For us Linux users the trouble with buying a new pre-built system generally means you have to pay the Microsoft tax. Not such a problem on desktop computers if you want to get your hands dirty you can buy a pile of components and assemble your own system.
But what about laptops? You can’t really buy a pile of components and assemble your own laptop. I know a certain American company are very well known for selling Linux laptops, but I live in the UK and I want to buy locally.
Happily there is a solution with a StationX who are selling pre-built Linux Laptops and Desktops which are available in UK and Europe. StationX have generously provided one of their systems for me to take a look at – The Spitfire, which is their budget laptop.
The model I have here is a 7th generation Intel Skylake i5-7200u clocking at 2.5GHz. StationX allow you to choose from quite an assortment of Linux Distributions to pre-install on your shiny new device.
I opted to go for Krevenge, an Arch based distro with a KDE desktop. The chassis is aluminium, and the back of the screen has the StationX logo. The base has an air intake fan on the left-hand side with the outflow ventilation holes to the right.
Towards the bottom you can see speaker holes which contain downward firing speakers. Its a little trick to get slightly larger speakers in the narrow enclosure and gain a little bass by reverberating off a hard surface.
The sound is reasonable considering the physical size of the system The screen does have a slight bit of flex to it when abused. Although the rest of the system feels pretty rigid. In terms of connectivity we have USB type C, USB 3.
1, Mini display port, full size HDMI port, 6-in-one card reader, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock hole. The other side has SIM card slot, another USB 3.1, an awkwardly positioned power button, and then 3.
5 mm headphone and microphone ports. In total the laptop has 3x USB 3.1 ports. The keyboard layout is nice enough with full size arrow keys and the home, page up, page down, and end keys all lined up on the right-hand side.
There is about 1.5mm of travel on the keys. There is a slight click on the keys when you type, not quite the same as a full size keyboard, but this is a portable system and you can feel the feedback from they keys when you type.
You can have a choice of sticker to cover the Windows or Super key. My system has the Arch logo. The touchpad is multi gesture and I’ve been able to get the following gestures to work in KDE: left-click, right-click, middle-click, and scroll wheel.
Although I couldn’t get the hot corner action to work. The monitor is 1080P 13.3 inch with a matte finish and LED backlight. The display looks really clear, and infact I found the rendering of some of the fonts a little on the small side, so I used scaling to make it a bit easier on my eyes.
The webcam is 1MP, using it in the evening the camera certainly struggled, and my studio setup isn’t particularly low on lighting. Although during the daytime the quality was somewhat better. Don’t expect to produce a high quality YouTube videos on this system, but its fine for simple Skype calls.
A white LED next to camera illuminates when the webcam is in use. You can always disable the webcam with Function key and F10, or stick electrical tape over it if you’re paranoid. At idle the CPU is running at around 40 degrees centigrade and the fan is switched off.
Rendering a 4K YouTube video pushed the CPU to 100% and the CPU temperature shot up to 68 degrees, but with the fan working flat out the temperature came back down to 62 degrees. Although checking a bit further I found that the CPU can reach 100 degrees before it starts throttling.
Upon release of high CPU loading, the temperature dropped back to 40 degrees in around 15 seconds. Under a sustained loading for 30 minutes the keyboard area didn’t feel much warmer, yes there was a slight increase in temperature, but it was not enough to cause any discomfort.
Gaming was a bit of a mixed result, Steam games of Portal 2 and Trine 2 worked fine at HD 1080 with High graphics settings when the system was on mains power. However, I was surprised that SuperTuxKart really struggled with rendering, even on reduced graphics settings the game was pretty much unplayable.
Sorry my games selection isn’t modern and fancy, but I don’t really do much gaming. The battery lasts for about five hours, and the charge time wasn’t particularly long. The battery would last longer if the secondary harddrive was set to spin down when not in use, or better yet was replaced with a solid state disk.
That sort of advise is something to consider when buying any laptop. The cost at £850 does feel quite hefty, but when you actually consider the spec you are getting it does seem more reasonable. A lot of times OEM’s will cheap out on a certain components like using an older generation Intel CPU or DDR3 RAM.
But no you are getting the latest seventh generation CPU with DDR4 RAM. The case is aluminium and it exudes quality. You get the freedom to choose your own Linux distribution, and it arrives as a stock distro, so no messing around removing tons of crud left by the OEM.
Yes many of you guys and girls watching my videos are more than competent at installing and configuring your own Linux system, but the popularity of Chromebooks suggests that are a lot of people interested in having a high quality, fast, pre-built Linux system, and StationX are offering a product to satisfy that need.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you later.