Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Laptop: Galago Ultrapro

Just got a new laptop, the Galago Ultrapro from System76, and I think it's a keeper.

For years I've used a Dell Studio 1770, with an older i7 processor and a 17" monitor. I've enjoyed the big screen, but the Studio 17 has had a chronic overheating problem from early on that I have finally had enough of.
So I went with an ultrabook that has a better processor, more RAM, a bigger and faster hard drive, and still weighs more than a pound less than my Studio 17. Plus, Galago's come pre-loaded with Ubuntu linux, and I use linux almost exclusively.

So, my impressions now that I'm 24 hours in: good. It is noticeably lighter than the Studio 17 although I don't have precise specs on that yet. I do have specs on how cool it runs, and the Galago shaves an easy 15-20 degrees centigrade off the Studio 17's temperature, and that's with the Studio 17 sitting on a cooling pad.

I was a little worried about going from a 17 inch  monitor to a 14, but it's fine. The monitor comes with a default 1920x1080 screen resolution, which on a 14" screen makes things look a little small to my old, tired eyes, so I reduced the resolution to 1320x768 and I'm good.

There was a lot of grief last year, when the Galago came out, about what was apparently the miserable quality of the keyboard, but in my reading of the reviews it seemed that all of the keyboard troubles were resolved around December of last year. I can testify that the keyboard that the Galago ships with now works perfectly well, meaning that I'm really not noticing it or paying it any attention as I type this post. I also read how some people considered the case to be flimsy and shabby, but that's a wtf for me, now that I've got one to see and handle.

I also like the touchpad's two-finger scroll and tap to click abilities. I've never used either of those, but I am rapidly acquiring a taste for them. The touchpad is an Apple style, no-button touchpad where you press the pad itself to perform a mouse click. This was taking me some effort to get used to, especially since the touchpad's sensitivity is capable of making the cursor jerk to a new position when you perform a click. I was making progress in learning proper technique for avoiding this problem when I discovered that by turning on tap-to-click, the whole issue becomes moot since it is so easy to perform the tap click.

But that brings me to my one actual complaint. The placement of the touchpad relative to the keyboard leaves the meaty part of my right thumb dragging over the touchpad as I type. This has the unfortunate effect of making the mouse cursor jerk around constantly as I type, which is annoying. Supposedly the touchpad automatically disables itself when you type, but that's not working in any way that I've noticed. I have not yet attempted to adjust the pad sensitivity, or talk to System76 about it, so there may be a solution to this. In the interim, there is a very easy one-handed keyboard shortcut to turn the touchpad off, and I've taken to doing that when typing something like this blog post.

All in all, though, I'm liking it quite a bit. It's slim and nice looking, and is giving me the performance I was looking for. But I still need to download Steam and give it a real workout. :)


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