The Slimbook Executive is here, and it's majestic

Updated: July 10, 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, the Executive has arrived! My new productivity machine is here, having been shipped by Slimbook roughly a week back. The whole process was quite, smooth, hassle-free. Nice. But for those of you tuning late into the Dedoimedo show, the answer is: my Slimbook Pro2 battery decided to inflate, which forced me to turn the laptop off until I could attempt a battery replacement. But since I needed a laptop for work and everyday productivity stuff, I had to buy some new hardware.

Being rather pleased with the Slimbook range of machines, which have served me quite well these past five years, I decided to go for yet another device from this family. ProX and Executive were my top choices, and in the end, the Executive prevailed, as it had somewhat beefier, more posh specifications. Well, dally let us not anymore, commence to test, we begin. After me.

Teaser

Specifications

The Executive is a pretty nifty lil' beast. The 14-in model I chose comes with an Intel i7-12700H processor, with eight so-called efficiency cores (which cannot be hyperthreaded) and six power cores, which can, giving a total of 20 execution threads. The processor clocks at 4.7 GHz, but I'm not sure if this requires OC tweaks in the BIOS. I don't ever use those, and generally, peak frequency ain't that important, as you won't really be bottlenecked by processor's clock.

The laptop has a 16:10 LTPS 3K screen (2880x1800px XWGA), with 400 nits brightness, 1500:1 contrast, 99% sRGB True COLOR, 89% viewing angle, and 90Hz refresh rate. Then, to enjoy this display, the system will render graphics using Intel's Iris Xe 4K integrated unit. I know it cannot cope with discrete cards, however it's supposed to be reasonably powerful. We shall of course put it to the test, but that's later.

Connectivity wise, there's a decent amount of slots, but nothing too fancy - two USB-A 3.2 ports Gen1, one USB-C 3.2 Gen2 Thunderbolt 4 port (with DP 1.4 video output), HDMI2.0, full-size SD card reader, and 3.5mm audio jack port. Personally, I'd prefer more Type A connections, especially on the left side (rather than port side, hi hi). The pun is in the word port, geddit? Now, to be fair, the USB-C port actually allows 100W in-charging, and 15W out-charging, and it can also feed video to two external monitors. The laptop's default juicer is a standard round-pin one, and I'm not sure where you'd get a different USB-C charger, or how that would work if you were say to connect both.

Ports 1

Ports 2

The smaller laptop (of the two available Executives) actually has a larger battery, with 99WHr capacity. This makes sense, because typically, the smaller one is used for productivity work in the office, whereas any machine with a powerful discrete graphics card will most likely spend a great deal of its time sucking electrons off the wall socket. The downside is, you only get one M.2 NVMe slots.

I upgraded the storage from default 500 GB to 1 TB (Intel disk), and also doubled the default RAM to 32 GB. The memory is not soldered, so it can easily be upgraded. The memory bus runs at 3200 MHz.

The Slimbook Executive also has two cameras, standard FHD optics (1080p with stereo mic) plus a biometrics facial recognition lens, which works with the Slimbook Face application. I'm not sure about that, but we will get there, maybe. In general, I'm not keen on biometrics as a method of identification with personal devices.

Network wise, no Ethernet, only Intel AX200 Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 5.1.

The entire package, 1.25 kg. Easy peasy.

Looks, ergonomics

The Executive is a gorgeous, gorgeous laptop. It's smaller than the Pro2, primarily because the screen bezels are much thinner, so the same diagonal equity can be fitted into a smaller frame. The laptop is also lighter than my old Pro2. And yet, it feels way more robust and weighty. This is a crass sentence, designed to make it sound like I'm some fancy wine taster and know my way around metal and plastic boxes. Now, the case is made from non-slippery aluminum, and the edges are semi-sharp (but not in a cut-yer-fingers way), which means solid, secure grip. In fact, the laptop feels ultra-posh, and you kind of want to hold it or carry it but in not in any eyebrow-raising way.

Looks 1

The case lid opens with extreme ease - you can do it with a single finger and without holding the bottom part. It closes with a goosebump-inducing click-thunk. The keyboard (I went for the US ISO layout, of course) is pretty great. It has excellent spacing between keys, the back plate does not yield in any way, the keys click nicely and have just the right amount of travel, so you can type away with speed and precision and confidence. Some laptops have a soft, mushy backplane and mayonnaises-like key spring mechanism, and this hurts the word-per-minute productivity. Not here. This be gold.

Looks 2

Looks 3

The only downside is that the power button is positioned in the top right corner next to the Del key, probably because the manufacturer wanted to save space. However, this means that people will instinctively hit it whenever they actually try to delete something, and instead turn the laptop off (or suspend it). Happened to me more than once, including during a live online meeting, which is a bit silly.

Keyboard

Skipping forward, I actually had to "disable" the power button functionality in my installed Plasma instance. In other words, when I want to suspend the laptop, I use Fn + F1, which is the laptop's predefined combo (and all of the Fn functions work great). The power button DOES work when the machine is sleeping or if it's turned off, so you can actually power it on. This makes for a reasonable compromise, I lose no functionality, but there be a dead key on the keyboard.

The screen is amazing, as the spec promises. Sharp, clear, great contrast, great colors. The 2880x1800px resolution is a bit too much to use natively, so one must resort to fractional scaling, which luckily works superbly in the Plasma desktop. The screen is also quite bright, so I set my Plasma to 80%. Normally, I'd always use the 100% setting.

The web camera has multiple modes, including 720p and 1080p. I think the colors are a bit too saturated, so I tweaked the camera from default saturation of 64 down to 40/45, which corresponds more truly to my natural, amazingly well-tanned skin hue.

v4l2-ctl -d /dev/video0 --set-ctrl=saturation=40

Let's install Kubuntu

Predictably, I went for Kubuntu 22.04 as my operating system of choice, of course. I installed the distro with full disk encryption (with LVM). The system configured a small 2GB swap partition, which is neat. With 32GB RAM, there's quite a bit of headroom before all of that swap ought to be needed, so I don't think I should configure a separate swap file. The installation was quick and uneventful, five minutes done. Reboot.

The decryption message clashes with the distro splash. This has been an issue for a while now, even since distros started switching to vendor+distro splashes. Previously, the distro logo would be positioned somewhere in the top center of the screen, so any disk encryption messages would be placed nicely below it, no conflict. Nowadays though, the vendor logos dominate the top part of the screen, the distro logos have been relocated to the bottom part, and this doesn't look pretty when you use disk encryption. It's a half-second nuisance but still.

The boot is pretty fast (once you punch in your password), about 4-5 seconds. Not bad, but I don't consider this spectacular considering the machine has NVMe storage. In the installed session, the Wireless credentials were preserved. But I did have to input Samba credentials in Settings to be able to connect to any one Windows machine using smb:// in Dolphin, otherwise, it's a no go. This is also an old, outstanding bug.

Once I logged in, I spent a bit of time tweaking the distro. Mostly, HD scaling (or rather UHD or whatever the 3K notation is called), font color, Breeze Classic window decorations, and such. Very soon, the distro looked the part ... until I decided to import the Pro2 settings, in order to supposedly save time sorting out the system. What I did was disrupt the precarious balance of style, finesse and precision, due to different screen resolutions and missing software. I felt I had ruined it aesthetically, so I actually reinstalled the box from fresh, because why not plus it's shorter than manually untweaking the spoilage, and the second time, I only imported user data, but no system or desktop configurations.

Display scaling

Display scaling works great since Plasma 5.24, and of course I use X not Wayland.

About

WIP 1

Slowly putting things together ...

System setup

Once I was happy with the visuals, I installed some extra software like Edge, Skype, Steam, GIMP, and then some. I also configured WINE and installed Notepad++. Telegram is there, and I reused the Firefox profile from the Pro2, without a hitch. After Firefox updated itself to version 115, I had to change Firefox's skin from the default system one (which supposedly follows the desktop theme) to the light one, because the former "suddenly" introduced a dark navbar that isn't to my liking. After that, I also introduced a few fresh post-Proton CSS tweaks to make the browser really look the part. VirtualBox installs and runs fine, including the Extensions pack, and I was able to reuse my old virtual machines without any issues. Now, the VPN configuration still needs requires the network-manager-openvpn-gnome package, the same problem I reported five years ago!

Applications, day-to-day usage

The rigor de jour isn't that much different with the Executive, compared to the Pro2. Having sort of honed in on my usage formula, the basics remain. Now, some applications don't really cope perfectly with the system. For instance, Skype logs out and does not log back in after suspend & resume, nor does it correctly work with the default-selected camera output (manually changing the device works). Using the gnome-keyring package for Skype didn't alleviate the login issue, as it ought to. Steam also didn't cooperate with the 3K screen, but we have a nice solution for that. There shall be a separate tutorial.

Then, VLC had the double window problem, which is fixed by reducing the prefetch buffer size. Kate also had problems. The text editor simply loses its fancy (new) sidebar if you try to use session save option. If you choose not to use them, then you can at least preserve the unsaved file changed when you close the program, similar to what Notepad++ does. This is a major convenience boost.

Kate settings

Performance, temperatures, noise

The laptop is ultra-quiet. You actually have to lift it up and put your ear next to the case to hear the fans. Now, why did I even bother doing this silly little exercise? Well, when you're charging the laptop, the case actually gets quite a bit hot (gaming laptop hot), because I presume the battery charges fast early on, and then slows down a little - this is probably, most likely due to automatic voltage and smart fast charge functionality of the battery pack. Regardless, this made me wonder whether there was sufficient cooling, hence the laptop fan listening maneuvers. But no, the fans work, they are simply almost inaudible, and this is another sweet ergonomic perk.

The 90W charger is similar to the Pro2 one, albeit with a thicker cord, which is probably needed given this laptop eats more juice (although it still uses the normal 3-pin cable and not the big, desktop-like connector like on the Titan). In BIOS, you can actually set the battery charging level to 60%, 80% or 100%, labeled something like Longevity, Mobility and whatnot. The lower levels can help preserve the battery life - and given my recent experience with the Pro2 battery inflating, I am considering going for the 80% mark. But that's something for later. In general, Slimbook promise three years of warranty in Spain, two across Europe, unknown worldwide. Batteries, six months. So, yeah.

I decided to check the temperatures - you can do that on the command line with lm-sensors, and the utility returned the following: with normal desktop usage, the CPU cores reported around 45 degrees, the NVMe storage around 55 degrees, and the sensor labeled acpitz-acpi-0 (motherboard to to speak) read 62 degrees, Celsius, of course. Sounds reasonable for a laptop, and what I expected more or less.

The desktop is quite speedy, responsive - but I've not tested any games through Steam just yet, so I don't know how the Iris graphics will hold up, that ought to be a cool experiment. You have the option to tweak the default power profile (through Plasma if you want), which ought to affect mostly the responsiveness and battery usage, to some small extent. You can use Power Save, Balanced and Performance. When using the charger, these don't really matter, and when you're doing ordinary stuff, Balanced seems like the best compromise.

Power profile options

Hardware

I am pleased. I've used the laptop for about a week now, including a couple of days of semi-honest full-day work (lolz), and I've encountered no problems. The Fn keys all work, the laptop goes to sleep and back to reality quickly and without issues. The camera works fine (minus the default color saturation). The mic works fine. Last but not the least, in BIOS, I didn't need to change any seatings, everything was configured correctly, and to my liking.

Battery life

The one thing that surprised me the most was the battery life. Seemingly, we have a major winner here. With light, normal desktop usage - some browsing, some chatting, some odd high-perf action here and there, and with brightness set to 80%, the Executive reported a pretty reliable 7-9 hours of juice. Of course, as soon as you start bleeding the system, this goes down to roughly 4-5 hours. But you can probably last a whole nominal work day with just some odd typing and mouse movements obligatory of a diligent "office" worker.

Battery life 1

Battery life 2

Battery life 3

Battery life 4

Surprise!

Now, the cherry. When I opened my Slimbook package, I noticed there was an extra added into the mix. A laptop battery. I contacted the Slimbook team to ask what this might be, and they said they have seen my article about the Pro2 going a-wonk, and decided to send me a spare unit, free of charge. The battery costs roughly 150 Euros, so this is a mega-nice gesture! And that also means I will have to endeavor the replacement soon, and if it goes well, I will have two sweet laptops for productivity, and not just one!

Battery pack

A very uninteresting photo of a block of plastic that contains the battery. But the experiment will be intriguing.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Slimbook Executive is the prettiest laptop I've ever owned. While it's technically not dissimilar to most ultrabook-styled machines, it's still ahead of my old Asus VivoBook and the Pro2. It simply feels more elegant, more refined, more pleasing to the touch. The keyboard is also great, among the best I've had a chance to use, side by side with the Asus ones (always served me well). The ergonomics are spot on, the usability is excellent, sans one or two tiny snags.

On the software side, Kubuntu 22.04 works flawlessly on this hardware, with no ugly hiccups or problems. The system works great. The performance is solid, and the battery life is phenomenal. When you combine all of the above with a rather nice set of programs, including Steam with Proton for gaming needs, you have a laptop that can handle 99% of any and every modern task. It ain't cheap, but it's fabulous. A new journey has begun, and there will be a slew of combat reports, just as I did with the Pro2. Speaking of the old veteran, we shall attempt a battery pack change very soon. And there'll be more reports from the Titan side of things, including the Linux gaming compatibility and the whole bye-bye-Windows adventure. So do stay tuned. Tux away.

Cheers.