So my Darter showed up yesterday (DHL rocks), and it is just super-sweet. The screen is bright and clear, the keyboard is sturdy and responsive and a good size. The battery life is superb, and the touchpad is one of the best I’ve ever used. I think my complaints are limited to the speakers, and the lack of manuals.
About my two criticisms, before I go any further, I’d like to explain what I mean when I complain about speakers. I’m used to very high-quality desktop speakers. I never buy OEM speakers because they always end up being less than what I expected, so I always buy them separately. The audio quality of this machine is outstanding, but only when it’s coming through another set of speakers. Laptop speakers are notoriously lousy… but these ones are satisfactory for laptop speakers.
The manuals that I would have expected could have explained how to use all of the different hardware components on the machine, and what all the little buttons on the top do. I had to contact support at first to get a quick tutorial on how to turn on the wireless because the button for the wireless looks more like a speaker with a harpoon through it than a speaker. Called them up and a very polite gentleman by the name of Tom answered my questions very quickly.
Now onto the things I really like about this machine…
It’s small, but not too small. When I thought of a 12.1″ widescreen, at first I thought for sure it would be too small. It’s definitely smaller than my 17″ widescreen, but pleasantly so. I wanted a machine I could move around with, and I certainly got it. This bad boy can move anywhere with me without trouble. It’s light and compact, and will be very nice for train rides. It’s nice to have a laptop that fits comfortably on your lap for a change.
This machine came with a fantastic Ubuntu install! I’ve never seen anybody do Feisty so much justice. While I’ve got it up and running on Kubuntu Gutsy now, the default Ubuntu install would be perfect for anybody, particularly newbies.
This keyboard is blowing my mind. It might be that I’ve had a crappy HP keyboard that missed keystrokes, but this keyboard is sturdy and very responsive. There are a couple issues with it, such as having the function key where the control key is traditionally placed, and some of the keys are a bit small, so I have to get used to that, too. All-in-all this is a fine keyboard.
I’m getting about four to four-and-a-half hours of battery life out of this fella. On my HP laptop I only got about 2 hours if I was lucky. This Darter is giving me more than four hours consistently, and I’m loving it. I can actually do things wirelessly and not have to worry about running out of battery.
Also, as expected, buying from System76 eliminates most of the common problems that you have with a GNU/Linux machine. The graphics card works fantastically with 3D out of the box, though it does need a little tweaking for compositing, the wireless works out of the box once you figure out what the silly button looks like, and I’m told the webcam works as well, though I haven’t gotten around to playing with it yet. I don’t know if the finger-print scanner works either, but I don’t really care about that one.
The bottom line is that I love this machine. It is sturdy, functional, portable, and will undoubtedly serve me well for quite some time. I give a standing ovation to System76 for their support of Free Software and the Ubuntu community. Their success really does help the free software movement as a whole.