Desktop Environments

I have been testing out a few desktop environments namely kde plasma and mate on fresh arch linux installs. I gotta say they are polished and work great. What i find disturbing is that when i run say dwm or openbox light wm setups along with firefox with a few tabs open, namely youtube, forums and such im getting very similar memory usage. Mate seems more stable with heavy usage of firefox. Plasma is a little better but i dislike the UI. Anyhow might be retiring my old laptop soon so thinking i may go mate desktop environment as it really has all the bells and whistles.

My Bspwm uses around 2GB of RAM when using Firefox with 3 tabs open, at idle it’s usually 600-700MB. Maybe a bit less when just booted. My system isn’t super light, i have Dropbox, NordVPN, Plex, Guake etc. on autostart, so… I don’t know, i tend to care less and less about RAM usage, because everyone got plenty, and even if the system, let’s say Ubuntu or Windows 10 for example uses it pretty much, it still runs nice and fast. At least in my machine.

Plasma is surprisingly light these days, no problem there imo. I installed Kubuntu on my old laptop, it used around 500-600MB of RAM at idle. Not bad. Don’t care much about KDE though, but that machine is basically just a platform for Etcher, so it does it’s job. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I don’t feel like that’s really fair comparing window managers based on overall system usage, 90+% of the memory you’re using will be in applications and services. Most WM alone will be under the 100MB range which, (when talking 2GB+) becomes largely irrelevant and unnoticed. If you run the same applications and services on top of a lightweight WM that you would in a DE then it’s not really a lightweight environment anymore and is essentially a DE.

There’s also the cpu time that I rarely see brought up, any program can be more memory efficient (to a point) at the cost of cpu ticks. Most don’t do this though as it’s much easier and less power consuming to gobble up a bit more memory and not have to micro-manage it. I’m only talking about languages that do have control over the memory and not ones that have garbage collection.

While were throwing numbers out there, as I’m writing this I’m at 1.6G used with steam running, 15 tabs open in chrome, and a few terminals. If I look at the usage I can see that in this case dwm is using less than 0.1% of that. So yea very negligible. Many of these lightweight window manager were made to run on hardware that were more limited, and while everything else has continued to gobble more and more of everything (web browsers!), the wm have remained largely the same.

I totally agree Plasma has become incredibly light these days in terms of memory usage, but with the desktop effects and higher cpu usage it’s by no means a lightweight DE. Mate is also a very solid DE and many people swear by it.


I agree with @natemaia, when you open up the task manager, you’ll find all kinds of services running for windows and apps that are running in the background. I am running mac OS (hackintosh) and it doesn’t seem to be as busy. If memory serves correctly, the base for mac OS is BSD if not UNIX. I haven’t really research that yet even though the terminal useses a lot of BSD or Linux commands. :thinking:



I wasnt intending to compare WM to DE’s or overall system performance, i just found it odd that doing the same things on WM with very few background processes yielded very similar ram usage, with Mate DE at about 100 mb more, in my case just a terminal open and using firefox and youtube i was getting 1.2 G after about 10 minutes on the Dwm setup, then on the mate setup i was hovering around 1.3. But yes i did not factor in the Cpu usage, a little higher on the Mate DE side but seems to use memory a lot better these days from a few years ago when i last tested it out, back then i think the DE loaded up to use around 800 MB to a gig, now its down to 500 mb.
I expected with firefox usage and youtube to be up around 1.6 / 1.8 Gig but was pleasantly surprised.

Just regarding the Mate desktop, this from there blog.

A bunch of internal housekeeping tasks have been taken care of:

    Most of our projects have now migrated from dbus-glib to GDBus
    We’ve improved stability across many of our projects by closing memory leaks and build warnings
    We’ve removed old deprecated code to keep up with the latest versions of GTK
    A lot of new and updated documentation was added/corrected
    All of our projects now use Travis CI to ensure clean builds on some of our major distros

I get an extra 10 frames per second in CS:GO using dwm instead of GNOME. The memory usage doesn’t matter to me but the CPU load certainly does.

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Totally agree, many DE’s that used to get a bad rep regarding their memory usage have gotten their shit together and things are much better now. Mate is definitely one of the better ones. Hardware has also gotten to the point where little things matter less and less, many smaller programs can almost fit entirely in the cache of many CPUs, making very memory strict programs from years past less beneficial (on modern hardware).

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