Pop! OS is Poppin!
My main computer is a 6th generation Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon running Windows 10 Pro. I also have a second-generation X1 Carbon laptop that has run a dozen or so different operating systems over the past two years. It is a perfect test machine that handles every flavor of Linux I have thrown at it like a champ. It never tires or glitches or craps out on an install process. New installation after new installation it just keeps booting. Virtual machines are great, but you cannot really (really) test out an operating system until it is on the metal.
Currently, it is running Pop!_OS, the Ubuntu derivative rolled by System76. It is really good. Like, really, really good. It has a polished look with clean lines and very crisp icons. Most importantly it works, well most of it, perfectly from first boot.
The version is Pop!_OS 20.10 using the Gnome 3.38.1 desktop environment. I had been using Ubuntu before this experiment with Pop! so the Gnome desktop was somewhat familiar. However, Pop! uses a very minimal version that allows for precise customization. For example, you must turn on the ability to maximize or minimize application windows. Out of the box, the window only displays an X that closes it altogether.
Pop! does tiling windows right. And it has an easy to flip toggle switch for those that do not find it quite as useful. Microsoft Windows and macOS have tiling functionality but it is different when it just works, and you do not have to put any effort into making do so.
The Pop!_OS software repository is called the “Pop Shop”. Meh. It is a very aesthetically polished storefront that is visually appealing and offers a fair selection of applications. Functionally, however, it does it live up to the promise. It is slow and is prone to freeze. There are navigation issues like no “back” navigation after a search. The only way to return to the screen before the search is to clear the search entry box.
Battery life is good, the system is responsive to input, and it seems to run great on 8gb's of RAM. And the look is clean. I cannot say that enough. So many times, I have loaded a distribution to find fuzzy icons, bad fonts, and limited solutions to make effective changes. The system recognized and connected to my Brother printer – on the first try. I should not have to say much more than that.
I am also intrigued by the System76 hardware. The software is obviously solid. If the hardware is similar, then I will be very tempted to make the 14-inch Lemur my next laptop. Of course, I will need to find a workaround for Microsoft Word and Powerpoint. These applications are absolute musts for me and I have not been able to find any GNU/Linux software that does appropriate exports – or at least not without me making numerous formatting corrections. Office 365 web apps are available but are only available when you have secure Internet access.
I will continue to test, but within the first week of use, it feels like Pop!_OS could become my daily driver operating system.