Just did a live usb of Linux Mint 11 (DVD edition) and couldn't find major differences bar unity in 11.04. Are there any major differences?
Well apart from the Unity and that both are very customizable, the most notable differences are:
The Administration and Preferences menus contain several options not found by default in Ubuntu like:
MintAssistant – Allows the user to set a root password.
MintBackup – Backs up the home directory to a single file.
MintDesktop – Allows the user to select desktop icons, specify the Nautilus mode and determine whether or not to show splash screens for major applications.
MintNanny – Child protection.
It is "More Green" than Ubuntu ;) Like more "hulkier" Me like Green kind of green.
PACKAGE MANAGER / UPDATE MANAGER
In Ubuntu you have the Software Center we have seen so far when using Ubuntu since 10.10. In Linux Mint they have their Software Center which is similar but includes the option to run .mint files.
In Ubuntu if they say Ubuntu XX.XX will be release on the 10 of October at 10am with 15 minutes and 20 seconds, you can be sure it will be 30 seconds after what they said but it will still be that day ;)
Linux Mint does not yet have a so perfect schedule release. They have a "When Ready Release" or the famous "Soon".
While Debian does not have a easy option to install proprietary drivers and Ubuntu gives you the option to install it, Linux Mint installs them automatically, as well as additional proprietary softwares like Flash and others. In Ubuntu 11.04 for example you have the option while installing it to include those drivers (And also the video ones like Nvidia).
This is just in the top of my head but there are MANY MANY more like the amount of devs in Ubuntu and the amount in Linux Mint. Where the code is based in Linux Mint (Github for example) and the one in Ubuntu and so on...
Hope this helps.
First, if you use the default settings of Mint Update to update your system, certain packages (kernel, firmware, X) will be excluded. Hence even if Mint Update says your system is updated, you may find that running
sudo apt-get update followed by
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade may yield yet more packages to be updated.
Second, while Ubuntu release upgrades are well-tested, Mint encourages its users to do fresh installs. Doing upgrades from within the system is not the prescribed method and is not available via the update manager like in Ubuntu.
As can be seen, Mint takes a more conservative approach overall when it comes to updates and release upgrades.
As a side note, two differences that have disappeared somewhat with the release of Ubuntu 11.04 and Mint 11 are between the Ubuntu Software Centre and the Mint counterpart. Mint had user reviews and ratings and now Ubuntu does too. Ubuntu showed the amount needed to be downloaded and size when installed and now Mint does too.
Mint 12 uses a layer on top of GNOME 3 called Mint GNOME Shell extensions (MGSE), and Mint 13 comes in 2 editions: MATE and Cinnamon. MATE continues where GNOME 2 left off and introduces its own incremental improvements, while Cinnamon is a development of extra features on top of GNOME 3. All these help increase resemblance to the traditional GNOME 2 desktop.