It feels like an old western movie - 2 cowboys facing off each other in a shootout – only this time, it is not really cowboys but 2 distributions of Linux--SuSE 8.1 Professional and RedHat 8.0 Professional. Both are popular in their right and each has it's own pros and cons.
Ease of installation and configuration
SuSE is user friendly and installation is a breeze with options like “shrinking" of partitions on hard disks (automatic resizing). It is also supported by an excellent configuration tool. In contrast, the setup of RedHat is daunting to “n00bs". There is no automatic resizing of hard disk partitions. Its configuration tool is also not very effective. Some video cards are also not recognized on Red Hat.
RedHat is quite stable when compared to SuSE. Most applications, including security applications, run smoothly on it without any crashes. The feature-rich email program Ximian Evolution, for example, runs well on RedHat though it experiences glitches on SuSE.
RedHat handles font management more effectively than SuSE. Fonts are outright poor on SuSE and often unreadable in Mozilla Firefox, a favorite Linux browser. Similar issues exist when working with word processing and web browsing applications. RedHat applies strong anti-aliasing and font rendering can be done precisely through the Font Preference dialog box. This results in sharper and smoother fonts with an option for sub pixel-smoothing in LCDs.
Utilities and Applications
RedHat is packaged with various utilities that suit the requirements of any user. Ximian Evolution is one such application. It also features OpenOffice.org, a popular productivity suite, equivalent to MS Office. These applications are not installed by default in SuSE.
SuSE’s default desktop is KDE which is regarded by many as one of the best Linux desktops around. It makes Windows users switching to SuSE Linux feel right at home. It features a Start button, cascading menus for accessing programs and desktop icons that open to reveal applications, hard drives and system configuration options. It also features rich colors and stylized icons. It is described by experts as “little short of gorgeous". RedHat, on the other hand, uses GNOME as the default desktop although it also includes the KDE desktop. GNOME is a leaner desktop and offers lesser options than KDE. Interestingly, the options are fairly simple and similar to Windows like display, audio and networking choices.
SuSE is a cheaper solution than RedHat Linux. In fact, RedHat is almost double the price of SuSE.
If you a new user transitioning from Windows, SuSE is good distribution to start off with. RedHat is more technical oriented than SuSE. You can explore or switch to RedHat when you gain experience and familiarity with Linux. You can also setup your PC for dual boot operating systems for the best of both worlds.