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WattOS R7.5 Review – Choice

by Rob Zwetsloot

The lightweight and green distro now comes in more flavours to suit your needs, but do they still keep up with the WattOS ideal?

It’s strange to think of WattOS as a somewhat unique project in a landscape full of low-resource distros to either maximise CPU cycles or keep old systems running. WattOS has always managed to stand out from the crowd though by offering a user experience that is barely any different from full-fat Linux distros thanks to smart design decisions, and this tradition has been extended slightly further with the latest release.

WattOS can now be even more lightweight thanks to Microwatt
WattOS can now be even more lightweight thanks to Microwatt

While there’s still the standard WattOS running LXDE, there’s now also two alternatives. Along with the much lighter Microwatt spin that uses pekwm, there’s also a brand new MATE spin that is a little more functional than the standard version, although this comes at the price of using up a few more resources. All of them are based on Ubuntu 13.04, and while this does mean it has access to the great Ubuntu repositories, some packages will be a little out of date.

All the main spins run extremely fast, with very little difference in performance between the MATE and Microwatt spin on a modern system. The workflow and UX on the Microwatt and standard release are very similar, with the modified pekwm proving to be a fantastic desktop environment to work in, definitely on par with other ultra-light solutions such as pure Openbox or Razor-QT. The default application selection is kept very limited to cut down on bloat, with Midori replacing Chromium as the web browser of choice in Microwatt. While there are no office suites installed, printer management, multi-users and more are already set-up from the start.

You can easily extend the functionality thanks to the aforementioned Ubuntu sources, and you also have access to Ubuntu PPAs and other third-party repos to help build upon the WattOS base. It’s the best of both worlds that a lot of lightweight distros strive for, and WattOS manages to achieve.

Aside from an older package base, the only other small issue we’d take with WattOS is that the images for each version of the distro are quite large for a lightweight release. The live environment does not offer any extra applications or packages either, and the MATE version comes in at afull CD size of 700 MB. It’s a minor issue, but it limits its uses as an emergency live distro.

Verdict

4/5

WattOS’s extra flavours have not made it change all that much, with the core philosophy of the distro still well intact. The extra variety afforded by the new versions helps users make a better decision on how exactly they want their WattOS served to them as well

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