System 76 Lemur Pro
I hate product reviews and I normally do not do them
Almost every product review you see or read online is coming from a YouTube personality or blogger who was able to get the thing they are reviewing for free. That, in my eyes, basically makes everything they have to say about a product completely useless.
I have little to no confidence that a person can actually give a fair minded review of something they got for free. Especially when I consider the fact that, a major source of the reviewers income likely depends on the company they are reviewing sending them another free review model of their next big product.
I bought a System 76 Lemur Pro 6(ish) months ago
System 76 didn't pay me to write this review, they didn't send me anything for free, they probably don't even know who I am.
I found myself with a little bit of spare money and a need for a new laptop at the end of January of this year and decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of purchasing a new MacBook I decided I wanted to checkout what System 76 had to offer, and quickly decided the Lemur Pro was likely the best laptop for me that they offered.
There were a couple major reasons for my decision.
- The new MacBook Pro chips.
- I know it's supposed to be super fast and the reviews have been amazing (see the first couple paragraphs) but I don't like buying first generation things, I like to wait till the early adopters get burned and the product improves.
- I work in the Linux server space, but I started my path down the Linux rabbit hole by using the Linux desktop back when I was a struggling Auto Mechanic and couldn't afford to buy new stuff. So I thought why not try out a Linux desktop, built by a Linux company, on purposefully selected hardware?
- The Lemur Pro (Lemp10) was an all Intel machine, which to me signaled good support across the Linux ecosystem, without any need for special drivers.
- It also came with CoreBoot, which I don't know anything about but figured if I'm going all in, might as well go all in and get the open source firmware as well.
- It was within my laptop budget.
So what do I think?
You should keep in mind that I've been a Mac user for many years, probably for at least the last 10 years, so that is what I'm comparing the laptop to. Whether or not you think it's fair to compare System 76 with Apple doesn't matter to me. The pricing is close enough that I think it's fair.
After configuring my laptop with some additional storage and memory and including shipping the grand total of my purchase was around $1600 American dollars. By way of comparison, a similarly spec'd MacBook Pro probably would've cost me about $200 dollars more, which I was aware of and okay with at the time of my purchase.
The build quality is... fine, it's not bad but it's not a contender against the aluminum unibody that is the Macbook. It doesn't feel plasticy or cheap but it definitely doesn't have the same confidence inspiring feel of the Macbook.
The little rubber boot thingy's on the bottom started peeling off about a month ago, and I'm sure they won't hang on much longer. I might call support just to see if it's any good, or I might just live with it... sorta depends on how much it ends up bothering me.
The keyboard is eleventy million billion times better than the crappy keyboard that Apple shipped on my 2016 Macbook Pro that this laptop was replacing. Not even in the same ballpark. The Lemur Pro keyboard is better than those horrible "butterfly" keyboards.
I don't even need to say anything about this. I'm sure they did their best, and again the end result is ok, but the Apple trackpad is far and away the best trackpad on the market. No contest.
I've never once used it.
It's a full HD screen and it's bright enough. Again compared to the full retina display on a Macbook it's just ok.
Pop!_OS has been great.
I think Apple could learn a few things about window management from the gnome team. The keyboard shortcuts on the Cosmic Desktop are great "super + b" to open Firefox, "super +e" opens thunderbird. Lots of great ways to navigate the system using just keyboard shortcuts. Great job.
Closing the laptop lid
My biggest worry about buying this laptop was that I'd close the lid and then it would never wake back up. That I'd be constantly forcing it to reboot after opening the lid. Thankfully, those worries were without merit. The laptop seems to wake up from a sleep state fairly quickly, and without any problems. The only thing I have noticed is that the battery drains more than I'd like when the lid is closed. If I close the lid on my Macbook with 80% battery and open it the next day it'll have 75% battery when I open it again. This laptop not so much, if you close the lid at 80% and pick it back up the next morning there is a good chance the battery will be closer to 10%.
I've shut the lid on a Macbook, walked away for several days and come back to find the battery hadn't been impacted much. You will not get that experience from this laptop.
I wish the launcher was better.
MacOS spotlight search is one of it's killer features in my mind. I can use it to do queries like "kind:pdf 2021 Taxes" to find pdf's, or "kind:event Mom's Birthday" to find calendar events, etc. I'd love to see something like that integrated into Pop!_OS or Gnome in general.
Would I buy another one?
I don't know - probably not unless the price was significantly lowered, or the overall quality was higher. Currently if I were going to buy a not Apple computer I would probably buy a Lenovo Thinkpad, the Dell XPS Developer Edition, or the HP Dev One, each of which come with Linux (or can be configured with it).
All things considered I would probably install Pop!_OS on any of those laptops and be happy with it. I've been pretty happy with the OS over all and have even found somethings I like more than MacOS - though I do miss the cmd button for copy/paste, or new tabs. That cmd button makes things more consistent across the whole platform. I can copy out of my terminal with "cmd +c" and drop it into a note with "cmd +v", or from a browser window into a terminal. But as we know "ctrl + c" doesn't copy from a terminal, it kills running processes, and I don't know what "ctrl + v" does but it doesn't paste. Instead you need to add a shift in there when you're using a terminal emulator, and little things like that do annoy me.
I'm not very hard on my laptops - I can't remember the last time I dropped one, or spilled something on one, my kids are all old enough that I no longer have to worry about them pulling the keys off, or smearing chocolate syrup on the screen, and I because of that I expect this laptop to last me for the next couple of years. However, even with special care I would be surprised if it lasted much more than 2 or 3 years at the most - maybe I'll do a follow up in 2024 to let you know if it's still humming along.