Lemur Review

Coder Radio listeners will know that I have been agonizing over replacing my three-old MacBook Pro and with the recent Apple announcement of their new MacBook, I ended up ordering a System 76 Lemur laptop with Ubuntu 16.10 Linux pre-installed. If you’re interested in the specific specs of the system, you can see them here. My thoughts in the future of computing (or the next “big thing” if you prefer) being AI powered by Linux on the cloud. My crazy predictions about the future of AI and the stages it will go in are a post for another day – for today, let’s go over the Lemur itself as it compares to the MacBook Pro it’s replacing.

The general hardware is good but a little more plastic feeling than I am familiar with. I like the inclusion of a USB-C port but do wonder who is still using VGA and if that space on the body would not have been better used for another USB port. I was pleased that my high-res Dell monitor and peripherals all worked out of the box with the Lemur – that’s a big win for System 76, as device compatibility concerns (real or imagined) tends to be a main thing that keeps would-be-switchers from going Linux. The general “just works” quality of the Lemur with Ubuntu 16.10 is by far the most impressive aspect of my experience with it.

On average, I am getting about 4-5 hours of battery life with the screen just about all the way turned up and playing / streaming music or podcasts basically constantly. That’s less than ideal, but I am confident, I could bleed an hour so more out of it if I did less streaming and dimmed the screen some.

The matte screen on the device is surprisingly good and has helped to bring me around on matte screens in general. I might have liked a more “retina” screen but the 1080 resolution is more than fine for my needs.

The keyboard is a bit of step down from the MacBook Pro keyboard that I am used to. There is far less key travel and at times it feels a bit too insubstantial to type on, however, it’s about on par with most non-Apple keyboards on windows laptops with the possible exception of the current Dell XPS 13 and is by no means the worst laptop keyboard that I’ve used.

The track-pad is just bad. Even compared to other non-Apple laptops, the track-pad doesn’t cut the mustard. It at times feels “jumpy” and at other times feels slow and unresponsive. It’s also awkward feeling on my fingers but that’s probably a bit too subjective to worry about for most. I’ve taken to keeping a USB mouse in my bag with the Lemur.

The sound from the on-board speakers is adequate but leaves a bit to be desired when compared to the MacBook Pro speakers. Neither is very good, so there’s not a lot to worry about here – in general, if you care about audio like I do you’re probably always disappointed with laptop speakers. The most glaring issue here is that at high volumes the sound becomes tinny.

All in all, I think the Lemur is a good choice for someone looking for a Linux laptop that could be great if just a little more care was taken with the track-pad and keyboard, as the other minor points I’ve made here are probably specific to my tastes / expectations.

Comments? Questions? Forest burning FOSS rage? Hit me up on Twitter.

  • Nice article. I hope you’ll be happy with new investment 🙂 Regarding battery life, have you tried TLP? https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/TLP just installing it and enabling it gives me on my laptop around 30+ minutes of battery life.

  • Durious_Dev

    Great piece! I am a huge fan of matte screens and miss the days when apple used to offer the choice on their macbook pro’s probably 2009-10, not sure i think my last Macbook Pro with one was my 2008 model.

    As for the Lemur I am ok with a so-so keyboard, the new apple one is by far the shittiest i’ve ever used. I am not referring to key travel or depth of pressing either. I travelled a lot the last two years so i had a Macbook (both 1st and 2nd gen) for mobility and more power at home. In both instances I had keys fail after 2-3 months, i believe it’s the design where dirt/debris fills and does not allow for a clean press. For instance I have been dreading going into the apple store to replace my left shift key… and that key’s important as i’m not used to [{ etc with my right shift button. My #3 will likely go in the next few weeks as well. horrible design. The new apple pro’s with that keyboard is disappointing because of this.

    Lack of hdmi, sd card, faulty keyboard, max of 16Gb of ram, single port option where I am unable to even plug in my phone, 6th gen intel processors, and an incredibly ridiculous price has made even my die hard fanboyism go out the door with extreme thrust!

    Now we look into the lemur… all your issues with it are OK imo except the trackpad. I am a trackpad snob per say. I don’t do clamshell that often and use laptops in their natural form. I write this as I lay on my bed! My workflow is heavily dependant on a smooth trackpad experience, I haven’t plugged in a mouse to one of my apple laptops in ages I find it slows me down…. So i am a bit confused on my next steps.. / direction with computing

    One thing is certain apple will be on a long road to recovery after this one if they do not learn quickly.

    With IoT devices booming across industry, even with all the inherit security flaws I do not see much of a future for non-linux products in all these categories. Startups don’t have the necessary capital, etc to typically go into options like windows mobile (barf) or their own OS whether on java or other platforms. So I really need to adopt linux as a primary machine and get more accustomed to how it operates then simply the hobbyist tinkering I have been doing in VM’s so in some ways perhaps it’s best that pple has lost its direction.

    I am contemplating a previous gen macbook pro in the interim but i think that’s just delaying the inevitable… i may yet deal with the shit trackpad and jump to system 76’s Lemur. I know developer XPS 13 is an option but it’s far too pricey and less powered then the lemur to justify jumping into a linux experience head-on. I guess my hardware feedback should go to clevo/sager to make changes but hopefully System76 has avenues to provide consumer feedback.

    So… i’ll wait a few days before i leap in… but still contemplating the lemur.

    Anyway – overall great review appreciate you giving a truly honest review!