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.

NOTE: See my new post on Mint 19.3 here.


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 a self-employed software developer working on Free Software projects, as well as studying for my degree with the Open University. Being pedantic when it comes to detail is fortunately useful for both of these things! A strong believer in free software, I have a few pay-for programs available under the GPLv3 and enjoy reporting bugs and helping to improve various open source projects, including volunteering at Wimborne Model Town to work on their river control system.

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

  1. Janemba says:

    Thanks for the hard workds, really apreciate

  2. Patrick says:

    Ok, i will use xfce then, i need fast startup :). Thanks!

  3. Ayelén says:

    This comparison was just what I was looking for. Thanks! ?

  4. Bert Franklin says:

    Thank you for this. Very thorough investigation and very good work. I am writing this on a 2011 notebook running Mint 20 Mate. I just use it as it is really portable and i use it like a tablet really. I was wondering if I could get a bit of speed improvement by using XFCE but you have saved me the effort. I will stick to Mate.

  5. David says:

    gg I appreciate the effort

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