Updated: September 7, 2018
Here we go. My Slimbook Pro2 has arrived! About two weeks ago, I decided to try something new: see if I can use Linux - Kubuntu in particular - for serious desktop work. While I've used Linux professionally for more than a decade, on the desktop side, Windows remains the favorite son. But we might have a credence revival here, so to speak, proverbially. Thus, it beginneth. Forgive the pun, if you can.
Strangely, most of the feedback from readers was negative, pessimistic or both. People shared their experiences with Linux-carrying hardware vendors, and the impressions were not good. Some people warned me that my Wireless was going to suck. Others expressed dismay or dismissal for the Slimbook website. Now that the laptop has arrived, it is time to put the rumors, gossip, expectations, and desires to a test.
Unveiling & specifications
I'd like to share a few more sentences about my purchasing experience. In addition to all that I've written in the first article, there were some other developments. Namely, I was accidentally double-billed, but I received only a single order confirmation. The Slimbook team reached out to me before I even noticed the glitch, asking for clarifications, and within less than two hours, they had canceled and refunded the second order. Nice. An advantage of a small vendor is approachability.
Moreover, they sent email updates on the status of the order, albeit in mixed English and Spanish, informing me of what the notebook was doing - assembly, testing, shipping. From order to shipment, four business days. From shipment to my doorstep, another six days in total.
The laptop arrived in a an external box with Styrofoam padding. The actual laptop box is a generic one, and the only thing Slimbook about it was a sticker with the laptop specifications. Inside, everything was in perfect order. I even got spare screws from the assembly process, a CD with drivers, stickers, and some extras. Clear, neat, professional.
The Slimbook Pro2 looks and feels very dandy. It is posh, slick, modern, beautiful. The logo on the back is very smart. I think it's more marketing-brand-awareness effective than most other logos. The laptop assembly seems to be top notch. And what's the under the hood is equally nice.
For about EUR1,100, I got the following: the 8th generation Intel i5-8250U processor, clocked at 1.6 GHz, with four cores and a total of eight logical threads, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 2,400 MHz, and a 500GB SSD. The graphics stack stands at Intel UHD 620, which is pretty reasonable for mid-range tasks. I ordered the Intel 7265 N Wireless card, but the Slimbook team had a letter for me in the box (one of the extras), informing me that they had upgraded my card to 7265AC, without any extra charge. Sweet. We shall discuss the performance in a few moments.
The screen comes at 14 inches diagonal stretch with 1920x1080px resolution. Connectivity wise, there's a whole bunch of stuff. First, there are two USB 3.0 ports (ordinary ones), and I ticked the box for one USB-C port. Instead, the laptop shipped with a Thunderbolt-C port. Again, I wasn't charged for this. Again, sweet.
I still haven't thought much about what uses I'll have for Thunderbolt. The big advantage is that it combines all sorts of signals there, so it might actually be very handy. Originally, I thought that the USB-C port might be useful for my Lumia phone, but then I realized that there was never an issue connecting to a computer, it's usually the other way around, plus I haven't seen any male-male Type-C cables around. All in all, I think that Thunderbolt is a very nice gesture on behalf of the Slimbook team.
There are two video output ports - Mini Display Port and full-sized HDMI port. I also got the Ethernet port, which is a rather useful thing, and a feature that is not available on Slimbook KDE that was my original fancy, although I eventually decided to buy this instead (primarily because of the actual physical size). You also have the standard audio jacks, SD/MMC card, and there's also a SIM card slot, but I didn't order the necessary hardware for this, so it might serve no purpose. I will test, though, I might get lucky.
The power button is located on the left side, so this might be a problem if you carry the device in a bag, where something may accidentally press the button, turning it either on or off. Such an arrangement also favors left-handed people, in terms of how you slide the laptop into a bag or such. Last but not the least, the charger comes with a Euro two-pin connectivity. During the purchase process, I did intend to buy a second one, but this option only shows before you click the Buy button, so I forgot it, and will buy it separately. Speaking of charges, the one thing I didn't like is that the battery is not removable.
Quality & ergonomics
Despite its light weight, the Slimbook feels sturdy, solid. It feels robust and well made. I was impressed with the screen - it's matte, so there are no odd reflections or glare. It also has a good, wide viewing angle without any distortion or light level changes. Likewise, the keyboard is superb. The keys are spaced wide, the tactile response is excellent, and there's no parasitic movement when you hit the keyboard, meaning you can type like it's an external keyboard, which means more speed, more productivity. The Enter and arrow keys are also placed in a smart manner. I am extremely pleased, as words/min is important to me. During my two days of testing before I wrote this article, not once did I feel tempted to use an external keyboard.
In terms of its overall look & feel, it reminds me of my Asus ultrabook. I've always loved the ergonomics of Asus devices, including the keyboard. Another darling of mine when it comes to typing is the good ole eeePC, now running with Xubuntu Xerus. However, the Slimbook feels slightly ahead in terms of quality.
I found this very interesting, since I have a lot of experience with laptops and how they feel. For instance, over the years, I've used many Thinkpads - occasionally, I also have access to an X1 Carbon - and they always impressed me with their solid feel and good keyboards. And there's quite a bit of difference when you shop around. For instance, HP and Dell keyboards feel lighter, so I'm a bit afraid of hammering down like a monkey when I'm in a writing frenzy. A good example is my older HP Pavilion. Even my IdeaPad Y50, which is a beast of a machine, doesn't have enough backbone to afford a worry-free keyboard stomping. But then, it comes with a plastic case, whereas Thinkpads are metal, and so is this Slimbook.
First boot & Kubuntu
The Slimbook started just fine. Everything seems to be in perfect order. The system firmware was up to date, and the BIOS/UEFI was already configured for VT-d. Furthermore, both TPM and Secure Boot were disabled, which actually suits me well. The internal disk is labeled ubuntu, though. And the reason is ...
The Slimbook team also installed Ubuntu on the disk (they mentioned it alongside hardware upgrades), to make sure everything worked fine. I had the option to use their installation with a generic root/slimbook account combo, or wipe everything and start fresh. I had ordered the machine without any OS, and intended to do the setup myself, primarily because I also wanted to use full-disk encryption. Another downside of having a preinstalled system is that there's no two-part OEM setup for Ubuntu, so the vendor must configure the user side for you too. No matter, it's going away anyway.
Now, the actual operating system choice - Linux. As I mentioned in the past, ever since my love-at-first-sight encounter with Kubuntu 17.04, I wanted to deploy Kubuntu in my production setup, and this purchase finally allowed me to do so. I grabbed the ISO, etched it to a thumb drive, and let the system boot. There were no issues. All the hardware was correctly initialized, including the Wireless.
I did a bunch of speed tests, and I get a full, flat 80 Mbps rate that matches the test line, in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. No issues whatsoever, and this is important. In comparison, my significantly cheaper, older and driver-problematic Lenovo G50 with the Realtek card only does about 40 Mbps under the same conditions.
I had been worried regarding the Wireless - but then I thought, the Slimbook guys wouldn't be selling this hardware if there were problems, now would they? Of course, if you type any which Wireless card into a search engine, and then add the string linux, you will get tons of forum posts, bug threads and whatnot detailing a neverending story of problems. With my Slimbook Pro2, it was smooth sailing.
Next, I installed Kubuntu 18.04. And I went for an encrypted setup - full disk encryption with LVM. This worked without any problems. The entire setup took only about three minutes, thanks to the SSD and fast processor.
On next reboot, I had to type in my encryption/decryption passphrase, and that was it. Kubuntu loaded without any issues. The boot sequence is fast - slightly slowed down due to encryption - and clean. No text messages, no errors, nothing.
And now, it is time to start playing with Kubuntu - but that is going to be a topic of the next article!
But if you're too stressed and hate cliffhangers, let me assure you - it's looking spiffy.
I have to say I am extremely pleased with the Slimbook Pro2, and it's not just the glamor of price self-justification doing its part. The experience started awkwardly, with the purchase process being less than ideal - I fear that Slimbook folks might be losing sales due to their less-than-perfect site. But as I've always believed, there's too much shiny crap out there, and conversely, good, understated products might be lurking in the shadows. Slimbook Pro2 is one such product.
The initial qualms and doubts evaporated as soon as I had the device. It's beautiful, elegant and sturdy. It feels high-quality, professional, with a dope keyboard, and excellent specs that are fairly priced, plus the circa EUR50 bonus from the Slimbook team. Everything works, the Ubuntu (Kubuntu) compatibility is without fault. The laptop purrs like a tiger, and it's tight like a tiger. While the long test of time is yet ahead of me, my confidence in Slimbook has soared, and I am really looking forward to my experiments and work with this laptop, running Kubuntu. Stay tuned for updates.