Deepin Version 20.5 is the latest “community” release of one of the most well-known Chinese Linux distributions, and it shows an interesting mix of technological influences.
The Debian-based distribution comes from UnionTech Software Technology Co (Chinese language only) in the People’s Republic of China, but supports multiple languages and can be installed and used entirely in English.
We suspect that Deepin aims to replicate ChromeOS’ auto-update mechanism, which uses duplicate root partitions to enable automatic self-update with failover and rollback
For the Chinese market, the company also offers a commercial desktop called UOS and a server version.
The new version follows closely behind the release of Deepin 20.4 in January. It doesn’t offer a choice of desktops, as its in-house developed Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE) is a big part of its appeal – as we mentioned when looking at it and the accompanying Ubuntu DDE remix.
We quickly shot 20.5 in VirtualBox – which it complained about. Like Ubuntu Kylin, Deepin uses a lot of animations and audio effects, including a nifty animated loading screen and colorful wallpapers.
As a result, the installer will check if you’re running in a VM and warn you that performance will be suboptimal. Even after installing the Guest Additions, the “Window Effect” button remained stubbornly disabled in the Personalization settings.
Some interesting news
Although this is only a minor version number change, Deepin 20.5 is quite different from 20.4 in terms of disk usage. It has complex partition layout with one boot partition, dual
Rootb Partitions plus dedicated
Backup, and swap partitions. Because of this, it won’t install without a whopping 64GB hard drive. That’s not much these days, but it’s four or five times more than most distros require.
All partitions are just old
ext4and the data volume is mounted under
/data rather than
/home as you might expect.
The complexity means that trying to install it as a dual boot with Windows 10 failed mercilessly and harshly. Interestingly, however, it previously noted that the test machine had an nVidia GPU and offered to install the proprietary nVidia drivers.
This dual-root partition layout suggests that Deepin investigated ChromeOS, which uses a similar scheme. You obviously can’t use ChromeOS inside the People’s Republic as it relies heavily on Google services – even to log in – and Google is blocked by the Great Firewall.
We suspect that Deepin aims to replicate ChromeOS’ auto-update mechanism, which uses duplicate root partitions to enable automatic self-update with failover and rollback. It would be good to see such technologies coming into more general distributions.
However, the graphical update tool failed to notice some updates that were sent to
apt Command found in terminal. One issue with older versions of Deepin was very few updates, but it remains to be seen if that’s still the case.
UnionTech’s Chinese-language website also talks about fast boot times and planned support for native CPU architectures like Godson and Loongson.
This may be related to the recent submission of Loongson CPU patches to the GCC compiler suite.
Because Deepin cannot use Google components directly, the distro has its own browser, just called Browser. It bundles version 5.5.3 which is based on Chromium 93. It searches with Baidu by default, which isn’t very helpful if you can’t read Chinese, but that’s easy to change.
You also get Deepin email and download clients, as well as a drawing program, a document viewer, a music player, an archive manager, various games… in fact, almost every program included is branded by Deepin.
Many of the apps only have basic functions: the music player can only play local files, not online streams. However, to be fair, many of the GNOME apps are also fairly basic, and the project is actively stripping features from its text editor, terminal emulator, and so on.
Instead of Deepin 15’s bundled WPS Office – complete, powerful, but more freeware than FOSS – you now get LibreOffice instead: a rather outdated version 184.108.40.206.
Meet Deepin’s browser: Browser
The look is colorful but flat. In a nod to Windows 11, the taskbar has been updated to include centered icons by default. Like GNOME or Elementary OS’s Pantheon desktop, most apps have a combined title and control bar with a menu button at the end. The task manager is attractive and functional, and the Control Center gets the job done, although we preferred the pop-out panel in older versions of Deepin.
Compared to other Chinese-influenced distros we looked at, like Ubuntu DDE and Ubuntu Kylin, Deepin is more polished and feels more integrated.
As with Elementary, the built-in apps are simple and attractive, but power users will likely find that they have to install more default apps, reducing the system’s aesthetic unity a bit.
However, unlike Elementary, this is easy: the Deepin App Store offers many unknown Chinese apps, but also well-known friends like Firefox, Chrome, Skype and even the old instant messenger Trillian. It’s Debian-based, so just use alt
.deb Packages; no Flatpak, Snap or Wayland here.
Deepin looks good and works well. The overall feel is largely Windows-like, and we found it significantly more comfortable than Elementary OS 6.1 or GNOME 42.
True, its default apps aren’t as powerful as those in, say, Linux Mint, and the default browser search returns results in Chinese, but these things can easily be changed or replaced.
On the other hand, it’s the most beautiful Linux there is. It makes Mint or Fedora look positively legitimate, and in our humble opinion it’s more attractive than any KDE distribution ever was. ®