While I had done reviews of other distributions in the past, my reviewing Fedora may be a bit more biased in some regards since it has been my primary OS of choice for several years. Nevertheless, Fedora 13 has been an impressive initial release and though not a perfect one, has much to boast about. In my review I will only speak of features to which I have to some extent used or researched, but the full feature set may be found here.
Look and Feel
The artwork is beautiful. Just beautiful. KDE is beautiful, XFCE is beautiful, and GNOME is still beautiful (with the exception of Nautilus not using Browser mode by default.). The interface continues to get more user friendly. For instance, when a user plugs in a printer, Fedora will go and find the driver for that printer in the repositories so the user doesn’t need to go install hplip or whatever package has their driver. This functionality has been implemented for media codecs already in a previous release and continues to work well in Fedora 13.
The icons have also been updated and look much nicer than previous releases. GNOME is at 2.30 and does not use gnome-shell by default. This release of GNOME has slightly more eye candy but not many dramatic changes. I did see one issue on an HP Mini netbook that the default font size at fresh install seemed way too big and awkward. They returned to a sane size after an update, although I’m not sure if it was the update or my tweaking with some things that fixed it.
Another thing I have noticed is cairo-dock, as shown in my screenshot, is much improved for stability with this release. I had used it on and off in Fedora 12 but it suffered frequent crashes and display defects. Since upgrading I have not seen a single occurrence of either here on my equipment (your mileage may vary).
The performance is at least on par if not slightly better than Fedora 12, which was already pretty impressive. Fedora 13 runs nice and smooth on an HP Mini I installed it on with a quick boot time. In part just to see how it would work, I installed Fedora running XFCE on an old, old machine with a 400MHz Celeron with 96M of RAM and a 4G hard drive. To be fair I did a hard drive swap for the installation, but it boots and runs with about 1G of hard drive space left to spare.
Video performance is one of the big features of this release. There is now 3D support in the open source nouveau driver for nVidia cards and expanded 3D support in the radeon driver for newer ATI cards by using the mesa-dri-drivers-experimental package. While the 3D implementation of nouveau isn’t complete yet, but it has been able to take advantage of some of the advanced features of newer video cards. The nouveau driver has come a very long way in a short time.
Installation and Upgrading
Installation is even more user friendly. The anaconda installer has re-done the menu for storage setup. It is now easier for a Windows user to resize their current partition and install Fedora alongside with less manual steps. I should note that some users in the #Fedora support channel on Freenode have complained about Windows 7 not liking the work of the Fedora installer in some ways. Fedora has also improved btrfs, although not officially supported, one feature touted is filesystem rollbacks. The anaconda installer can setup Fedora over btrfs by passing ‘btrfs’ to at startup of installation.
Upgrading is a little more annoying. If you used the default partitioning for Fedora in the past, using preupgrade will be a bit of a pain. There is no way to find enough space in /boot with only a 200MB partition, and if you used the default LVM, resizing that partition will be a chore. You can however use a wired ethernet connection and just let anaconda download those images during the upgrade process. On the two machines I have done this with so far the end result was really good. Everything was updated and after checking several things was pretty pleased with the process. But if you don’t have a way to get a wired connection, I would recommend using the install media to upgrade.
Try it! If you run Fedora already, upgrade! This has been a very stable out-of-box release for Fedora. Whether you’re into eye-candy and usability or a smart OS for performance and useful tools, Fedora 13 will likely make you smile a bit.