Sunday, March 8, 2015

Netrunner 15 Review: Looks fantastic as usual but lags a bit in performance

On 16th February 2015, Clemens Toennies has announced the release of Netrunner 15, a desktop Linux distribution based on Kubuntu 14.10 and featuring the new KDE Plasma 5.2.0 desktop: "We are proud to announce the official release of Netrunner 15 'Prometheus'. Netrunner 15 is revised from the ground up - as the first distribution, it officially ships the new KDE Plasma Desktop 5.2. Therefore, an upgrade from previous Netrunner series with KDE 4.x is neither officially available nor really recommended. This release is 64-bit only. What's new? This release features the brand new KDE Plasma Desktop 5.2, packed together with the freshly released KDE Frameworks 5.7 and Qt 5.4. It takes a great deal of Oxygen and a little of Breeze and mixes them into a blend of tradition and modern. All previous settings and add-ons have been carefully restored to work in this new environment. With Netrunner 15 we took the chance to ship a finely revised set of applications."

From Netrunner 15
I downloaded the 64-bit Netrunner ISO, 1.8 GB in size for this review. I created a live USB using Linux Mint Image writer on a 4 GB USB drive and installed it on my Asus K55VM laptop. Netrunner 15 is based on Kubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) and ships with Linux kernel 3.16.0, with KDE 4.14.1 and plasma 5.2. Dolphin 4.14.1 is the default file manager.

Hardware Used
Asus K55VM Windows 7 laptop with 2.3 Ghz 3rd Gen. Core i7 3610QM processor with 8 cores, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, 1366x768 resolution, 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphic card. I installed Netrunner 15 on an 50 GB partition.

From Netrunner 15
Netrunner uses the same installer as Kubuntu 14.10 and the steps are exactly the same. It took me about 10 minutes to get the distro up and running.

From Netrunner 15
Score for Installation: 10/10

Hardware Recognition
Netrunner recognized the laptop's hardware without any manual intervention. Everything from screen resolution to touch pad worked as expected. I had some issues with the NVIDIA drivers but with some trial and error I fixed it. Initially I tried installing the NVIDIA proprietary 331.113 binary drivers but the OS failed to load after installing the drivers. I reinstalled the OS again and tried bumblebee. But, it required some manual intervention to make it work. I'll give you the details in the later part of the review.

Score for Hardware Recognition: 10/10

One of the best features of Netrunner 15 is the pre-loaded aesthetics. The desktop looks clean and nice with transparent bottom panel and a simple menu. However, the default wallpaper looked less bright to me.

From Netrunner 15
However, I found a few attractive wallpapers in the wallpaper section as shown below.

From Netrunner 15
Netrunner also provides a refresh desktop option upon right click, which will comfort Windows users but is basically useless for Linux.
From Netrunner 15

Netrunner 15 has enlightenment as desktop theme. It ships preloaded with about 10 other themes and many more attractive KDE themes can be downloaded as well. Of the
From Netrunner 15
se I liked the Prometheus theme, it is similar to the OpenSUSE theme.

The Dolphin file manager looks simple but I found the folder icons too large to my taste.

From Netrunner 15
So, I reduced the size of the icons from view -> zooming out and adjusted it as per my liking.

From Netrunner 15
One of the highlights of the distro is Plasma 5.2. I enabled the desktop cube effects from settings and it came out really nice.
From Netrunner 15

Further, Netrunner has one of the best looking boot splash I've seen in Linux. It is very colorful and looks awesome. As with other KDE distros, it has an integrated settings manager as well which provides all options to tweak.

From Netrunner 15
Overall, Netrunner looks as ravishing as all its previous releases and is definitely one of the best looking KDE distros around. Starting from an aesthetically pleasing boot splash to a very refined KDE desktop, Netrunner 15 has it all. I go with 100% score in aesthetics.

Score for Aesthetics: 10/10

Pre-Installed Packages
Netrunner ships almost every package I can think of and is one of the most complete KDE distros I've ever used.
  • Office: LibreOffice (Writer, Calc, Imoress, Draw, Math, Base), Okular document viewer
  • From Netrunner 15
  • Internet: Firefox 35, KDE IM, Kontact, Marble, Pidgin Internet Messenger, Qtransmission Bi
  • ttorrent client, Skype 4.3, Thunderbird Mail
  • From Netrunner 15

  • Graphics: GIMP 2.8.10, Gwenview, Karbon, Krita, Ksnapshot, Skanlite
  • Multimedia: Atraci, Cheese, gmusicbrowser, HandBrake, Kdenlive, Radio Tray, SimpleScreenRecorder, VLC 2.2.0
  • Accessories: Ark, K3b, Kate, Klipper, Knotes, Yakuake terminal, Konsole, KDE Partition Manager, Kwallet Manager,
  • Others: Virtualbox, Wine, PlayonLinux, Steam, Grub Customizer
I guess pre-installed application list doesn't get better than this. It has everything from a full fledged office suite, a great browser, Skype, best email client I've used, GIMP photo editor, some really good multimedia players, virtualbox to packages like Playonlinux/Wine to install Windows applications and Steam to play games.

Just like other Ubuntu forks, Netrunner ships with all free and non-free multimedia codecs pre-installed along with Adobe flash plugin. Users can play online and offline media files and sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, etc. even in live boot.

From Netrunner 15
I found Atarci quite interesting to play live music. It worked pretty well with Netrunner though some albums failed to load. Nevertheless, a nice app to have.

From Netrunner 15
As expected I go with 100% score for pre-installed packages. It provides a holistic collection of packages more than enough for daily use.

Score for Pre-Installed Packages: 10/10

Netrunner uses Ubuntu Utopic repositories as primary sources of packages. Further, there are a few Netrunner specific repositories, Wine PPA, etc.

From Netrunner 15
Applications can be browsed and downloaded via the Muon Discover. Somehow I like Ubuntu Software Center better than the Muon Discover.
From Netrunner 15

Synaptic package manager is there as well for users who prefer simple interface and faster download of packages.

From Netrunner 15
I added some Google packages and Dropbox using the following commands:

$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

#Google Earth
$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-earth-stable

#Google Music
$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-musicmanager-beta

$ wget -q -O - | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-talkplugin

#Google Drive Ocamlfuse, a tool that lets you mount Google Drive in Linux
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alessandro-strada/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install google-drive-ocamlfuse

Once it's installed, you'll firstly need to authorize it with Google, by running the following command:
$ google-drive-ocamlfuse

Now let's mount Google Drive. Create a folder in your home directory, let's call it "gdrive":
mkdir ~/gdrive

And mount Google Drive using the command below:
$ google-drive-ocamlfuse ~/gdrive

$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 5044912E
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb trusty main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dropbox.list'
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install dropbox

Installation of Bumblebee for NVIDIA graphics
To avoid laptop heat and get improved battery life, I installed bumblebee running the following commands from the terminal:
$ sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia primus linux-headers-generic bbswitch-dkms mesa-utils nvidia-331-updates

Once installed, add user to the bumblebee group
$ sudo gpasswd -a arindam bumblebee

Reboot and edit the /etc/bumblebee/bumblebee.conf file
$ sudo gedit /etc/bumblebee/bumblebee.conf

Then restart bumblebee by:
$ sudo service bumblebeed restart

Please note, create a backup of bumblebee.conf before proceeding with these steps.

Replace the entire content of bumblebee with the following text:

# Configuration file for Bumblebee. Values should **not** be put between quotes

## Server options. Any change made in this section will need a server restart
# to take effect.
# The secondary Xorg server DISPLAY number
# Should the unused Xorg server be kept running? Set this to true if waiting
# for X to be ready is too long and don't need power management at all.
# The name of the Bumbleblee server group name (GID name)
# Card power state at exit. Set to false if the card shoud be ON when Bumblebee
# server exits.
# The default behavior of '-f' option on optirun. If set to "true", '-f' will
# be ignored.
# The Driver used by Bumblebee server. If this value is not set (or empty),
# auto-detection is performed. The available drivers are nvidia and nouveau
# (See also the driver-specific sections below)
# Directory with a dummy config file to pass as a -configdir to secondary X

## Client options. Will take effect on the next optirun executed.
# Acceleration/ rendering bridge, possible values are auto, virtualgl and
# primus.
# The method used for VirtualGL to transport frames between X servers.
# Possible values are proxy, jpeg, rgb, xv and yuv.
# List of paths which are searched for the primus when using
# the primus bridge
# Should the program run under optirun even if Bumblebee server or nvidia card
# is not available?

# Driver-specific settings are grouped under [driver-NAME]. The sections are
# parsed if the Driver setting in [bumblebeed] is set to NAME (or if auto-
# detection resolves to NAME).
# PMMethod: method to use for saving power by disabling the nvidia card, valid
# values are: auto - automatically detect which PM method to use
#         bbswitch - new in BB 3, recommended if available
#       switcheroo - vga_switcheroo method, use at your own risk
#             none - disable PM completely

## Section with nvidia driver specific options, only parsed if Driver=nvidia
# Module name to load, defaults to Driver if empty or unset
# colon-separated path to the nvidia libraries
# comma-separated path of the directory containing and the
# default Xorg modules path


One thing to note, I had to replace the entire content in the bumblebee.conf file with the content given in the above article to make it work in Netrunner. Upon restarting bumblebee, run the command optirun glxgear to check if it is working.

From Netrunner 15

With all the customization and plasma 5.2, I found Netrunner to consume significantly more resources than the plasma 4.x distros I used in recent times.

Operating System (64 bit) Size of ISO (GB) Base Desktop Linux kernel CPU (%) RAM usage (MB) Size of installation Boot time (sec)
Debian KDE 7.3.0 0.7 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-5% 423 4.1 49
Neptune 3.3 1.9 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.11.2 3.10.12 0-5% 439 7.2 53
Netrunner 13.06 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 475 5.9 40
Siduction 13.2.0 1.2 Debian Unstable KDE 4.11.4 3.12.0 0-5% 478 3.7 60
Mint 15 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-5% 483 7.0 45
Solydk 2013.11 1.6 Debian Testing KDE 4.11.3 3.10.3 0-5% 484 6.2 59
Bridge Linux 2013.06 1.0 Arch KDE 4.10.4 3.12.5 0-5% 490 4.6 39
Mint 16 KDE 1.4 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.3 3.11.0 0-5% 496 7.0 37
PCLinuxOS 2013.12 1.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.3 3.4.70 0-10% 496 5.8 65
Kwheezy 1.4 4.0 Debian Wheezy KDE 4.8.4 3.2.0 0-10% 511 12.4 49
Kubuntu 13.04 0.9 Ubuntu Raring KDE 4.10.5 3.8.0 0-10% 523 4.9 35
Manjaro Linux 0.8.9 KDE 1.8 Arch KDE 4.12.2 3.10.30 0-5% 528 4.9 45
Mageia 3 1.4 Mandriva KDE 4.10.2 3.8.0 0-5% 530 3.9 46
Calculate Linux 13.11 KDE 2.3 Gentoo KDE 4.11.3 3.10.19 0-5% 537 7.1 64
Mageia 4 3.6 Mandriva KDE 4.11.4 3.12.8 0-5% 540 8 56
Kubuntu 14.10 1.1 Ubuntu Utopic KDE 4.14.1 3.16.0 0-5% 547 4.6 34
Kubuntu 13.10 1.0 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-5% 547 5.2 53
Mint 17 KDE LTS 1.4 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.1 3.13.0 0-5% 560 6.9 36
Chakra GNU/Linux 2014.05 1.8 Arch KDE 4.13.1 3.12.15 0-5% 560 4.8 41
Kubuntu 14.04 LTS 1.0 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.0 3.13.0 0-5% 590 4.6 39
OpenSUSE 13.1 4.4 OpenSUSE KDE 4.11.2 3.11.6 0-5% 593 6.0 53
Chakra 2014.02 1.7 Mandriva KDE 4.12.2 3.12.6 0-5% 618 4.1 41
Netrunner 14 1.5 Ubuntu Trusty KDE 4.13.1 3.13.0 0-5% 605 8.0 36
ROSA Fresh KDE R4 1.7 Mandriva KDE 4.13.3 3.14.15 0-5% 620 5.4 74
Netrunner 13.12 1.6 Ubuntu Saucy KDE 4.11.2 3.11.0 0-10% 623 7.2 48
Netrunner Rolling 2014.09.1 2.4 Manjaro KDE 4.14.0 3.14.18 0-5% 640 6.0 49
Manjaro Linux 0.8.8 KDE 2.0 Arch KDE 4.11.3 3.10.24 0-10% 655 5.0 66
Fedora 20 KDE 0.9 Fedora KDE 4.11.3 3.12.5 0-5% 691 8.4 77
Korora 19.1 2.4 Fedora KDE 4.11.1 3.11.2 0-5% 697 9.2 79
OpenSUSE 13.1.1 Education Li-f-e 3.3 OpenSUSE KDE 4.12.1 3.11.6 0-5% 730 9.3 57
Netrunner 15 1.8 Ubuntu Utopic KDE 4.14.1 3.16.0 0-5% 739 7.0 56
Korora 20 2.3 Fedora KDE 4.11.5 3.12.6 0-5% 750 8.0 58

RAM Consumption and CPU Usage
At steady state, Netrunner 15 consumed about 740 MB of RAM with system monitor running. The CPU usage was not an issue with Netrunner as it always remained within 5-10% range during my usage even with multitasking.

From Netrunner 15
I checked that plasma desktop was the main reason behind high RAM consumption, as shown below. On average, Netrunner consumes about 30% more RAM than the average plasma 4.x distros I used and benchmarked on the same laptop across 2013-15.

Boot time
With autologin enabled, Netrunner took about 10% more time to boot (at 56 seconds) than the average KDE distros I reviewed between 2013-15.

Power Consumption
Netrunner recorded about 17.22 watts of power consumption. If I compare with Mint 17.1 KDE, Netrunner almost consumes 80% more power and hence, is expected to give significantly lower battery life. I expected better performance from Netrunner no doubt.
From Netrunner 15

Operating System (64 bit) Power Consumption (watts)
Mint 17.1 KDE LTS 9.61
Kubuntu 14.10 12.31
Netrunner 15 KDE 17.22

Score for Performance: 6.5/10

As always Netrunner 15 looks and works beautifully right out of the box. KDE plasma 5.2 is tweaked nicely to give a refreshing look. The boot splash looks out of the box and animations are simply stunning. However, the distro lags a bit in terms of performance. So, if you are already using Netrunner 14 or Linux Mint 17.1 KDE, there is no point of switching to Netrunner 15. Anyway, Netrunner 14 is not upgradable to 15, as the release note says.

Also, like Kubuntu Utopic, Netrunner 15 is supported for only 9 months. If Netrunner 14 is not working for you (older Linux kernel may not support newer hardware, as happened in my case), you may like to give a shot to the latest release with updated Linux kernel. Further, if you are inquisitive about plasma 5 and want to try out something new, please go ahead and give it a shot.

You can download the 64 bit Netrunner 15 ISO from here. As of 8th March 2015, the 32 bit version is not released.

Overall Score: 9/10

Attributes Weights (%) Netrunner 15
Installation 20 10.0
Aesthetics 20 10.0
Hardware Recognition 20 10.0
Pre-installed Packages 10 10.0
Performance 30 6.5
Overall Score


  1. You were supposed to review linux mint 17.1 xfce. What is wrong with you. Come on man.

  2. You were supposed to review linux mint 17.1 xfce. What is wrong with you. Come on man.

    1. I prefer reviewing distros which I find exciting. Right now Netrunner 15 with plasma 5.2 and Manjaro with xfce 4.12 seems more enticing than Mint 17.1 xfce. Anyway, I've reviewed mint 17 xfce last year and it was very good. Please check if you are interested. Thanks.

    2. In fact, yours July's review of Mint 17 XFCE was the reason why I choose to install that distro at home.

    3. Yep, Mint XFCE 17.1 is a brilliant release. It's blazing fast and it's well worth installing. IMHO one of the best XFCE implementations I've seen recently (along with Xubuntu 14.04 and Manjaro). The only small glitch I came across was that the installation didn't recognise my swap partition. The UUID was incorrect so I had to edit my fstab file and replace the UUID with the correct one and everything was solved.

  3. Nice review. as usual. Please correct your statement about media player. It is Atraci, not Atarci ...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi Arindam, nice review. Netrunner 15 looks nice but there are still some quirks to solve. I'd say is still not ready to be included in one's production setup. For the time being, if you like KDE and Netrunner you should probably stick with 14.1. Despite the quirks, and although my favourite DE is XFCE, plasma 5 looks really good (and finally KDE has some nice font rendering. In all distros with KDE I tried out I usually end up installing the infinality package to improve font rendering (openSUSE (namtrac), Centos (nux-dextop repo), Kubuntu + Mint KDE + Netrunner (ppa:no1wantdthisname)). It seems to me that KDE's future looks bright...

  6. I was curious to read the article and find out what performance issues you encountered, only to find that there were no performance problems, but you were not happy with the power consumption. So, aside from the higher than expected power consumption, how was the performance? Was the desktop snappy? did menus open quickly, when you dragged a terminal around the desktop, did it move smoothly?

    1. Power consumption was of course a big letdown. Further, I've used better Netrunner releases before. This one didn't feel as smooth as say Netrunner 14. If you see the resource consumption table, Netrunner is right at the lower half. It takes more time to boot than other KDE distros I've used. Hence I've mentioned that it doesn't perform like comparable KDE distros and has performance issues.

  7. Wouldn't it be time to review netrunner 16 :D. Thanks for the great reviews!

  8. What tool do you use above to measure power consumption?