Why I am keeping this laptop?

Why I am keeping this laptop?

This is it:

I needed a new laptop to get rid of my old one that was not portable. I made 3 posts already about this journey: 1, 2, 3 – so I will try not to repeat myself.

My mission: get a sturdy and powerful laptop that can last me for a decade. Upgradable and fixable in a reasonable manner. Big screen, yet portable. Do it!

After months of searching and thanks to Roma and Guil primarily, who donated 98% of the money for the laptop, I settled for the Dell Inspiron 7620 2-in-1 16 inches. It has a core i7-1260p – 12 cores 16 threads. An Nvidia MX550, 64GB of RAM and 4TB NVME. 4k screen, 16:10 aspect ratio.

I will tell you why I chose this one.

First let me tell you the negative parts of this laptop, since none can be perfect for me I guess. Then I’ll tell you why overall it is a great laptop for me.

What I don’t quite like.

The keyboard. You see I write a lot and I want a great keyboard. This one is too shallow. I miss the depth of the previous keyboard….but I guess I’ll get used to it eventually. The keyboard is also in German….since I bought the laptop from germany, ebay, second hand but unused. Basically brand new.

The Y and Z are switched but I chose a QWERTY layout in TROMjaro so despite showing differently, the letters are in a QWERTY format. I will try to also manually switch them but I am affraid not to break them.

I also kinda don’t like the arrow keys…

The up and down arrows are too tiny. This is a bad design on any keyboard.

To add salt to the injury… this layer:

It is a layer of some sort of plastic/glass on top of the metal chassis, that is great for the touchpad but the edges are a bit sharp so when I type my arms get cut a bit in these edges….that happens when I sit on my desk. Like 99% of the time….

SO the typing experience is not that great. Not awful, and I will get used to it, but yeah….that’s the biggest downside so far.

Another slight discomfort: opening the laptop to upgrade was a scary experience. You have a few screws but once you start unscrewing them the top part of the bottom case starts to violently try to get out, and things are bendy and make noises. Maybe the captive screws on that side should not be fully unscrewed but loosen and then try to open the case little by little.

Like all laptops (almost) the bottom detachable case has plastic bits inside that clip into the laptop, and these are always sketchy…so I even broke 2 while opening it. Was not a great experience but I guess next time it will be easy. Luckily the entire laptop is made out of aluminium so even without these plastic things everything can close pretty tight.

It can be loud and it is a bit heavy. Having a dedicated GPU the fans will be pretty loud when you do intensive tasks, but probably that’s quite normal… Also it is heavy for a “tablet” and quite huge. So this is not really comfortable to use it like that. On the desk is properly fine.

Software-related issues.

Since this laptop is quite new, not even a year old, the hardware is not flawless with Linux. The worst of them all: the speakers will stop working after a few minutes of use. You have to restart pulseaudio for them to work again for a bit. Then they stop again. This seems to be a bug that was reported and should be fixed with newer releases of the kernel. I can easily put up with that since I never use the laptop’s speakers – I have external ones – but for most people this would be a reason not to use Linux on this laptop.

The Hibernate mode kills your laptop. I found out the hard way. I had to fix some bad sectors on the drive because it was not booting up anymore. Probably another issue that will be fixed in the near future, but for now no Hibernate mode. Suspend works ok tho.

If I turn the screen brightness down completely, from the keyboard, I cannot bring it up again. I have to shut down the laptop from the power button….that sucks.

The face recognition camera does not have any real support in Linux so that’s not usable….this is the case for all laptops as far as I know.

Closing the lid won’t respect the XFCE settings I setup for it, so it won’t turn off the screen, or lock, or else.

Basically, with Linux, this laptop is not easily portable. You can’t use the speakers, you can’t hibernate it, you can’t even close the lid to have it turn off the screen….

So, you may wonder, why did I keep this laptop if it has these issues?

First of all the software related issues will be fixed and they won’t bother me much at all. Pretty much every laptop I had to install Linux on, had some sort of issues like that. It is normal when you create an operating system for ALL laptops out there.

Second, the hardware-related issues are not that bad. I am getting used to the keyboard and I won’t have to open up the laptop that often anyway.

So, then, the good parts.

The build quality is great.

This is all metal. Slimbook for example felt flimsy, this one feels really sturdy. I can kill a human and a dog with this laptop and I am sure it will still work 😀. The hinges, metal, feel like they will last me a lifetime. It barely bends, no cracks, and feels really solid overall…

It is also super slim and of course bendable 360 degrees:

Look how great that looks. So thin, so portable. This is a lot more slim-book than the Slimbook one 😀. And the charger is also tiny compared to the Slimbook or my previous laptop:

The touchscreen is also a plus since I can test TROMjaro directly on my own machine.

Speaking of the screen, the screen is AMAZING. The blacks are so black that if I were to select a 16:9 instead of 16:10 resolution I can’t even tell since the black borders are as black as the screen’s chassis. The colors are vibrant and it looks amazing from all angles.

Also…am I crazy or 3-4k resolution is no different from Full HD!? I tested with this laptop and there is 0 difference in how it looks. That’s good since I can use the FullHD resolution and this improves the battery life. From my initial tests it can last some 5-6 hours on wifi doing things. Others have tested this and it can last some 20h if you are not connected to the internet and just watch local media.

When the speakers work they are very loud and sound great, despite only using 2 of them out of 4 in Linux…..when they will all work this laptop will sound amazing am sure.

The touchpad is great. Smooth, HUGE, and looks neat.

The glassy surface that cuts my arms while typing feels great when using the touchpad 😁

Speaking of looking neat, there is only 1 logo on the back.

And that’s not even that visible. I like that.

The port selection is perfect. On the left side you get an HDMI, normal USB, and two USB C / Thunderbolt – meaning they support any sort of connection basically.

On the right side you get another normal USB port, an audio jack, and a full SD size card reader.

So you can be sure that this laptop can connect to anything.

For example the way I set it up now that I have to work on TROM II and need a bunch of external stuff, I use a USB-C dock. It connects to the laptop into one of the USB C ports. One cable, mind you. This dock has the following connected to it: 3 HDDs totaling 14TB of data + my headphones + speakers + external microphone + mouse + external display + projector + 1GB Ethernet + power charging so that it also charges the laptop + webcam.

This is so amazing. It means I can quickly unplug one single cable and take the laptop. Then plug it in and all of those are connected.

The webcam is also better than your average laptop camera, like for example many times better than Slimbook’s. The built-in microphone I’ve heard is also very good but I have not tested it yet. The webcam also has a physical shutter so you can block it.

THE INSIDES!
I think this is the only laptop-convertible in the world that’s 16inches and has a 16:10 aspect ratio, is so slim yet all metal build, but allows you to replace the RAM and has 2 slots for it. This was a must for me. It was advertised as 32GB max, but I easily added 64GB of RAM. DDR4. And I upgraded the NVME M2 to 4TB.

To compare it now with the Slimbook Executive 16, that one costs 1.750 Euros with 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. Sure, the CPU is a bit better and the GPU much better (useful only if you play video games which I do not). This laptop, the Inspiron 7620 costed me 1.100 Euros and with 64GB of RAM + 4TB SSD around 1.700 Euros. MUCH MUCH MUCH better in all regards than the Slimbook offer.

Lastly the power button it is also a fingerprint reader:

And I managed to make it work in TROMjaro – wasn’t that difficult. How amazing that now I can unlock the computer with the fingerprint and works perfectly fine. Or when I install new packages….FINGERPRINT! NO more typing my very long admin password 😀.

OVERALL.

For 1.700 Euros I got a great laptop. It has a big and amazing screen, great port selection, fantastic build quality, great touchpad, good webcam and mic, ok upgradability and repairability, great CPU and good GPU. Touchscreen, bendable 360 degrees, consumes less energy than the Slimbook, small power charger (USB C), great price overall. In time I’ll get used to the keyboard too and the software related issues will be fixed.

Ok ok, a very long post…..but to me this machine is important since it allows me to do the so many projects I am doing. It is an extension to my brain. So it matters to me.

Now I plan to give my old laptop to a dear TROM friend who has helped the project a lot for the past year or two. If I manage to send it to the other side of the globe somehow to not break our pockets. I want to give my older stuff to others who can use it for longer.

I will try to get “laptops” out of my head and in a week or so to focus again on TROM II. I spent a lot of time searching for a good laptop and I feel like I have finally found it. It is time to move on 😀

UPDATE

I wanted to post an update about the laptop now that I’ve used it for a bit.

I got used with the keyboard. Of course this was meant to happen. I still think is not the greatest keyboard I’ve used but it is ok. You don’t think about it after some time. I also managed to physically switch the Y and Z keys without breaking them 😀

Now everything seems more “natural” in terms of typing.

However the trackpad makes some rattling sounds when I use the laptop in bed. Almost like it is a tiny bit loose. I may try to fix that another time.

Build quality is not as great as I thought.

I opened the laptop today to properly look inside. I have to say it was easier to open than before, as I was expecting, but still not a great experience. The worst is what I discovered…I realized that yes the laptop is a metal built BUT inside where the hardware is, there is a plastic mesh/backbone where everything is held into place…which means the screws are screwed into the plastic, and so are the hinges. Watch this video to see my disappointment:

I was and still am very disappointed. I did not realize that the first time I have opened it. Thing is even if I did, I cannot find a better laptop overall. From the screen size, to the ports, outside chassis, specs….cannot….so it is what it is. But it is deceiving and stupid to make a metal chassis but not have the components screwed into it. Now I will have to be extra careful with this laptop to not break the plastic….my worst nightmare. I have used it today all day while sitting in bed and felt very sturdy and all that. So I hope it will be ok and last me for a long time. And if not I can later on sell it and hopefully Framework can make some 16inch ones so I can grab one of those.

Don’t get me wrong, the laptop feels very well built, but now that I know how it is screwed inside, I will be more careful with it.

It is many times better than my previous laptop so….that’s great.

Software issues?

Almost no more software issues. Everything was fixed with the new 6.1 kernel and with the 6.2 one the 2 speakers out of 4 that do not work now, will also work. So yeah, as I was predicting, in Linux is not a big deal if some hardware does not work ok. It will in the near future especially when we talk about a newly released laptop.

I LOVE the fingerprint reader. Install/remove packages, unlock the computer, are done in a split of a second now. The fingerprint reader works like a charm and I will add a package for it for the next release of TROMjaro and a tutorial about how you can enable it.

The rest?

The screen is wonderful. FullHD or 4k look the same so I use it in FullHD. The laptop is fast, allowing me to compile a new TROMjaro ISO in some 15 minutes compared to 50 minutes before. The mic and camera are good. The speakers very good and I could only test it with 2 out of 4. The battery is ok…nothing special about it.

I made a shitty quality video about it today to show the laptop a bit and the fingerprint reader 🙂 – I am lazy to record it properly but here you go:

Overall.

I cannot find a better laptop for my needs now. This one is indeed great. Even if the insides are plastic….it is ok (at least I hope so). Having this portable laptop is fantastic and 64GB of RAM + 4TB NVME are heaven for me haha.

I should leave this behind and work on TROM II, to finish it in 2-3 months. 😉

LAST AND SMALL UPDATE:

Today I got another kernel update and all speakers work. 4 speakers. They sound great for a laptop. Very loud, very clear. Very happy about that. Also, am less and less disappointed about that plastic inside. The laptop feels sturdy so I hope all will be ok.

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