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Monday, February 29, 2016

System76 Lemur (2016) review - Boots within 15 Seconds, Fast & Responsive, Short Battery Life

System76 is one of the few companies that design computers (ranging from servers to fully fledged desktops, compact PS and laptops) that natively run & support GNU/Linux - or more specifically, Ubuntu. And as far as their line of laptops are concerned, you can purchase one starting as little as $649, and can go all the way up to $2000+ depending on your requirements as an end-user.

Buy from Amazon

The 'Bonobo WS' model for instance, is the flagship edition of their laptops, and it's intended for professional video editing and graphic processing tasks that includes an Intel Core i7-6700 series processor and an Nvidia 970M graphics in SLI configuration, 64 GB of RAM and 5 TB main storage. This review is based on the lower end 'Lemur' (2016 edition - well, System76 updated it two months ago so technically, this is the late 2015 model) laptop. Although, low-end can be a misleading word here, because it features a laptop with quite capable hardware. And, if you're not happy with the default hardware configuration for some reason, then except for the display screen and ports, System76 lets you customize pretty much anything under the sun. I think from an end-user's perspective, it's a very strong selling point.


The Review

By default the late 2015 'Lemur' edition features the latest Intel's Skylake microprocessor family and by default System76 gives you an Intel Core i3-6100U, 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB rotational hard disk drive (7200 rpm) and a 14 inch IPS display panel that is absolutely gorgeous. However, I've ordered the Core i7-6500U (it's about 24% more efficient compared to the i3 version), 8 GB of RAM and 500 GB SSD.

Build Quality

The overall build quality is really good, especially compared to previous similar models which felt cheap and delicate. But this one feels really solid. There is a bit of a flex of the lid, but then again, it's a little thin.

At the bottom section, there's two speakers located right underneath the palmrest area. Air intake fan right below the left edge of the keyboard (aligned with the Caps-lock key I would say). The battery pops out a little bit. Some people don't like it, but personally, I like it because it lifts up the upper section of the laptop creating a 'slope' which makes it easy to use the keyboard. And it should also improve the air ventilation at the bottom for helping the laptop stay relatively cool even under load.

Lemur features 1 USB 2.0 port, SD/MMC card reader, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, A/C Port, and two ports for adding a microphone and a headphone.






The track-pad has two separate buttons, but they don't travel deep. The backlit chicklet keyboard is nice. It's not a thin or hard to type on keyboard. The keys have some decent travel, and the arrow keys are also large unlike in few newer laptops that have very narrow arrow keys. And the keyboard also feature an Ubuntu logo, replacing the Windows Logo key which is nice. The key feel legit in the sense that someone hasn't stripped out the Window key and replaced it with an Ubuntu sticker. The overall built quality is good, it doesn't flex at all.

The powerful is wider, and to turn ON the laptop, you actually have to press it for about half a second. It also features a large LED indicator as well.

Display Screen 



The screen quality is superb. It's sharp (it has 157 pixels per inch), colors look great and it's very bright. Being an IPS panel, the viewing angles are also excellent.

Performance

Lemur doesn't come with a dedicated graphic card, so it's not suitable for gaming anyway. But it's still a very capable laptop mainly because of the powerful Intel sixth generation Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and especially due to the SSD. Ubuntu 15.10 comes pre-installed, although you can choose between Ubuntu 15.10 or 14.04 LTS when purchasing. Basically, it reaches the login screen with in 14-15 seconds from the moment you turn it ON!. So it's quite fast.

As far as the application performance is concerned, well, LibreOffice pretty much opens up within 1 second! and so does Firefox. The Core i7 may have helped, but it's mostly because of the fast SSD (M.2 Seq Reads 540 MB/s, Writes 500 MB/s).



The CPU stays pretty cool too. Under slight load (15-17%) the overall temperatures of the CPU stays around 49 degrees Celsius. And even when playing Oddworld (which by the way it runs okay, but not great. There's a mildly visible motion blur) the temperatures of the CPU doesn't exceed 60 degrees of
Celsius (from the readings of the System Monitor, the CPU usage averaged around 50 - 60%).

The fan does make some noises, especially when you'll be doing CPU intensive tasks such as compiling a program, editing a high quality video etc. On average though, it's not going to stand out in a place like library, so it's not bad at all.

The battery life is not great. Although System76 advocates Lemur as 'Build for travel', I would say a battery life of 4.30 - 5 hours (decreased brightness etc) would be a realistic goal.

Issues

Well, the login screen gave me a hard time where one out of every three times I got stuck at the login screen. I couldn't use the keyboard or the touch-pad and the only way out was to attach an external mouse and reboot and hoping that the next time it booted, login manager would let me login (which it did).

However, it mostly seem like an Ubuntu or software issue. Because after installing the latest software updates it now seems to be completely gone. I actually tried to recreate the issue, and have rebooted so far about 20 times, but so far the login manager has worked flawlessly.

Other than that, the laptop runs great.

Summary: If you're looking for a laptop to run a Linux operating system, then not just the Lemur, but generally speaking, System76 offers you one of the best Linux laptop computers that have good build quality and performance. If interested, you can purchase it from Amazon.

This review is actually based on a video I found on YouTube. You can watch it below: