System 76 Laptops: 1.5 Years

I’ve noticed a lot of posts in this thread on the Ubuntu forums so I decided to give a 1.5 year review as it were of both of my System76 computers.

Lets start with the Pangolian.

I have a PanP5, which is the fifth version of the Pangolian laptop. I ordered it in June of 2009, and it arrived at the tail end of the month. This laptop replaced my brother’s (at least) eight year old desktop (that’s now being used by my mother with Windows XP) that replaced a Dell Dimension (that ran Windows XP and various versions of Ubuntu). My old desktops ran well and for a long time, but I felt it was time for an upgrade.

I chose some upgrades (from my blog post on the subject):

It has a 15.4 screen (huge, IMHO) with 1680×1050 resolution (upgraded), Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53 GHz 1066 MHz FSB 3BM L2 (25 Watt) (upgrade also), 4 GB RAM (upgrade), 320 GB hard drive (upgrade), 1 DVD/CD burner drive, 512 MB DDR2 nVidia GeForce G105M graphics card, standard networking and wireless, 2.0 MP webcam (built-in), Bluetooth, and all the standard ports (including HDMI, VGA and 3 USB). Oh, and I forgot to mention; it comes with 64-bit Ubuntu 9.04.

Now, the laptop has a 500 GB drive in it, with Ubuntu 10.10, dual-booted with Windows 7. I had some repairs that needed to be done to it in November. Basically, I needed a new motherboard and hard drive. A year later, the replacement hard drive died, and I got the 500 GB from NewEgg.

I derive a great deal of pleasure from just booting this machine up. I like typing on it; the keyboard is amazing, the sound (out of speakers, through the headphone jack) is great, the DVD drive has no problems (knock on wood), and everything is working just fine. I’ve hooked up a second monitor to my laptop (my Westinghouse 1280×1024 LCD panel) so I have more screen real estate to work with.

I use it for the following:

  • Podcasts
  • Music
  • Blogging
  • Browsing
  • Light gaming (stuff like Xmoto, Gweled, Mines, etc)
  • Moderate gaming under Windows (some Sims2)
  • Gimp
  • Writing (penned [penning] two unfinished NaNo novels)
  • Chat
  • IRC
  • Microblogging
  • Flier creation (for OES and Nile)
  • Making invitations
  • Making programs (for events, not programming)
  • Seti@home
  • Ebooks (organizing and sending to my Nook)
  • Picture organization (not much; mostly related to my blog)

Basically, the computer is a home office laptop. Now, how about a screenshot?

My Desktop Screenshot

I’m running Docky, Empathy, Gwibber, BOINC, Bloglio, Gpodder, Dropbox. Wakoopa, Radio Tray, and Tomboy Notes. This is Gnome, which I love. The wallpaper is from everydayishock’s Tumblr. This is Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron from An American in Paris, the ballet scene.

Again, I derive pleasure from starting this laptop up every day. I love the way the keyboard feels, the way the trackpad works, the sound through my external speakers, and the sheer speed of the laptop. I’ve seen virtually no slowdowns from the day I’ve bought it, and there are few changes I’ve made to the machine (the exception being a 500 GB 5400 RPM drive replacing my 320 GB drive).

I feel that this computer will last several more years, and that’s why I bought it. If I’d wanted something to last one year, I would have gone to Best Buy and gotten a $500 Gateway or something. Not to diss Gateway (the desktop that went from my brother, to me, to my mother is a Gateway), but I don’t feel their laptops are as of the quality they used to be. Also, Best Buy didn’t have exactly what I wanted. What I wanted was something with a discreet video card, and nothing at my local Best Buy fit that bill. Still doesn’t.

Now, I’ll cover my Starling.

I have a Star1 which is the first version of the Starling. There is now a refresh of my netbook (the Star3, I think) and a Starling Edubook.

I didn’t have any upgrades, really. For simplicity, I’ll take the specs from my last blog post on the subject.

The screen is 10.1 inches, the memory is 1 GB of RAM, the hard drive is 160 gigs, and it has standard wifi and lan networking.  The graphics aren’t anything to really write home about, but this is a netbook: a portable device for browsing, blogging, writing and reading.

I’ve made no changes to this netbook, as there is nothing to change. I’ve updated to 10.10, and I’m now using the Unity desktop. It’s quite different from anything I’m used to, but I’m interested in how this will work out. I’m taking a “wait and see” approach to the whole Unity interface.

How about a screenshot?

Netbook Screenshot

I’ve got Wakoopa, Dropbox, Tomboy Notes, and Unity running here. The wallpaper is the same as my laptop. I like to keep things consistent.

This netbook has been with me all over the house, outside for computing in the backyard, down to Indianapolis for Supreme Session, Battle Creek for Grand Chapter, and the coffee shop. It’s perfect for couch surfing while I’m watching TV. It stays very cool, even when running YouTube videos. I’ve had to replace the battery at $99, so that wasn’t cheap, but it was still cheaper than buying a new netbook. I’m taking care of the battery better now (ie, not using it when I’m on the couch but plugging it in) and trying to conserve its cycles for when I need it.

The only real complaints? The battery issue (a battery should last longer than a year) and the wireless (slightly flaky; I hope Natty will resolve this for good). This is a first generation machine, so if those are the only issues, then I’m not too peeved.

For the Pangolian, I give a 5/5 for everything. This machine is a workhorse, and I’m very pleased with it, even at a year-and-a-half-in. The Starling gets a 4/5, only because of the wireless and battery issues. I’d really like to have a larger range for the wireless card; it’d be much more useful to me when I go out. Unfortunately, there’s not ubiquitous wireless internet; and I don’t have the money for a 3 or 4G connection.

System76 gets a 5/5 for service, speed, help, and just all around good products. Depending on what they have when I’m in the market again, I’ll definitely go with them.