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The Linux Mint project dropped a last-minute gift during the Christmas period – Mint 18.1.
Mint 18.1 builds on the same Ubuntu LTS release base as Mint 18.0, the result being a smooth upgrade path for 18.0 users and the relative stability of Ubuntu's latest LTS effort, 16.04.
Ubuntu - LTS - Mint - Ubuntu - Updates
In keeping with Ubuntu's LTS releases, Mint isn't stuck chasing Ubuntu updates. Rather the project can pursue its own efforts like the homegrown Cinnamon and MATE desktops, and the new X-Apps set of default applications.
This process worked quite well throughout the Mint 17.x release cycle, but with Mint 18 we were starting to see some of the downsides. Mint 18.1 is a nice enough update for the Mint-specific parts of the stack, but it definitely lags a bit in other areas.
Lag - Kernel - Box - Mint - Repos
The most obvious lag is in the kernel, which is 4.4 out of the box, though 4.8 is available through the Mint repos. It's unclear to me whether Mint 18.1 fully supports kernel 4.8. It's available in the repos, and I've successfully updated one install on a Lenovo x240, but n=1 evidence is not the best support for running off to update your kernel.
Frankly, I would have to assume that since Mint 18.1 ships with 4.4, you should probably stick with 4.4. If you feel out of date, maybe install Debian 8 in a virtual machine and marvel at the fact that it still uses 3.16. Of course, if you don't have newish hardware – particularly Skylake or Kaby Lake-based machines – the older kernel might not matter to you.
Kernel - Kernel - Update - Mint - Job
Provided the older kernel doesn't bother you, or you're OK attempting a kernel update, Mint 18.1 does a nice job of continuing to refine the Linux Mint experience for both its primary desktops – Cinnamon and MATE.
On the Cinnamon side you'll get Cinnamon 3.2, which...
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