Zorin OS 6 made a much better impression on me than the previous version did. For this review, I actually installed Zorin to my hard drive, which is what I usually do. Zorin OS, like Linux Mint, starts with Ubuntu but brings back certain features that many users want. I am reviewing Zorin OS 6 in its 32-bit Core version. Zorin comes in 2 free and 4 premium editions, in both 32 and 64 bit versions. At the moment, only the “Ultimate” and “Business” versions can be purchased, but “Gaming” and “Multimedia” will be out soon. Zorin’s 2 free versions are “Core” (based on GNOME) and “Lite” (based on LXDE).
(As usual, I’m reviewing Zorin on a 2009 HP Pavillion laptop, with 4 GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon 3200, but no working CD/DVD drive.)
Installation proceeded smoothly, and is based on the Ubuntu installer. A welcome screen greets you first, then you choose the language you want to use. Next is choosing to install on the entire computer or else part of it. After that, you select your global location, and pick which keyboard to use. Next is entering your name and choosing a password. Because it’s based on Ubuntu, Zorin doesn’t ask you to make a root password, but it does give you a strength indicator for the user. You can select a picture to represent you or take a webcam shot.
You can see that Zorin doesn’t use stock GNOME 3, nor Unity, for its desktop interface. I am not sure, but I think it is the GNOME fallback session, with AWN’s dock. (AWN is a window navigator for GNOME users that I don’t usually see in distributions. It’s put to good use here.)
After installation, the wireless network was up and running (assuming you configured it during the live session).
One of the first things you notice is that Zorin enables a few desktop visual effects. Some are fine, but things like wobbly windows may not appeal to very many people. If these bother you, you can tweak them here: System Tools > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager.
Software that is installed includes the following:
Office software: the standard 3 LibreOffice programs (Writer,Calc, and Impress), a document viewer, and a dictionary.
Games: Mines, Mahjongg solitaire, Aisleriot solitaire collection (cards), Qadrapassel (a Tetris clone), Sudoku, and FreeCell.
Graphics software: a document viewer, an image viewer, GIMP, Shotwell, Simple Scan, and LibreOffice Draw.
Internet: a desktop sharing program, Empathy, the Chrome web browser, Gwibber, Thunderbird, Remmina, and the Zorin Browser Manager (to install extra web browsers).
Sound/video: Brasero, Cheese, the Totem movie player, Openshot video editor, Rhythmbox, Sound Recorder, VLC player
System Tools includes access to the Synaptic package manager, the Zorin Look Changer, and Ubuntu Tweak. Other tools are also available.
Zorin also installs an onscreen keyboard feature as well as the Orca software for accessibility.
Printer configuration was very easy; Zorin detected my printer without expecting me to search a list.
Like Mint, Zorin ships with all codecs enabled, so you can watch videos and movie trailers, or listen to streaming music immediately. I’m wondering whether support is offered for 5 years, since Zorin 6 is based upon Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, but their website doesn’t say so. I also appreciate the inclusion of several popular games. Zorin has a few features not seen in other distros: exclusives like their Browser Manager and Zorin Look Changer (apparently based on the AWN dock).
The Zorin Look Changer actually mimics the respective desktops quite well. Using “Windows 7″, you will notice that thumbnails on the taskbar display exactly what is playing in the window. The Premium editions include an extra 3 looks not shown here.
Zorin OS offers a fairly wide choice of backgrounds for the desktop, over 25. You can find them by either right-clicking on the desktop or choosing “Appearance” from the System Settings menu in the System Tools area.
One of the features that I haven’t seen elsewhere is Remmina, a remote desktop client for GNOME that I’m sure is a useful tool. It has menu items sending you to their website and wiki for further information. I have never used it though, not having a need for it.
Because Zorin uses the Precise repositories from the most recent edition of Ubuntu, they feature all the available games that Ubuntu does. But unlike Linux Mint, the 2 GetDeb repositories are not in the list. Perhaps in future editions they will be included.
Using Wine, I was able to install and run the demo for Avadon: The Black Fortress, a cool indie RPG for Windows from Spiderweb Software. Between Wine and PlayonLinux, you’ll most likely be able to play many Windows games. If you need to install a restricted graphics driver, it’s easily done from the System Settings window.
Things I like
- Wine and PlayonLinux are installed and configured by default. Some other useful software is configured as well.
- There is a small forum available for help.
Things I didn’t like
- I’d like it if the website included an indication of what extras you get by buying the Premium editions. Apart from the Zorin exclusive software, it isn’t clear what differences there are between the editions. I suspect that part of the premium is the convenience of having extra games or multimedia software added into the installation by default.
- Virtual desktops aren’t enabled by default. Although Zorin is trying to ease Windows users in to our community, they are one of the Linux features that many new users truly appreciate.
- No bookmarks are in the default browser (Chrome) at all. Many distributions use bookmarks to suggest places new users may want to visit – the forums, IRC chatting, or (in Zorin’s case) information on the Wine software they include.
Zorin OS’ website says it is aimed at Windows users, and its look and feel will definitely be more comfortable than Unity or GNOME 3 for people just starting out in the Linux world. Most of the things I wasn’t happy about in the last version have been fixed, although I still think an introductory manual or extra documentation (for instance, about the Wine technology) would be helpful.
I didn’t have any issues with Zorin while I used it, but I do think that if you are accustomed to Linux, it will not make a strong impression. It’s a decent enough Ubuntu clone, with a few custom features, but doesn’t offer too much more than that.