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Linux distribution mini review: Antergos

  • 40 months ago

I've been using Antergos for approximately a month now, so I figure it's about the right amount of time for me to do a short review. The systems it's been tested on are a Dell Latitude E6420 laptop, with an Intel i5-2540M CPU and Intel HD 3000 graphics, and a Dell Vostro 220 desktop, with an Intel Q8300 CPU and Nvidia GTX 750 Ti graphics. There are places in this review that will assume you already have some familiarity with Linux. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know.

An overview of Antergos

Antergos is based on Arch Linux, the infamously difficult DIY Linux distro. Where it differs from Arch is that it automates the installation process, making it easy to install even for a beginner. This exposes more users to the various advantages that Arch has versus other Linux distros, such as cutting-edge software, upgrades without the hassle of OS versions, and the fantastic thing that is the Arch User Repository. Antergos, like Arch Linux, does not have separate OS versions, which differs from Windows where you have versions like XP, 7, and 10. Instead, it uses an approach called rolling release, where major software upgrades roll in on a regular basis. So you're always on the latest version as long as you update the system, and you never have to reinstall the OS.

Live environment and setup

Booting into an Antergos live environment via USB is no different from booting into Ubuntu, or Fedora, or any other common Linux distro. Antergos includes the GNOME 3 desktop by default, which is very different from other desktops, and may or may not be to your liking. Fortunately, the installer offers you other choices - simply choose the one you want. You will have to be connected to the internet to do the installation, as Antergos will install all available updates during the installation process. Such is the nature of an Arch derivative.

The Antergos installer, called cnchi, is nearly as user friendly as any Linux installer nowadays, and in some ways even more user friendly. Even if Antergos is your first time using Linux, the installer will prove very easy to use. At some point in the setup, you'll have to choose a desktop environment to get started. For beginners to Linux, I recommend KDE, Cinnamon, or Xfce, as they're all very Windows-like. And for all that is holy, avoid the base install unless you're experienced or brave. cnchi also offers some default software selection - you can preload LibreOffice, GPU drivers, firewall configuration, and even Steam just from the installer. However, cnchi doesn't currently have automatic provisions for dual booting. You'll have to do partitioning for that manually, which mars its user friendliness, as many Linux users dual boot with Windows. For me, this wasn't an issue, but it could be problematic for a beginner.

I installed the Nvidia drivers through cnchi when I installed Antergos on the desktop, and my GTX 750 Ti was up and running with no hassle. Very smooth sailing.

Using Antergos

If you already have a decent amount of experience with Linux, Antergos should feel very familiar. For beginners, the desktop shouldn't be too different from Windows, unless you selected GNOME 3 or Openbox in the installer - or god forbid, the base install. Overall, there won't be too many surprises. The command line package manager on Arch Linux is pacman, which Antergos inherits. It's pretty obtuse compared to something like Debian's apt; you may or may not get used to it. For those who don't want to deal with the command line, Antergos has a nice GUI software manager called pamac, which is similar to Debian's Synaptic and Fedora's YUM Extender.

Steam worked out of the box on both the laptop and desktop, which was super nice. I remember the old days when Linux Steam was a mess of sometimes-working sometimes-not, and almost definitely wouldn't have worked right on an Arch distro. Those dark days are now well behind us.

Since it's directly based on Arch, Antergos also has access to the Arch User Repository, or AUR. This is a massive collection of user-submitted software builds that aren't in the main Arch repositories, but that there is significant demand for. The AUR is similar to the Personal Package Archives (PPAs) on Ubuntu, except it's arguably better - the software is all in one place, and curating helps trim out things that aren't maintained anymore. I decided to search this treasure trove for Discord, found it easily, and installed it; it works flawlessly. Score for the AUR.

Software updates and the hassling benefit of rolling release

One of the first things you'll notice about Antergos is that since it's a rolling release, multiple software updates will arrive every day. Because of the way Arch Linux handles updates, it's in your best interest not to fall too far behind. Installing updates once a week is likely prudent. Arch also does not support partial upgrades, so don't cherry pick what to install; install everything at once. You'll want to follow the Arch Linux news to keep track of possible breakages caused by the stream of updates, but in general, it's very stable and you won't have any trouble. Regardless, constant updates are not what everyone will consider ideal.

Annoying as the updates can be, there's also a clear benefit to them. For example, I got Wine 2.2 on Antergos within two days of its release. As of this writing, Fedora is still on Wine 2.1, and Ubuntu is way behind with Wine 1.8. Notably, Wine 2.2 fixed a problem with a Windows game that wasn't working for me before, and it's nice to have gotten the update before everyone else. It's pretty evident that being on the leading edge of Linux is a great boon to people who need or want the latest software versions. This doesn't just affect Wine, it affects everything else, such as video drivers, which can be important for gaming.

The niggles

While it has many benefits, Antergos isn't the most polished Linux distro. On my laptop, hitting the Escape key while on the lock screen breaks it and forces me to reboot the display manager. Furthermore, putting the laptop to sleep would occasionally result in it freezing performance suddenly tanking after it's woken up2. These issues do not seem to affect Arch Linux proper, nor do they seem to affect the desktop, and I can only assume that they're due to bugs in the way that Antergos has configured stuff. I expect that the situation will improve as the OS continues to mature. But these are the exact kinds of hitches that put people off of Linux, and it's unfortunate to see that they're present here.

  1. I figured out what's going on here - it's an issue with the intel_pstate CPU driver. The CPU multiplier gets stuck in power save mode, so the system isn't "completely waking up." The fix I'm currently using is running intel_pstate=disable in the Linux command line in GRUB, which disables the Intel driver in favor of the older acpi-cpufreq. The reason the desktop doesn't have any issues is because it uses an older CPU that doesn't default to intel_pstate.

Conclusion and personal thoughts

Antergos isn't perfect, and certainly isn't for everyone. As it fits my use case well, my personal impressions of it have been very good, and it may just become my go-to Linux distro. I'd say that Antergos is best suited for intermediate and higher Linux users, and perhaps beginners who don't mind getting their hands a little dirty. If you need the latest software on Linux, you won't do much better, either. Barring a highly custom Linux setup, I'd say Fedora is Arch's nearest competitor when it comes to software versions.

The good

  • Frequently ahead on software versions
  • Installer is largely good and has some nice options
  • The AUR is amazing
  • Relatively user friendly. pamac is a good GUI software manager
  • Steam works, Nvidia drivers work
  • No hassle of migrating OS versions, because rolling release

The meh and the bad

  • pacman is obtuse
  • It's rare, but breakages may happen; don't update things blindly
  • Clearly in need of some polish; things may break
  • No automated option to dual boot in the installer


  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

I like these mini reviews. Distrowatch only gives a brief description and I saw Antergos and was quite curious.

Please keep these mini reviews going.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

I'll be sure to keep these reviews going when I can. :)

For my use case, Antergos might just be the Linux distribution I've been looking for. It's still a bit rough around the edges, but the up to date software is a potentially massive draw for me.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Meh, I'm not too sure on pacman. I have done an Arch install on a 4GB flask drive for my Old Faithful desktop, but I at this point kind of wish I'd chosen Ubuntu Server/some other CLI-only(it's a SSH server running plex, apache and flask servers

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

I agree that pacman is fairly obtuse. I've gotten pretty used to it now, but I can totally see people finding it troublesome.

I'd also argue that Arch may not be the most suited distribution for servers, depending on your use case. If you need a particularly consistent platform, Debian and Ubuntu Server are probably better since Arch rolls.

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

I needed a tiny installation, but with many essential tools, so Arch seemed like best choice.

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

Hm, gotcha.


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