System76 Galago UltraPro: Not so much

I finally purchased and received that System76 laptop I was so looking forward to. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful experience it was. I wish that I could advise you all to make System76 your next computer.

I ordered the Galago UltraPro. I chose an 120 gb mSATA SSD drive. I purchased a Western Digital 750 gig, 7200 rpm drive to install myself. I upgraded the RAM to 8 gigs. The system price came to $1,226. I was very excited waiting for it to arrive.

Ubuntu 13.04 came pre-installed and worked as advertised upon arrival. I reformatted the SSD and installed Kubuntu 13.10. Again, without a hitch. I run the boot, swap and root partitions from the SSD, the /home partition is the entire 750 gb WD drive. The Core i7 processor running system software from the SSD makes it extremely fast. The computer cold boots faster than the old MacBook it replaces can wake from sleep. So far, so good. No serious issues with the components.

The problem is the materials and construction of the case. I have carried my computers (all Apple laptops up until now) in a Maxpetion computer bag which is reasonably well padded. I try to be careful but the truth be told I am probably a little rough computers. Having said that, the MacBook is over five years ago and had no damage until recently when it fell from the table and the CD stopped working. The MacBook came through a tour in Iraq without any issues. The Galago UltraPro went into the same case and got the same treatment.

The Galago struck me as a little flimsy when I first got it. The monitor flexes significantly with little pressure and plastic frame holding the screen is very thin. The laptop just does not feel very solid.

About a month after I received the computer, System76 sent emails asking for feedback. One evening I brushed my hand across the edge of the frame of the monitor and the case split into two pieces. It snapped back together but this was a clear indication of the fragile nature of the laptop. I decided to let System76 know via the review they had been requesting that I was not very impressed. System76 advised me to send the laptop in as they thought it should be more robust than my accounts indicated. Cool, I thought. Maybe it should be stronger than I have experienced.

System76 determined that the computer was damaged. They determined that the damage happened under my care and due to my rough treatment of the laptop. System76 replaced the damaged panels on the laptop at a cost to me of $138. I was not charged for labor.

I accept that the damage to the computer happened because I was too rough with it. However, other laptops that I have used for long periods of time have endured the same treatment and have never needed repair or replacement. This includes 3 or 5 Apple laptops which I have owned and 2 or 3 Dell laptops that my employer owns. To be clear, I do not fault System76’s handling of the issue. My point is that System76 laptops are not on par with major computer makers such as Dell or Apple. And that is a pity. I would very much like to purchase computers that are tested and shipped with Linux OS installed. I hope that System76 can bring the quality of construction in line with its competitors. However, my next laptop — which I will be purchasing much sooner than I had expected — will definitely not be from System76.

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