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Background (skip the following paragraph if you want to jump straight to the question):

I'm a web developer, and have been using Windows since the beginning of my career. Over the years though, my dependency on Linux has constantly raised: my servers are on Linux, my tools are on Linux. I got away with virtual machines for most of my daily needs (web & database server, CLI tools, etc.), but I end up today with a bastard configuration where my IDE and my source code are on Windows, but pretty much everything else is on Linux, accessed via shared folders. There are so many annoying things that just don't work well (shared folders performance, symlinks, etc.) that I'm considering moving entirely to Linux.
I read some good stuff about Pop!_OS, and liked their flat design and the fact that they ship a batteries-included installer for machines with Nvidia hardware. so I set up a dual boot, and am trying it out for a few days. I'm liking it, but...

The first thing that strikes me is that, even though low-level stuff like CLI tools & servers are undoubtedly faster on Linux, the GUI feels somehow laggy compared to Windows 10. Less on bare metal than in my VMs obviously, but there is this very subtle lag in pretty much everything I do.

Examples:

  • Typing this text in Chrome makes me feel like there is a tiny-but-perceptible lag between the keystroke and the character appearing on screen
  • Scrolling through web pages using the scrollbar doesn't always seem to be 60 fps, and I often have the uneasy feeling that the scrollbar lags behind the mouse pointer
  • When I press the Super key or click Activities, I can, more often than not, see some frames dropped in the animation bringing all windows into view
  • Clicking the Show Applications button under Activities is the worst of all: best case scenario I see a single frame of the animation, and most of the time I only see the icons in their final position after ~1s of lag without nothing happening (the animation to move them out of the screen is OK, though)

That, plus the mouse wheel scrolling very slowly by default (and not working half of the time) makes my user experience quite average for now.

I was experiencing these lags in my virtual machines, but have always put the fault on the virtualization technology. Being on a quite high-end laptop (Dell XPS 15 with 4 cores, 32 GB RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Mobile, 1 TB NVMe SSD), I expected the Linux experience on bare metal to be outstanding, but even though the design, development tooling, CLI performance, etc. is clearly superior, the GUI performance clearly isn't so far, and this will be the hardest thing to overcome if I want to definitely switch to Linux.

Is there something I missed? Is this a fact that the GUI performance can't currently keep up with Windows, or could there be something wrong with my setup?

Note that I tried switching GPUs in Pop!_OS (Nvidia to Intel and back), but couldn't feel any difference in desktop use.

I also tried a couple other distros (Ubuntu, Fedora) on bare metal, much more succinctly I have to admit, but I could instantly feel the same lag on both of them.

  • Have you tried running htop to see what might be using system resources? The greatest (and easily addictive/infuriating) thing about Linux is the possibilities for customization. The Desktop Environment (DE) you use is not set in stone for each distro. You can change to one other than the default GNOME on Pop!_OS. LXDE and Xfce tend to use less RAM than GNOME, Unity, or KDE Plasma. The DE may not be your issue, and you may have to do more digging. – Sparrow1029 Aug 31 at 13:30
  • I've opened the system monitor a few times, and CPU usage is always very low (< 5%). One thing I just noticed though, is that animations in another instance of Pop!_OS inside a QEMU/KVM virtual machine are actually smooth (the animation lagging the most on the host machine), so there is probably something wrong with my setup. As for Unity/KDE etc., I'd like to stay as close as possible to stock OS for now; I'm reasonably familiar with Linux for server administration, but have never really used it for desktop use, so I'd like to keep it as raw as possible for now! – Benjamin Aug 31 at 14:10

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