It has been 6 years or more since I got a really decent Linux laptop, and, after giving my macbook to my daughter for college, it was high time to do so.
I set out browsing the web for the perfect Linux laptop from places like System76 and ZaReason, who have absolutely lovely and brilliant laptops to offer, and then I checked my checkbook. Ugh. So, I decided to go to BestBuy where I have a line of credit and 18 month financing. Thanks economy.
It’s quite possible to buy a really expensive laptop at BestBuy too, but, trying to avoid that I searched around for the best (ie cheapest) decent deal I could find. That happened to be the Gateway NV57H26U. This 15.6″ core i5, 4gb ram, 500gb hdd machine looked to be quite a winner for the paltry sum of $450, especially since any comparable machine was at LEAST $100 more anywhere you looked (even online).
Of course *I* will not run windows, which the machine comes with, so I took it home, held my breath (hey, I can return it right) and stuffed in a Linux Mint 11 dvd. Within 30 minutes I was completely installed and running – AND FAST. Did I mention fast? You wouldn’t believe how fast this laptop feels to me, especially since the last one is sporting a celeron at 1.6ghz. This machine is a quad core 2.3-2.9ghz machine and it absolutely screams. What a nice change of pace. Why, I bet that if it were legal to use handbrake to copy your DVDs you could rip one in about 5 minutes
This thing has a glossy black lid which collects fingerprints just as you would imagine it would. The screen is absolutely HUGE to me at 1366×768, and it is SO BRIGHT that when I am sitting in a dim room, the brightness of the screen drowns out the keyboard lettering so much that I find it hard to type. No I am not a touch typist. Yes, I wish I were. Speaking of the keyboard, it has keys sort of like macbook keys. They are flat, squarish and separated nicely. I find it a pleasure to type on, when I can see it that is. It also sports not only a full size kb, but has enough room to include a full number pad as well. The machine has hdmi out, 3 usb, vga, gigabit ethernet, BGN wireless, webcam, and an sd card reader. It sounds pretty nice as far as laptops go as well. I have tested everything on here and verified it to work with the exception of the hdmi out, the sd card reader and the microphone.
Now on to the problems… Every machine has its quirks and this one is no exception. First up is the keyboard. While it’s nice to use and type on, they made it so that in order to use the function keys as actual function keys, you need to hold down the (Fn) button. If you do not, the keys are mapped to things like media controls, brightness controls, hardware controls and the like. It’s not that big of a deal but I just found it odd that it wasn’t the other way around. The next annoyance is the trackpad. Now it’s a nice looking and feeling trackpad, however, no matter what I do it’s detected as a ps/2 mouse. From my research, this appears to be a current kernel bug, so I am hoping that it’ll be addressed in the near future. I just hate to waste a multitouch trackpad like that. Lastly is the video. The video works fine for the most part. it’s one of those Sandybridge Intel HD 3000 video hardware and I believe support is not entirely all there yet. It does not seem that I have accelerated video, although I am not a gamer and don’t use it anyhow. Other than that it looks clean, crisp and sharp and has no problems keeping up with full motion video that I can see.
FAST, good looking, FAST, nice kb feel, big bright screen, number pad, inexpensive, FAST.
The way the function keys are laid out, support for the trackpad and accelerated video, Microsoft tax.
I really like this and you just can’t go wrong for the money, Microsoft tax or not.