Slimbook Titan, long-term usage report 1

Updated: September 28, 2023

By now, you ought to know the drill. Dedo gets himself a Linux-powered laptop, Dedo writes reports on his long-term usage, over a period of months, years. We get the first-hour impression, but then, there's the first month, the first year, the fifth year, and whatnot. I've done this with my Slimbook Pro2, a laptop that has served me loyally for five years, until its battery went a-wonk, where I decided to buy a new productivity machine, one Slimbook Executive, and for which I've already started its own series of usage reports.

In the meantime, I got the Pro2 battery replaced, it's back in action, but in between the Pro2 and the Executive, I also got myself an Nvidia-powered hefty, a large and mighty and aptly named Slimbook Titan. Here, the purpose of this purchase is to ascertain when I can ditch Windows for good. A while back, I decided that I don't want to play the silly, low-IQ games that Microsoft is doing with Windows 11 (and will most likely continue forever onwards), and so I decided to try to migrate to Linux only, office usage and games and everything. The Titan is the shepherd on that journey, I've had it for a while, and it is now time to give you the first "combat" report, much as I did with the Pro2. Let's see what the big laptop did in its first three months of Dedoimedian existence. After me.

Side view

Hardware

I think this report will be extra fun, because we can also compare to the Executive. Anyway, on the hardware side of things, the Titan is ... okay. There were and/or are some annoying issues. Let's begin with the one that will never go away, and that's the keyboard. It's spongy, it's not fun, even when backlit, and it simply is the weakest link of an otherwise robust system. While I can use it with a reasonable level of speed and accuracy, it won't ever be joy to type. Even the "alieny" "gamery" font chosen for the font mask is annoying, and the RGB lights are pointless, whoever decided that this somehow signifies a part of the gaming experience.

The laptop gets quite hot when playing graphics-intense games and when plugged into the power outlet. However, at least for now, the temperatures hold steady in the 60-degree range or so, and there are no weird crashes or anything like that. The bonus side is that the very hot air probably sterilizes your keyboard when you use it, killing all living matter on it. Pasteurized RGB keyboards, hi hi.

I also had a one-off scare. Shortly after booting in the desktop, Kubuntu 22.04 popped a critical SMART warning that one of my NVMe was going to die soon. The indicator was for the second disk, i.e., not the system one but the backup one. Now, the Plasma desktop has a SMART GUI tool, so you can at least inspect the problem in more detail without digging through the command line.

The warning was - high temperature. Apparently, one of the sensors gave off a wrong reading, and the system went nuts. Immediately on next reboot, right after the warning, the temperature went back to "normal", and the SMART tool stayed quiet. Since a chewing-gum piece of silicone cannot cool down from 84 degrees Celsius to about 40 degrees in less than a minute (in a passive manner), especially with and in addition to so much excess heat all around it, this tell us it's clearly a reporting bug.

SMART temperatures

But the biggest problem? The suspend & wake no longer works!

After a round of updates, which brought in fresh firmware and GPU drivers, the laptop can be suspended once, maybe twice, but after that, it just won't wake up anymore. Very similar to what I encountered on my ancient LG laptop a decade plus ago. I tried changing the NVMe controller parameters in GRUB, to no avail. There's actually an open thread on the Slimbook forums regarding this. However, the proposed mitigations and solutions do not work at the moment. This renders the laptop way less usable than it is. Hopefully, this will get resolved soonish, otherwise, it puts a big dent in the whole Linux laptop story. But it does confirm my experience that almost every machine I've ever ran Linux on had some hardware incompatibilities.

Software

Here, I actually encountered only one problem. This has to do with TrueCrypt - and before you say why are you using it, the answer is: why not! Besides, should we not test how old software runs and behaves in Linux, and if we want to "replicate" the easy user experience people have in Windows, this also means giving them the ability to run old stuff? Hint, just look at how many old games Steam offers, and then wonder why that is.

Anyway, the issue with TrueCrypt is that sometimes, if you connect an external drive that has a TrueCrypt container on it, and you try to mount it, it may try to use a "wrong" mount point that is already in use. The error is meaningless, because the container will still be mounted correctly and shown in Dolphin, and you can right-click > unmount it from there, if you need to.

TrueCrypt error

Fun 'n' games

The errors and problems above aside, the laptop does a pretty good job. It's fast, stable, things work well. I can accomplish pretty much anything and everything I need. As a worst case scenario, should I fail to be able to run Office 2010 through WINE on this machine at some point, I can always set up a virtual machine with Windows 10, install the software there, disable the network adapter, and just use it as a somewhat complicated document processor for if and when I may need to use Office (say like book publications). Since I already have spare, paid-for Windows 10 and Office 2010 licenses, this wouldn't be unnecessary spending money. It also highlights the beauty and value of offline and perpetual licenses, because you don't want to be locked into a forever subscription model like some monkey. Remember this.

Desktop

Using 1

Another example of why old, perpetual-license software is solid gold. P.S. SketchUp Make 2017 running fabulously through WINE, with proper hardware acceleration and all. One of my must-have Windows migration programs.

Using 2

Hybrid graphics in action, AMD card for lightweight tasks, Nvidia for big stuff, like Steam.

Conclusion

The Titan is an okay machine, so far, I must say. The early experience was really rough, and that left a lasting impression that I cannot shake off, no matter what. The mediocre keyboard also doesn't help. Then, the FP regarding the disk temperature and the suspend issues definitely make the whole story less pleasant. Yes, this is a powerful gaming rig, but it's flawed and limited at the moment, and I don't have full confidence in what it can do, and how long it will last. Yes, it's an experiment, but a very expensive one, and I'd like this machine to serve me, well, ten years from now.

I know that some of you readers are already thinking who's to blame for the suspend problem. The laptop manufacturer, Nvidia, someone else. As an end user, I do not care. I use a complete system, and as such, it ought to work as one whole, unified thingie. Supposedly, the Titan is a Linux-friendly machine, and therefore, it should work as such. Hopefully, the graphics card thing will be fixed, soon, the disk temperature alert will never happen again, and the keyboard will stay and annoy me with its spongy response and l33t font type. But that's why we're doing these long-term reviews and combat reports. Take care.

Cheers.