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Chakra Linux review – KDE and Arch make for a winning combination

by Dmitri Popov

A KDE-based distro powered by Arch Linux? Sounds like a perfect combo. We put Chakra through its paces to find out whether it would bring us closer to Linux computing nirvana…

Pros: Fast and sleek distro with several innovative tools and features backed up by excellent documentation
Cons: The lack of persistent storage capability in the Live CD mode
Chakra Homepage

After having been feeding our test machines with countless Ubuntu spinoffs for quite some time, we  were ready for a diet change. So when the Chakra project released milestone 1 of the namesake distro, we jumped at the opportunity to give it a try.

Chakra Linux may not ring any bells with many Linux users, but judging by the Distrowatch ranking, it’s the 13th most popular distro out there. Chakra Linux describes itself as an “extremely powerful Live CD and/or Linux distribution specially made for the award winning KDE Software Compilation and the beautiful Plasma desktop.” “Extremely powerful” is a relative term, but we can’t argue with the fact that Chakra Linux provides an excellent KDE experience, offers solid hardware support, and sports several interesting tools and features.

It’s also one of the fastest KDE-based distros we’ve ever tried. Even on our lowly ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Chakra Linux flied -something we are not accustomed to see on a netbook. This can be partly attributed to Chakra Linux’s pedigree: the distro started its life as an Arch Linux spinoff which is known for being one of the snappiest distros out there. While Chakra Linux started its life as an Arch Linux spinoff, the paths of these distros diverged a long time ago. So even though Chakra Linux uses the same pacman package management software, it can’t use software from Arch repositories.

Chakra Linux review -  KDE and Arch make for a winning combination
Chakra Linux is a sleek and fast KDE-based distro

Being a Live CD distro, Chakra Linux will happily run from a CD-ROM or a USB key. And a sleek desktop with a well-rounded software bundle would have made Chakra Linux a good choice for a portable computing system. Alas, the distro doesn’t seem to support the persistent storage feature, which means that none of your settings and customizations survive a reboot.

Things got positively more interesting when we decided to do a full-blown hard disk install. Chakra Linux comes with its own installer called Tribe. This sleek and user-friendly tool made a light work of installing Chakra Linux on our machine. Tribe also offered us the choice of installing proprietary drivers and software or skipping them altogether — a nice touch which will likely please both open source purists and less picky users.

Striving to design the best and cleanest KDE-based distro, the Chakra Linux developers are reluctant to dilute the distro with Gtk-based packages. To give Chakra Linux users the ability to install and run Gtk applications, the developers have devised the concept of bundles, or “an ISO-like image with all the files needed to run your app.” A custom tool called CInstall transparently handles bundles, installing any needed dependencies, creating the needed entries in Kickoff, and launching bundles. In addition to CInstall, the distro sports the Chakra Gtk Config module for tweaking the appearance of bundles.

Chakra Linux review -  KDE and Arch make for a winning combination
The distro sports its own Tribe installer

Besides bundles, Chakra Linux supports CCR (Chakra Community Repo), a repository of user-contributed packages. You can search and install CCR packages using a web-based interface or the CCR section in the AppSet graphical package manager tool.

Another thing that sets Chakra Linux apart is the fact that the distro is based on a so-called half-rolling release model which is described as “a rolling release with a stable core.” The idea is to offer the advantages of a rolling distro without compromising the overall stability of the system. Without running the distro for a prolonged time, it’s difficult to see how this approach works in practice. But the idea of installing Chakra Linux only once and then continually upgrading it has a lot of appeal.

Finally, we were really impressed by the quantity and quality of the available documentation. The Chakra project sports an excellent wiki that contains vast amounts of useful documentation, from a getting started guide and a hardware compatibility database to developer-related content and FAQs.

Verdict: 5/5
Simply put, Chakra Linux is a corker. This sleek and fast distro makes a perfect showcase for the KDE desktop environment. More importantly, it offers several innovative features and tools, such as the Tribe installer and the CInstall bundle manager.

Fig1. png Chakra Linux is a sleek and fast KDE-based distro.
Fig2.png The distro sports its own Tribe installer.

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    • I remember those days when Chakra Linux was incepted , based upon KISS governed concept giant Arch Linux . Tribe was horrible, installation was erroneous and things were hazy. Chakra grew with time , acquired an independent identity and stood with a distinction of KDE oriented distribution. Project is loaded with new concepts and Chakra team is friendly, open minded and ready to adopt new concepts . There is no replacement for Arch Linux but Chakra is definitely a distribution with its own potentials and I do not call it a day if I do not Chakra and do not Arch !

      Best wishes to Chakra Team,


    • Ohad

      i’m an arch user. arch is agile and easy to configure but make no mistakes – it is by no means faster than other distros (*buntu, debian etc’)
      this has been tested by in a benchmarl.

    • Gustavo

      Linux without gtk is lacking its essence and power.

    • First of all: Thx for this great review. During this week we released our second stable respin of Aida and the second Milestone for Edn. Pacman will be replaced soon with our own package management around akabei. Tribe will get more features to support lvm, encrypted partitions and other needed parts still missing in our current releases.

      Some of my team-members wonder why a early testing release got reviewed. Seems we did a good job there too.

      There is a way to install chakra on a usb-stick and run it from there. Will be added to our wiki soon.

      Aida (R2):
      Edn (MS2):

    • Lingeek

      “Linux without gtk is lacking its essence and power” < This sentence does not make any sense, the Gimp ToolKit or GTK is just ANOTHER of the many toolkits you can find for X and does not bring any essence nor power to a system, just a nice way of presenting the apps GUIs, in fact most Gtk apps may be compiled disabling Gtk and using Motiff, Athena widgets, or any other toolkig without loosing none feature.

    • sosonok

      Linux without gtk is just a choice… though some people don’t understand it.

    • Federico Kereki


    • rajitsingh

      I’ve been spoiled by this distro!

      To begin with, I was not a KDE fan. Then came Chakra and won me over.

      Then I tried a lot of other KDE distros (including Aptosid recently), but none come close to the KDE experience that Chakra delivers!

      The testing version of this distro gets updated with packages very frequently. I remember I was already running KDE 4.6.5 (not trunk) about a week before it was released publicly.

      If you are open to trying out new things, want a spectacular KDE experience, and are ready to look over a few glitches that *may* or may not arise (remember the distro is still in it’s early stages. We don’t even have a version 1 yet!), then I suggest you go Chakra! You’ll not regret it!!!

    • Dave

      The reviewer’s statement that Chakra can’t use Arch software is questionable: I downloaded Zim from the Arch repositpry and installed it in Chakra and it “just works”. One of the Chakra developers recommended it to me and it worked fine.

      In faith, Dave
      Viva Texas

      In-flight Internet access has had its up and downs.

    • Another (not so-sleeky) review of Chakra linux for those who is interested:

    • Brandon Golway

      Along with Saleem, I remember not too long ago when Chakra was born. I ran across the Chakra devs back when they were still maintaining KDEmod 3.5. Ever since they discontinued the KDEmod packages and decided to create Chakra I’ve switched back to Arch (even though it’s a pain in the ass to install compared to Chakra), but I still check on Chakra every few months to check its progress. IMO it’s not a sufficient replacement for Arch but it is getting there slowly.

    • SAL


      there is another great distro KDE based: Open Xange.

      i have tried the 2 and i am not sure what is the best.

    • Pingback: chakra linux - UTILITY DOCUMENT – UTILITY DOCUMENT()

    • mike

      tried to install Chakra but the partitioning would not work,.. made a swap directory & home but every time I tried to format it , returned an error message

      why is it so difficult
      when on other distro’s partitioning is a breeze

    • Cool to see some new distros based on Arch. I was getting ready to dump Ubuntu and move to Arch, so it’s nice to see some alternatives to the base Arch install.

    • Elias

      Maybe it is time for me to let go of Ubuntu. Chakra has a good feeling to it, will try it soon. It is a shame that it does not support Arch repositories.

    • Arup

      Best Kubuntu replacement out there period, never have seen a KDE distro well done and stable as well as quick right out of the box. The Bundled GTK apps are an excellent idea as well.

    • Michael

      I’m looking for a linux distro to put on my Asus eee, so when I read that it “flied” on your eee and that you gave it a 5/5 verdict, I thought maybe I’d found my distro. Does your eee, by chance, have a cd/dvd drive? Mine doesn’t so a bootable flash is required for the install, something easily done with CentOS, Ubuntu or Fedora using unetbootin or the universal USB installer. Not so with Chakra! You were correct about the documentation being thorough. Thanks to that documentation, I was able to find that the direct methods I’ve grown so comfortable with simply don’t apply to Chakra. I’d knock off at least one star for that. I love the KDE desktop and was looking forward to putting it on my eee, but it isn’t looking like I’ll see it associated with Chakra on my netbook.

    • Ion Storm

      All I can say is that I installed the Archimedes 2012.05 on a solid state drive and it is awsome. I am a total newbie to linux but the tribe installer was a breeze along with the kde partitioning app, I did have a little problem when using a GPT partitioning scheme so I used an ms-dos scheme, created the initial swap for usb and installed the grub boot loader…wham…I am up and running.

      Windows days are numbered for me!

    • Hi. Interesting review. However, I was doing a little comparative and, at least in one (important) side of Chakra, I’m very much afraid it’s not up to the expectations, or at least, it’s not what, from a user’s point of view, could be expected. It’s about startup times. I did a little comparative in my system and here are the susprising results:

    • Rest has its place. Ice and elevation could even be helpful
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    • Dósa Csaba

      If it would be a functional distros I would agree. But not în this present versions. I can’t install and I tried 6 times. At the first 2 times didn’t give any error message and after that áll the time. Now I’m trying to make a bootable usb to use my laptop finaly but the system is very-very slow. I can’t even install applications, it is very sad. It freeze 2 times, using imagewriter. Very week performance.