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Thread: System76 Serval Professional Notebook

  1. #1
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    Default System76 Serval Professional Notebook

    Phoronix: System76 Serval Professional Notebook

    Finding a laptop that can run Linux is no longer much of a challenge. As we have shared in numerous netbook and notebook reviews, a majority off the shelf PCs shipping with Windows can easily be replaced with Linux and chances are most -- if not all -- of the components will just work on this open-source operating system, while ill-supported parts can usually be configured to work in just a few steps. For those looking to save time or avoid a potential headache, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and other major vendors have been offering Linux notebooks for some time now. One of the smaller vendors though that has been offering Ubuntu Linux notebooks (along with desktops and servers) is System76 Inc. This Colorado-based company not only ensures their hardware is 100% compatible with Ubuntu Linux, but they also preload some popular software packages that are not installed by default on Ubuntu. In this review we are looking at the System76 Serval Professional notebook.

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=13575

  2. #2
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    I have an older model of Serval so I can't comment on this one, but I do praise their support services. Way better responsiveness and helpfulness than many of the big OEMs - and you don't get agents from Kentucky with an Indian accent either.

  3. #3
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    The Serval is out of my price range, but I'll definitely consider the Pangolin for my next purchase.

    Laptop lineup here: http://system76.com/index.php?cPath=28

  4. #4
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    I just compared the Serval Pro to the Lenovo W500, which seems to be its closest competitor and it came out very similarly priced. Cheaper, actually and has more connectivity options. No, it's not a cheap laptop by any means, but it's by no means a HUGE premium, unless you're comparing it to a Dell, HP or Acer. Still, I'd consider it if I was in the market.

  5. #5

    Default S76 Serp5

    Nice review guys. I have one of these, and I haven't gotten around to installing the Phoronix test suite on it, so it was nice to see some hard data proving what I already knew: it's a superbeast of a computer.

    Seriously, it looks like it's the best performance value out there. Sure, you could get a Sager or Falcon NW, but it'll probably cost hundreds or thousands more.

    One neat thing you guys (and you're not alone!) didn't notice. The eSATA port on the back is actually a combination USB/eSATA port. Look closely for the clever packaging!

  6. #6
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    Default How about a battery life graph?

    To me portability and battery life are more important than FPS in some game I will never play.

  7. #7
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    I have been wanting to see this review ever since I saw the System76 ads on Phoronix and also saw it hinted in one of the articles / forum posts (don't remember which one).

    I have a Asus G50VT-X6 and it should be a direct competitor to this machine. In a nutshell, my machine has P8700 @2.53 GHz, 4GB DDR2 @800MHz, and of course, 9800M GS. And from my usage of last month or so, I can say this is a killer machine.

    Anycase, unfortunately, I didn't see the Serval before I bought my notebook, else it would have been a close candidate. The only small gripe with Asus is that they don't have DDR3 (but given expensive nature, performance benifits and latency issues, I am ok), and I just fell short of that magical 1920x1200 - I have 1680x1050 (mind you, this itself is huge and pixel density strains your eyes and head).

    There are tons I could write on this topic and why I went with Asus finally. The looks were awesome (really looks like a gaming machine). Price of 1300 is unbelievable(at newegg) and there is a slightly lower version selling at 950 in bestbuy. This is just on the twilightzone between portable and brick. I will say, this is portable for me - I carry it to work everyday and totally all-purpose.
    Regarding battery life, it is not surprising that this should be as good as other laptops with discrete graphics under light/moderate load, because 9800MGS clocks down all the way to 169MHz gpu and 100MHz memory, and so does the P8700 to 0.8GHz. Remember, 9800M GT/GTS has 96 shaders compared to 64 for 9800M GS. Anyway, it does give 1.5 to 2hrs on battery in Linux. It sure gives 2+ hrs in Windows apparently. The display is a hogger, but brightness can by adjusted to unusably low . I am planning to get a 9-cell sometime soon though.

    Now, can anyone please please tell me how to use the turbo mode in Linux. This Asus app in Windows can overclock my machine to a stunning 3GHz (ok, 2.93 with 9.5x mul and 300mhz bus), and 880MHz memory.
    Also, although I hate these 5-second flash linux with a passion, Splashtop didn't actually disappoint me. Phoronix might have a relook at splashtop. Surprisingly, even the inbuilt intel wireless 5100agn worked fine (ok, this is fully supported by current linux kernels) and things like webcam and skype too (although its trivia thanks to linux-uvc package). Now, if only they did something about that ugly 1280x800 resolution on a 1680x1050 screen - I am sure Vesa can handle it, Nv / Nouveau would be awesome. And also please give a terminal for heaven's sake.

    Other machines in the class - check out the Gateway p7805u in bestbuy - mindboggingly cheap for its specs but ultra heavy. Toshiba Qosmio x305's are good too, but tad too expensive (other gripes too). MSI's GT627 just didn't make it to Amazon (I gave up waiting). In my opinion, the Serval is actually a little expensive (I fully appreciate the specs though.)

    Oh and a couple of last words. I fully appreciate the dvi+hdmi in Serval. Asus ships with one vga+hdmi. I can't convert any of these to s-video (the vga->s-vid doesn't work and hdmi has no analog pins).
    Secondly, I totally like the keyboard of Serval. Thankfully no numpad. I don't know why these gaming notebooks apparently all have this numpad which crams the keyboard. Totally unnecessary to me. And some of the keys like "~" (tilde) are too small. Would have liked a backlit one too. And please don't change to the macbook like keyboards please. (I still love the keyboard of my dell vostro 1400.)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by hdas View Post
    Now, can anyone please please tell me how to use the turbo mode in Linux. This Asus app in Windows can overclock my machine to a stunning 3GHz (ok, 2.93 with 9.5x mul and 300mhz bus), and 880MHz memory.
    In short, you can't. The overclocking util that asus (ATK 0110) uses is a proprietary and all attempts made so far to get complete documentation on it has so far been unsuccessful. This is pretty much the norm across all software OC utils that are found in windows but are absent in linux. Apps for overclocking the system (with the exception of video) in linux simply don't exist nor has there been any real effort put forward to accomodate them. It will be a long time if ever you will see Asus's AI Booster, AMD's Overdrive, Nvidia's control panel, etc on anything other then windows.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by deanjo View Post
    In short, you can't. The overclocking util that asus (ATK 0110) uses is a proprietary and all attempts made so far to get complete documentation on it has so far been unsuccessful. This is pretty much the norm across all software OC utils that are found in windows but are absent in linux. Apps for overclocking the system (with the exception of video) in linux simply don't exist nor has there been any real effort put forward to accomodate them. It will be a long time if ever you will see Asus's AI Booster, AMD's Overdrive, Nvidia's control panel, etc on anything other then windows.
    Thanks for a heads up on that. Frankly, I didn't look it up on google at all. But hardware stuff should left in Bios-setup. Especially since I felt this notebook has a much full featured bios-setup menu than my previous dell/hp. However, I thought its just some registers, so should be simple to do it in kernel with some sysctl interface. In any case, I am happy with these speeds and both the cpu and gpu on this machine are awesome .

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hdas View Post
    Thanks for a heads up on that. Frankly, I didn't look it up on google at all. But hardware stuff should left in Bios-setup. Especially since I felt this notebook has a much full featured bios-setup menu than my previous dell/hp. However, I thought its just some registers, so should be simple to do it in kernel with some sysctl interface. In any case, I am happy with these speeds and both the cpu and gpu on this machine are awesome .
    Wel, if it should be left in the bios that is debatable. Sure the die hards will say so but that is quickly changing. If you take a look at the recent overclocking comps that are out there on the Phenom, you can see that the new preferred way is through those utilities and not the bios anymore but through AMD's overdrive util. The days of BIOS tweaking are numbered, we are slowly seeing more EFI implementations out there and when it becomes the norm the BIOS will simply cease to exist and all changes will have to be done through such utils anyways.

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