When Ubuntu first appeared on the scene, around 2004, I remember trying it out and thinking that this was going to be a game changer because it worked almost instantly without hardly any tweaks and command line hacks.
Anybody who has used Linux since then has probably heard of Ubuntu and whether you love it or hate it there is no doubting that it in now a fairly polished desktop operating system.
Raspberry PI User is about using the Raspberry PI as a desktop computer and therefore it seemed an obvious choice to try out Ubuntu as in theory they should be a match made in heaven.
This article is a review of Ubuntu on a Raspberry PI 4 with 4 gigabytes RAM. The reasons for testing Ubuntu on the 4 gigabyte version is as follows:
- It is the mid-range option (2gb, 4gb, 8gb)
- It is the base specification for the Raspberry PI 400 which is a Raspberry Pi built into a keyboard for desktop use
- It is the highest spec Raspberry PI that I have available at this moment in time
How To Install Ubuntu To An SD Card
You can read more about Ubuntu on the Raspberry PI by visiting https://ubuntu.com/raspberry-pi.
The downloads page shows all the available versions of Ubuntu for the Raspberry PI 2, 3, 4 and 400.
If you want to use your Raspberry PI as a desktop computer then the only version available for the Raspberry PI 4 is a 64-bit version.
The easiest way to install Ubuntu to an SD-Card is to use the Raspberry PI Imager.
When you insert the SD-Card for Ubuntu for the first time you will be asked to choose the language.
The next step requires you to choose the keyboard layout.
If you aren’t using an ethernet cable then you will be asked to choose your wireless network.
The penultimate step is to choose your timezone by selecting your country on the map or entering it into the box provided.
The final step is to create a user by entering your name, a name for your computer, a username and a password.
When Ubuntu boots for the first time there are some initial setup steps required.
The first step (which is optional) allows you to connect to online accounts such as Google and Microsoft. This will pull in email to your email clients, update the calendar built into the desktop and bring the online world to your desktop. (https://help.ubuntu.com/stable/ubuntu-help/accounts-whyadd.html.en)
The second step gives you the option to send system info to Ubuntu to help them improve your experience (their words, not mine).
The penultimate step asks whether you want location services turned on. Ironically after getting you to link your online accounts and send usage data to Ubuntu this is called privacy.
The final page lets you know you are ready to go and shows a list of potential applications that you might like to install.
The initial appearance of Ubuntu on the Raspberry PI 4 is that it looks the same as the normal desktop version of Ubuntu which is of course to be expected.
In the top right corner is the system tray with icons for audio, networks and power. Clicking on the arrow pulls up a dialog window with options for changing your network and bluetooth settings, opening the settings screen, and logging in and out of Ubuntu.
On the left side of the screen are the quick launch icons for starting the following applications:
- Firefox – web browser
- Thunderbird – email
- Files – file manager
- Rhythmbox – audio player
- LibreOffice Writer – word processor
- Ubuntu Software – package manager
In the bottom left there is a grid icon and when you click this a screen appears showing all of the applications installed on the Raspberry PI.
A traditional desktop computer should have most of the following types of packages installed by default.
- Web browser
- Email client
- Office suite
- Audio player
- Media player
- Image viewer
- Notepad tool
- Image editor
- Video editor
Ubuntu has always been quite strong with its choice of applications and it is no different for the Raspberry PI version,
The applications installed by default include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Firefox – web browser
- Thunderbird – email client
- LibreOffice – office suite
- Rhythmbox – audio player
- Videos – media player
- Shotwell – image viewer
- Text editor
- Mahjongg, Solitaire, Mines, Sudoku – games
- Cheese – webcam viewer
- Remmina – remote desktop
To install software onto the Raspberry PI using Ubuntu, use the Software Centre by clicking the icon displayed above.
There is a big issue here. Nothing shows up. My internet connection is fine and if I run the following commands then packages appear:
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-cache search gimp
The graphical tool for installing software is completely unusable.
One of the big issues when using the Raspberry PI as a desktop computer is trying to access services such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.
It is possible to get these services working but for the reasons I am about to explain there is little point.
Ubuntu on the Raspberry PI 4 with 4 gigabytes of RAM and no overclocking is a painful experience. It is just too slow.
I have typed this entire review on the Raspberry PI using the WordPress editor in Firefox and it has taken 2 hours. I have to keep fixing spelling errors and the screen is incredibly slow to refresh.
I have tried watching videos using Youtube and it just jumps continuously.
LibreOffice is completely unusable.
The problem I believe is the GNOME desktop. It steals too many of the system resources.
I have previously written a guide showing how to install other desktop environments for Raspberry PI OS. In that guide I showed a method for installing GNOME but I made the following statement:
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should
The number of errors that are appearing is high. Most of the errors are coming from GNOME and not from just one specific part of GNOME.
The internet connection also seems to drop out quite a bit
At the moment I don’t consider Ubuntu on the Raspberry PI to be usable on the 4gb version. I am going to presume the developers have tested this on the 8gb version or they have heavily overclocked their Raspberry PIs.
At the moment this gets a big thumbs down. Stick with Raspberry PI OS.
It almost feels like “it compiled, it runs, it will do”.