My Experience with KDE 4.1: Not Worth It Yet

I recently bought a new Dell Laptop (an M1530).  The first task was reinstalling.  I went with Kubuntu + KDE 4.1, having just read some buzz (I think from Slashdot).  Long story short: I’m back to Gnome.  I write this post to counterbalance some (what I interpret as) undeserved hype.

First, the good.  KDE 4.1 is pretty cool/professional looking.  It has a very intuitive menu interface, and nice integration with desktop widgets.  KDE in general has a nice design philosophy.  Some KDE features (e.g., the wireless connection applet) are better than their Gnome (GDM) counterparts.

However, I had a bunch of problems:

  • A bunch of stuff just didn’t work right out of the box.  Important things such as suspend/hibernate and sound.  Nvidia drivers screwed up the fonts (a common problem), and I had to fix manually.  When I log into GDM, all these problems go away by default!
  • The window manager constantly consumed 20-30% of my fast/new dual-core CPU until I tweaked some of the defaults.  It’s not capable of using 3D graphics, so everything’s sluggish.  One could enable Beryl effects, but the integration between the KDE window manger and Beryl is terrible and buggy.  GDM has good Beryl support and integration.
  • Tons of bugs.  This will probably improve.  However, I found a whole lot of problems in two days of futzing (note: nothing that crashed the system).  Some features (such as the “download more widgets from the web”) appeared to be non-implemented stubs!
  • Important features were missing.  E.g., there was no applet to monitor system load.  C’mon, windows 2000 had this.  There was ksysmon, but that is a full window, and consumed 10-20% CPU.

Some of this is especially worrisome.  One of the tenets of Linux windowing systems is that they are merely interchangeable front-ends.  However, this was very much not the case.  On my box, suspend/hibernate, sound, and shortcut keys work out of the box using GDM, but not using KDE 4.1.  What’s the deal?