Monthly Archives: June 2015

My System 76 laptop, cheap, rattling, smoking, all around pretty good

One year ago I bought a System 76 Gazelle laptop. It’s a pretty good machine. I’d say only for people that can tinker with their laptop though.

Here’s the order specs:

Gazelle Professional ( gazp9 ) Quantity: 1
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64 bit
15.6″ 1080p Full High Definition Display with Matte Surface ( 1920 x 1080 )
Intel® High Definition Graphics 4600
4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-4810MQ Processor ( 2.8 GHz 6MB L3 Cache – 4 Cores plus Hyperthreading )
16 GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz – 2 X 8 GB
United States Keyboard Layout
500 GB Samsung 840 EVO Solid State Drive
No Secondary Hard Drive
Caddy Case without Hard Drive (Use your own drive in the optical bay)
Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 AC Wireless LAN up to 433 Mbps + Bluetooth
1 Yr. Ltd. Warranty and 1 Yr. Technical Support
Rush Assembly Service – Guaranteed shipping within 2 business days of your order ( not including day of order )

All this came to a bit more that $1500, just about the same price as it would be today. That’s a hell of a deal! Go price out a Macbook with a 4810MQ, 16GB RAM, and 500 GB SSD. Or don’t because I know that price. It’s the $2500 one. The Macbook does have a better screen, incredible touchpad, and you can add in a 2GB AMD video module for practically nothing at that level. The Apple has no Ethernet or VGA port.

So for a work laptop that won’t run better with the improved video and will be plugged in to an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor this is a no brainer. I actually prefer Ubuntu because the package management is just so much easier on Linux than anywhere else. Java development is cross platform so I’m not missing out on anything there.

Anyway, so what’s the bad side? Some screws inside were loose from the factory. The keyboard felt weak and weird. Then there was some rattling around when I would move the laptop. Opened it up and a bunch of screws fell out. Tightening them down fixed both problems! Just sad they missed that step when building the machine.

Next happened just outside the 1 year warrenty. Smoke started coming out the rear left near the power port. I took it apart! The power port has 2 tabs on the back, one connected to the port’s housing and the other directly to the plug. The solder joint from there to wire to the motherboard was bad and had broken off the tab it was supposed to connect to. But it was still good on the other tab. Oh no! The ground for all the power routed around the port’s casing, finding resistance and heating up enough to melt the plastic case some. It was pretty easy to remove screws and solder that back together. Points for maintainability. If something is going to be produced poorly enough to do this it had better be fixable.

So all in all, a pretty good laptop. Parts are easy to access and change or upgrade. Ubuntu is great. Etherenet, VGA, HDMI, USB is all there. A good laptop for a developer. It does require at least knowing someone who can operate a soldering iron.