YouTube Videos

A Simple Neural Network
KotlinConf 2018 - Mathematical Modeling
Creating a Sudoku Solver from Scratch
Traveling Salesman Problem
Text Categorization w/ Naive Bayes
Monty Hall Problem
Solving World's Hardest Sudoku

Sunday, December 11, 2016

System76 Kudu Review

About a week ago, I ordered and received the System76 Kudu laptop. Here is my review after six days of use.

The System76 Kudu, a 17.3 inch laptop

System76 is a relatively young computer brand that differentiates itself by making high-quality laptops installed with Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distro available. Since Apple's underwhelming 2016 MacBook announcements, System76 announced their website crashed due to the surge in traffic and orders. While Linux is still relatively obscure to the consumer public, System76 has taken advantage of the sudden interest from Apple users.

I have never been a MacBook person. I used a MacBook to prototype an iOS app in Objective-C back in 2011. I was not terribly thrilled with the developer tools at the time, so I never felt compelled to switch from my Windows/Linux dual boot setup. I switched to Windows almost exclusively for a time after I bought a Surface Pro 3. While it is a great piece of hardware, Windows 10 was slow and updated at the most inopportune times. There are few things more annoying than getting ready to project my Surface for a business meeting, and I sat there hoping and waiting the update will finish in time. After this happened on a business trip a few weeks ago, I made up my mind to switch back to Linux.

As I became proficient as a developer, I was already gravitating back to Linux on my desktop computer, and became particularly fond of Linux Mint which is based off Ubuntu. From my experience, Linux Mint is snappier, faster, less buggy, and prettier than Ubuntu. I tried to put Linux Mint on my Surface Pro 3, but the UEFI made it an absolute pain to use. Not to mention, the drivers hacked together in the linux-surface package felt fine at first, but broke down and froze my machine over time.

I decided to jump ship on Windows devices and wanted a UEFI/SecureBoot-free laptop. Although not fashionable, I wanted a 17.3" screen because I needed a large amount of screen real estate for the projects I am doing. Although this would make me less mobile, I did not plan on using it on the plane. Initially I looked at Dell Ubuntu machines, but then a colleague from an open-source project suggested I check out System76, and I immediately became drawn to the Kudu.

I use my laptops for work, and primarily do coding, technical writing, and instructional videos for O'Reilly.  Therefore I do not need high-end graphics capability or a 4K display, or else I would have gone with the popular System76 Oryx Pro. But the Kudu seemed to be what I needed. When I bought it, it featured a 6th-gen Intel i7 and a 1080P display. I customized it to have 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB PCIe M.2 SSD. Out the door, I paid around $1150. I'm glad to say it was worth every penny.


The System76 feels solid but sleek for a 17.3" laptop. It does not have a "hollow" cheap feel that many PC laptops have in this category



Installing Linux Mint

I tried to use the stock installation of Ubuntu, but after a few hours I wiped it and installed Linux Mint, which runs phenomenally well on it. What is great about System76 is you can take a vanilla Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and most other Linux distro images and install them with no drama. System76 makes all of their drivers available as a PPA so you can optimize Ubuntu or Linux Mint easily. It is nice to not have to use a proprietary OS with customizations (or even worse a Windows license key). You can nuke and re-install the Linux OS with no hassles at any time. This is a huge feature especially as Microsoft is now locking down Windows devices with UEFI and SecureBoot.

I installed Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon Edition on my Kudu, which I prefer over Ubuntu.


Appearance and Mobility

When I started using the Kudu, the first thing I noticed is it does not have that cheap "hollow" feel that many large-screen work laptops have. It feels fairly solid but is not too heavy at 6.8 lbs. Granted you will not want to walk long distances with it in one arm, but it is fairly mobile for a 17.3 inch laptop. I am able to work with it comfortably on my lap, but it probably would be difficult to use on a plane or other tight areas.

It has a fairly low profile as well. It is not an ultrabook for sure, but when folded closed does not feel like a brick.

The Kudu has a relatively compact profile


The Keyboard and Track Pad

The keyboard and track pad are comfortable and reliable. The keys are backlit and have a slight concave which feels great to type on. The track pad is responsive but not over-sensitive, and it supports gestures nicely. I have used many Windows laptops (including the Surface Pro 4 Touch Keyboard) and none of them approach this level of quality in a track pad. I have not used a MacBook in a while so I cannot compare to its track pad, which I understand is the best in terms of standards.

I have heard some people have issues activating the track pad accidentally while typing. I have not had this issue but System76 provides an easy means to turn the track pad on/off.

Notice the Ubuntu key!


Functionality and Performance

This laptop is fast. Of course I paid an extra $190 or so for the PCIe M.2 SSD, but it was well worth it. Everything from Intellij IDEA to Atom Editor opens almost instantly. When I booted Linux Mint off a USB stick, I recall the OS loaded in a few seconds.

I never was a big fan of Ubuntu after discovering Linux Mint. Although Linux Mint is based off Ubuntu, it does a much better job of "just working" from my experience. It is faster and more intuitive to navigate. The Cinnamon version of Linux Mint feels like a modernized Windows XP with better aesthetics and lean resource usage. I even put my parents' desktop on Linux Mint after Windows crashed, and they have used it daily without complaints.

That being said, you can use the stock Ubuntu installation or put Linux Mint on easily. Both are compatible with the same Debian/Ubuntu-based software which I'll discuss later.

The screen is beautiful and big, with no backlight bleeds or dead pixels. It is easy to multitask and have multiple windows open. Being able to review and edit code with the large workspace is also a plus. One task I especially am happy with is doing Markdown editing for books. Having enough screen real estate to have the editor on the left and the rendering on the right makes a huge difference to productivity. I also had some annoying lag on my Surface Pro 3 working with Atom Editor in Markdown Preview, but it is pretty snappy on the Kudu.


Writing books with Atom Editor on the Kudu's large HD screen is an absolute joy


Overrall, Linux Mint feels like it is made for the System76 Kudu. Everything is snappy, fast, and instantaneous. The Ubuntu key brings up the home menu and everything works optimally out-of-the-box.

The Software

I have been using Ubuntu and Linux Mint off-and-on for about 4 years now. Since Linux Mint is based off Ubuntu (which is based off Debian), you can easily install software built for any of those distros. LibreOffice comes pre-installed for both Ubuntu and Linux Mint, not that it matters since you can download it for free at any time. For a Microsoft Office alternative, LibreOffice works pretty well. I have had many issues moving presentations from Impress to PowerPoint and vice versa. The cross-compatibility is somewhat exaggerated as slide content can be misaligned and scattered. I learned to stick with PowerPoint if I am going to give my presentations to Office users.

Speaking of Microsoft Office, you can run Windows 10 inside VirtualBox for free. VirtualBox is an open-source virtual machine software that allows you to run an operating system inside an operating system. In other words, you can run Windows 10 inside Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Running Windows 10 inside Linux Mint using VirtualBox

Although Microsoft does not advertise it, Windows 10 is effectively free now and you do not need a license key. This means it costs nothing to set up a Windows 10 virtual machine inside your Ubuntu or Linux Mint installation. I have used VirtualBox for a couple of years and never had any issues with it, other than it uses more battery.

You can also dual-boot or even exclusively use Windows 10 instead of Linux.

Conclusion

The System76 Kudu is probably the most productive laptop I ever had, outperforming my Surface Pro 3 and every other device I have owned. The hardware feels great and runs snappy. The experience of using a System76 has that "premium" quality lacking in most PC's now. If you are interested in graphics-intensive gaming and multimedia applications, you might want to consider getting the System76 Oryx Pro. But for a workhorse laptop, the Kudu is great.

System76 has some great help guides, especially for non-techies coming from Mac OS X or Windows. There is growing support for open-source creative software as well. For developers and power users, it provides a hardware experience that does Linux justice.


62 comments:

  1. Cool Thomas, nice review. I replaced my 5 year old falling apart linux laptop a few months ago with hp spectre with ubuntu. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I heard great things about the Spectre. Did it come with Ubuntu or was there a Windows installation on it? Curious because the SecureBoot and UEFI that typically comes with Windows 10 makes it difficult for Linux users...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really. Linux works with secure boot just fine (all my machines have it enabled). The issue is that you *might* have to reset your platform keys in the uefi interface

      Delete
    2. I was wondering if the UEFI had varying degrees of security policies, depending on the device. My Surface Pro 3, when I had dual boot set up, would always prompt me with a key input prompt every time I switched from Linux back to Windows, whether or not SecureBoot was disabled. After awhile I just found it annoying. Good to know that not all devices are as locked down as the Surface

      Delete
    3. "...I customized it to have 8GB of RAM..." ???

      Hi Thomas,
      Why would you only have (1) 8G Dimm?
      You'll get much better and smoother performance with a pair of Dimms, aka. Dual-Channel, and that way your i7-7700HQ and more importantly, the iGPU-IntelHD-630, will have access to 128-bit, instead of just (single-channel)-64-bit.

      Other than that, I like this Kudu, with it's 17.3" display.

      Delete
  3. I've had a kudu for almost two years and it is still perfect. especially the click pad. I don't need a mouse at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have found that too :) I usually used a mouse with laptops I've owned, but I don't need it for the Kudu.

      Delete
  4. I am getting ready to make a move from windows to Linux, not sure which laptop/desktop I should go with? Would you recommend the Kudo if you will be doing photo editing/video editing and normal day to day computing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For laptops, if you want a big screen, yes the Kudu is probably perfect for that. If you want to be more mobile, you might want to check out the Lemur or Gazelle.
      https://system76.com/laptops

      If you want desktops, the Meerkat might be enough.
      https://system76.com/desktops

      Delete
    2. Well i am a regular reader of new blogs and i found this one is also such a nice one... keep it up
      mcafee.com/activate |
      mcafee.com/activate |
      norton.com/setup

      Delete
  5. What a superb post! I have no words to describe this post because everthing is clear with your wonderfull words. I really feel out for world reading your post, it is full of fresh and usefull. I really appreciate, keep the work continue.

    norton.com/setup ! www.norton.com/setup ! office.com/setup ! office.com/setup ! mcafee.com/activate ! mcafee.com/activate





    ReplyDelete
  6. I am very happy after reading this fantastic Article, I appereciate your work.

    norton.com/setup | www.norton.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  7. All the content you write in you blog is very good and useful. After reading your blog many bloggers like me learn many things from you. As I also write blogs in that we provide information related to Printer in which we also provide services to repair printer. If you have any query or need any help you can contact or you can text to CANON PRINTER TECHNICAL SUPPORT.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I really happy found this website eventually. Commenting on a blog is an art. Thanks a lot for the information.
    office.com/setup
    office setup
    norton.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for sharing this article with everyone, the content is very full, quality images, hope you will continue to share more good articles in the future.
     

    ReplyDelete
  10. So many article reading but this one is short and easy to understand for all.
    123.hp.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  11. "If you are facing HP Printer in error state windows 10 issue then we have compiled some straightforward steps,you can follow that will solve this problem.
    HP printer in error state"

    ReplyDelete
  12. I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

  13. Thanks for sharing this marvelous post. I m very pleased to read this article.
    123.hp.com/setup
    123.hp.com/dj3630
    123.hp.com/setup 4520

    ReplyDelete

  14. Nice post and please provide more information. Thanks for sharing.
    mcafee.com/activate
    webroot.com/safe

    ReplyDelete
  15. To install HP wireless printer on your Windows operating system, follow below mentioned easy steps
    123.Hp.com/setup

    ReplyDelete
  16. Office.com/setup
    You can complete information about MS Office products and step by step guidelines for downloading, installing, and activating on your Windows computer or Mac PC..

    ReplyDelete
  17. 123.hp.com/setup
    You can get Complete information Hp Printer setup, Driver Software installation, 123 hp com wireless setup & Troubleshooting 123hpcom Printer.

    ReplyDelete
  18. PRINTER OFFLINE-Click your hp printer and then select Open queue. Under Printer, select Set As Default Printer, and clear Pause Printing and Use Printer Offline if they are selected.

    ReplyDelete
  19. webroot com safe- Virus expanded on the digital platform is one of the most regular reason, sharing on the internet. When you will search antiviruses then you will find 100 above antiviruses on the web. That time users are confused that what will they choose.

    ReplyDelete
  20. The “printers offline” message is showing on the display. Here we will guide, how you can solve the issue in a some simple steps. The printer settings of offices and homes any glitch with it looks like a major set back to the whole work chain. As any other machine, printers have a lot of issues and one particularly annoying is it going Offline. So we will discuss here to learn how to address this printer offline error.

    ReplyDelete
  21. avg com setup-Avg is an excellent option for those seeking reliable online threat protection at an affordable cost.On top of that there is also a free version of AVG. To give you a little taste of the excellent security features of AVG Antivirus.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Quickbook login issue-If you are unable to login to your QuickBooks account, there may be several reasons behind the problem. Here, a brief look at the possible causes, and later in the guide, we will discuss the issues and their solutions:

    ReplyDelete
  23. McAfee is one of the best antivirus software available to date.If you need a correct tutorial aboutmcafee.com/activate process then read this guide till the end.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Norton Login is a popular platform that provides you help to download, install and activate Norton antivirus.If you need a correct tutorial about Norton setup process then read this guide till the end.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Norton account login is an online platform that helps you to download, install and activate Norton Antivirus. Follow the steps carefully.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Norton Antivirus is a reliable cyber security Software. It has all the power needed to effectively fend off online threats such as viruses, malware, data theft, and worms. You need a Norton Login account for easy management of your Norton subscription and Norton product download. It can defend your devices in many situations with its top-notch security antivirus engine and a highly improved firewall.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Your Norton subscription has expired and you need to renew it at the end of the license period. There are two options to do that. You can either opt for automatic renewal or you can do it manually. Many times renewal process fails and the user is unable to Norton renew subscriptions and install. We have provided you here with the best solutions to easily clear the issue.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hello, I truly enjoyed reading your post. I found your site from Bing. Will bookmark to return later. Thanks! Also read this article Franchise Options In Bangalore

    ReplyDelete
  29. ThreatProtections provides solutions to Norton.com/setup, Norton Antivirus Install & Activation with Key to work in harmony with all the existing operations of the clients.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Norton Login Account is a portal that allows you to manage Norton software from a single window and enable all the features provided by Norton.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Are you searching hp printer assistance? Visit - 123.hp.com/setup for the technical help like printer installation, driver's download, wireless setup etc.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Superstar Escort in Karachi Celebrity Escort.in is a highest level Karachi accompanies office offering Karachi big name accompanies in Karachi. We are Karachi's selective big name entertainer escort office having the best decision of Indian and unfamiliar VIPs models on offer.
    Kindly peruse our display of lovely, beguiling and enticing big name accompanies for whatever the event or extravagant

    ReplyDelete
  33. islamabad escorts Mr suraj have new models in Islamabad & murree for our vlaue able clients escorts in Islamabad

    ReplyDelete
  34. Karachi Escorts have new girs in your town call girls in karachi call 24*7 for more update and information.

    ReplyDelete
  35. 123.hp.com/setup 6970 HP OfficeJet Pro 6970 Setup, Driver Installation and troubleshooting. Download the software drivers also from 123.hp.com/ojpro6970.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Click 123.hp.com/dj 2623 to get the recommended driver for your 123 HP Deskjet 2623 Driver printer. Get Support for Setup, Install, Wireless.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thanks a lot for sharing great post with us. I’m happy that you shared this useful info with us. We are Ethnicitywiki provides information about Ethnicity, Race of famous Personalities, Businessman, and Wiki's Celebrities of Famous Personalities. Get all of the world news of celebrities and stars.

    Visit now www.ethnicitywiki.com/

    Thanks again for sharing helpful information with us.

    Have a nice week ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Nice post, you give the clear idea of the topic and I subscribed your blog, I have some links to share here
    buy modalert online
    buy artvigil online
    buy waklert online
    buy modvigil online
    buy vilafinil online

    ReplyDelete
  39. Very quality article from your content to your pictures, hope to share more next time, thank you and stay healthy.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thanks for sharing this articles this is really helpful for me. Here is discounted coupon parcel pending promo code

    ReplyDelete
  41. Very informative post, You have well explained. It helped me to gain a better understanding of the whole process in detail. This Blog is interesting and please checkout for more information Netsuite Implementation Company.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Your article is very good, I really like it and I will definitely share it with my friends, hope you always stay healthy. thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete