Wednesday, December 12, 2012

System76 Gazelle Professional Unboxing & First Impressions

System76 Logo
So, let's officially begin post #2 in my Gazelle Professional series. This post covers my unboxing of the Gazelle Professional and my first impressions using it. This includes my first hours of use.

System76 shipped me the package in about 5 business days, which is what they say on their website. I actually got the package yesterday; it was right on my doorstep when I came home. I should have had to sign my signature to get the package but I didn't have to do that. Aside from a minor shipping bug, I unboxed the machine hours later, when I could give it my full attention.

Hover over the images to see details about the picture.


The Gazelle Professional came in a shipping box that had almost no markings on it. To me I see that as a plus. Shipping label aside, of course.
System76 Gazelle Professional shipping box
 I carefully grabbed a knife and slit though the tape at the top of the box, and look at what it revealed: another box.
System76 Gazelle Professional in it's actual computer box
The box is actually quite narrow. This might because I got a "base" system, with only the system, a power brick, and some paperwork, which is actually not that bad.
System76 Gazelle Professional in its computer box, stood up and still in packaging
The paperwork is basically two sheets of paper. It is the System76 review policy. It doesn't really tell much besides review information and so on. The computer did some with some stickers for "Powered by Ubuntu" and two keyboard stickers to slap over that Windows logo. The System76 Gazelle Professional keyboard had a sticker over the Windows logo as well, but I don't pay much attention to that. What's nice is that System76 does that in the first place. Makes the laptop feel more genuine in my opinion.

When you take the laptop out of the static protecting pinkish-reddish bag, the screen is covered in protective plastic and so is the trim around it. The plastic that is around the screen is actually like a sheet, and can be removed from the entire monitor by taking off 4 pieces of tape, 2 for each plastic sheet. With that  you see the nice System76 logo printed on the front:
System76 Gazelle Professional showing System76 logo on front
The keyboard on this device is a chicklet-style keyboard. It features an almost-full set of number keys to the right as well. The shot you see below is not exactly perfect but I'll take more pictures as the review goes on in the coming weeks.
System76 Gazelle Professional overhead keyboard shot
If you pay close attention you can see that there is no enter key on the number pad. An enter key is absent, and the placement of the number keys is not exactly like a desktop keyboard.

The back of the machine is very clean. There is no clutter of stickers on the bottom of the machine. All that is there is your model of the laptop and the serial number. Interestingly enough, the model sticker was actually stuck on top of the "original" model number that was on the laptop. Same goes for the serial number, but for the serial number I can't say if the sticker was actually covering something or was the actual serial number. I am not going to remove the sticker to check either.

You can see the rest of my unboxing shots here.

First Impressions

As soon as I was done with the unboxing, I plugged in the power adapter and turned on the computer. The power button is not exactly a firm button, so you might have to push the button just a little bit harder for the laptop to actually turn on. Not that big of a deal but that's one of the things I've noticed so far. The System76 BIOS screen will then come up for a few seconds, and then boot into Ubuntu. Since there is no other OS installed on the machine there is no GRUB boot menu that pops up by default unless you want to press SHIFT just as the BIOS is exiting to get the option to boot Ubuntu into recovery mode.
System76 Gazelle Professional showing BIOS splash screen
After Ubuntu is loaded, you are taken to a screen where you set up a user account. System76 preinstalls their PCs with Ubuntu, with some extra software included to enhance or provide functionality of a hardware feature.

Ubuntu is already installed, so all you have to do is fill in user specific settings, such as a password, a username, a computer name, and so on. You can also set the time zone. After you enter some info and go on, it takes about a minute to get all of your settings configured and then you'll be ready to log into Ubuntu for the first time. The Unity desktop appeared almost as soon as I logged in. It must be the solid state drive at work. I'll cover base specs in another article.

One thing I really like about this laptop already is just the way it looks. It probably isn't the most handsome machine out there (it is to me, at least for now). It has almost sharp edges instead of rounded edges. I guess you could also call it lines as well. Interestingly enough, you can compare this to the modern car (US specifically). Modern cars for the most part are like "bubbles", with rounded and bubble like edges and trims. On older cars they are more sharper.

The laptop, as shown in the unboxing comes with a chicklet keyboard with a number pad that almost resembles one of a desktop keyboard. I have been typing this entire article on it and I can say that the keyboard is great. It does not have any key press issues. The amount of resistance could have been just a bit smaller in my opinion, but it's not something to complain about. I like having the spacing of the keys anyways because it makes it really difficult to mash 2 keys at one time, especially on the number pad on a desktop keyboard. Have you ever done that before?

There is a few things I have to talk about now, and that is heat. Heat from this laptop is expected because of all the power behind it. I have seen complaints all around the internet speaking of the area where the left palm rest is located becoming excessively warm. So far I have had no issues with the left palm area. I will say however that it does indeed get warmer compared to the right side of the laptop, but in my opinion it should be more welcome than seen as a downside. As for the rest of the laptop, the fans on this machine should keep you cool.  The laptop when not in heavy use is incredibly quiet, the quietest laptop I have ever seen. The only time you will hear the fan is when the laptop becomes hotter, and needs to be cooled quicker. And even with that you have to push one or two of the cores to 100% for a period of time before the fan starts to really kick on.

While playing a 1080p video and while watching DVDs the fan level does rise, but only about 2 levels at the most. Later on I ran a full Ubuntu 12.04 VM (a play pin for some other stuff I'm going to do) while playing a DVD with Chrome rendering some other content in the background. The VM wasn't so active but it was enough to keep the fan level at a steady pace to where you can hear it constantly.

So to make sure that I don't literally "write your eyes off", I'll cut this post short right here. I'll have more impressions to make in the coming weeks, like I have said before. I should also probably mention that this post too 2 days to compile. The unboxing was on December 10, 2012 @ ~7:30 PM EST, which was Monday. If you have questions you can drop a line in the comments.