Recently new to U and have MATE on a PC. Which is preferred? Are they only different by the way the information is presented on screen and same internally? Does the release on U18.04 mean U-MATE is updated too? Is there any reason to switch to U18.4 from U-MATE?
I don’t think this is the right source for an unbiased answer to that question
Ubuntu has many flavors/variants which provide various desktop environments. The base is the same between all versions (same software repositories, same versions of softwares available, same updates…), only the desktop itself and the choice of preinstalled softwares change.
Ubuntu provides the GNOME 3 desktop (Unity previously), Ubuntu MATE provides MATE, Xubuntu provides XFCE, Kubuntu provides KDE and so on.
It’s really a matter of taste as to which desktop you prefer. Some are more polished, some take less resources… Ubuntu MATE is a good compromise IMO.
If you prefer GNOME 3 over MATE, there’s no reason to switch. If you have tried only the former, you can easily try other desktops with LiveCDs or in a virtual machine and see which one you prefer.
Note that it is possible to switch to another desktop without reinstalling from scratch, or even install several ones on the same machine, though it can be a bit of a mess if you’re new to Ubuntu and not used to the packages architecture.
Mate is Ubuntu with a stripped down lightning fast interface. That’s why most of us use it. It’s faster than Ubuntu with Unity or what have you. Mate is a straight ahead, common sense interface for Ubuntu. You can do the same things on both. It’s just a preference for a quicker simpler Gnome based interface that is stable & proven. Ubuntu is a Suburban, Mate is a Tahoe. Linux is Chevy which makes both models. LINUX!!!