Ubuntu 22.04 LTS has arrived, which means new releases of Ubuntu-based distros are also coming. Pop!_OS is one such distro.
Pop!_OS version 22.04 has been released, and that leaves some of you with the question: what sets these two distros apart and which one is right for you?
What’s new in Ubuntu 22.04?
Since Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu, that means most of what’s new in Ubuntu 22.04 is also available in Pop!_OS. These two distros share the same software repositories, so the apps available for both are largely the same.
You will find more differences in the custom GUIs used by Ubuntu and Pop!_OS. You’ll also find some system tweaks or improvements that System76 has included to make Pop! _OS more attractive for certain use cases. So what sets Pop!_OS 22.04 apart from Ubuntu 22.04?
1. The COSMIC office
Pop!_OS 22.04 comes with the COSMIC desktop experience. Like Ubuntu, this interface consists largely of GNOME with a few extensions added on top. Pop!_OS settings are more in-depth and offer more ways to configure your desktop.
Pop!_OS comes with an always-visible dock at the bottom of the screen, while Ubuntu’s is on the left. Both offer the possibility of changing position. Pop!_OS organizes virtual workspaces vertically, while Ubuntu retains the horizontal layout introduced in GNOME 40.
One of the biggest additions to COSMIC over Ubuntu is a tiled window manager option that automatically arranges your open windows in a grid.
2. Flatpak vs. Snap
Both Pop!_OS and Ubuntu use the DEB format to package system components, most pre-installed applications, and software available in system repositories. The differences arise when it comes to the new universal package formats.
Ubuntu only supports Canonical’s Snap format. Flatpaks work in Ubuntu, but you have to manually install the necessary components. They don’t offer the same degree of integration with the default App Store as Snaps.
On the other hand, Pop!_OS supports Flatpak format instead of Snap. Interestingly, you can also enable Nix software support originally intended for NixOS. As with Ubuntu’s approach to Flatpaks, you can install snaps on Pop!_OS, but you must manually install the necessary components yourself.
3. A new Linux kernel
Pop!_OS ships with version 5.16 of the Linux kernel, rather than the 5.15 version found in Ubuntu. Version 5.15 is an LTS version of the kernel, which makes sense to bundle with an LTS version of a distro. 5.16 has already reached its end of life, so Pop!_OS is moving to 5.17.
A newer Linux kernel means support for newer computer hardware. It can also mean a performance boost for already supported hardware.
Ubuntu has a hardware enablement stack that enables support for newer hardware in the LTS release, but it’s something you need to know to sign up. Pop!_OS makes supporting the latest hardware a more seamless experience.
Pop!_OS often receives a recommendation as a distro for gamers. This is partly due to the ease of installing proprietary drivers such as those for NVIDIA graphics cards, with Pop!_OS even offering a separate install image for that hardware. NVIDIA drivers now appear in the Pop!_Shop and you can even install older versions.
But system performance is not limited to hardware drivers. The System76 scheduler now directs resources to the targeted window, which can make gaming and other graphics-intensive tasks easier. Pop!_OS 22.04 also limits the maximum capacity of the journaled log to 1 GB.
5. More control over updates
Many people never install updates. Updates may require a reboot or introduce bugs, which may seem like an unnecessary inconvenience when everything is working fine. But never installing updates is horrible for system security, as many exploits usually target vulnerabilities in older software.
This is one of the reasons Snap format comes with automatic updates. At most, you can delay a Snap update, but you can’t postpone them indefinitely. By default, updates occur automatically in the background.
Pop!_OS gives you finer control over when an app receives an update. You can even set a specific date and time for your system to update your DEB, Flatpak, and Nix packages. By default, app update notifications arrive weekly, but you can change this frequency or enable automatic updates.
6. X.Org instead of Wayland
Ubuntu 22.04 made the leap from the aging X.Org display server to Wayland, joining Fedora and other distros that have long since made the switch. This is a system change that Pop!_OS 22.04 does not inherit.
That’s right, Pop!_OS 22.04 still ships with X.Org by default. Most Linux software works just fine with X.Org, but there are usability and security enhancements that you will continue to miss when using Pop!_OS.
Wayland has come a long way and is where most of the development takes place, but some apps don’t yet support the new protocol. For this reason, sticking with X.Org may be an advantage of using Pop!_OS, depending on your workflow. Although in Ubuntu it’s very easy to switch back to X.Org without installing any additional software, so if you prefer Ubuntu and want to use X.Org longer, you don’t need to install Pop!_OS to do so .
Ubuntu and Pop!_OS: two very different experiences
Technically, Ubuntu and Pop!_OS are largely identical. The amount of code that separates these two experiences is relatively minor. But that’s not what matters to most people. That’s how these two distros feel to use day in and day out. From that point of view, they are very different projects, and they remain so in version 22.04.
Pop!_OS and Ubuntu both offer another way to experience GNOME software without giving up docks, desktop icons, and minimize buttons. But which is best, as always, depends on your preferences.
If you have decided to use Pop!_OS, remember that there are some things you need to take care of right after the first boot.
10 things to do after installing Pop!_OS