Comparison Between the Best Linux Lightweight Desktop Environment: LXDE vs. Xfce vs. MATE

Our PC is one of the most important things in our daily life. You may have an old PC, and you want to utilize it to its full potential. At other moments, you may have a high-end system, and you want to dedicate all of its power to the current work you are doing. Whatever you want to do, the main goal will be to all the other functions as low as possible. 

After you have installed Linux, you will not have many things to customize to make other unnecessary operations to slow down. But you can still change your desktop environment settings. Choosing the right environment for your desktop will help you to get a Linux desktop which is very lightweight. 

 Desktop Environment

It manages how a user will switch among the apps and how the managing of windows will be done. There are some desktop environments that come with many facilities like transparent windows, animations and system resources. 

However, there are also some environments that want to keep Linux lightweight which affects the system as less as possible.

Best Linux Desktop Environments

There is some desktop environment in Linux which do not need much of the system power to run properly. Since these consume less power of the operating system, other heavy programs can run smoothly as the majority of the power of the operating system will be dedicated to these programs.

Some of these lightweight desktop environments are: 


It is a very popular desktop environment and also the oldest. Xfce uses the GTK+ toolkit, similar to that of the GNOME interface, which comes as default in Fedora and Ubuntu. 

In Xfce, you can customize it as you like. You can make its run in its highest settings, which will require more involvement of your operating system. Or, you can also run it in the lowest settings, which will require very little involvement in your operating system.

The design of Xfce has remained the same, hence the increase in its system requirements is due to its default apps sizes.


It was used by GNOME 2, which was formed at the time of transitioning of GNOME to version 3.0. Anyone who has used any version of GNOME which was released before 2011 must have used MATE. In the recent version of GNOME, some of the features have changed, but the basic design is the same.

As compared to Xfce, MATE is a bit glossier. When GNOME 2 came out, Xfce was regarded as the most lightweight option. However, GNOME 3 has added and modified many things since GNOME 2, and now the gap between GNOME 2 and Xfce looks very small.

LXQt (Previously Known as LXDE)

LXDE was considered as one of the lightest desktops environment. It took very little time to launch and only used about 200 MB of RAM. 

Due to its amazing lightweight quality, the developers of the Raspberry Pie are using it to build Raspian, which is the device’s operating system.

LXDE was using the code GTK+2, which in today’s market has become very dated. Seein this, the developers decided to go for Qt. They added their efforts with the team of Razor Qt and created LXQt. This replaced LXDE.

LXQt and LXDE share similar materials and have very less dependencies. Even a lightweight app having many dependencies can slow down your system.

One-on-One Comparisons

If you are looking for the most lightweight desktop environment, then there is no better option than LXDE or LXQt. However, it is not the only parameter for choosing a desktop environment. So let’s see a one-on-one comparison between these desktop environments.

LXDE vs Xfce 

Xfce is not as light as LXDE and LXQT. However, this is not the only deciding factor. To put it in simple words, LXDE looks very simple plain. On the other hand, Xfce gives you the feel of a modern environment of the desktop. 

Their basic difference lies in the fact that LXQT makes the use of Qt and not GTK+. If anyone prefers to use GTK+, then they should go for Xfce.

If you want to download GTK+ on LXQt, you will also have to download some extra dependencies which come as default in the Xfce and not in LXQT. 


MATE is much heavier than LXDE. But, MATE provides a more modern desktop experience. The newcomers will find MATE easier to understand. However, neither of the desktop environment is difficult, but MATE offers the information and the apps in such a manner that not much technical knowledge is needed to understand it.

Lastly, the decision of choosing between these two depends on which one among Qt and GTK+ do you prefer. If you like Qt and also looking for a lighter desktop, then you have to go for LXQt. 

Xfce vs MATE

MATE comes with more features than Xfce. However, MATE is also less customizable than Xfce. 

Xfce makes use of lesser resources, but its benefits come to light when you will be download and run the apps which depend on GNOME. 

Selecting among these two is very difficult. It’s up to you to decide which one you would like to prefer.

You can Make your Lightweight Desktop Environment of Linux be more Lighter

If you are familiar with Linux, you can make your own system by using the components you like. This will no require you to download a full version of a desktop environment. You can choose which window manager you want to use, Openbox or Fluxbox, these are the two options available. The options for using a tilling window manager are like Xmonad, awesome and i3.

However, these are the only choices you get. If LXQt uses Openbox, then you will be forced to find a background that is much lighter than the ones provided by LXQt. By doing these changes, you will not be able to make your computer much lighter. 

Hence, if you have to make your computer considerably lighter, then you have to stick completely to the terminal. Another easiest way and less technical way to do so is to install a lightweight Linux desktop distribution.


So, these are the best lightweight desktop environment of Linux. Among these options, one cannot say for sure that which of these has the best advantages.  Choosing among these desktop environments depends on your preference. 

Hence, choose whichever of this lightweight desktop environment suits your requirements best.