Best desktop environment for Linux: LXDE vs. Xfce vs. MATE

Sometimes, it is necessary to extract the maximum use from the old PC. Maybe you have a high performance system and you want to dedicate all its power to solve this problem. In any case, most importantly, to be able to fine-tune the system. When you install Linux, not so many things that you can easily modify for themselves except for one thing: the desktop environment.

If you need simple and fast system, you need to choose the right desktop environment.

What is desktop environment?

The desktop environment is the interface that you see on the screen, the panel at the top and bottom. They control the switching between applications and window management.

Some desktop environments are delivered with a nice interface like animations and transparent Windows, which require more system resources. Others attempt to provide a lightweight Linux desktop with minimal impact on system resources.

Best lightweight desktop environment of Linux

There are several environments which don’t require a lot of resources to run and good work. Let’s look at some of the best options.


Xfce is the oldest of the popular lightweight desktop environments of Linux. It uses the GTK+ Toolkit, as well as the more popular GNOME interface that comes preinstalled by default in Ubuntu and Fedora (the two largest environments on Linux).

Xfce is an environment that you can expand or simplify to suit your tastes. There are no animations, but if you like transparent Windows, shadows and other such effects, you have a choice.

Xfce has not changed much in recent years, so elevated system requirements, often associated with the size of the default application. Mozilla Firefox is more demanding than it was before. However, this does not depend on what kind of light Linux environment you choose.


MATE is a fork of GNOME 2, formed with the transition of GNOME to version 3.0. If you ever used GNOME before 2011, then, in fact, you used MATE. Some things have changed, but the basis is the same.

MATE is slightly prettier than Xfce, but not by much. In the days of GNOME 2 Xfce was a lightweight alternative. Since then GNOME 3 has changed so much that the difference between Xfce and GNOME 2 seems much less.

LXQt (LXDE previously)

A few years ago been considered a very lightweight LXDE graphical desktop environment. The launch took seconds and required only a couple of hundred megabytes of RAM. You may notice that this interface is very similar to Windows XP.

LXDE is so light that the producers of Raspberry Pi used its code to create the official operating system of the device Raspbian.

LXDE uses GTK+2, which has a very outdated code. Lead developer solved the problem in GTK+3 and decided to switch to Qt. He joined forces with the RazorQt team to create LXQt to replace LXDE, which is currently terminated.

LXDE and LXQt use interchangeable components with a very small number of dependencies (the back-end components required for operation of the software). A lightweight application with many dependencies can slow down the system. That’s why I like the choice of environment has a value and choosing the applications you use.


Need help in choosing between any two of the above desktop environments? If you need the lightweight desktop, it’s hard to get around LXQt or LXDE. But there are reasons why many people prefer one of the alternatives. Here’s what you need to keep in mind the direct comparison of the two interfaces.

LXQt/LXDE vs. Xfce

LXQt and LXDE is lighter than Xfce, but it is only part of the story. Frankly so LXDE looks just. With sufficient efforts Xfce – more modern environment. The main difference between LXQt and Xfce is that LXQt uses Qt and not GTK+. If you prefer GTK+, it is better to use Xfce.

The installation of GTK+ applications on LXQt requires you to download some dependencies, which are part of Xfce, but are not yet part of LXQt.


LXDE is lighter than MATE, but MATE is more full-functional desktop. Beginners may find that MATE is easier to understand. Although neither Desk is not complicated to use, MATE delivers applications and information in such a way that you generally do not create difficulties for the inexperienced users.

Again, comparing LXQt and MATE, the main difference again comes down to Qt and GTK+. What apps do you prefer? If you prefer a software Qt and you need a less loaded desktop, LXQt is easy.

Xfce vs. MATE

Out of the box, MATE has more features than Xfce, but it is more difficult to configure. Xfce uses less resources, but this advantage begins to break down as you install and run apps that depend on GNOME libraries. However, when it comes to comparisons MATE and Xfce, you can go mad.

Your lightweight desktop Linux can be even easier.

If you know Linux, you can build your own system using any components that you want. Instead of installing a full desktop environment, you can choose the window Manager. A couple of options: Openbox and Fluxbox. If you want to try a window Manager in a tiled interface, note i3, Xmonad and awesome. And there’s a dwm who is a master of all trades.

LXQt uses Openbox, and you will be hard pressed to find a better background components than those offered LXQt. Thus, your car will be much easier, if you reject the terminal. The simplest option for less experienced users is to install a lightweight Linux distribution for desktop computers.


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