Probably most of you will understand me if I tell you I consider my laptop almost like a partner, like my father feels about his car, or kind of. I cannot help but feeling attached to a machine I use many hours a day. So when you have to change it, it is kind of a drama.
It is also a risky decision. I travel quite often and work from home. I have no workstation. This means that I need a powerful and lightweight machine, with high-resolution but also high autonomy, good keyboard and the right combination/amount of outputs… in summary, a good machine.
After a happy journey with Dell, I switched to Lenovo which has been my choice for some years. Not just my former working laptop was a Lenovo but my personal one and my tablet as well.
I have been following Slimbook for some time now. As you probably know, they ship a KDE laptop that is very cool, with KDE Neon pre-installed. They have attended to a couple of events I have attended to so I have been able to test their laptops, get feedback from buyers and ask them questions directly. The fact that they are a Spanish company was a beautiful surprise, We do not have that many hardware integrators and vendors in Spain.
But what definitely caught my attention was the fact that they pay a lot of attention to the software. They ship the laptops with Linux pre-installed. Ok, that is not new any more. But they do pre-install several different distros. Now, that’s uncommon. But news do not stop there.
They have created a community of customers that help each other to ensure that you get help beyond their contract responsibilities. They pay attention to this point which makes the pre-sales decision easier, by the way. They also sell peripherals that work on the chosen distro and they welcome tests and reports about them from customers who has installed Linux distributions they do not pre-install.
On the hardware side, Slimbooks are powerful, with a modern look and many cool features.
Based on the above in addition to my KDE colleagues feedback, I decided in October 2017 to go for one. I bought a PRO2 with customised high end components. A machine to work with the coming years.
You need to consider that Slimbook is not a big corporation so they do not have much stock. If you want something special, it will take them some days to ensemble it, test the hardware, install and configure the chosen distro and deliver it.
Evaluation… so far.
Let me start by saying I have no commercial relation with them. I write this post as a way to support the effort Slimbook and some of my colleagues are doing to bring KDE to the hands of Slimbook customers.
The purchase process in my case required some back and forth because I wanted to install openSUSE and it was not by then in the list of officially supported distros. They were kind enough to take the opportunity to install it for me and check that everything worked fine. It did. A different story was the dock station available in their store, which I bought. They reported me they could not make it work at 100% with openSUSE Leap 42.2 before sending it so I ended up not buying it.
So as outcome of this process, Slimbook now supports openSUSE Leap and they do not recommend this dock station to buyers that request the camaleon pre-installed. This was a a huge time saver for me. Also, I was travelling during the arrival date of the laptop. They managed to ship it so it arrived when I was at home, in between trips, the day I requested.
Slimbook demonstrated they understand what customer service really means.
Sadly I completely forgot to mention to them I needed the hard disk encrypted so I had to reinstall the OS again. This time I went directly for openSUSE Leap 42.3. Everything worked out of the box or was trivial to fix:
- As usual, the high-resolution of the screen provides some headaches when booting the KDE desktop for the very first time (everything is tiny) which is a plus for having the distro pre-installed.
- I had to go to Yast to finish the configuration of the sound card. Another reason for buying a machine with the distro pre-installed.
On a side note, I will highlight how painful it is to manage resolutions and font dpi when working with a dual screen configuration with a big resolution difference between screens (laptop vs monitor). This is the first time I have a laptop with a very high-resolution screen so it was like going back to the bad old days when Linux users had to manually configure screens, projectors… This has nothing to do with Slimbook though.
As usual, configuring a working machine takes quite a long time. There are so many things to install and configure… I am still discovering small pain points and highlights of my PRO2 in working conditions.
I have written to Slimbook a couple of times with suggestions to consider for their store and future high-end models. Nothing really important except maybe the battery capacity, which I consider short for heavy travellers (not for occasional ones).
This point was not a surprise for me though. Based on the info provided by Slimbook on their website, I could research about it up front. tlp is something you might consider to install and learn how to manage in order to significantly increase the working time with your laptop while on battery.
I get very pity with the location and number of outputs in every laptop I’ve ever had. I must say they are not too bad on this PRO2. Or maybe it is just that I am usually so annoyed that not being too disappointed this time seems like a good sign.
The laptop has so many highlights that I will not go over them. Take it as a good sign.
Do I recommend you the PRO2 with my configuration?
No. My needs might not be yours. You have to get what you need/want. Slimbook allows you to customise your machine which in my case it is a good thing. I considered other laptops from Lenovo or Dell, by the way. I even considered a MacBook.
Do I recommend you Slimbook?
The purchase of a laptop has to be evaluated after a couple of years to be absolutely fair. I am confident about this purchase though based on the customer support I have already received, which is more than what I can say in other cases with well established vendors.
So if you require a good-looking and powerful laptop, you have many options. If you also want to customise it with different components, then the options get reduced. If on top of that, you are looking for a machine with a Linux distro pre-installed, the number of possibilities are small and, depending on the distro you want, close to none.
If on top of all the above, you want a healthy community of consumers that help each other, well supported by the vendor itself, then Slimbook becomes a good option. An if in addition, you want to work with people that understands how important it is your laptop for a professional, the machine you work with everyday, which necessarily means the vendor must provide a good customer support, then I recommend you to talk to these guys. You will find them, for instance, in most major Open Source events that take place in Spain.
As I have said before, the times for hardware/electronic vendors to “fire & forget” are over, or will be shortly. Updating the software and providing maintenance and support to your consumers, way beyond the law obligations, is not just a differentiation factor any more, but a must.
Based on my experience so far, Slimbook gets it.