Tag Archives: Laptop

New Laptop Unboxing and Review

When I finally made my mind up and bought a laptop from System 76, I wanted to document the unboxing, because although it’s not much of a fancy gadget, these Ubuntu-powered laptops are pretty rare. I wanted to show the world what it looked like and my first impressions.

I’ve now received a replacement laptop from System 76, so to give you closure, and following on from my intitial review, I made part two of the unboxing, and combined them both into a complete video. Behold.

This was filmed using our Sony Handycam, which creates weird proprietary(?) MTS files. Luckily the Linux-based video editor OpenShot can import and edit them, so I used it to create the above video. It took some time to get used to the controls, and there were some issues with lag and sluggishness with big files, but I’ll describe that more later.

Build and Design

Well, I’m tapping away on the machine now, and overall the feel I get is of a laptop that is pretty light and straightforward. It’s quite light, and this comes from it being made of plastic. It’s definitely not as solid as Cassie’s Macbook (obviously). The finish is good, with a dark metallic brushed effect, which is attractive without being too flashy. No fingerprinty glossy surfaces (except for the screen bezel).

Input and Output Ports, Drives

You can see the laptop in this slideshow.

  • Left
    • 2x USB 3.0 ports
    • VGA
    • HDMI
    • Ethernet
    • SD card reader
  • Right
    • Kensington lock hole
    • DVD Multidrive
    • 1x USB 2.0
    • Headphones
    • Microphone
  • Back
    • Nothing
  • Front
    • Power and battery charging status lights

Boot speed and responsiveness

Button to login in 16 seconds, then another few seconds to get to the desktop. I’m very pleased with the boot speed. I switch it off between uses, because it’s not always convenient to plug it in, and suspend still drains the battery. A lot slower, admittedly, but if I don’t plug it in overnight, and also leave it suspended all day, it will shut down.

Keyboard and Touchpad

It’s not a chiclet keyboard, and it’s not backlit (something I didn’t realise was good until Cassie’s Macbook had it), but it’s a nice smooth keyboard, with a good layout. I’m no touch-typist, but i can hunt-and-peck my way around pretty fast.

The touchpad is still good – I’m not generally a fan of touchpads or touchpoints, so I tend to plug in a mouse when I can. The touchpad is built into the body of the laptop, with no seams on either side – this is a nice aesthetic touch. The touchpad already has a little bit of shine from my fingertips though. The two-finger scroll is a nice touch.

Screen and Speakers

The glossy screen hasn’t been too much of a problem so far. The resolution is low at  1366×768, but it’s normal for the price. Viewing angle from left to right is fine. Tilting the screen forward can wash out the colors and get the image all solarized pretty quickly – this has been a problem on the commuter coach to work, because I need to open the screen all the way to get good contrast.

Configuration

  • Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 64 bit
  • 14.1″ 720p High Definition LED Backlit Display ( 1366 x 768 )
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3210M Processor ( 2.50GHz 3MB L3 Cache – 2 Cores plus Hyperthreading )
  • 8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 2 X 4GB
  • 256 GB Crucial M4 Series SATA III 6 Gb/s Solid State Disk Drive
  • Integrated 1.3MP webcam
  • 8X DVD±R/RW/4X +DL Super-Multi Drive
  • Intel Centrino 1030 – 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN + Bluetooth Combo Module
  • 13.31″ x 9.25″ x 0.94″~1.25″ (WxDxH)
  • 4.5 lbs. (2.04 kg.)

Heat and Noise

There’s a single fan that pushes warm air out the left side of the chassis. It starts when the laptop starts doing somethiung tough, like rendering video files or playing Alien Arena.

Battery Life

From charged to zero in about three hours. This is greatly affected by what the machine is doing. Games and heavy lifting reduce the time remaining. Simple writing and browsing increase it. Screen brightness has a big influence as well. I haven’t done any proper tests, but I’m overall happy with the battery performance.

Overall

You’ll notice I haven’t written much about the software. I’m still getting used to this aspect of it. It deserves a post of its own, I think. One thing I will say now is that Unity is actually usable on this machine – big difference. In fact it’s very nice to use.

I’m happy with this laptop so far. It’s very good for the price, but the price is pretty low, if you get my drift. It doesn’t compare to my old work Lenovo Thinkpad X200 in terms of build or performance – but that would have cost $2000 and ran Windows.

New Laptop Damage Photos

An update on this little saga. These are some photos of my new laptop and the box it came in, showing the cracked screen, and the lack of visible damage to the box. System76 are sending me a replacement, and they’ve raised a ticket with UPS.

Laptop Decision Tree

New Laptop Decision Tree

The time had come to get a new laptop. My little Ubuntu-running Dell 10v just wasn’t cutting it, and Cassie wants her MacBook for her own stuff.

The following chart illustrates my journey.

Laptop Decision Tree

graph created in GraphViz

First question was what OS I wanted. I definitely don’t want Windows for obvious reasons. I currently run Ubuntu, but the little 10v wasn’t that great for running the full Ubuntu, so it was using Lubuntu instead. I don’t want to get mired in Apple products any more than necessary, so Linux it was. But did I want to install it over the top of something else? Did I want to pay the Microsoft OEM cost just to overwrite it? I know that someone managed to get a refund on Windows by not letting it start when they turned on their new computer, but I don’t have the moral fibre for that.

I wanted preinstalled as well, because there are still issues with some hardware, so it’s safer to get the vendor to set it all up. There are a couple of small vendors that make laptops like this, so after some reading of reviews and forum threads, I decided on System 76. I double-checked the features and prices, had a good chat with one of their sales team, and then bought a System76 Lemur Ultra 14″ laptop.

time passes…

I received my new laptop yesterday, and I actually made an unboxing video, which I was going to edit together using OpenShot (it can deal with Handycam MTS files, apparently) when I got the new machine going.

Unfortunately, when I peeled off the screen protector and switched the machine on, I saw that there was a huge 5″ crack across the bottom left corner of the screen. As it continued to boot, I could see that the right-hand half of the screen seemed OK, and it was displaying the desktop, telling me the wifi had been detected, and asking me to select my language. The left-hand side was totally busted up and broken and displaying psychedelic patterns. Pretty, but not what I was hoping for.

I raised a ticket with System76, and they are sending me a new machine. They’ve raised a ticket with UPS, who delivered it. The box didn’t show any damage though, so I’m not sure what will happen there. Anyway, I’ll get a new laptop, then send this one back to them. I’ll keep you posted.