For the longest time, if you wanted to purchase a laptop pre-installed with Linux, you were limited to the likes of System76 and ZaReason. System76 has proved itself the leader in pre-installed Linux sales (and they do offer some seriously outstanding products) and ZaReason has struggled to gain much ground over the years. Both compani sell machines pre-installed with Ubuntu (although you can request a different distribution to be installed). There are two very good reasons why Ubuntu Linux is the first choice for manufacturers shipping pre-installed Linux:
- It's incredibly user-friendly
- It's hardware recognition is unmatched
Even with those two very important elements in place, there are two points that tend to detract from what these companies are offering:
- Ubuntu Unity is a significant change for most users
- The hardware offered lacks any level of modernity
The first issue could be considered a deal breaker for a lot of users. The second issue really only plays on the consumer idea that aesthetics play a significant role in the functionality of hardware. I have experienced some of the laptops offered by companies pre-installing Linux and I've always found them to be on the heavy side with little to no "wow" factor.
And let's face it, "wow" sells. Just ask Apple.
Introducing the Slimbook
The Spanish company, Slimbook, has been in business for over ten years and focuses primary on one particular sub-genre of laptops that the Linux preinstalled competition has, for the most part, ignored.
These are Macbook Air-like machines that are (as the name would imply) slim, light, and modern. The weight of Slimbook with an installed 120GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM, comes in at 1.39 kg (3.06 pounds). Considering my Chromebook Pixel 2 weighs in at 3.4 pounds, I would happily accept that encumbrance.
Take that form factor and install KDE neon and you have a something wholly unique — something the Linux community has needed for some time.
The devices have the blessing and testing from the KDE development team. In fact, Slimbook worked with the KDE developers to ensure there would be zero hardware issues when KDE neon was used with their hardware. This turned into an incredible opportunity for the KDE team. For years they were able to focus on solving software bugs, but the hardware layer was something they had zero control over. To that end, KDE developer Thomas Pfeiffer said:
This left us still with one layer we had zero control over, though: The hardware layer.Fast-forward to late last year, when the Spanish laptop retailer Slimbook approached KDE with the idea to offer KDE-branded laptops that come pre-installed with Plasma and KDE Applications. We were excited about the idea, and put our designers and developers to the task of creating a branding for such a device and making sure that KDE neon runs without any hardware-related issues on it.
As with any IT pro, you want specs. You already know what you're getting with KDE neon, so let's take a look under the hood and see if the KDE Slimbook is a worthy contender for your budget.
There are two iterations of the KDE Slimbook:
- i5 - Ships with an Intel i5-6200U 2.3 GHz (2 Core 4 Threads 3M cache)
- i7 - Ships with an Intel i7-6500U 2.5 GHz (2 Core 4 Threads 4M cache)
Both options offer the following specs:
- GPU: Intel HD 520
- RAM: 4, 8, or 16GB DDR3 - 1600 Mhz
- Storage: Samsung/Crucial mSata 120, 250, or 500 GB SSD
- Display: 13.3" Full HD 1920X1080px LED
- Keyboard: LED back-lighting
- Case: Aluminum
- Bluetooth: 4.0 with Intel 3160 or 7265 AC
- Wireless LAN: Intel Dual Band: 3160 or 7265 N or 7265 AC
- Webcam: Yes
- Microphone: Yes
- USB: 2 USB 3.0 ports
- RJ45: External converter
- HDMI: Mini HDMI
- Card reader: SD and MMC
- Size: 33 X 22 X 1.8 CM
- Weight: 1.36 kg
- Battery: 6800 mAH high lithium
- Charger: AC100-240V/50-60Hz; DC19V/2.1A
The KDE Slimbook is scheduled for release in March, 2017, but you can pre-order yours today. The cost?
You're not only getting some hard-hitting hardware for the cost, but supporting a desktop environment that is finally worthy of mass consumption. If you've not experienced KDE neon, I highly recommend you do.
The future looks bright
This could easily be a sign that hardware manufacturers are finally seeing the benefits of shipping machines pre-installed with Linux. I realize it is only one (small) company, but when you combine that one company with System76, ZaReason, Emperor Linux, Dell, (and countless other companies selling Linux pre-installed on their hardware) and the future starts looking a bit brighter for Linux.
Bravo to Slimbook for offering a piece of hardware that would have, at one point, been seen as too small a niche for the masses. KDE neon is as solid a choice for consumers as any operating system. Matched with an ultrabook-level machine and this could make some serious noise.
- The System76 Lemur: Mid-range specs with high-end results (TechRepublic)
- Find out why the System76 Kudu Pro is a graphic artist's dream machine (TechRepublic)
- System76 Sable Touch: The state of touch support in Linux (TechRepublic)
- System76 Meerkat: Near perfection in an Intel NUC-based PC (TechRepublic)
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 jackwallen.com.