Sunday, January 21, 2007

Review: System 76 Gazelle Performance

I received my System76 Gazelle Performance laptop in November. Since the first day I received the laptop, it has become my primary machine away from the office.

Lets look at the statistics first.

Display: 14” Widescreen WXGA (1280X800)
Graphics: 128 MB nVidia Graphics
Sound: Intel High Definition Audio
Networking: 10/100/1000 (LAN)
Wireless: Intel 802.11 abg
Card Reader: 4 in 1 Card Reader
Expansion: PCMCIA 2.1 supports one Type II
Ports: VGA, 4x USB 2.0, Mic In, Headphone Out, FireWire 1394B, S-Video
Webcam: Integrated 1.3 Megapixel Camera
Battery: 6 Cell Lithium Ion, Extra 9 Cell Lithium Ion
Battery Life: 3 Hours, and 5 Hours
Dimensions: 13.15" x 9.9" x 1.4" (W x D x H)
Weight: 5.5 lbs
Processor: Core 2 Duo T7200 2.0GHz 4MB 667FSB
Memory: 2 GB DDR2 667 MHz
Hard Drive: 80 GB 7200 RPM SATA

We are talking a nice laptop regardless of the OS installed - but the laptop comes with the excellent end-user Linux Distribution Ubuntu Edgy Eft! System76 takes this a step further and integrates the OS with the hardware to create a very nice symmetry. Out of the box, everything but the built in camera works and has default applications installed. Some of these applications are different than the default Edgy choices - but all is good (or better!).

First thing I did after receiving my laptop was to scrub it, repartition and encrypt the home partition. Next I reinstalled the OS back to System76 factory defaults. Finally I started to install additional software that I would like to use - ruby, mysql, emacs, thunderbird, debug packages, restricted formats, etc.

Through work I have used numerous laptops over the years. The System76 machine comes somewhere between an IBM Thinkpad and the Dell Latitude for hardware quality (the Thinkpad at the higher end of the scale). It is a solid design - with a good number of usable ports - with ease of access keys, moderate weight and LCD that does not bounce around as I type (as do most of the Dell laptops that I have used). Hibernation and suspend work, sound, wireless - its all good.

As always there are a few things I am not crazy about with any piece of hardware (or software), this laptop is no exception. My largest grumble is that I have yet to find good settings for the touchpad sensitivity, so when I am typing away my focus will move to wherever my mouse caret is located. Not sure if I can blame System76 for this - but it is the largest pain in my ass with this machine (so that is really not so bad). The next complaint is that the camera is not yet supported - but has been promised since (at least) Feb 2006 (where I saw a forum message saying 'soon') - I want to use Skype with video while roaming! The last piece is restoring from hibernation, it is a 50/50 chance that you will not be able to restore to any wireless network - more than a little frustrating.

Overall my satisfaction is very good (better than the IBM Thinkpad T60 that I was using). I am in Linux, it all works and I'm happy. What else could I want?

Oh ya, I bought a System76 Koala Mini Performance because of this laptop and the service this company gave.

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