The past few weeks have been exciting! I recently purchased the new Oryx Pro by System76 and have been absolutely loving the new machine. Here are some photos and first thoughts from my setup experience.
First and foremost, it took a bit longer for my machine to arrive than I’d expected. I was one of the early pre-orders for the new machine, so the build took a while and shipping added a few days after that. This all being said, I am ecstatic about the build quality and the level of support I received even before my laptop arrived!
Several people had tried to warn me away from the new machine given the laptop’s size. When I got the box from UPS, I was … a bit worried they were right. It was huge.
But the laptop itself wasn’t nearly as large as the box. I was intrigued by this innovative packaging (though I’m sure System76 aren’t the only ones who use it). The laptop was undamaged and dwarfed by the shipping box. All of that extra space ensured nothing would jar the machine in transit.
I had shipped the machine to my office so I didn’t have to worry about it walking away from my front door had I shipped it home. This had the added benefit of allowing me to do some side-by-side comparisons with my existing 15″ Retina MBP.
Yes, the Oryx Pro is a bit larger than the MBP. But not by much. Considering how much more power it’s packing under the hood (my MBP was one of the last models not to feature a separate graphics card), I’m not surprised. I’m happy with the built-in 10-key on the keyboard, and the matte finish on the display reduces glare and reflection when I’m working in oddly-lit environments.
The Oryx Pro is also lighter than the Mac. It’s a noticeable difference.
It was a challenge, but I managed to delay actually booting the machine until I got home. The setup was … just like what I’d expect from a Linux machine.
I was impressed by how quickly pop_OS! booted – and the backlit gaming keyboard wasn’t a bad addition, either.
I’ve installed various flavors of Linux on various machines over the years. The installation always feels a bit rough, but pop_OS! felt much more like the friendly Windows/Mac first-boot experience many consumers would recognize. It walked me through language settings, wireless configuration, then was off to the races on its own. Except for the initial scrolling-shell boot screen, it didn’t feel like a “hacker setting up Linux” installation.
Installation was remarkably fast and had me using the computer in less time than it took for me to write this intro post. I enjoy the super clean home screen look, but it did take me a second or two to figure out how to find the app launcher. The “Windows Key”/”Command Key” workflow we know and love from Windows/Mac has bled over to the Linux world with a “Launcher Key.” I’m OK with that.
The first software I installed included a browser (Firefox), email client (Thunderbird), my dev IDEs (IntelliJ and friends), and Docker. I took things a few steps further and set up Python with Tensorflow so I can work on some hobby machine learning projects.
My only gripes with the machine are related to the above:
- The graphics card is new enough, and the pop_OS! CUDA support modern enough that I had to downgrade a few things to get Tensorflow to even compile. This wasn’t too much of an issue, but makes following “just install X” tutorials a bit useless.
- The system doesn’t seem to ship with any video decoders by default. I had to install a couple of my own in order to stream from Amazon (as DRM-protected media needs special support)
- The battery life while using the NVIDIA graphics card is sub-par. It’s usable, sure, but this is more a “portable workstation” than a “keep it unplugged” laptop. On Intel graphics mode, the battery is super! Just need to keep in mind which mode you’re using, when.
- The built-in fingerprint reader is disabled by default and requires some beta software to configure. I haven’t installed it yet – I’m lazy – but look forward to it. I just wish all of the hardware were immediately operable out of the box.
I also immediately customized the home and lock screen graphics. I like the “unleash your potential” slogan, but the solid, non-gradient color schemes make the machine feel … old. I’ve used Ubuntu (both server-side and on the desktop) for ages and the solid full screens of orange and blue just feel unpolished and unprofessional. This is definitely a polished and professional machine, so it needs a modern look.
I’ve installed at least one game (Minecraft) and the play experience is incredible! I’ll be setting up Steam later for even more playtime. Writing on the rig is fantastic. The integration with 1Password is a bit rough, but their new 1Password X extension for Firefox makes things work smoothly. I also configured my Yubikey for use as both a GPG/SSH smartcard and a U2F security token – I had to customize some system interfaces to get U2F support, but this is well-documented on Yubico’s website.
At the end of the day, almost every problem I had was solved by reminding myself “this is a Linux system, I know this” and donning my sysadmin hat to find the right file and install the right software. I absolutely love this new machine.
If you work in software or manage linux machines in the cloud, I’d encourage you to take a look at System76 for your next personal machine. It’s head and shoulders above the rest of the field. You won’t be disappointed.