Ubuntu 14.04 review
A stable, up-to-date platform, but those seeking shiny new features will be disappointed
Review Date: 15 May 2014
Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith
Price when reviewed: Free
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
Canonical is pushing hard to expand Ubuntu into new consumer markets. In the past year we've seen shiny prototypes of Ubuntu-based mobile phones and tablets, and the company hasn't given up on its 2012 vision of getting Ubuntu onto TVs either. What's more, serious work is underway on converging all of these roles into a single chameleonic OS, something even Microsoft hasn't attempted. Read on for our full Ubuntu 14.04 review.
Against that backdrop, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (codenamed Trusty Tahr) seems curiously unambitious. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise: Canonical's biannual release schedule typically brings only small incremental changes over the previous release. And since this is a long-term support (LTS) release, supplied with the promise of five years of support, Canonical has a particular incentive to avoid taking a punt on any experimental new technologies.
As a result, 14.04 looks and feels all but identical to Ubuntu 13.10. If you squint at the screen, you might notice that the embossing effect around the edges of windows has gone, and if you're using a very high-DPI screen (such as on a MacBook Pro with Retina display) you'll see that problems with tiny or blocky interface elements have now been fixed. There's also now a new tray icon at the top right of the screen showing your keyboard language – useful in some specific scenarios, but eminently switch-offable for most.
Ubuntu 14.04 review: what's new?
Perhaps the most welcome change to the Ubuntu desktop is hidden away in the System Settings. Since Ubuntu 11.04, application menus have appeared in the bar along the top of the screen, in the OS X style.
The ergonomics of this are very much up for debate, and we've always thought it rather cussed of Canonical not to provide the option of having menus incorporated into their respective application windows. In 14.04, such an option has quietly appeared, but the implementation takes a little getting used to: rather than each window having its own menu bar, menus appear directly in the title bar when the mouse is placed over it.
Another quiet change is the removal of the Ubuntu One front-end, since Canonical has thrown in the towel on its own-brand cloud storage and music-download service. That must be a blow to the company's pride, but we're hopeful it will inspire the developers to focus more actively on working with established cloud storage and media services.
The integration of 7digital, Amazon, eBay and other sites into Ubuntu's Dash search (a process that begun in Ubuntu 12.10) suggests that Canonical has been thinking in the right direction, but it will have to come up with something slicker than this to wow consumers.
For now, it's on the enterprise side of things that Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is strongest. The OS itself may not have evolved much, but since the previous LTS release the supporting components have taken some big steps forward. That includes Canonical's "Metal as a Service" (MAAS) server-provisioning system, which was barely out of beta in the last LTS release, and the latest version of the Juju software-deployment system.
The best news is that, for the first time, Canonical has pledged five years' support not only for the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Server OS, but also for the OpenStack cloud computing framework bundled with it. Factor in upgrades in the 3.13 Linux kernel that improve support for networking, virtualisation and security and, even though LTS 12.02 still has three years of support on the clock, we suspect many businesses will already be preparing a switch.
Ubuntu 14.04 review: verdict
It's easy to feel a little disappointed in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS; it's a conservative release that feels at odds with the future-focused talk coming out of Canonical. But in the end that's the point. Ubuntu takes its enterprise role seriously, and this stable, supported wrap-up of the conventional desktop and server distributions is just what many businesses will have been waiting for. Smaller organisations and individuals seeking a switch from XP are well covered, too: it's notable that for the first time the "community flavours" – Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and so forth – are all promised long-term support as well.
With a stable platform thus established, Canonical now has some breathing space to focus on more ambitious works, such as the forthcoming Mir display server and Unity 8 front-end that will underpin the next-generation, multi-platform, consumer edition of Ubuntu. In other words, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS may not be exciting in itself, but it sets the scene for bigger things to come.
Author: Darien Graham-Smith
A polite request
In the interests of neutrality and freedom of choice for users, please can PC Pro do another comparison of a minimum 6 Linux distributions again?
Things have moved on a lot since November 2012 when the last PC Pro shootout was compiled.
I started off with Ubuntu years ago alongside XP, migrated to Mint/W7 dual boot for a couple of years and now I'm happily using Fedora 20 MATE as a main OS.
By mr_chips on 15 May 2014
Agreed about the Linux roundup
Yes in the wake of XP and the aberration that is Windows 8*, would be very helpful to have a Linux roundup. Personally, I'm a fan of Lubuntu.
By brendan on 17 May 2014
Of course there are few new features
It's a little weird to complain about the lack of new feature when, as noted in the article, this is an LTS release. These are conservative by design, since stability is a big selling point.
By rupert_giles on 20 May 2014
I prefer xubuntu...
Due to interface I prefer xubuntu
By HopeLESS on 10 Jul 2014
Having just upgraded from 12.04, it seems this LTS is hellishly buggy. Perhaps a clean re-install will be called for.
Else, I am with mr_chips above.
By arichter on 12 Aug 2014
Ended up on 1404 after all the other Linux Distros I tried fizzed out. Hope this lasts a few years, no fan of MS.
By rhobstein3 on 18 Aug 2014
- Microsoft yanks Windows 8.1 update after crash reports
- Microsoft backtracks on blocking out-of-date Java
- Gartner: time to start planning your Windows 7 upgrade
- Still on IE8? You've got 18 months to upgrade
- Who's buying Chromebooks? American schools
- Microsoft targets Windows in next Patch Tuesday
- Microsoft to block old ActiveX controls in security push
- Samsung and Apple call off all legal disputes, except in the US
- Microsoft ordered to hand over European data
- Will the next Windows 8.1 update arrive next month?
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- Five worst SMB security threats... and how to solve them
- Doing business in a social era
- How to configure SysLookup for your network
- The 18 best Outlook tips for increasing productivity: become an Outlook expert with these lesser-known tips
- Office: should you buy it, rent it - or dump it?
- Small server vs cloud: which is best for SMBs?
- The best mobile apps for business
- Windows XP: Microsoft’s ticking time bomb
- gTLDs: what your business should know about new domain names
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office