Not the conclusion I was expecting (spoiler alert!):
If you’re in the market for a new laptop, by all means check this one out. However, I’ll be selling my Spectre x360 and going back to my mid-2012 MacBook Air. It’s not HP’s fault or because of the Linux desktop. The problem is how I value my time.
It’s always going to be hard switching platforms and if the payoff isn’t great enough, there certainly isn’t enough of an incentive to do so. I know I’d struggle to switch back to a Linux desktop after ~11 years of macOS (albeit macOS customised with my own odd custom keybindings, virtual desktop layout, etc).
I think macs have some great hardware, if they were a PC manufacturer I think they’d be the top manufacturer. I just think their software is pretty deficient compared to linux. I haven’t had hardware compat. issues with running linux on a laptop for about a decade, setting up things like printers and wifi has consistently been easier on linux for the last 5 years. More recently: ubuntu’s multi-dpi monitor support is awesome and fixed the final UI glitch that has been bugging me when working on a retina display plugged into external monitors.
I’m not an unreasoning fanboi. Most of my work involves browser based applications, webview/electron based apps and terminals. If you’re into photoshop, gaming, video editing then you might not have much fun with linux. If you are a non-trivial user of excel then linux won’t be much fun. Various industry-standard apps probably won’t run on linux (unless they are super old, in that case sometimes they will run on wine/linux but not windows).
I can also say, as someone who recently bought a very high end mac for my wife, the experience there is pretty disappointing. Her brand new $3500.00 USD mac got stuck in a reboot loop that required several hours to hard reset everything. Literally the software just seems to be flaky and the most basic use cases that are theoretically supported by apple, don’t work. But the software she likes runs on mac, and at least when her brand new mac is hosed I can make an appointment with a “genius” and make it somebody else’s problem.
You do have to be careful what you buy, especially with laptops. Some hardware is just unrepentantly incompatible. But I’m with you, I’ve been running Linux as my primary desktop at home and work for upwards of 10 years now and had very few driver-related frustrations.
Although, sometimes the truth is slow to sink in, even for me. My current laptop had a sporadic hang that I figured had to be a kernel bug or a GPU driver bug, and I wasted months tweaking different things and trying to get to the bottom of it, until I realized that I could reproduce it outside of Linux. Then I sent it in for warranty repair and everything has been flawless since, because it was actually a simple hardware problem!
I’ve also had very few issues with software I wanted being unavailable. Games used to be somewhat of an issue, but with the availability of Steam, and the rise of Unity and MonoGame-based games that are so trivial to port, the library has increased dramatically. Between that and the PS4 I have more games available to me than I really have any chance of finding the time to play.
And of course, there’s MacOS updates. Seems like all the Mac folks in my office are eager to install a new version as soon as it comes out, and then they discover which piece of software, essential to doing their job, has been completely broken by the update. It happens more often than not, and it’s equal parts funny and sad.
Ultimately, though, I think this article reflects the thing that’s true with most people, which is that people stick with what they’re comfortable with, unless they have no choice.
This is a pretty damning review of the out-of-box experience of linux on a laptop. Most of these issues are things that should “just work”. They’re not weird or exotic feature requests (power management, trackpad disabled while typing, working speakers).
While the software issues are on linux & ubuntu, I still wish there were a single PC manufacturer who took hardware quality as seriously as Mac did ~five years ago. I use a Mac for work, but prefer to run linux at home.
I currently have a Dell Precision M3800, which has a similar form factor and appears to have taken a lot of inspiration from the rMBP design (not to mention similar price tag). It’s the only PC notebook I’ve used in the last several years that has a decent touchpad. However, in the 2 years I’ve owned it, I’ve replaced a wonky fan, a bloated battery, a WLAN card that got flaky. The screen came with some dust underneath it (small gray splotches all over) from the factory. The keyboard has gotten unresponsive in the middle area, so I have to hit letters like T, Y, M, B, etc. a couple times before they register. (Possibly a result of damage from the battery swelling.) The keyboard issue makes it almost unusable as a daily driver. Overall it’s a machine that gives the impression of quality, but under the hood everything is still just as cheap as ever.
I’ve tried Lenovo and others and the story seems to be pretty much the same. Cheapest possible components, no matter what price point you look at. Weird touchpad response, mushy keys, plastic body that flexes, fans that flake out. I don’t know what the conclusion is other than linux on laptops continues to be a second rate experience? :(
Trackpad disabled while typing is definitely on by default on every Linux system I’ve used in the past 5+ years, and “no power management by default” is also not actually true; of course there is, and it’s pretty damn advanced. However, some of the more aggressive features are sometimes disabled because unfortunately it’s not always possible to tell the hardware that actually implements them correctly from the hardware that pretends to work correctly and then randomly breaks when you try to power-manage it, so Linux chooses the “don’t randomly crash” option. The speakers sound like a similar issue; there’s a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and HP decided to do things the wrong way, and then ship a Windows driver that patches up the wrongness (which is typical of post-2000 HP). Eventually Linux will add a workaround to its list, but without vendor support, it’s a reverse-engineering task, with an unpredictable timeline.
So, coming to the other part of your comment, PC vendors are kind of horrible :)
I was in a similar position: my girlfriend accidentaly poured water into my 13" macbook pro. After checking the price of the new macbook pro I decided it was time to go back to a linux laptop. I have bought an 15" HP Omen. It works really well with Void Linux. It comes with a great video card; after a few pomodoros I restart it into windows and I can play a match of Warhammer Total War before going back to my Elixir and Rust coding.
@haxor surely you can find a newer than 2012 MacBook that meets your requirements?
Oh yeah! I will probably get a new computer at some point. It’s still working well and has all the security updates so I’m not in a rush. I figure I’ll wait until WWDC in June to see if they refresh the MacBooks then.
You’re probably aware, but Macrumors has a buyer’s guide that’s always seemed pretty accurate to me. I used it when I purchased an iMac as our family computer (but otherwise, I don’t personally buy Macs).
Did you check the 12" macbook? It is really good.
Why not buy a laptop that you know would be compatible ?
There are already some vendors that provide those…