Four Lightweight Desktops for openSUSE 13.1

It might not get the attention Fedora and Ubuntu do, but its parent is still one of the major enterprise Linux distributions. Released on schedule as always, openSUSE is considered by many to be the best KDE distribution, constantly contributing directly to upstream KDE project. A number of other desktops are also supported, I will take a look at some of them in this article.

I’ve installed openSUSE 13.1 using openSUSE Network Installation CD (netinstall). I brought in the desktop environments one by one, reboot the computer, log in, and measure the startup memory for each one of them in a terminal. I left the desktops as they were installed by default, without any modifications.

Measuring memory is easy, Linux kernel keeps track of it all the time. Kernel data is accessed by free command, and printed on the screen. Of interest to us is the value on -/+ buffers/cache line, 121MB in the example below:

Measuring desktop memory

Measuring desktop memory


The Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment was specially designed for computers with low hardware specifications, such as netbooks, mobile devices or older computers. LXDE is an install option on netinstall CD, and it can also be installed manually as follows:

# zypper install patterns-openSUSE-lxde

The desktop environment starts in 180MB of memory.




Xfce is probably the most popular lightweight desktop environment today. It is based on GTK+ 2 toolkit, and it aims to be light and fast, while still being visually appealing and easy to use. Available as an install option on netinstall CD, it can also be installed manually as:

# zypper install patterns-openSUSE-xfce

Xfce runs in 242MB of memory.

openSUSE Xfce

openSUSE Xfce


e17 is the latest version of Enlightenment desktop environment. It was recently included as an installation option on netinstall CD, or it can also be installed manually as follows:

# zypper install patterns-openSUSE-e17

e17 runs in 134MB of memory.

openSUSE e17

openSUSE e17

MATE is not included officially in openSUSE repositories, however, you can install it using YaST 1-click installer. For this, with your web browser go to and click on MATE Desktop for openSUSE 13.1. MATE runs in 214MB.




This is the memory chart for openSUSE 13.1. I also added a number of very light Window Managers, and KDE. Enjoy your Linux desktop!

openSUSE memory (MB)

openSUSE memory (MB)

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22 thoughts on “Four Lightweight Desktops for openSUSE 13.1

    1. Fernando

      Well, this comparison is not so simple, since KDE allocates more memory than necessary. I tested the Slackware 14.1 and remember that the difference in memory usage with KDE on the same hardware is negligible.
      Still, the biggest performance slackware actually has not been registered through various benchmarks. Being less than other distributions, despite the simplicity of Slacware (eg Debian).

      1. netblue30 Post author

        > Well, this comparison is not so simple, since KDE allocates more memory than necessary.

        I agree with that. However, the other desktop environments are not allocating more memory than necessary. In KDE case the user has to clean up a lot of things to get it running on par with the lighter desktop environments.

        Anyway, I am writing about openSUSE. Slackware is a different story. It is much lighter as a distribution overall, you will get much better memory numbers than on SUSE regardless what DE you are using.

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  2. Orb miser

    Yep don’t know where you are getting 360mb for KDE unless OpenSuse is running unnecessary processes.

    As my SolydK KDE Debian with two panels Conky and yaWP weather widget I still only come in at 295mb to Desktop.

    Hope those Ram readings are with Firefox open? Maybe I don’t understand the Free listings of ram used?

    1. netblue30 Post author

      Every distribution will give different numbers, depending how KDE is configured and what other processes are started by default. The measurements are without Firefox running. Usually Firefox adds 200MB more.

  3. AleCon

    More than ram usage I would like to know how the different DE integrate in the distro, openSUSE is quite famous for excellent integration with KDE however an overall evaluation of other DE would be a valuable information

    1. netblue30 Post author

      You can install on your hard disk as many as you like, and choose one of them from the login screen before you type your password. In fact, multi-user boxes are set up this way.

      1. Vittorio Ferrando

        Hi. After deepful insight thought, I solved the mistey of the broken package (a “not working repo”). Dont know exactly what happened to Packman, but figured out when trying to install Handbrake. So I went Yast> community repos> re-enable Packman.
        Currently, I am running kde4, openbox, xfce, enlightement (plus another one which I’ve never seen and I do not know by name. I think I am well set off with Plasma things, but perhaps I will try to understand better Openbox. When I have time. Thanks again for your article

  4. walther

    Why haven’t you measured memory use by gnome3 desktop? it would be interesting to compare with the rest

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