As one of the first, non-Mint distros to feature Cinnamon as its main desktop environment, Cinnarch was a very interesting product when it was first announced. Based on the great Arch Linux, Cinnarch offered a rock solid, rolling base with a lot of customisation features, and a selection of decent pre-installed desktop applications on top of the Cinnamon desktop environment. It was in development for just over half a year before the team decided to change the name and focus of Cinnarch, and release to the world Antergos.
Antergos now uses GNOME as it’s default desktop environment, which is really the main difference between this and Cinnarch – hence the name change. It actually offers a number of desktops though during installation, and joining Cinnamon and GNOME are XFCE and the relatively unknown RazorQT, another fast and lightweight desktop. The graphical installer itself actually works now, where as in Cinnarch you could only use the command line version. The graphical one is very nice, and while they claim it was of their own creation, at the very least the interface heavily borrows from the Ubuntu installer. It’s quite fast, although the command line version can be a little quicker. That’s still pretty great as well, straightforward and easy to understand.
The GNOME desktop is your standard version, albeit with Antergos colouring, while the Cinnarch offering maintains the top panel orientation used in Cinnarch. This is of course customisable, especially as this is also the very latest version of Cinnamon that also comes with Linux Mint 15. All the packages are bang up-to-date, which is mostly down to the rolling Arch Linux base that it runs off. To access these packages, the simplistic PacmanXG graphical frontend to pacman is available by default, and allows you to search via keyword or category for other packages you may want like any good graphical package manager. There is no update function though, so you’ll need to enter the terminal to update pacman and the other packages manually.
Actually using the distro has somewhat improved over the development versions, and not just with the partitioning and installation issues that used to pop up. The desktop itself is a lot smoother, and the settings and such seem to work properly. There were some weird graphical glitches we encountered though, such as disappearing mouse cursors and temperamental wallpapers affecting the look of the Cinnamon menu. Also, if you’re using the Cinnamon desktop, a phantom GNOME option pops-up on the login screen that breaks the x server until you reboot.
In general we don’t think Antergos is quite ready yet. While it’s certainly an attractive prospect to have Arch pre-built with a decent selection of default software and a nice choice of desktop environments, it doesn’t quite seem worth the limitations yet, and doesn’t really add that much over taking Arch and installing your own desktop yourself. It’s definitely better than Cinnarch was though, and we’re very interested to see how the distro will develop over the year or so.
Antergos has come on a fair bit since we last saw it as Cinnarch, however it’s still not the most stable of distros. With graphical glitches and weird hardware detection, we’d prefer to build up Arch from scratch. However, with a good selection of install options, it’s a shortcut to a decent Arch desktop.