Official website for Linux User & Developer

Ubuntu 13.04 Review – Spot the difference

by Rob Zwetsloot

It’s that time again for a new Ubuntu – should you be raring to go with it, or is it a case of more of the same?

So the theory goes that the interim releases for Ubuntu between the big LTS versions are where the biggest changes occur. Experiments, new features, etc, are added to these versions. When the LTS rolls around, development shifts to stability, with the end goal being an operating system you can use for the many years of support it receives. 13.04 is in the middle of the LTS cycle, with 14.04 succeeding 12.04 next year, however there just isn’t much more to it over 12.10.

Featured updates highlighted by Canonical are the fact that Unity search has better support for typos and common mistakes, and that general packages such as LibreOffice and Python have been updated. While the Unity search update is quite nice, and seems to be very lenient, it’s hardly a redefining feature. At the very least, it also makes its way into the HUD, however integration of online search results from Canonical’s retail partners is still as obtrusive as before. We quickly turned this off in the privacy settings.

Ubuntu Unity GNOME KDE
Amazon's search results are rarely relevant

The thing is, some of those online search results would be quite good. Displaying YouTube results in the video tab can work, however you can’t have that without Amazon trying to sell you something that is usually completely unrelated to your search. There’s also the ongoing issue of privacy with that as well. While you can filter out certain content on some of the specified tabs, such as the video or documents tab, you can’t filter out the Amazon results from the home tab. It also means you can’t see or use the new Friends tab for social networks when the online search is off – although notifications will still pop-up from somewhere.

As perhaps a trade-off for the lack of new features in the latest Ubuntu, Canonical claim it to perform faster than previous versions, especially on older hardware. In our tests, there was very little difference, although at the very least it was no worse. In general, installation seems to have received a minor speed boost, and while it does begin the installation early on in the process, it hides that fact in favour of letting you know how many more steps you need to complete. There are some other minor aesthetic changes throughout the new version, such as the file manager getting a slightly squarer, more modern redesign. This is typical of the handful of UI elements that have received an update.

Ubuntu Unity KDE GNOME
There are a few design changes throughout

Despite all that, the Ubuntu standards are all present. There are more “official” flavours of the distro, meaning there are a handful more desktops you can choose from in the repos. Said repos are full of the latest and greatest software, including non-free and the controversial paid content from the Software Centre. This includes the Steam client, which while free, requires you to create an Ubuntu One account to purchase and download.

So it’s at the very least worth updating to – the newer software is great, and the few changes that made it in aid the experience. However, Canonical still haven’t fixed the problems with the online search, or Unity search in general, nor have they added any more customisation options to the desktop. This doesn’t feel like a new version of a distro as much as a point-update to their current.



A disappointing update with very few changes, and none that fix any of the issues people have been having with Unity. For a non-LTS distro, there’s very little experimentation, and the supposed speed upgrades aren’t as major as Canonical would want you to believe. By all means, upgrade, but don’t expect the kind of jump you normally get.

  • Tell a Friend
  • Follow our Twitter to find out about all the latest Linux news, reviews, previews, interviews, features and a whole more.
    • Heimen

      It’s actually depended on hardware. On my laptop 13.04 is a lot faster than 12.04 and 12.10 and I’ve heard from more people that it’s faster for them too. But I also heard a few who didn’t notice the difference. So it all comes down to hardware I guess…

    • Guy Stone

      You’ll can’t help but notice the difference on older systems with 1-2GB RAM. Wow!

    • Devon Boyd

      On my laptop a Dell Lattitude E6410 (Core i7) the speed of unity on intel graphics is amazing. Its exactly as I think it should be. Its snappy, stays out of the way and lets those of us her liked to drive primarily keyboard the speed and freedom we want. On the other hand, on my desktop a Dell Optiplex 980 (Core i7) with a crappy nvidia card the speed increase wasn’t really an increase. It still stutters when docking the windows to top or sides, the hud will hang then appear then disappear (because you hit the key twice thinking you didn’t hit it the first time.) Its prown to windows sticking or become either unmovable or unresponsive. This happens especially when moving around my Virtualbox or my remmina sessions. I’m back on KDE for the desktop which is a solid speed demon.

    • Pingback: Coming Out, Being Courageous()

    • user

      Good to see someone saying it clearly. Only minor cosmetic changes noticeable for users. What I hate the most is breaking important things with these releases like USB modem support in 12.10 for many devices. So not really going forward…

    • ali

      i really like ubuntu and its desktop. but my laptop only works with unity 2d, so i will not update or upgrade my ubuntu 12.04 to any other ubuntu newer version. when i heard that ubuntu has been stoped development of unity 2d, i became disappointed.

    • Marco

      On my laptop with intel sandy bridge, the change from 12.10 to 13.04 is awesome, in terms of dash speed (noticeable difference).

    • Andre Gompel

      no offense, but most of theses reviews of new releases of Linux, are skin deep !
      They address only what is visible, and very rarely address real improvements, like better kernel, better drivers, better speed, better stability !
      It is time to talk about what is really relevant, rather you opinion on the screen savers and other non-sense!
      Shish ?

    • Chad

      I definitely noticed the performance difference on my old Nvidia graphics card in a virtual machine on my laptop. The virtual machine in particular now does app switching, showing multiple windows, etc. very fast whereas before there was always a long pause before slow movement.

    • Chezbutt

      I for one am very disappointed with 13.04 so far. The update to Nautilus is less intuitive than the previous version, Flash has been crashing constantly, I have had problems getting Google Chrome dependencies fixed in order to install it, issues with network file sharing over sftp, and annoyingly slow and gratuitous minimize/window tiling effects. However, I do appreciate the minor speed boost, at least on my Sandy Bridge Core i3 with SSD and no dedicated video, audio, or WiFi cards. At the end of the day, I shouldn’t have upgraded, but I can always downgrade back to 12.xx and forget all about it until 13.10 comes out.

    • Nikhil

      I think that Ubuntu 13.04 is the best release i have ever used. It fast really fast than the previous versions.
      Unity seems to work smoothly. I think its a lot better than ubuntu 12.10

    • Craig Parkinson

      13.04, I find is less stable. The new kernel causes the system to freeze, I have actually downgraded to 12.04 LTS for the stability of the system. With 13.04 I didnt find many UI improvements, and under the hood the system felt far less stable.

    • Pingback: Links 5/5/2013: Chromebooks Growth, Further Catchup | Techrights()

    • Ryan Epod

      I started using Ubunru around the 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope release ((( I had been using Debian Sid,Slackware,and CentOS as my main distributions at the time Debian Sid and Slackware where a great combo for my latest and greatest cutting edge box and CentOS was my stable work machine and I needed the Red Hat package transparency for my job at the time) but long story short I was given a Dell Dimensions 4700 system from my dads girlfriend and it was a great little system considering she kept it in great shape so I decided to give Ubuntu a spin since it was like THE Linux and all the rage back then and I was quite Impressed with it. It basically was as Advertised back then and it quickly replaced my Debian Sid installation on my main system and I basically kept quite a shine to it until around 10.04 LTS mostly because I was getting tired of gnome and was making the jump to KDE on all my systems and Kubuntu 10.04 LTS was one of my all time favorite Linux releases I really was a fan of KDE 3.x but I loved the KDE 4.x series ( KDE was always my desktop environment on my Slackware installs) so I was pretty content for awhile with KDE any distro that was to my liking then the dreaded Gnome 3 release came and then the equally bad Unity Desktop Environment my first taste of Unity was with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and I was shell shocked at how restrictive the whole thing was I’m use to my DE’s being able to do basically whatever I wanted to do I mean the idea of Unity and the theory behind it is in my opinion a great Idea I love simiplistity for new people coming from Windows or OS X (((Though I Really like Windows 7 by far the best version of Windows I’ve use I haven’t had the time to really testdrive Windows 8 but I’m honestly pretty eager for it I love it when OSes a progressive and are willing to try a whole new concept hopefully for the greater good and keeping desktop computers relevant in a world of Tablets and Smartphone even if it ends of sucking though it won’t be as bad as Windows ME & I don’t think it’s possible to get worse then Vista which was hands down the worst OS of any of the big/relatively big/emerging OS’s) But Ubuntu has really improved Unity Its still basically exactly the same as it was when I first tried it changing the icons and adding more adds isn’t progressing Unity now I understand Cananicol has pretty much decided to put all there eggs in this basket and even though they had several chances to maybe even overhaul it and progress it again with something like Cinnamon or hell take XFCE and bring redesign it for newer computers just because XFCEs primary target it is lowend computers theres abosulety nothing stopping someone from creating a highend version of XFCE I dunno I guess my point is Ubuntu Unity in particular seem to be advancing (if at all) at in incredibly slow pace with nominal bug fixes and virtually zero improvements to the overall usability of Unity and now the honestly expect you to donate to the project and truth me told I’d rather pay for a copy of Windows 7 or Mac OS X which are (atleast nowadays) actively trying to improve the end users experience with there offerings Ubuntu to me atleast has taken some many steps backwards or no steps in either direction that I no longer recommend it to people when there are far superior choices and far better expriences for the Linux n00b and first timers I really believe Ubuntu is on the road to obscurity especially once people realize ever new version is just a rebranding of the last two previous versions one point in my life I thought of Ubuntu as the pioneer to a true alternative to Windows or OS X now I almost think itd be better if there existence was jettisoned from the entire Linux multiverse would of thought when Gnome basically died Ubuntu was gonna die with it?

    • doug65536

      The kernel is unstable in Ubuntu 13.04. It was a huge mistake to upgrade from 12.10. I ended up wiping my system and putting Linux Mint 14 Mate desktop. Huge improvement over Unity anyway if you have real work to do. A lot less flashiness and a lot more usability and efficiency.

      Tried Mint 15 (which is based on 13.04) live CD, and saw same unstable behavior on a few different computers.

      One area where Linux is severely lacking is testing. I half expected to see thousands of unit tests in the kernel source code and was shocked to see next to nothing for tests. The kernel guys make changes and hope for the best?

      It is a complete joke to say that Linux relies on “community testing”. Complete and utter nonsense. “Testing” isn’t getting a person to try it and say, “yep, works good!”. Tests are automated programs that exhaustively make sure that everything works as expected. Any proper large software project has at least as much test code as product code, and in good cases, has 2x or more test code than product code.

    • Pingback: Ubuntu 13.04 Complete Unity Desktop Review()

    • CES

      “The new version is just style, no substance…”
      “I’m never switching from [insert older version here]…”

      People say that about every new OS that comes along whether its Windows, OS X, or Linux. Why? Because people are simple beasts who fear change and hold fast to creature comforts.

      So my question is, if older versions are so incredibly amazing, why don’t you just go back to your Apple IIe’s or Commodore 64’s?


    • John

      13.04 is a complete waste of time. Not only does it look like the previous ones, but also operates worst than the previous ones. As we speak , I am downloading 12.04 because my internet connection is not working too well with 13.04. Also, I have had way to many freeze ups with this version for my liking. Also, the people who tried to help you on askubuntu, do not do well with helping at all, they basically leave you hanging, which is why I am going back to 12.04. UBUNTU, you need a better staff that knows how to handle these bugs in 13.04, because right now…..I’M NOT IMPRESS.

    • Calvert

      Awe, I still miss 10.4.

      Mint 14 with cinnamon rocks pretty good though

    • tl;dr USE UNITY

      I have real work to do and I USE UNITY (on my desktop). Much, much faster to wack the default Firefox/Thunderbird/LibreOffice buttons default on the left or search it in the dash than click on Applications, then the relevant section, and then the program! That’s an extra two clicks! You have to find menu items (you can’t simply search for commands with the HUD), you can’t snap windows (harder multitasking), it looks less pretty IMO, you have to go and open Facebook and login to make yourself online rather than hitting social notification and then Online…etc…etc…

      Unity makes everything quicker, especially with the updates that have come with 13.04 that makes everything faster and Dash/HUD search eaiser. And with Mir, we will have that same experience optimized for each form factor for free.

      With MATE, you get a traditional – Windows 98-style desktop that takes lots of clicks and drags to do anything and you’re moving your mouse all over the screen as you hit the desktop switcher in the bottom-right, show-desktop in the bottom-left, windows at the bottom, Applications at the top-left and notifications top-right, WHY IS IT EVERYWHERE!?!? Why not move the window list to the left with just icons for more space (with immediate text when hovering over) so we don’t have to move as much, get rid of workspaces which we don’t need anyway thanks to a comprehensive, prettily helpful Alt + Tab and put the menus into the top to save space as well as moving the cross into the top-left as well. Oh wait, that’s called Unity…

      I am writing from Ubuntu 13.04 GNOME Fallback 3.6, but that is only for the GNOME 3 notifications in the top right and because I can’t run Unity on my laptop and Unity 2D is no longer really developed on. Do you want to do your work quicker? Then use Ubuntu 13.04 which has a slightly faster, more intelligent Unity in it – the desktop environment which looks modern, saves time and MAKES SENSE!

    • nezach

      The overall feeling of Ubuntu 13.04 is great and I got used to Unity, but nonetheless I am not happy with it. Simply because it is not stable on my system. I encounter regular freezes and sometimes my desktop just crashes. First I tried running the proprietary nvidia driver, which worked flawlessly in 12.10, but that was a complete disaster. With the standard driver it works most of the time.
      Reformatting is not an option at the moment so I will bare with this broken system till October.
      I just hope Ubuntu 13.10 will run smoothly and stable on my rig, as previous Ubuntu iterations did.