2017 Distro update:
I still consider Mint 18 with the Mate desktop to be my primary OS, although I spend a lot of time on Ubuntu Mate 16.4 as well. They should be really close to the same thing in function, but each has its quirks.
I use a small USB drive and an external harddrive to manage my data while bouncing between Linux installs. Nobody can keep all their data on 128GB Macbook Air drive anyway. (I do love the speed of that solid state drive though.)
Overall I find these distros very nice to work with. They look nice, I can adapt them the way I like, and there is plenty of software to choose from. I am a fan.
I have a pretty specific look that I like, which involves installing a flat icon theme (I like Ultra Flat Icons and Oranchello), and the Mint Y themes, usually using Dark (fully dark theme) or Darker (dark window headers with light window bodies – I know, it sounds backwards). In Ubuntu Mate I like Arc, Arc-Dark, and Arc-Darker, which has a similar flat look to Mint-Y. I change it periodically, going to a light theme, or the full Dark theme, and flipping between icon sets. I’m a creature of habit, but like variety – I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I blame my Gemini rising sign and embrace it.
(Disclaimer: I am the worst at videos games. Your five year old can beat me at anything, and I don’t play much, so don’t expect things really useful to serious gamers. But I do enjoy some Minecraft and some gentle turn-based strategy.)
I had an experience not too long ago that made me a bit of an Ubuntu Mate fangirl. I was attempting some minecraft time with my gentleman, connecting to a server he had going with a handful of mods. My Macbook Air (2011 model, i5 and 4 GB Ram) has enough power to run Linux well, but gaming is an extra challenge. It’s a good test, running Minecraft on my various distros to see how it performs. These are all full installs on different partitions, not just virtual machines, by the way.
Mac OS runs Minecraft badly, as expected, even with the graphics turned down to the minimum. Linux Mint ran Minecraft okay, but the graphics were kind of glitchy. And when I installed the same set up on Ubuntu Mate, it was way better. I can’t explain this. Mate desktop on both Linux installs, same hardware, both based off the same Ubuntu version. But Ubuntu Mate kicked Mint’s booty. And same when I ran Age of Wonders 3 (my favoritest game) through Steam on Ubuntu Mate, versus Mint. Smoother graphics, nice response time. Strange, but for the moment Ubuntu Mate is my go to, for gaming at least.
Just a Couple of Glitches…
In Mint, it all works pretty well, although I find the Mate Desktop more stable than cinnamon. I see very little functional difference between Cinnamon and Mate, and the visual differences aren’t big. It has an occasional problem on waking from sleep, where the windows don’t look right, or it doesn’t wake properly, and it needs a reboot. Cinnamon does that pretty often. In Mint Mate I have fewer problems. Once in a while it does a strange thing where the text disappears in the windows and menus, and then I have to reboot. (I’m working to see if I can find out what the problem is here. No luck yet.) That is pretty much the only problem I have with this distro, and I consider it a minor annoyance, not a big deal. Ubuntu Mate does that same invisible text thing once on a great while too. The infamous Ubuntu 16 wireless issues don’t seem to have troubled me much. Every once in a while it’ll be a little sluggish in connecting. Again, not too bad.
I have been full time using Linux for over a year now, and I love it and don’t miss Mac even a little bit. I could calm down and just use one distro and get to work, but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as all this twiddling.