This is a review of my experiences with Xubuntu. Honestly i had never tried Xubuntu until 11.10, I had Ubuntu installed and Kubuntu as well. Until recently my main desktop had been fedora 15 with KDE.
This review is based on my Acer Travelmate I3 with broadcom wireless 57780.
I won't get to deep into every step of the Xubuntu install as it uses the exact same installer as ubuntu and as such has been covered off in many other reviews.
Particular to my install though, and those with Broadcom drivers, is that I need to boot into the Live Desktop before commencing the install. Once you are in the live desktop you are greeted with a notification that wireless networks are available, a simple click and enter your password and you are connected. I wish all linux distro's supported Broadcom this well. Now you have an internet connection your install will download all updates and third party codecs should you choose.
Partitioning is the only area where the ubuntu install can be improved. Why is there not an option to replace exisiting linux paritions ? This has existed in Fedora & Suse for some time. I was writing over Fedora with Xubuntu and I feel that its the only missing feature that forces you to go into the manual partitioning mode.
Otherwise I was presented with the slideshow of Xubuntu's features as the install completed, Once completed i rebooted and ...?
Nothing no errors, my wireless connection worked and connected automatically. There was nothing to fault. By default the bottom panel was set to auto hide this was quick and easy to change.
Also you get the ubuntu notifier advising of any 3rd party drivers that can be installed. I installed the broadcom wireless updated driver and the ATI drivers and I was up and running in no time at all.
The Xubuntu desktop uses XFCE 4.8, and wow hasn't this come along way recently. My memory of XFCE was big blocky windows 98 styled windows. This was partly the reason I hadn't ventured to XFCE in a while. But there has been major re-writes going into XEC 4.8 and it shows. The panel by default has a nice transparency enabled and the whole feel of the desktop is light fast and stylish, maybe if I am critical a little plain but stylish none the less.
Don't fear there are many options available to customize XFCE. Will XFCE takeover the Gnome2 users who don't like Gnome3 or Unity? Well the answer should be Yes, a big fat resounding YES. It's light fast and highly configurable its well suited to laptop's, netbook's and PC's.
For the full list of improvements to XFCE 4.8 here is the release announcement XFCE 4.8 released . To quote the site
With Xfce 4.8 our users will be able to browse remote shares using a variety of protocols (SFTP, SMB, FTP and many more). The window clutter has been reduced by merging all file progress dialogs into a single one.
Our panel application has been rewritten, thereby improving positioning, transparency, item and launcher management. It also introduces a new menu plugin to view directories.....We also improved our settings dialogs. The display configuration dialog now supports RandR 1.2, detects screens automatically and allows our users to pick their favorite resolution, refresh rate, rotation.
In brief if you are like me and remember XFCE being old and plaid, give it a try from 4.8 onward I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
The Settings and Appearances Dialog:
The Ubuntu Bonus
Unlike Kubuntu you get all the Ubuntu bonuses working in Xubuntu and some. You get all the Ubuntu setup notifications as noted above but also you get the Ubuntu store and Synaptic so package installation is easy as Ubuntu and if you like Synaptic its easier than ubuntu.
Rather than the dash in ubuntu to search your applications you have a panel application which can do this for you to. Whilst its not as flashy as the ubuntu dash, it does the job.
As you expect all the applications available to Ubuntu are in Xubuntu. I have seen in a few review a distro being criticsed for not having Libre Office by default. Well Xubuntu doesn't have Libre Office by default either instead you have Abiword and Gnumeric. I won't be criticsing however as I think both are just highly underrated applications. Gnumeric in my opinion is better than its Libre Office counterpart and better for scripting.
When Calligra Office is available in a stable release I wonder which will be the default office suite then. I for one hope Kexi (Microsoft Office Access replacement) gets pushed to full completion as it has a lot promise as a full replacement.
The default music player in Xubuntu is gMusicbrowser, which is just fine for me as it is my current favourite player and very configurable and a solid replacement for Winamp and ITunes.
Parole is the default video player and is fairly plain, hasn't failed to play any items at all, just hasn't shone or failed. I will need a bit more use before I can decide what I want to use, of course Kmplayer & VLC are easily installed.
I think Xubuntu ended up where Ubuntu wanted to be, its fast light, is suited to PC's and laptops has sensible defaults and all the software, style and configuration options you could dream of. It's weird how things unravel, by default Xubuntu now feels like the main Ubuntu distro, it feels polished and complete. For all those gnome and unity refugees give it a try you wont look back.