Installation & Technical Information
Getting Plasma 5.2
Plasma 5.2 is available on a number of distributions; my own testing was on Kubuntu 15.04, but you will find it available for a number of distributions including Arch, OpenSUSE, Fedora, and many others. You’ll need to check how your distribution plans to release the software, and you may need to manually install it or add the appropriate repositories/ppas.
If you’re a BSD lover you may find some features of the new desktop rely on logind, a systemd component. This does not mean KDE requires systemd, but some minor features will be absent. Once again, check with your vendor for installation instructions.
Installation seems like it will be fairly standard for any large update; you may need to select a developer channel, but if you’re patient it will come standard in due time. Currently I’m using the beta channel for Plasma 5.2, and the full release is slated for the end of the month. I wouldn’t recommend being impatient and installing 5.1 while you wait; while 5.1 is a functional desktop, 5.2 is much more complete and far friendlier.
If you’re running a *buntu 14.04 variant, you may be disappointed if you wish to run Plasma 5.2; at the time of this writing I’ve seen no word on the long-term release supporting this cutting-edge environment. Kubuntu 14.10 and 15.04 have Plasma 5.2 available.
Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5.2 form a fairly lean pair compared to historic KDE releases; This is mostly anecdotal and other factors are in play, but no matter how you slice it Plasma 5 uses less RAM, somewhere between 20-40% less RAM is consumed on a freshly booted machine, exactly how much mileage you’ll get out of it will widely vary depending on your system, configuration, and distribution.
In terms of video, KDE uses your computers’ graphics to a much greater degree in the process of drawing the interface, and because of this a semi-modern video card is required to enjoy Plasma to its fullest. Old machines which cannot use dedicated graphics have been noted to take a significant performance hits on some configurations. If you have a desktop tower that is older you may consider purchasing a cheap new graphics card which should mitigate this problem, and a relatively cheap upgrade could extend the useful life of an older computer with acceptable graphics capabilities as the new graphics stack should in theory free up legacy processors. Once a machine has adequate graphics, then the Plasma interface should be extremely smooth, with far less jitter or stuttering. The new styling of Plasma and KDE applications is much less intense to draw, so that will also help performance.
For the CPU I would recommend just about any dual-core processor to get up-and-running, though if you have a processor which competes with a modern Celeron you should have a smooth experience with few hiccups. Processors haven’t been an issue for Linux desktops, and except in the situation where unoptimised drivers will overload the CPU, KDE will continue the trend of being relatively CPU-friendly.
Baloo, the new search framework for Plasma, had at one point suckerpunch’d users and rendered even beefy computers nearly useless while it attempted to index files. Search indexing hasn’t been an issue for a few releases now, and the problems have long been ironed out, but if you were soured by the experience I’m pleased to report that it’s a non-issue.
For posterity, I’ve tested Plasma 5.2 on my desktop computer with 16GB RAM, quad-core Intel Xeon 2.6Ghz, and a Nvidia GTX 780 graphics card. The installation is a fresh Kubuntu 15.04, not using virtualbox. I’ll also be testing on my more humble travel notebook with 6GB RAM, dual-core Intel i5 1.6Ghz processor, with Intel HD 4400 graphics; I will amened this article later with the results.