A computer monitor display the Ubuntu 22.04 desktop.
Jordan Gloor / How-To Geek

There’s no denying the fact that Ubuntu is one of the most recommended Linux distributions for Linux newbies. However, Manjaro Linux gets quite a bit of attention as well. But which one should you choose? Let’s find out.

Are Ubuntu and Manjaro Really That Different?

Choosing a Linux distribution can be hard with so many choices. You’ll find many videos and guides like this one trying to explain the differences, but you have to realize that differences are often relatively minor or only matter to people with specific goals and needs.

Many differences are just a coat of paint, and just as often, the coat of paint is easily transferable to another distro. Really, that’s the beauty of Linux: most software is free and designed to be interchangeable, so mixing and matching your favorite aspects of different distros is a real possibility.

To that end, we’ll try to just focus on the factual differences between Manjaro and Ubuntu and note when something that may be a nice default in one but possible in the other.

Manjaro Has Three Official Editions

When you go to download Manjaro, you’ll find it comes in three variants with three different desktop environments (DEs): Plasma, GNOME, and Xfce. In contrast, visit Ubuntu’s official download page and you’ll get you just one desktop option: Ubuntu with GNOME. There’s no doubt that GNOME is an excellent desktop environment for beginners and experienced users alike, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

That said, you can actually get other modified versions of Ubuntu with different DEs called Ubuntu flavors (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, and more). So in truth, the difference is just a matter of what your default options are. You can usually install any desktop environment you like on just about any distro.

One other small difference here though is that Ubuntu flavors get only three years of updates on their long-term support channels (more on this later), whereas every edition of Manjaro sticks to the rolling release model, meaning you’re always using the latest version.

RELATED: Debian vs. Ubuntu Linux: Which Distro Should You Choose?

Ubuntu Is More Stable

Ubuntu LTS and interim release cycle and support

Ubuntu has two release cycles — interim and LTS (Long-Term Support). An interim version is released every nine months, whereas LTS releases are supported for at least five years. Depending on the version you choose, you may have older or newer software available to you by default, even when your version is still currently “supported.” Newer versions of that software are often “held back” to make sure there you don’t encounter any glitches and bugs those updates might bring.

In contrast, Manjaro uses a rolling release development model. A rolling Linux distribution works by updating the apps and services to the latest versions as soon as updates are available. Unlike when using Ubuntu, you never need to “upgrade” to a new version.

As a result, Manjaro is great for users who always want to try the latest software. However, this also makes it a less stable distro than Ubuntu, as the latest app packages may sometimes contain bugs and other problems that haven’t been ironed out yet.

In the case of Ubuntu, as there’s two years gap between each LTS release, the developers get ample time to test the packages and apps before each release. If it’s critical that your computer stays completely functional at all times, you’ll probably want Ubuntu. That’s why so many servers rely on Ubuntu in particular

Manjaro’s Default Packages Are Faster

You may find you like Manjaro’s package manager, Pamac, better than the APT and Snap package managers in Ubuntu. For example, it’s faster to install apps using Pamac than APT and Snap. In fact, Snap is regarded as one of the slowest package managers on Desktop Linux. Unlike Ubuntu, Manjaro also comes with Flatpak preinstalled, though you can install it there too if you prefer.

Since Manjaro is an Arch-based Linux distribution, you also get access to AUR (Arch User Repository), which opens up the floodgates to a vast library of community and official apps. Hence, Manjaro has a huge advantage over Ubuntu in terms of app availability.

Ubuntu Is a Little More Newbie-Friendly

What’s Manjaro’s biggest strength is also its weakness. Although Manjaro developers test the updates from Arch before pushing them to the stable releases, the probability of Manjaro breaking after an update is higher than a Ubuntu update.

Like on any distribution, troubleshooting using the terminal might feel like a chore for beginners. Another side of that same coin, though is the fact that troubleshooting problems with Manjaro can help you better understand Linux (and Arch Linux in particular). But if you prefer to stay away from the command line as much as possible and just want your PC to work as expected, Ubuntu is the better choice.

Manjaro Is Faster and Has Less Bloat

Speed is one of the reasons why one of our authors, Dave McKay, switched from Ubuntu to Manjaro. On freshly installed Manjaro and Ubuntu installs, the number of default services that run in Manjaro by default is lesser than in Ubuntu, meaning Manjaro consumes fewer system resources than Ubuntu.

If you’re planning to use Linux to revive an old Windows or Mac device, you can go a step further in reducing resource consumption in Manjaro by opting for the Xfce variant. Xfce is a lightweight Linux desktop environment that prioritizes resource conservation and simplicity over flashiness and modern looks.

Ubuntu Fully Supports Secure Boot

If you’re concerned about security and want to continue using the Secure Boot feature your Windows PC came with, you should know you won’t be able to install or even live-boot Manjaro Linux while Secure Boot is enabled. It’s technically possible to use Manjaro with Secure Boot, but you’ll need to add a signing key to the UEFI firmware yourself. Be warned, though, it’s not an easy task for beginners.

In contrast, modern editions of Ubuntu come signed for Secure Boot out of the box. That means you can boot, install, and use it without ever having to disable Secure Boot. But if you’re not a fan of Secure Boot, or if your PC is too old to even support it, then this difference won’t matter.

Which Distro Should You Choose?

Choosing between Manjaro and Ubuntu depends on how you use your computer, and how familiar you are with Linux in general. If you prefer bleeding-edge update over stability and a faster overall desktop experience, Manjaro is a great choice. If you have prior experience using Linux and are up for doing your own troubleshooting sometimes, Manjaro is worth checking out.

If you prioritize stability in your computer over performance, Ubuntu is the distro for you. You’ll also prefer Ubuntu if you’re new to Linux or just prefer not to mess with the inner workings of a computer through the command line.

But often when people talk about their preferred distro it really comes down to the overall “feel” of the operating system. That means you may not truly know which is for you until you try it. Since both distros are Linux, you’re free to try them with no cost to you besides your time. So we recommend taking some time to try both Ubuntu and Manjaro.

Short of completely wiping your current machine and installing Linux, you could dual-boot a distro alongside Windows, though it’s a tedious process and not something we always recommend. A better option is booting Linux distributions from a USB drive to give both Ubuntu and Manjaro a try. If you’re familiar with virtual machines, it’s also easy to install and use a Linux distribution in VirtualBox.

Of course, you’ll also need the ISO files for these distributions, so visit Ubuntu’s and Manjaro’s download pages to get started.

Profile Photo for Mohammed Abubakar Mohammed Abubakar
Abubakar is a freelance writer for How-to Geek. Although he holds a degree in Computer Science, he chose a career in writing to help people with technology. He has two years of experience writing about consumer electronics, Android, Linux, Windows, and open-source software on websites like Fossbytes.
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Profile Photo for Jordan Gloor Jordan Gloor
Jordan Gloor is Technical Editor at How-To Geek. He's been writing technology explainers and how-tos since 2020, but he's tinkering with computers and other tech since childhood. He writes on everything from Windows to Linux and from cord-cutting to generating art with AI.
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