KDE Plasma 6 Experience: A Practical Review

6 min


I did a comparison and a detailed review of KDE Plasma 6 from a general user perspective. Here’s what I found.

It’s been almost a month since the KDE Plasma 6 “megarelease” is out. Overall, the feedback is positive across the user base. There are a few reports of bugs, but they are mostly user or hardware specific.

I waited a few weeks to get most of the initial bugs are sorted out to do this review. So, I installed the KDE Neon User edition featuring KDE Plasma 6 in an actual physical hardware (not virtual machine) to test its features and performances.

This review is not about the Plasma 6 features, which you probably already be aware of. Instead, it is a review from the usage and practicality standpoint for an average user.

KDE Plasma 6
KDE Plasma 6

KDE Plasma 6 Review

Initial Feel (Compared with Plasma 5)

I have been using Plasma 6 for almost 3 weeks with point upgrades via KDE Neon. The first thing I noticed is that it is very responsive and fast. I mean, KDE Plasma 5 was already good in terms of desktop performance. But somehow Plasma 6 with Wayland feels much snappier.

For example, the launching apps, dragging, animations, maximize, minimize – they feel very fast. Although, this is the performance in a high-end laptop, i.e. 16 core Ryzen 7 with AMD Raedon GPU and 16 GB RAM with SSD.

Having said that, I feel you should notice a visible difference than KDE Plasma 5 on a lower configuration hardware as well. I believe, most of the credit went to Wayland improvements and Kwin tweaks with Qt6 upgrades.

Crisp text display

The second most visible difference I noticed is how crisp the display is in KDE Plasma 6. The font rendering across desktop, apps, texts are so clear and beautiful. On the same hardware, I ran Ubuntu with GNOME and Fedora Workstation – but there is a little blurriness in GNOME always.

But with KDE Plasma 6, it is very crisp and clear. With my decade+ experience with Linux desktops, I have never seen so clear font rendering in any desktop environment before, by default.

Font rendering in different places and display settings
Font rendering in different places and display settings

This result is based on the highest resolution (2240×1400 16:10) selected for my test display, which is selected by default by KDE Plasma 6. The Scaling = 150% is also selected by the desktop as well. In addition, I only customized the sub pixel rendering to RGB.

So, if your workflow deals with texts, reading, browsing the web – then it is a perfect KDE version to go with. I even feel that KDE Plasma 6 is now almost at a level of macOS’s font display with default settings.

Cheers to the developers who made this possible.

Themes and looks

There is not much of change in the looks of Plasma 6 desktop compared to Plasma 5.27. However, a few tweaks are introduced across customization sections to make it more personal.

The new wallpaper looks great, but I, personally, feel it misses the core KDE’s theme which we’ve seen over the years in each plasma releases with those triangle-themed wallpapers.

In addition, the floating panel does give you a modern desktop feel with its components, shortcuts, tray menu and the main application launcher. The default Breeze light and dark theme are improved in Plasma 6, keeping the icon set unchanged. I feel, Breeze needs a complete overhaul or a new default theme should be introduced.

Floating Panel
Floating Panel

Moreover, you can always customize KDE Plasma to your needs by downloading themes, icons, cursors and window decorations. So, you always have an option to make it on your own. Overall, this release is perfect with its breeze theme to maintain familiarity.

Now, let’s talk about workspaces (desktops).

Workspaces are great!

Until Plasma 5, the workspace concept or the “multiple desktop” concept was not properly implemented. It was always felt “half-baked”.

However, in Plasma 6, it changes. You can now have the workspace view with running application thumbnails. You can also create multiple workspaces, rename them and tweak it for your different workflow.

KDE Plasma 6 workspaces view
KDE Plasma 6 workspaces view

The KDE team also implemented “hot-corner” in the top-left corner of your desktop to activate the workspace view via mouse cursor. This is perfect for those who are coming from GNOME to KDE Plasma. The hot corner is enabled by default. In addition, the workspace view search is superfast, which searches the open windows as well as the apps (when there are no matching windows).

KDE Plasma 6 Hot corners

I wonder if the KDE team is planning to plug-in Krunner features in the workspace search in the near future!

Overall, it’s a key highlight feature with all things considered.

KDE Apps

KDE Plasma is one of those few desktop environments which brings a full set of native applications. With all the Qt6 porting in this release, all the native applications are also ported to the same Qt version.

Hence, you should experience better app behavior, fewer crashes and so on.

I will talk about a few key KDE Apps for Plasma 6.

First off, Discover – the software app for KDE Plasma. Discover felt very responsive and fast in this release compared to earlier versions. I remember, Discover took significant time to check for updates for each launch. But in this release, it is very fast. In addition, the overall look and feel, app details page are well-designed and organized.

Discover is faster in Plasma 6
Discover is faster in Plasma 6
KWrite
KWrite

Other popular and most usage apps, such as Spectacle, gets some unique features such as excluding window shadow and usual performance upgrades. This is the best screenshot app there is.

The default text editor, KWrite looks perfect with all the font rendering improvements.

However, the GTK3 apps in KDE Plasma 6 don’t look good, unfortunately. Specially, GIMP and LibreOffice. In contrast, GTK4 apps look good!

LibreOffice and GIMP
LibreOffice and GIMP
GTK 4 app - Kooha
GTK 4 app – Kooha

Sound theme

I compel to add a few words about the sound theme. Although, it is a minimal feature, but I believe it amplifies the Plasma experience.

KDE Plasma 6 introduces a new sound theme, “Ocean”. It is activated by default and plays nice chimes for various desktop/OS-level events, as below:

desktop-logoutdialog-information
service-loginbell-window-system
service-logoutoutcome-success
audio-volume-changeoutcome-failure
dialog-warningdialog-error
trash-emptydialog-error-serious and dialog-error-critical
message-new-instantcompletion-partial
dialog-questioncompletion-success
power-plugcompletion-fail
power-unplugcompletion-rotation
device-addedphone-incoming-call
device-removedalarm-clock-elapsed
battery-cautioncomplete-media-burn
battery-lowcomplete-media-error
battery-fullmedia-insert-request
game-over-winner

I think it’s the best addition in terms of general end-user experience. Although, it is about choice, but overall, I think it gives a “lively” feel to the Plasma desktop. You do not need to tweak or install additional items to activate it.

Power saving

I think the KDE Plasma 6 is optimized to save battery power. The same laptop drains battery faster when I am using Fedora Workstation (GNOME). But with Plasma 6, I am getting longer battery time.

I don’t have any data to back it up. But, I think, strong Wayland coupling and KWin optimizations are contributing to this. The Linux Kernel may be a reason, but KDE Neon (with Plasma 6) uses Kernel 6.5 currently than Fedora workstation with 6.6.

Whatever be the reason, it’s a good thing for the laptop users. You get a longer battery life for your work and play.

Battery discharge rate
Battery discharge rate

A few issues

However, I did encounter a few issues which I never faced before while I was using Plasma 5-series before.

First off, on my test hardware, KDE Plasma 6 does not go to sleep mode. I kept the KDE Plasma 6 open for almost two hours without any activity. The screen does dim, but it never suspends. Moreover, if I close the lid, it doesn’t. Although, the “energy saving” settings set to sleep mode properly.

Systemd journal logs when KDE Plasma 6 tries to suspend
Systemd journal logs when KDE Plasma 6 tries to suspend

Second, for two times during my usage, the KDE Plasma screen locker crashed when it tried to go to sleep mode. This might be related to the above behaviour, but this breaks user space. Here’s how it looks:

Screen locker in Plasma 6 crashed
Screen locker in Plasma 6 crashed

As you can see, for an average user, it is difficult to go to TTY mode, run some commands and come back. Although you have the option to hard reset, but it’s a weird issue which completely breaks the user experience. Also, I have never experienced it before in Plasma desktop.

That’s the two major issues which I faced in this version so far. Other than that, there were no crashes in Kwin or any apps.

Wrapping up

Overall, the experience with KDE Plasma 6 is pleasant. I am blown away with three key things: a) Awesome font rendering overall b) Wayland experience c) desktop responsiveness. All of these are key for a general user perspective.

For gaming, KDE Plasma 6 already brings HDR implementations. So, gaming centric users can have the best experience with Plasma 6. Although, I have not tried Plasma 6 with NVIDIA hardware. But it gives the best experience with AMD hardware.

Considering how complex the release from development perspective with Qt6 porting while maintaining quality, I must say the devs did a fabulous job.

I am sure, the upcoming point releases will iron out the few issues and make it more stable.

How is your KDE Plasma 6 experience so far? Let me know in the comment box below!


Arindam

Creator and author of debugpoint.com. Connect with me via Telegram, 𝕏 (Twitter), or send us an email.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

8 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments