 and thus requires more resources.

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Re: [SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by bensatlantic » Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:29 am

jimallyn wrote: I compared RAM usage in XFCE, MATE, and Cinnamon a while back when I installed on a laptop for a friend of mine:

Cinnamon used 730 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 1.1 GB of RAM with Firefox running.
MATE used 514 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 895 MB of RAM with Firefox running.
XFCE used 303 MB of RAM with no applications running, and 680 MB of RAM with Firefox running.[/quote]

I would like to be able to understand how to run tests to obtain these kinds of measurements - can you please explain how to go about this? Would I use 'top' or 'htop' or VmStat commands to monitor RAM usage of processes in real-time? Or maybe an application like System Monitor? Also how to do the same with CPU measurements. Learning this skill would help me to contribute testing information to Linux forums as you've done. Thanks for your time and help!
Last edited by Moem on Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Made a quote look like a quote, to make the post easier to understand.

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Re: [SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by Flemur » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:33 am

bensatlantic wrote:I would like to be able to understand how to run tests to obtain these kinds of measurements - can you please explain how to go about this?
I just do

Code: Select all

free -m
which shows free and used memory.

The only mild glitch is the terminal uses some memory, but not much(5-10MB).
fluxbox window manager uses less memory than a terminal.

Using nvidia drivers (vs default) sometimes adds 40MB over default (non-proprietary).
nm-applet uses IIRC 20MB - more than fluxbox.

Anyway, that's how people get slightly different results for a given desktop - other stuff besides the desktop is running.
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Re: [SOLVED] How does Desktop environment affect performance?

Post by bensatlantic » Tue Dec 19, 2017 1:47 pm

I've since discovered Gnome System Monitor which gives real-time information on CPU, RAM and processes. And I've installed LXDE as my desktop to replace Cinnamon and noticed a big difference in the Toshiba Satellite - with Cinnamon, the fan was always running at high speed, even though the CPU didn't struggle. The Toshiba CPU will be near 100% when playing say, an HD video on youtube in Chrome or Firefox - that's a good test of any computer really. With LXDE the fan runs, but at a lower speed - it's very interesting and answered my original question - the desktop really DOES affect how the computer performs. LXDE is a good solution for running Mint 17.1 on my Toshiba. I also want to try Fluxbox.

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