Gnome and Unity desktop interfaces go for a similar approach while Cinnamon and MATE do the something similar. There is a good contrast between Team 1 and Team 2. But little contrast between members of each team. Remember that, when ever I use the term Gnome, I mean Gnome 3.
Gnome and Unity are similar in the fact that they both try to address laptop users. They are good interfaces when you want to reduce the trackpad usage. For some, using the trackpad slows them down. Both Gnome and Unity use the Super key to launch applications and for bringing up the dock and a lot of other things. You can do a lot of things without the trackpad. The buttons in these DEs are usually bigger than those in the DEs in Team 2. Their interfaces also seem to have lesser readymade options in all the places. Settings, Context Menus, etc.. If I have to pick one between these two, I would pick unity because it just seems to do something better than Gnome. Maybe it is just that, since Gnome seems to be the most popular desktop environment, I have higher expectations for it. Sure you can tweak a lot of things, but I do not have the patience for it. So how much would I rate these two environments.
Gnome – 6/10
Unity – 7/10
Cinnamon and MATE do similar things. They are really good for dektops and laptops that are being used like a desktop, with auxillary keyboards and mouse and all that. MATE is a fork of Gnome 2, the older version of Gnome, which used to look a lot like how MATE looks right now (The first Linux OS that I started using was Fedora 13 which had Gnome 2). But I cannot seem to remember how it differed though. MATE is really good if you want to get things done, and you do not mind how your desktop looks. It is lightweight and slick. You can notice it when you switch from Gnome to MATE. Apps open faster and there is this snappy feeling to it that I cannot deny. Keep it simple is the name of the game here. I would recommend it on old systems for sure. In contrast, installing Gnome on old systems is not advisable at all I would say.
Cinnamon on the other hand has become my recent favourite. It is especially nice on desktop and lap-desktops (laptops that are used as desktops sometimes. Just pulled that out of thin air, haha. Maybe it is already a word). They seem to have done everything right on it. The size and aspect ratio of every button, every icon, the task bar, the menus, the file manager(nemo), the text editor(xed), the terminal etc. The design decisions have been perfect. I am all praise for it. I havent spotted a single bug so far after a week of good use. Probably KDE might be the only thing better than it, but I wouldn’t know, because I have no experience with KDE apart from looking at it on youtube videos. Never had the interest somehow. Maybe some day. So rating.
MATE – 8/10
Cinnamon – 9/10
Again these ratings are subjective. I have specific needs. Namely,
1. It needs to work well with a mouse-keyboard interface, but should be good enough on a keyboard-touchpad interface as well.
2. Needs to use all the screen space efficiently. You have limited space on a laptop or a desktop with a smaller screen.
3. It needs to be snappy.
4. The most used options should be available readily. Like in the context menus and the task bar.
5. Needs to come with a good bundle of finely crafted basic software that are properly tested on its desktop environment.
6. Visual treats are good, but not at the expense of a lot of processing power.
7. Must be all this, right out of the box.
A point to note. If you want to properly experience a desktop interface, you must look for that particular spin, and then use that to determine how good it is. If you install cinnamon on something that already has Gnome 3 on it for example, chances are that, you will not have a good time and you will not appreciate it as well. For example, If you want to experience MATE, look for Fedora MATE, it was good. If you want to experience Cinnamon, look for Linux Mint with Cinnamon. If you want to experience Gnome3, you have a lot of options. A lot of distros come with Gnome3 as the default (which actually surprises me).
Thanks for reading! 🙂