Well, there is. When I was young and had nothing better to do than ride around in a rag-top 70 Mustang consuming fossil fuel, we coined the term 'sleeper' for those cars which looked innocuous but under the hood had some major performance value going on. In other words, they'd blow the doors off of other so-called 'hot rods' but didn't give the tell-tale signs of being souped up.
I tend to think of only a few Distributions which have a lot of potential under the hood and are categorized as 'sleepers'. They perform when called upon and do it well and mostly go unnoticed. Today, I give you my subjective list of top ten sleeper Distributions. Okay, here we go.
SolusOS is for you. Based on the Debian stable branch, this nimble powerhouse Distro gives everything needed for the beginner, intermediate and advanced user. Founder +Ikey Doherty is working on a new project, Consort, a fork of a few Gnome3.x components, i.e. panel, which will allow him to continue providing a GUI based on a more traditional Gnome2-like interface. Consort will be included in an as of yet to be released version 2.0 of SolusOS.
ChakraArch Linux, employs a KDE Plasma Workspace GUI. Chakra maintains its own separate repository system and while its intention is to be a pure KDE implementation, employs a unique package 'bundle' method for applications which are GTk based, such as GIMP. Of all the KDE-based Distros, I find Chakra's 2013.2 implementation easy to use, polished and professional.
SabayonGentoo, upon which it is based, Sabayon Linux has a much more user-friendly 'out of the box' experience, . Gentoo has a reputation of being the most difficult Distro to install and use, employing Portage package management system, only it ratchets up the difficulty with the requirement to compile 'everything' before use, including the kernel. Sabayon attempts to bridge that technology chasm and succeeds with Entropy, a pre-compiled binary package manager, but also supports Portage for installing Gentoo repo 'ebuild' files. It is one of the more leading-edge technology Distros in that it supports a non-root ZFS filesystem as does Gentoo. Sabayon 13.04 installs with a choice of Gnome3, KDE, Xfce, LXDE and Enlightenment GUIs.
ManjaroDistrowatch.com, when viewed over the last 6-month period of activity. Arch Linux users are among the most loyal following I have encountered. Using Arch Linux is like wearing a red badge of courage, as its level of difficultly is only exceeded by Gentoo. Manjaro, while based on Arch, maintains its own repository, but retains and uses the powerful Pacman package management system. Manjaro 0.8.5.2, like Sabayon, succeeds in bridging Arch's difficulty gap by providing a graphical installer for Xfce, Cinnamon and KDE Plasma Workspace GUIs.
RosaRosa Desktop Fresh 2012 is developed by Russian concern Rosa Labs and is a fork of Mandriva Linux. Rosa Desktop's KDE Plasma Workspace GUI has been enhanced with improved workspace design and user-friendliness. The company also provides long-term support (LTS) Desktop and Enterprise Server versions of the operating system. According to their website, and of all the Distros reviewed in this story, ROSA Marathon 2012 LTS is the only Distro which is Linux Standard Base (LSB) compliant.
BodhiBodhi Linux 2.3.0 is perhaps the most unusual Distro I have ever encountered. It stands as being both a contradiction and mystery. I mean, it's an Ubuntu derivative for all intents and purposes, but what sets this Distro apart in a crowd is it's GUI: Enlightenment, version E17. Hat's off to +Jeff Hoogland for putting together a super lightweight Distro that while having a memory footprint of about 120MB ram as measured with 'free', the Compositing Window Manager is amazingly feature rich approaching KDE quality. That's totally unique as far as I am concerned and you can spend a long time drilling down into Desktop configuration and find an almost infinite number of ways to tweak the Desktop to your liking. It's a mystery to me how the Enlightenment Team got that much functionality with so little ram use. This Distro ranks high on the lightweight 'sleeper' list. You get speed, low ram use, and the Ubuntu repo and that is a major value proposition.
And that is it for the Top Ten Sleeper Distros. What are your thoughts? Any other sleepers you like?