Hardware

The System76 Lemur: Mid-range specs with high-end results

Jack Wallen unboxes the System76 Lemur and is seriously impressed with what he sees. How well does it stand up to his all time favorite laptop?

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Image: Jack Wallen

I make no bones about saying that I'm a big fan of System76. How could I not be? They're one of the most successful companies to have ever produced desktop hardware pre-installed with Linux (they also build servers). My primary production machine (that which I do all of my audio recording, editing, etc. on) is a Leopard Extreme (one of the finest desktop machines I have ever used). So anytime the company produces a new machine (or brings one back to life), I make sure to procure a review unit.

Such was the case when they brought the Lemur back to life. This piece of hardware came into existence around 2012. Since then the device has undergone some major changes. Gone is the 720p display. In its place, a 1920×1080 IPS, matte display. Gone is the earlier version i5 processor. Now the system base model (starting price at $699.00 USD) ships with a 6th gen i3 6100U CPU (you can, of course, upgrade that to either an i5 or i7).

But I don't want to ramble on about specs (you can always check out the details of Lemur here). What I want to do is discuss how this fine machine stacks up against my all time favorite laptop as well as its real world applications.

Comparisons

I have to start off by saying this comparison is unfair out of the starting gate. The machine I would draw my comparisons from is the 2015 Chromebook Pixel. We'll set aside the operating system platform for a moment, and examine hardware only.

From my perspective, no hardware on the planet can stand up to the Pixel 2. The screen, keyboard, and trackpad are a writer's dream come true. Those three bits alone have that machine standing heads above other systems. So how does the Lemur stack up?

As well as possible.

Okay...let's be fair for a moment. The Pixel 2 is like the Lamborghini of laptops and the Lemur more like a Prius. Making this comparison simply doesn't give the Lemur a chance. But the Pixel 2 is that by which I hold all other laptop hardware up against. It is my measuring stick. Against the Pixel, the Lemur does hold its own...in key areas.

  • It gets the job done without much flash, noise, or complaint
  • It weighs nearly the same as the smaller Pixel
  • It has a surprisingly nice keyboard for a lower-spec'd machine
  • It offers outstanding battery life
  • Almost everything works out of the box

Notice I said "almost everything". It seems an age-old Linux issue had reared its ugly head again. That issue? Suspend. Using the shipped kernel, when you close the lid on the Lemur, the system became unresponsive. Fortunately, a very recent kernel update (4.2.0-25) fixed the issue. Lesson here: Make sure to stay up to date at all times.

As for the screen? You cannot, in any way, compare this screen to that of the Pixel. Apples to oranges doesn't do it justice. But that doesn't mean the screen should be thought of as sub-par. In fact, the Lemur display is quite nice. It should also be mentioned that this was the first Linux machine I've used that worked with the Lightworks video editor out of the box. That is quite an impressive feat...considering I have yet to get the editor to work on my desktop machine (no matter what I try). So seeing this pro-level video editor function to perfection was a serious breath of fresh air. Thank you, System76!

Who should be using the Lemur?

Outside of those that want to give Lightworks a go, who would be a good candidate for the Lemur? Because the price tag is on the lower end (for a System76 machine), and the specs aren't deal breakers, this machine is ideal for the average user who spends almost all of their time working within a browser.

And developers. Yes, developers. Because so many developers are working on Linux these days, the Lemur could serve as a perfectly suitable device with which to work your magic. It's lightweight enough to be lugged around (especially with that built in "handle" created by the battery when the lid is closed), it offers plenty of battery life, and has a screen that is quite pleasant on the eyes. Add to that a top-notch keyboard (and the ability to quickly install all the development tools you need) and you have the makings for an outstanding on-the-go dev machine.

And writers. Yes, writers. We are many and we demand quality, reliable hardware to weave the fabric of our worlds. From my experience, the Lemur is an outstanding tool for that very purpose. Not only do you have a great keyboard (which only suffers from a lack of backlighting), you have everything you need to get the job done. What you don't have, you can quickly install for free! What more do you want (on an author's income)? Seriously...if it weren't for the Pixel, I'd be using a Lemur as my default writing machine.

Conclusion

System76 is doing everything right. They are an outstanding company, comprised of great people, releasing solid products built upon a brilliant platform. Yes, their prices do tend to be a bit high, but for that price you get:

  • A machine that has never had to peer through Windows
  • A machine from a company who values open source
  • A machine from a company who offers some of the best support I've ever used (on the rare occasion that I've had to use it)
  • A machine that is ready to get the job done with ease

The Lemur isn't perfect (especially when compared to my beloved Pixel), but it's a fine machine that anyone would be right at home using. If you're in the market for a new laptop I can, in good conscience, recommend the Lemur as a top choice...especially if you're not looking for something insanely high-end like the Pixel.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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