Cinnamon Vs Unity

All my systems at home are running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS with the standard Unity interface. Linux Mint 13 was recently released along with the Cinnamon interface. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Cinnamon but I haven’t tried it since it was in Beta. So I thought I would put it on my laptop and take it for a test drive. This article will explain my findings and what I personally think of how Cinnamon compares to Unity. So let’s get started…

The laptop I have tested both environments on is my workhorse, a HP Pavillion dm1 11.6″ with 6GB RAM, 128GB SSD, AMD E-450 1.6GHz Dual Core CPU and Radeon HD 6320 for graphics. So although it’s not a powerhouse, it is reasonably powerful and should be a good gauge between the two environments.


Unity is very much my go to User Interface (UI), its quick, easy to use and perfect for both new and advanced users alike. New users can use the Unity Dash to search for anything they need quickly and easily and more advanced users have the ability to use keyboard shortcuts so that we don’t have to take our hands away from the keyboard when working.

I personally find the keyboard shortcuts in Unity extremely useful (hold down the super key to see them all). So much so that when I use my Windows 7 work laptop, I find myself trying to do things like pressing CTRL, ALT + L to lock the screen and Super (windows) key + numbers in order to launch applications. I also really miss the HUD when I’m in Windows.

My Unity Desktop

Overall, Unity runs really well on my Laptop. At times it can slow down when I’m really multi-tasking and hitting the machine hard, but it’s never noticeably or frustratingly slow. With programs like Nautilus, Chromium, LibreOffice opening relatively quickly. If you want to read a full review of Ubuntu 12.04 and all the features included, take a look here.


So I’ve flipped over to Cinnamon. When I installed Cinnamon around a week ago, the default look wasn’t really how I liked it, so I flipped the panel up to the top of the screen and also installed the Cinnamon Ambience theme so it all looked right with Ubuntu. As before, it’s running on my HP Pavilion dm1 laptop.

The first thing I usually do when I boot my computer up is to open Chromium, I am a really heavy internet user and use a lot of Google products like Google Apps, Calendar and Plus on a regular basis. On clicking on the menu button, I notice a really long lag of between 3 and sometimes as much as 8 seconds! this doesn’t sound like a lot, but let’s say I go into this menu 100 times in a day (which is perfectly reasonable) – that can mean as much as 13 minutes wasted in one day whilst I wait for the Cinnamon menu to open.

Once the Cinnamon menu is open, the experience doesn’t get any better unfortunately. Typing in the search bar and the results it provides are also really laggy, this really frustrates me as it wastes a lot of my time.

Unfortunately, this slow and laggy experience continues around the rest of my machine when using Cinnamon, opening up things like Nautilus and Chromium do seem to be a lot slower than in Unity. This may just be a placebo due to the experience of the Menu, but it feels real nonetheless.

Interestingly, looking at system monitor on both Cinnamon and Unity – whilst running Chromium (3 tabs), Nautilus and the System Monitor itself, Cinnamon was using 930MB RAM and around 60-70% of my CPU (both cores). Compare this with Unity, running the exact same applications, I saw more RAM, at around in use but only around 30-40% of my CPU (both cores). So it looks like my under par CPU is what may be causing the problems in Cinnamon. But is Unity can do it, there’s no reason why Cinnamon can’t.

When taking the screenshot below, Shutter took way over 1 minute to load and for some reason, all the screenshots I took had the window displayed below right in the middle of the screen (this was on both Shutter and using the Print Screen key). Presumable this is because of the lag explained above.

My Cinnamon Desktop

From what I have read online, I was expecting really good things from Cinnamon, so much so that I had it in the back of my mind that may well replace Unity with Cinnamon, but this isn’t the case unfortunately. I must stress – don’t let this negative experience of Cinnamon put you off, it may well be something to do with my machine and this is only my experience with Cinnamon. If you want to know if Cinnamon is right for you, then I suggest you install it yourself and try it out. For instructions on how to install Cinnamon in Ubuntu, take a look here.

If you want to know more about Cinnamon and it’s features, take a look at my Linux Mint 13 review.


If I’m honest, I couldn’t wait to get back over to Unity. Cinnamon felt bloated, laggy and was very frustrating to use. So on my laptop at least, Unity is going nowhere. I may try Cinnamon on my desktop, which is much more powerful and then post an update. So look out for that.

I’m interested to know what some of our readers thoughts on Unity & Cinnamon and what your experiences are – why not let us know in the comments section below.

Cinnamon Vs Unity
User Rating: 2.4 (4 votes)
  • Jayson Rowe

    Interesting. I’m actually a Fedora user, but I tried out Cinnamon on my Fedora(17) laptop, and had a different experience. I’m normally an Xfce user, so I’m used to a light, quick and responsive environment. I tried Cinnamon, like you out of curiosity, and was pretty impressed. I have a friend who loves it on Mint, so I wanted to see what it was about. I still use Xfce, but I can see why folks like Cinnamon. For me, I simply like Xfce better for it’s simplicity, but I could use Cinnamon fine if I had to, and it didn’t feel much slower at all than Xfce did on the machine I tested it on…I would put it between GNOME Shell and Xfce in speed

  • Abhishek Prakash

    When I tried Cinnamon I used it in Linux Mint instead of in Ubuntu. One thing I liked is the bottom panel which shows the open window. In total it was not a bad experience and I did not have any awkward moment but I am very much comfortable with Unity and will not go to Cinnamon or Gnome 3.

  • fmonroy

    Good information, but I preferred SolusOS.

  • Ulrich Gero

    I’m using Ubuntu since 2006 and according to me, Unity is very better and fun than Cinnamon desktop. Cinnamon panel looks like Windows XP but now with Unity it’s very nice and you can interact with apps on the panel especially with the addition of HUD.

  • Pete Mazzaccaro

    Interesting… I liked Cinnamon and found it light and responsive. But it was buggy, both in Mint and Ubuntu. One machine I had that runs Ubuntu 12.04 flawlessly would lock up all the time under Mint. When run on Ubuntu, As soon as my open windows list exceeded four or five windows, the icons would begin to stack on top of the menu and “show desktop icons.” It was a mess. If these things improve in future versions, I’ll revisit. AS it stands now, it’s not usable for me at all.

    I’ve really come to like using Unity a lot. I love the economy of pixels with the global menu and it’s polish. I actually keep the launcher ever present for easy application switching. The only two things that bug me about Unity are that the auto hide for the launcher is not terribly smooth (I think the dodge windows worked just fine) and launching the dash is way too sticky. Under Gnome 3, launching the overview from the super key is always instantaneous. I’d love that kind of responsiveness from Unity.

  • dahiya

    i used both ubuntu 12.04lts and linux mint maya13..
    mint is easy with more preinstalled softwares but it hangs so much..while ubuntu works fine.
    finally after installing and using both of them i choose ubuntu..

  • stlouisubntu

    Ubutntu Cinnamon Remix has now been released! It is based on Ubuntu
    12.04.1 with the cinnamon desktop as default, classic panel
    configuration (two panels), weather applet preinstalled, multimedia
    codecs and plug-ins included, and xscreensaver preinstalled as well.
    For maximum compatibility the 32-bit version uses the non-pae kernel
    (also only non-gl screensavers.) The 64-bit version will also be
    released shortly. During the install, be sure to select the hard drive
    MBR (the default choice will likely be the usb stick from which you are
    installing — Ubuntu upstream bug.) Features Cinnamon 1.6.1

  • stlouisubntu
  • LEO

    Sorry but I tried MINT and it does not work for me. I will use UNITY instead.
    I am really just a user and would like to do my job instead of playing with an OS.
    A little of both worlds could be nice, as I initallly liked the MINT Menu tree,… reminded me more to Windows,…

  • Beni Bogosel

    I tried both Unity and Cinnamon, and I stayed with Cinnamon. I was a Linux Mint user, but for some reasons I needed the latest kernel and I installed Ubuntu 12.10, and added the Cinnamon. The choice for me was more about the looks and customizability. I couldn’t stand the unity panel in the left, but they put no option to move it. That is what drove me away from Unity. I surely don’t notice the menu lag in Cinnamon. It opens smooth and fast every time (by the way, the apps I use the most have shortcuts in the upper panel, so that I rarely use the menu). Probably this depends on the configuration, but used it on a single core 1.6Gh (my old laptop) and it worked way better than Unity.

  • mid-kid

    i don’t really agree with what most ppl say here. I use cinnamon for almost a month, and it has been less buggy and faster than unity (i want animations, for unity is use compizconfig, and for cinnamon it comes build in. perhaps unity is not really made for animations…). i also got really frustrated when the windows didn’t snap on each other, but only on the corner of the screens. I am more used to gnome, but since 3.6 i decided to go to cinnamon, because gnome got too difficult to use (especially the notifications >:( ). Not attacking any1, just pointing some things out.

  • Enrique González

    Weird, in my laptop it’s exactly the opposite. Unity is incredibly slow, while Cinnamon is fast, even with desktop effects enabled. (Using ubuntu 12.04).

  • ninja

    I liked Unity in 12.04, but it got laggy and crashed a lot in 12.10… I’m on Cinnamon now and it’s pretty nice.

  • Carl Draper

    I suggest to retry Cinnamon again, it used to be buggy but it’s a lot smoother now. I get none of the a screenshot or lag you did. Also it may be worth trying Cinnamon 2D session.

  • Pingback: ¿Qué hay de nuevo en Cinnamon 1.8? •

  • Omar Spence

    Unity is nice and smooth for light tasks, but crunching through raw images and going back and fourth streched my i3 powered hp pavilion G6 with 4 gb of ram to its limits. I tried LXDE and it runs better now. However the LXDE interface is hideous and does not allow me to extend onto my 32″ tv over HDMI (it just duplicates the display), so it’s back to unity when I am showing my work to clients or using dual screens. I guess I should give XFCE or cinamon a try

  • Bogosel Beniamin

    I guess you really have some hardware problems… (although this article is old, and maybe you’ve changed your laptop). On my laptop cinnamon barely uses 300 mb of ram and it is never on top of 20% of one core (out of 4). The lags you mention happen only at the first click on the menu (for loading or something). Anyway, I use synapse, so I rarely look into the menu. I hate unity because of its lack of flexibility. Why do we need to have one pannel to the left? The first thing I tried was to drag the panel to the bottom, but it never happened. There are geeky ways to do that, but I expected an option to move it. Secondly, I do not like grouping similar windows onto one icon. I often work with multiple text editors and pdfs, multiple terminals, etc, so at every step I have to waste clicks and mouse movement to get to the second out of the three terminals open, and so on..

    I was attracted to ubuntu by its customability (I think it was in the days of Ubuntu 7 or 8), but at the time I didn’t have a machine which could support all the customizations I wanted. Now I have one, but I’m stuck with the unity bar on the left. That’s what drove me to Cinnamon.