Linux Mint 19 MATE vs XFCE: A speed and CPU usage comparison.

Hi everyone,

This post is about Linux Mint MATE and XFCE, specifically about which is faster and uses less RAM. This is done on request by someone who watched my Linux Mint 19 MATE Review video from three months ago. Go here to see the post associated with that video. This will probably be a fairly short post, because most of the detail is in the video.


For my tests, I used a couple of VMs on my laptop, giving each of them 1GB of RAM, and 1 of my slow CPU cores. This was done on the laptop to accentuate any differences in speed between the two versions. I did this over VNC to avoid putting any extra load on the laptop and slowing it down. I also made sure to only open each app once, so there was no caching to create misleading results.

The Video


I expected the MATE version to be almost universally slower, because my previous experience comparing GNOME 2 and XFCE on old computers was that XFCE was way faster. However, that was on a Pentium 3-based system, and on Ubuntu 10.04, which is now 8 years old :). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was wrong, except that MATE took a LOT longer to boot up. Perhaps the MATE version starts more services by default. I suspect the reason is that MATE uses 3D acceleration more than XFCE (I think), and this laptop might not handle that particularly well.

I was pleasantly surprised by how fast MATE was, so the conclusion I come to here is that there has been a lot of optimizing code since the original fork from GNOME 2. Unfortunately, some of the GNOME 2 bugs still seem to be around. For example, I still can’t change the mouse cursor colour consistently – it sometimes changes in certain apps, or won’t change at all. 🙁 I guess you can’t win them all. I really do like that redglass pointer though.

At any rate, that’s it from me for now, but I have quite a lot of different posts coming up soon, so stay tuned!


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About Hamish McIntyre-Bhatty

I'm currently studying for a Computing and IT degree with the Open University, and am a software developer as well. I enjoy coding in Python, C++ (still learning), and Java. Having written 4 open-source programs (hosted on, set up my own website, and started volunteering at Wimborne Model Town to work on their river control system, I still find the time to enjoy cycling, acting, photography, and playing bass guitar. I go climbing every now and then as well. As you may have guessed, I also enjoy blogging :)

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