Fedora vs. Ubuntu: Key Features and Benefits
2003 was a landmark year for open-source development, chiefly, Linux development. This was the year Red Hat discontinued its popular Linux distribution and branched off into enterprise-first development with Red Hat Enterprise Edition, and a community-powered Linux distribution called “Fedora.”
Today, Fedora is among the most popular Linux distributions and is frequently compared with Ubuntu. Although Ubuntu has been unseated from its top spot by distros like MX Linux and Manjaro, it’s still a go-to solution for many because of its usability. In this article, we will compare Fedora and Ubuntu and tell you which one deserves your time (thankfully, all Linux distributions are free!).
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|Easy and quick to install
|Easy and quick to install
|Uses the GNOME 40 interface
|Uses the GNOME 40 interface, but it’s easy for users to install Spins, as well
|Limited hardware compatibility
|Widely compatible with many types of hardware
|Relatively limited software library
|Large software library with many commonly used applications
|Software installation is user-friendly but users may have to go into the terminal due to an application being incompatible with the install process
|User-friendly software installation process, similar to the Apple App store
|Fast, reliable performance, that outperforms Ubuntu in several head-to-head tests
|Fast, reliable performance even though it often lags behind Fedora in several tests
|Rapid release schedule—every six months—including a 13-month update feature that allows users to see how a version performs before upgrading to the next version
|Rapid release schedule—every six months
Last Updated January 2024
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Fedora and Ubuntu compared
Ubuntu is a fork of Debian, one of the oldest Linux distributions around. Fedora, on the other hand, was spun off from an undergraduate project, called “Fedora Linux,” started by Warren Togami in 2002. While Ubuntu is sponsored by Canonical which periodically releases updates within six-month periods, Fedora is supported mostly by the open-source community.
Below, we’ll take a look at different features, capabilities, advantages, and disadvantages of Fedora and Ubuntu.
Ease of installation
Installing a Linux distribution used to require a Ph.D. in Computer Science and a brain to make Einstein jealous. But things have changed. For several years, most Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, and Linux Mint, have done a remarkable job of easing the transition from Windows or macOS to Linux. This can be seen in the installation process, which rivals even Windows in its ease of use.
You can install Ubuntu by burning the installation image onto a disc or downloading the package and running it from a USB flash drive. You can also try out the OS without installing it to your hard drive. The actual installation process is exceptionally easy, thanks to an installation wizard which guides you through each step.
Installing Fedora is also simple. It uses a similar installation process — you can burn an ISO file to a disc or copy the installation file onto a pen drive. Fedora also offers a unique way to experience the OS without installing it, called “Fedora Live Image.” This enables the user to sample the Fedora OS “virtually” — a great feature for those just testing the waters with Linux.
There is little to choose between Ubuntu and Fedora when it comes to ease of installation. Both are easy to install and support both disc-based and USB-drive-based installation.
Ubuntu utilizes GNOME as its default user interface. GNOME was developed by The GNOME Project, and the current release GNOME 40, came out in March 2021. GNOME 40 is the first environment to make use of a numbering system other than vX.X, and it has several updated features:
- Workspaces are horizontal
- The app launcher appears from the bottom
- Workflow can be controlled with gestures, such as three-finger swipes to move between workspaces
- A dock that only shows icons if you need them for a less-cluttered workspace
GNOME is a beautiful, highly usable UI that can give Windows 10 a run for its money. It supports both 3D and 2D elements and boasts a powerful notification system.
Fedora also utilizes GNOME, but users are welcome to download Spins, which provide different desktop environments, such as Xfce or KDE Plasma Desktop.
Because Ubuntu and Fedora both use GNOME, they’re equal when it comes to their user interfaces, but the ease with which you can download Spins with Fedora may put it at the top of some users’ lists.
Hardware compatibility is one of the main reasons why Windows and OS X users steadfastly refuse to migrate to Linux, despite its price tag ($0). A lot of older hardware simply refuses to work on most major Linux distros. This problem can also plague computers with very new hardware that still isn’t supported by developers.
Ubuntu has worked extensively to improve hardware compatibility in its distribution and it shows: the OS will recognize most hardware on your computer automatically. Ubuntu features a growing list of “Ubuntu certified” devices, and some devices, like HP, Dell, and Lenovo, come with Ubuntu pre-installed.
In addition to HP, Dell, and Lenovo, Ubuntu works well with:
Hardware compatibility issues are more pronounced in Fedora, particularly because the open source software makes it harder to install proprietary drivers.
Ubuntu’s better hardware compatibility is an important point in its favor — it is simply easier to set up as you won’t need to hunt for dozens of different drivers.
While Ubuntu and Fedora are relatively popular distributions, they have been outpaced by others, which may impact the kinds of software available in their libraries. But this doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of options.
With Ubuntu, you have access to:
- Google Chrome
- VLC Media Player
- WordPress Desktop Client
- Atom text Editor
- Google Play Music Desktop Player
- Many more popular titles
Ubuntu also supports something called Personal Package Archives (PPAs). PPAs are special software repositories that can be used to upload source packages that can later be built by a service. This further expands the list of software available for Ubuntu.
Gamers will especially prefer Ubuntu since it supports Steam. While you won’t have access to all Windows games, you can still enjoy a few classics.
Unlike Ubuntu, Fedora’s software library isn’t as expansive. Although it does support major Linux software like GIMP, Firefox, and LibreOffice, it doesn’t have as many developers or as wide a footprint among actual users to warrant a large software library.
A key difference between Fedora and Ubuntu is their perspective on software licensing. Fedora supports Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) only. This means that running for-profit software on the OS is out of the question. Ubuntu, on the other hand, supports whatever software that will run on it — free or otherwise. Depending on where you stand on the FOSS vs. proprietary software divide, you may find this a great feature or a complete turn-off. What it does mean, however, is that you’ll have access to an even larger pool of software to choose from, even paid software, if you use Ubuntu.
Ubuntu has a larger software library than Fedora and includes most commonly used applications right out of the box, including email (Thunderbird), web-browser (Chrome), and web design (WordPress Ubuntu Desktop Client).
In years past, installing software on Linux was a fairly challenging task, especially if you come from a Windows background. If you’re used to downloading a file, double clicking Setup.exe, and clicking through an installation wizard, you would have been surprised by the Linux install process, which used to require you to muck around the command line.
Ubuntu makes the software installation process significantly easier with its built-in Ubuntu Software feature. Think of it as the Apple App Store. Instead of working with packages and using sudo, you can install most software with a single click (note: most, not all). The software center also suggests new apps based on your past preferences. This takes most of the pain out of installing software — a huge plus point for Ubuntu.
Fedora features a Ubuntu Software-like application called PackageKit. It isn’t as extensive (or as bloated) as the software center, but it gets the job done easily enough. However, not all software packages support PackageKit, so you will have to go into the terminal periodically and use yum to install software — not exactly a task for the technology challenged.
Ubuntu wins this one as well — the Ubuntu Software feature is easy to use and makes package installation very easy. It can get a little bloated, however, which makes one miss the lightness of Fedora’s PackageKit.
If you’re coming from a Windows background, you’ll find both Ubuntu and Fedora more stable than the Pyramids of Giza. Since they are based on Linux, Ubuntu and Fedora have very few stability issues. Some users do report application crash issues with Ubuntu — not surprising considering the number of third-party apps that come bundled with it. Fedora, on the other hand, is exceptionally stable and should be a top choice if stability is a key requirement (say, when running a server).
Both Ubuntu and Fedora are exceptionally stable, though Fedora is admittedly more solid than the former.
Both Ubuntu and Fedora will feel significantly faster than Windows, especially if you limit yourself to selected software. Between Fedora and Ubuntu, there isn’t a clear-cut winner in terms of performance. Ubuntu tends to start up very quickly, though its I/O performance isn’t as strong as Fedora.
According to OpenBenchmarking.org, Fedora 32 outperforms Ubuntu 20.04 in most tests, especially when it comes to working with web server, debugger, and C/C++ compilers. For instance, Fedora scored 21.41 seconds compared to Ubuntu’s 23.1 in an Apache compilation. While running the GDB GNU Debugger, Fedora outpaced Ubuntu at a rate of 119.46 to Ubuntu’s 128.32. And during a timed LLVM compilation, Fedora crossed the line in 333.33 seconds, more than 36 seconds faster than Ubuntu’s 369.38.
Like Windows, Ubuntu and Fedora too slow down the more software you install on it, though the decrease in performance isn’t as noticeable as in Windows.
Fedora outscores Ubuntu in most benchmarking tests and both these distros outperform Windows. However, some of the performance figures are comparable, so any differences you notice may depend on the applications you’re running.
Canonical releases two versions of Ubuntu each year:
Ubuntu LTS: LTS stands for Long Term Support. The LTS version is the stable version of Ubuntu and is released once every 2 years. The current LTS version is 20.04.3 (Focal Fossa).
LTS versions are, by far, the more popular Ubuntu releases, and they are dubbed by Ubuntu as “enterprise grade.” About 95% of users download the Ubuntu LTS version.
Ubuntu Standard Release: Also called the “non-LTS” version, this is released once every six months. The latest version of the current standard release is 21.04 (Hirsute Hippo).
The words after the release number are a development codename. For instance, in the most recent release, the codename is “Hirsute Hippo.” Hippo refers to the animal, and “Hirsute” means “hairy.” So, in English, the development codename for the release is “Hairy Hippo.”
Each release is designed to address issues regarding performance and stability with features like new graphics cards or even an easier installation process. The “Hairy Hippo” version of Ubuntu combs out graphics issues with Mesa 21.0 and addresses workflow inefficiencies with the GNOME 40 desktop.
Fedora also releases a new version every six months. Fedora also updates their releases around every 13 months. Thanks to this feature, a user can opt out of a recent release without sacrificing the reassurance of getting the most recent updates to their older version.
Fedora uses dual development trees, Rawhide, and a branch off Rawhide. Rawhide is a rolling development tree. A new version of Fedora is “born” after its predecessor branches off of Rawhide and enters into the stabilization phase.
The current version is Fedora 34, and it was released in April of 2021. Fedora’s new releases seek to address the most common needs of its target users. For example, Fedora 34 features a minimal operating system called CoreOS, which may work well with virtual instances. It also seeks to meet developers “where they are” with Fedora IoT, which can be used for IoT ecosystems.
Both Ubuntu and Fedora use a rapid release cycle and both allow users to enjoy relatively stable workflows. Fedora’s 13-month release schedule allows room for skeptical users to wait and see how a release performs while having their current version fully supported with updates.
There’s a reason why Ubuntu boasts 25M users — it is easier to use and has a better UI and a larger software library. If you are looking for a replacement for Windows, pick Ubuntu. If you want a no-frills, pure GNOME desktop experience and are comfortable with the slightly steep learning curve, choose Fedora instead.
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