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After using Ubuntu for many years I finally decided to buy a laptop made especially for Ubuntu. My previous laptop was a Lenovo Y550 , which is not working anymore. I will keep updating this article from time to time. My personal experience with System76: I am really impressed with their website, the feature to directly contact support from your account and the fact that conversation threads are saved in your account, their customer and sales support, timely responses and speed of operation. You can check out the laptop on System76’s website here GazP7

Laptop configuration : 
  • Base System $899.00
  • 15.6″ 1080p Full High Definition LED Backlit Display featuring 95% NTSC Color Gamut in Matte Finished Surface ( 1920 x 1080 ) $79.00
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3610QM Processor ( 2.30GHz 6MB L3 Cache – 4 Cores plus Hyperthreading )
  • 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 1 X 4 GB
  • 500 GB 7200 RPM SATA II
  • 8X DVD±R/RW/4X +DL Super-Multi Drive
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 – 802.11A/B/G/N Wireless LAN + Bluetooth Combo Module $20.00
Total Cost : $998.00
Hardware :
  • Body – The body of the laptop is made of plastic. Though it doesn’t feel very plasticy. It has a textured metallic look to it. But I won’t say that this is the best plastic body I have seen. The side edges are a bit sharp. Though they give nice aesthetic appeal they can be a bit painful if you end up grabbing your laptop with one hand. The four small legs at the corners of the base could have been a bit smoother around the edges as well.
  • Screen – The display quality is excellent. Image and text look great. Ubuntu never looked so beautiful on my previous laptop. It seems like the hinges are not very sturdy. When the screen is very gently tapped from a top corner it shakes rather than staying firm. This will be more clear after using the laptop for couple of days.
  • Optical drive – It would have been better if it were a slot drive since the tray feels a bit flimsy when taken out. If you are buying the optical drive as an accessory then for $55 you would expect a better quality. More on accessories, optical drive and caddy case pricing at the end.
  • Keyboard – It’s a chicklet style keyboard and feels pretty good while typing. Though the keys could have been softer. Volume, brightness, hardware switches are multiplexed with function keys. It would have been great to have dedicated volume keys but that’s just my personal preference.
  • TouchpadMajor problem here ! The entire touchpad and area on it’s left gets quite warm. After a certain period of time it becomes bit uncomfortable for the left palm. The right side of the touch pad remains at normal room temperature. This might make me return the laptop. This is a multi-touch touch pad with two finger scroll enabled by default.
  • Cooling – As mentioned before the touchpad area gets quite warm. The base of the laptop on the left side close to the cooling vent also becomes warm. Though I have seen many laptops getting warm in that area but with this laptop sufficient base area gets warm in that region. Cooling is where this laptop really needs a lot of re-design. UPDATE : According to a comment by Tom (see comments below) his laptop gets very mildly warm in the same area and he believes that the heating is certainly not enough to dissuade a potential buyer. So it can be just a problem with my system or perhaps I am very critical about this issue because very often I actually keep my laptop in my lap for extended periods of time. 
  • Speakers – The sound quality is good but the volume is bit low. I went into sound settings and increased the volume above 100% and it was all good.
  • Webcam – It’s a 1.3 MP webcam. The quality is good for video chat or for recording a quick video.
  • Microphone – Microphone is on the left of the touch pad under the keyboard. The voice clarity is good but if you try to type while voice chatting there is a chance that you might end up covering it with your left palm. My friend told me that each time when I typed, she felt as if I am talking from some distance. Though according to her it wasn’t a major problem since my voice was still clear to her.
Software :
  • Ubuntu – Since this laptop is made for Ubuntu it comes pre-installed with Ubuntu. On first start it asks you to select language , timezone and to create an user and set a password. It then installs Ubuntu on your system. This is slightly modified installer where you are not asked to modify your partitions or other such advanced settings. After installation on first boot Ubuntu installed some kernel updates and then Unity became unresponsive. On next restart the wifi couldn’t establish a connection even after multiple attempts. On third restart the system gave a graphic error and asked me if I want to start in low graphic mode or want to reconfigure graphic settings. When I chose reconfigure it didn’t do anything and kept coming back to same window. When I pressed cancel it sent me to the terminal. On fourth restart everything worked fine ! These are problems associated with Ubuntu and not with system76.
  • Windows – Using Ubuntu live CD I re-partitioned the hard disk. Drivers for windows are available on System76’s support page. Windows cannot configure wifi or ethernet by itself so make sure you download those drivers before installing windows.

Accessories, upgrade options and pricing : I am not very satisfied with System76’s pricing for their accessories and upgrade option. In accessories section they have listed Optical CD/DVD drive for $55 and caddy case for second storage for $49. On laptop’s configuration page they have an option to upgrade the base system with a 60GB SSD + caddy case for $140. Now the important point to notice here is that the base system which is for $899 already includes an optical CD/DVD drive which is for $55. The same 60GB Intel SSD is available for $90-100 online. So it’s pretty clear that when upgrading to SSD+caddy case System76 should deduct the price for optical CD/DVD drive from the final total. But they don’t do that. So effectively if you are customizing your system76 laptop and upgrading to SSD+caddycase you are being charged for the optical CD/DVD drive as well but not going to receive it. It makes sense to not upgrade the optical drive and buy the caddy-case separately and then buy an SSD from some other place. I asked system76 and they have confirmed that installing caddy-case yourself won’t void your warranty. Though they didn’t comment much about this pricing problem and said they cannot offer it that way.

The Good : Ubuntu works out of the box [ after couple of restarts as in my case 😉 ] Excellent display quality. Intel 3rd Gen processor along with HD Graphics 4000 makes using Ubuntu a breeze. Brilliant display !

The Bad : On upgrading to SSD+caddycase the user ends up paying for the optical drive as well. Buying the caddy case from the accessories section is a better idea.

The Ugly : There are serious problem with cooling in this laptop. The touchpad, area on the left of touch pad and base area near the vent become warm enough and it get’s bit uncomfortable after some time.

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14 Comments

  1. If you can take a photo or if theres one available online .. then you must add it to the blog post :\ Thats the thumb rule for any blogger 😛
    Will try to read more on this .. good review !

    • Yes I planned to put photos as well but I wrote this review very late last night and the photos I took weren’t looking very clear. In the mean time I will add company’s link for this laptop to the post.

  2. This is beautiful.

    • Thanks 🙂

  3. After using the laptop for awhile, are you still worried about the cooling and the hinges? I’m thinking of buying this particular laptop.

    • I have been using Ubuntu for a long time but I received the laptop this week. Sometimes I spend a lot of time working on my laptop so I prefer the touchpad and area around it to be around the room temperature (though slight heating is always tolerable). According to a system76 engineer my laptop has a defect since they didn’t find this problem while testing their product. I have heard similar complaints from couple of other users as well but there are many happy and satisfied users too. If you want Ubuntu to work out of the box then definitely go ahead and give it a try.

        • tom
        • Posted September 4, 2012 at 5:04 AM
        • Permalink

        My new Gazelle Professional should arrive Wednesday. I’ll have to report back on my own findings for heat and sturdiness, but so far their customer service was impeccable.

        • bhaismachine
        • Posted September 5, 2012 at 10:35 AM
        • Permalink

        Sure! Please let me know so that I can update my review. Yes, I really liked their customer service as well.

        • Tom
        • Posted September 6, 2012 at 9:03 AM
        • Permalink

        In terms of sturdiness, the brushed plastic body looks and feels durable to me. I appreciate the lack of fingerprints! The hinges feel extremely stiff and secure at the moment (almost too stiff), so with luck that will not be a problem.

        I do feel the heat that you mentioned, just to the left of the trackpad. It’s only midly warm (not hot), but still noticeably warmer than the area to the right of the trackpad. I imagine that leaving your wrist on that area for an extended period of time would only serve to heat it up more. On a 1 (least severe) to 10 (most severe) scale, I might rate this issue a 2 or 3. Certainly not enough to dissuade a potential buyer.

        One other thing to mention is that the computer “stutters” when connected to an external monitor via HDMI. I’ve noticed this on other laptops running the latest version of Ubuntu as well, so it seems to be a Ubuntu bug rather than a System76 hardware problem. See https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xserver-xorg-video-intel/+bug/964231

        • bhaismachine
        • Posted September 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM
        • Permalink

        I am glad that the heating isn’t an issue with your laptop. I generally do not keep my laptop on the table and actually keep it on my lap for extended periods of time (bad habits, I suppose) and any heating beyond my comfort level becomes an issue for me. Nevertheless, I agree with you that it’s certainly not enough to dissuade a potential buyer.

        Though in my laptop’s case there wasn’t (or maybe I failed to notice it) any “stuttering” when connected to an external monitor via HDMI.

        I have also updated the ‘cooling’ point in my review post.

        Thanks for your detailed response! I hope you enjoy using your System76 🙂

  4. And what about the battery? how long does it go?

    Nice review by the way.

    • Thanks!

      It’s a 6-cell battery which lasts around 2-2.5 hours. It might vary depending on your usage and brightness settings.

  5. I’ve already ordered my father-in-law the Pangolin notebook from System76, I’m ordering my Gazelle Professional in another week. The heating issue may or may not be a consern for me; but my current Toshiba get’s hotter than H-E-Double Toothpicks so I’m not really worried.

    He’ll be using his for digital DJ work (no scratching; just one song to the next) so I think his will be great. I’m a little harder on my notebooks; I tend to wonder around distributions occationally and love the idea of a notebook powerful enough to use VirtualBox and test out the others.

    Thanks for the review.

    • I believe the Pangolin notebook should be good enough for your father-in-law’s needs. According to some users the heating issue is not common with all laptops. One System76 engineer told me that they haven’t had this problem while testing their laptops. So chances are that you might never face that issue.

      You are welcome and thanks for your comment !


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