[plug] buying a laptop in Perth

Arjen Lentz arjen at lentz.com.au
Tue Jan 30 09:23:59 AWST 2018

Hi Marco

> I'm a recent arrival to Perth, and I'm looking to buy a linux laptop (without
> the windows-tax).

It tends to get complicated.
There are some laptops without Linux, some from Dell and Lenovo as you'll know. Others are from little companies mainly in the US, so getting the laptop (and service) becomes tricky.

While I'm all for openness, I also have to be pragmatic.
Yes Win is annoying, but the actual net cost in a product is very minimal - trying to avoid it will cost you more and reduce your choice.  You can make the point to yourself, but the vendor won't notice either way since with these hassles only so few people make this choice.

I recently got a new laptop (previous one having done well for about 5 years!)
The new one is a Lenovo Yoga 520.
Yes, I bought it at a local JB Hifi. Bear with me.
Price right now is $1099 incl.GST (special sale thing going on).

Yes it comes with Win10. I left it there, but you can choose to not set it up - in which case the license won't activate and thus you won't have a EULA arrangement with Microsoft.

It has a quad core Intel i5 8250U 1.6GHz (turbo to 3.4GHz) which is a quad core + hyperthreading.
Why not an i7? Because you will mainly kill your battery life, in return for very little extra performance - remember it's a mobile CPU infrastructure.  A desktop replacement approach will always be bigger, heavier and eat more power (been there, tried that).

It comes with 8GB RAM.  However, physically it's a replaceable module and you can upgrade it yourself to 16GB. Unfortunately only 1 module so single channel (=slower), but it performs decently anyhow.
I haven't yet done a RAM upgrade on it as the 8GB will do me for now.

Then, the model linked has 128GB SSD, it's actually an M.2 module.  You could upgrade it.
But, the laptop actually has a full 2.5" space inside, occupied by a heavy stainless steel bracket to keep the structural integrity.
So I put an SSD in there (960GB actually, a Sandisk I snaffled for only a few hundred dollars the previous year on black friday), and boot my Linux straight from there.
That only 'cost' me 5 grams, as the SSD is barely heavier than the steel bracket I took out.
Total laptop weight is about 1.8 kg.

The screen is 14" Full HD (1920x1080), touchscreen if you want to use that capability.

Then, you'll be happy to know that everything works, mostly out-of-the-box.
I installed Xubuntu 17.10 (xfce desktop).
I tweaked a few things: power management can be improved (others had already done the homework on that), and if you want to have the automatic screen rotation working (for tent/tablet modes) you also need to install some bits for that.

The battery life is fantastic, I've got 6-10 hours generally. I was at LinuxConf in Sydney last week, and just to make the point to myself I actually left the charger in my hotel room every day, and I had 4+ hours spare at the end of a day even with presentations and videos having run on it.

The laptop has full-size HDMI, and USB-C (as well as regular USB).
The HDMI out works out-of-the-box for me, both video and audio. Brilliant. Oh it's an Intel integrated graphics, runs on the clean free/GPL drivers.  I've tested it with Runescape and it performs quite adequately.  It's not built to be a gaming laptop so it's actually more than reasonable for graphics needs.
It won't charge via USB-C, but you can connect an Ethernet port if you need it (I snaffled a USB hub + gigE for $10, rarely need it but it's useful) and of course these lightweight laptops don't have a CD/DVD/BluRay but you can get those very cheaply on USB if you really need to. I won't bother with that at all.

Overall I find it a very good laptop for a very decent price.
There's always some trade-offs.


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