And the winner is …. The Results of my Linux Laptop Search

76-5

 

After I posted my about my personal exploration into purchasing a pre-built, no-assembly required Linux laptop I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at the response to the post.  In fact I have been inundated with emails, private messages, direct messages, and just about every communication method you could think of to post the results of my search and reveal which laptop I ended up going with.

While I purchased the machine weeks ago  I did not want to just simply answer the question with a slight note or addendum saying I ended up buying Brand X. I think every one would agree that the experience does not really end at the purchase.  I wanted to make sure I had some quality time on the machine and give some perspective after some real-world heavy duty use.  

So without a further ado, after some considerable analysis I ended up purchasing the System 76 Gazelle Professional.   The specs on my specific purchase are listed here below:

System 76 Gazelle

  • Base System
  • Ubuntu 13.04
  • 15.6” 1080p Full High Definition ColorPro IPS Display with a Matte Surface
  • Intel High Definition Graphics 4600
  • 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-4900MQ Processor ( 2.8 GHz 8MB L3 Cache – 4 Cores plus Hyperthreading )
  • 16 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 2 X 8 GB
  • 960 GB Crucial M500 Series Solid State Drive
  • 8X DVD±R/RW/4X +DL Super-Multi Drive
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 – 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN + Bluetooth
  • US Keyboard

Please keep in mind that the reason for the purchase was to have an every day Linux machine that I could use for a mix of work, pleasure, and hobby.   I was not aiming to build the greatest development machine, or a gaming machine, or anything of the like.   Although I would argue after considerable use that this machine could be used in any of those configurations and perform exceptionally. But I am getting ahead of myself.

 

The Ordering Process

I ordered my machine through the website which was a pretty standard click-through configurator.  At the end of the process and submitted all my payment information in, I got the confirmation from System 76 pretty quickly.   I was also told that due to unavailability of some of the parts it would not ship for at least two weeks.   The instant satisfaction guy in me was disappointed, but having been around this industry long enough I know this happens a lot.   To my surprise I did not have to wait very long.  I got a note from them letting me know that my machine actually shipped out sooner than expected.   THAT is something does not usually happen.  

I should probably break away to let you know that the Customer Service Experience during the order process was exceptional (in my opinion).  Upon ordering the machine, you get a link to your order that constantly updates your status.  It tracks when you created your configuration, When you ordered it, When the teams at System76 start building it, and even features a ‘chat’ mechanism in case you have any questions.  Its not really live chat, but you can send questions, comments, or converse with them as part of the order process and they actually respond back to you fairly quickly.  All communication is tracked whether by System 76 “standard messages” like your system has started being assembled, to your order is shipped or any interactions you may have had with a Customer Service person.   The order interface also keeps track of all Serial numbers associated with your machine for ease of use later.

 

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The Arrival

My machine arrived at the home in quick order and I was very happy to see quality of the shipping and related protection.  To be honest this was a bit of a concern as I had never ordered from these folks before, and I have had issues with shipping quality when order “clones” or “non-name brands” before.   But System76 did an outstanding job, rivaling if not hands-down beating the “bigger guys” in this department.  It may seem like a weird thing to comment on, but when you spend that kind of money on a machine it’s a terrible feeling if you cannot play with it immediately.

Regardless of how incredible the shipping material was, it was no match for my fingers as I tore into the box and removed all of it to get at the goodies inside. Please keep in mind that what you don’t see in the pictures below, is the box that the box the laptop actually came in!

76-176-276-376-4

 

Once free from its plastic and cardboard prison, the machine booted right up quickly and quietly (I love the SSD!).  Now that it was operational I got to work ensuring that the machine was well acquainted to its new home.   Which basically involves getting connected to my home networks, creating SSH keys, getting access to the servers and services in my home, (I have my own mini-data center in my house), mounting all of my cloud-base storage locations, downloading/installing the software that I use most often and getting connectivity to the variety of household peripherals scattered about the place.

The configurations were pretty straight forward and everything configured with ease. Everything of course except my scanner.   I am not sure why scanners have always been trouble for me, but even in the Windows world they are a pain in the….  I could probably do another whole post on getting my darn scanner to work. 

Anyway it all ended up well and it has become my main machine ever since.

Some of the more astute of those reading this post may have noticed that I bought this machine when the standard Operating System was Ubuntu 13.04.  I had completed all of the above configurations and had been using the machine heavily for some time before I had a slight panic moment after Saucy Salamander (Ubuntu 13.10) went general availability. So I set aside another weekend thinking that all of my hard work would have to be re-done when I did the upgrade.   In a very “Windows-like” notification I was given the option to automatically upgrade.  Intrigued, I clicked through to proceed and was pleasantly surprised that my machine upgraded with NO ADDITIONAL configurations from me.  It just worked.   It saved my weekend (or at least my Saturday).

I have been banging away on the machine solidly for over a month, and I have to say that I am extremely satisfied.  My only real complaint is that I wish it had a better keyboard.  Not that the keyboard itself is bad.  Its pretty standard actually.   I just think the industry as a whole could learn a few things from Lenovo about building a really great laptop keyboard.  

It’s definitely a powerful little workhorse of a machine!

\Mm

[This post is a follow up to my initial post looking for a pre-built Linux Laptop]

Author: mmanos

Infrastructure at Scale Technologist and Cloud Aficionado.

7 thoughts on “And the winner is …. The Results of my Linux Laptop Search”

  1. Great read Mike! I as well love my Ubuntu laptop (running the stock company HP EliteBook 8570w.) Yes ubuntu/linux has come a long way in laptop support – sleep modes as well as dual displays used to be such a pain back in the 10.x and 11.x days. Still running 13.04 myself but think I’ll do the upgrade soon as well.🙂

  2. I have the previous version Gazelle (w/ the 3rd gen I7) with close to the same specs as yours (although smaller SSD and the upgraded screen). I think it is a fantastic machine. Build quality is great, Ubuntu hardware support is flawless, and it’s just nice to use. It’s stupid fast. I get lots of compliments from whomever happens to see it. My only criticism is the battery life – I wish they offered something bigger than a 6-cell. Although dropping the screen brightness to the lowest level seems to help a bit. I got mine the day after 13.04 was released, so I just did a clean install of it. But the upgrade to 13.10 went swimmingly (short of needing to apply a fix to re-add the hibernate option to the shutdown menu).

  3. I have the gazelle professional. I like this laptop but I have some complaints. I have both with an msata ssd. It was obviously overheating. I had to remove that. Another thing is speakers are faced down. It is really a bad design. And the keyboard… It is not as good as I expected and it is not illimunated. Other than that it is nice. I had a lenovo ideapad previously which was a lot better in every way.

  4. I purchased a System76 laptop for my wife not too long ago. It was her first real Ubuntu experience, and she loves it.
    I’ve never been a fan of laptops in general, but I think my next desktop will be a System76.

    1. I looked at the Dell offering last year, and even with my Company’s Employee Discount (we are a large customer), price-wise it still couldn’t compare with the Gazelle. Plus, it has a smaller screen and there are next to no options for it. The machine I ended up buying, I couldn’t even find a close equivilent in the WIndows world (Dell, HP, Lenovo, Apple, etc..), at least not without spending close to $500 more.

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