Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
I've followed development of openSUSE and Mandriva fairly closely over the years, albeit a bit closer of openSUSE. I write about how nice they both are. I pick out the new features and test basic functionality. I see what's included and what makes up the base system. I like them both. But a visitor and contributor here at tuxmachines asked which would be better for his laptop and that gave me the idea to compare these large multi-CD Titans of Linux development.
In the blue corner weighing in at 4.3 GB, Mandriva 2008.0. In the green corner weighing in at 4.2 GB, openSUSE 10.3.
Both have a pretty graphical installer that walks the user through configuration by asking for user input in easy to understand / easy to answer formats. Both have advanced options available for those with more individualized needs. Both offer differing levels of user input for package selection either by main desktop, area selections, or individual packages. They both take roughly the same time to install. Both install a bootloader of your choice while detecting most other systems on your machine. In all these areas, I'm going to declare a tie.
Mandriva has a wonderful graphic partitioner. It lays out the hard drives in an image to represent the size, type, and placement of each partition in differing colors for each filesystem type. Options and choices are input from the same screen so you can always refer back to what's there. This is great for new users and the experienced alike. openSUSE's partitioner is text listing of the partitions in tree form. The edit/create/other buttons are at the bottom, and editing or creating a partition opens another window. Hands down, Mandriva's partitioner wins this round.
Both offer excellent hardware detection and auto-configuration and both have a summary screen for user changes. Both detect and correctly set-up all the same hardware on my test system and neither can set up my Windows dependent wireless ethernet chip. Mandriva does offer to use Ndiswrapper and allows for graphical navigation to the driver on my Windows partition. It doesn't work for me this release, but I think it'd work for some others. If your device is detected, both offer a convenient wizard for setting up the options. It's close here, but Mandriva takes it because of the wizard that includes the Ndiswrapper choice.
So Mandriva is the winner of the installation phase.
This area is going to be highly subjective. Both openSUSE and Mandriva appear to spend a lot of time and effort to make their operating system pretty to the eye. Both have lovely customized Grub screens, silent splashes, desktop splashes, nice icons, customized panels and menus, and lovely Wallpapers. openSUSE's tend to be a bit more understated while Mandriva's offer a bit more flash. Again, subjective, but I think Mandriva is just a tad prettier than openSUSE.
openSUSE 10.3 was released a few weeks before Mandriva 2008.0, so Mandriva might have a bit of an unfair advantage when considering the versions of components used. Also, it's a misnomer to assume the latest is always the greatest, but generally we tend to feel that way.
Both offer KDE and GNOME as the main desktops while offering to install some of the smaller choices. Both have software for all the tasks commonly accomplished with computers. But let's compare a few version numbers:
|openSUSE 10.3||Mandriva 2008.0|
As you can see, there isn't a whole lot of difference in software offerings. Mandriva offers the newer GIMP and Pidgin, but then makes a serious faux pas sending out OpenOffice.org 2.2.11. The updates to it were for security vulnerabilities and it probably should have been updated. So, I'm going to say openSUSE takes this one.
Both Mandriva and OpenSUSE offer a graphical software manager and a seperate online update with system tray applet. Although the same functionality exists between the two, Mandriva's software manager has a cleaner, easier-to-use interface. It seems openSUSE's interface is more cluttered and busy, and takes a bit of investigating to reach the same level of comfort and ease found in Mandriva's. In addition, I prefer the commandline functionality of urpmi to that of zypper. Both the online updates go out and fetch a mirror for you. Both show the updates and allow the user to decide if to apply them or not. As far as the updater, it's a tie. But, for me at least, I like Mandriva's software management system better.
Again, the two contenders are almost equally competent in this area. For me, both offered my preferred screen resolution by default using "nv," both configured my touchpad and add-on mouse correctly, both configured my sound, and offered to mount removable media in KDE and just mounted them in GNOME. Both will allow me to set up my wireless chip using Ndiswrapper at the commandline. The only difference I found was in the area of laptop hibernation features. Both had CPU scaling out of the box, but neither could suspend to ram. Only Mandriva could suspend to disk and wake up properly. (Mandriva Power Pack could do both). So, only by a hair does Mandriva win this round.
I always kinda hate to talk about stability in a distro. Loading a distro and using it for a few hours or even a few days to open the apps, test a few file formats support, and surf the internet some doesn't really tell the tale. One really needs to use a distro for an extended period of time for everything they do to get an accurate picture. I try to always qualify my stability reports with something like "for the time I tested" or "the small amount I tested." So, for the small amount of testing in these distros, a few days of light tasks for each, I found them to be equally stable.
Winner: Neither (tie)
One of the new features of openSUSE was a faster boot process. But in tests here, I didn't find it any faster than previous versions really, it was always fast here. It seems both distros are running fairly close on this race as well. Let's look at some numbers in seconds:
|openSUSE 10.3||Mandriva 2008.0|
As you can see, the numbers are pretty close. openSUSE seems to edge Mandriva out of a few seconds here and there, but really drops the ball with GNOME. I tested this several times, including rebooting. I don't know if this GNOME figure is universal or just me. Assuming it's not an anomaly, openSUSE still wins by my unscientific method of adding up how long it takes to get to each desktop with the above listed apps open and dividing by two. openSUSE scored a total of 65 seconds and Mandriva scored a total of 77 seconds.
In our little just-for-fun comparison, we the judges find that Mandriva wins by 4 categories to 2. But to the original question the answer would be to go buy the Mandriva Power Pack2 or try PCLOS or ALT Linux in which advanced power saving feature do work out of the box. Also, YMMV.
However, don't forget that both openSUSE and Mandriva are both nice distros. This little article is highly subjective and you may not agree. That's okay. I love them both.
UPDATE 2: Or if you have an NVIDIA chip, install the NVIDIA proprietary graphic drivers from Mandriva's non-free repository. Suspend to disk will work with the NVIDIA drivers installed. Users of other graphic chips may have the desired results out of the box. Sat, 10/20/2007 - 00:18