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Moe Long
Moe Long

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Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux Laptop Review

Typically a Linux machine is a mostly do-it-yourself (DIY) endeavor. You’re usually on your own installing an operating system (OS), regardless of whether you’re using a pre-built machine or custom build. However, there are plenty of off-the-shelf Linux laptops and desktops available. The Kubuntu Focus is an outstanding Linux laptop. It comes with the Ubuntu-based Kubuntu Linux distribution (distro) pre-loaded, boasts an impressive spec sheet, and exceptional build quality. This combination makes is a great choice for programmers, gamers, and anyone switching from Windows or macOS to Linux. But is the Kubuntu Focus M2 right for you? Find out in my hands-on review!

What is the Kubuntu Focus M2 – Kubuntu Focus Laptop Overview

Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux Laptop Review

The Kubuntu Focus M2 is a Linux laptop. It ships with the Kubuntu Linux distro pre-installed and, as such, runs Ubuntu with the KDE Plasma Desktop rather than vanilla Ubuntu’s GNOME desktop environment. There’s a 15.6-inch 1080p full high-definition (FHD) 144Hz display.

Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel 11th gen 8-core processor. You can outfit the Kubuntu Focus M2 gen 3 with up to 64GB of 3200MHz RAM, as high as 4TB of NVMe SSD storage, and up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 with a whopping 16GB of GDDR6 video RAM (vRAM).

On the networking side, the Focus M2 sports dual-band 5GHz ac/a/b/g/n/ax Wi-Fi 6, Gigabit Ethernet, and Bluetooth 5.2. Inputs/outputs include a USB 3.0 Type-A, two USB 3.2 Type-A hosts, a 3.5mm audio jack, 3.5mm mic input, HDMI 2.0 port, 40Gbps Thunderbolt USB-C jack, and DisplayPort 1.4.

There’s a sturdy aluminum chassis. Its keyboard features RGB backlighting with over 65,000 different color combinations and 4mm keyboard travel. Pricing starts at $1,945 USD for the Kubuntu Focus M2 gen 3 which gets you an Intel Core i7 11800H, NVIDIA RTX 3060, 16GB of RAM, and 250GB NVMe SSD. You can max the Focus M2 out with the Beast preset which comes with an Intel Core i7 11800H CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3080, 4TB NVMe storage total (2x 2TB NVMe SSDs), and 64GB of RAM.

Kubuntu Focus M2 Specs

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 11800H
  • GPU: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 (choice of GeForce RTX 3060, 3070, 3080)
  • RAM: Up to 64GB 3200MHz dual-channel RAM (base 16GB)
  • 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz display
  • Aluminium chassis
  • RGB backlit keyboard with over 65,000 color combinations
  • I/O: 1 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.2 Type-A hosts, 1 x 3.5mm audio jack, 1 x 3.5mm mic input, 1 x HDMI 2.0 port, 1 x 40Gbps Thunderbolt USB-C jack, 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Networking/communication: Dual-band 5GHz ac/a/b/g/n/ax Wi-Fi 6, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2, Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit Ethernet jack

Buy from Kubuntu

Kubuntu Focus M2 Review Verdict

Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux Laptop Review

The Kubuntu Focus M2 is an outstanding Linux laptop. I liked that it came with Kubuntu Linux preloaded. Although it’s easy enough to install most Ubuntu and Debian-based Linux distros yourself, I appreciated the ability to fire up the Focus M2 and begin using it right away. Kubuntu is a real treat to use, and several useful apps including the Google Chrome web browser and Steam video game client come preinstalled.

Build quality is excellent. I found the all-metal chassis sturdy and durable. The lid is emblazoned with the Kubuntu logo, and the keyboard includes a super key sporting the Kubuntu logo as well. Keyboard travel at 4mm is great. Writing and editing felt natural. The RGB backlit keyboard was gorgeous, and I enjoyed setting custom colors as well as brightness.

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The 1080p FHD 144Hz IPS display boasts fantastic color accuracy along with good viewing angles. Everything from gaming and watching movies to general web browsing looks lovely. My review unit came with an Intel Core i7 11800H CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, and 16GB of RAM.

In my testing, gaming was buttery smooth for titles such as Rise of the Tomb RaiderShadow of the Tomb Raider, and Alien: Isolation. Similarly, spinning up Docker instances was blisteringly fast. Therefore, the Kubuntu Focus M2 is a versatile machine that should satisfy a variety of users including gamers, programmers, and system administrators (sysadmins).

I was impressed with the array of different ports. With three USB ports, HDMI and DisplayPort, 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks, Thunderbolt USB-C, and Gigabit Ethernet, there’s generous connectivity. And Wi-Fi 6 alongside Bluetooth 5.2 offer fast wireless networking. The well-ventilated bottom hatch is easy to remove for simple upgrades, a nice touch in an age where laptops are becoming increasingly difficult to open up.

Unfortunately, the metal chassis is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Additionally, I found the trackpad somewhat small and tough. Since the touchpad isn’t clickable, it took some getting used to. Under full load, the fans do kick in and are slightly noticeable, though this is common to pretty much all gaming laptops. While the Kubuntu Focus does feature switchable graphics, changing between the dedicated GPU and integrated GPU requires restarting the desktop environment. Though that’s a minor convenience, it’s not the end of the world.

Ultimately, the Kubuntu Focus M2 is a superb Linux laptop. Regardless of whether I was gaming, programming, writing, or simply browsing the web, the Focus was more than up to the task. A few minor quirks don’t detract from the overall excellence of the M2, making it arguably the best Linux laptop on the market.

Kubuntu Focus M2 – Design and Build

Kubuntu Focus M2 Linux Laptop

The Kubuntu Focus M2 features a solidly built aluminum chassis. Its lid includes the Kubuntu logo. Around front, you’ll find a set of status indicator LED lights.

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The right-hand side of the laptop includes a pair of USB 3.2 Type-A ports and a Gigabit Ethernet LAN jack.

Kubuntu Focus right side

In back, the Focus M2 sports HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 video outputs. There’s also a barrel jack power connector.

Kubuntu Focus back

A Kensington lock port, USB 3.0 Type-A, 3.5mm headphone out jack, and 3.5mm mic input grace the left-hand side of the unit.

Kubuntu Focus left side

Underneath, there’s a well-ventilated grille that covers the RAM, NVMe SSD, and cooling fans.

The keyboard boasts great key travel of 4mm. Its RGB led backlighting can easily be customized using a hotkey.

Kubuntu Focus keyboard

And the keypad is pretty sizable, though not nearly as big as the touchpad on my Razer Blade 15 or Apple’s MacBook Pro.

Kubuntu Focus trackpad

Construction is stellar all-around. The metal chassis is sturdy, there’s little to no flex to the screen, the keyboard is comfortable to type on, its bottom panel is well-ventilated, and you’ll find ample connection ports.

Kubuntu Focus M2 Gaming Performance

Kubuntu Focus Tomb Raider

Gaming performance is extremely impressive. On my NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070-equipped system, I clocked an average of around 160 frames per second (FPS) in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at the highest preset in 1080p.

Shadow of the tomb raider Linux

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, I averaged about 150 FPS in the highest preset. Visuals were buttery smooth.

Rise of the tomb raider Linux

Playing Alien Isolation maxed out on ultra, I averaged around 140 frames per second. The Kubuntu Focus churned out gorgeous eyecandy, replicating a lifelike recreation of the Nostromo.

Alien Isolation Linux

Your experience will vary depending on which GPU you select – the RTX 3060, 3070, or 3080. While the 3080 can handle 4K on ultra or high for most modern AAA titles, the RTX 3070 is best suited to 1080p or 1440p. For Linux gaming, the Kubuntu Focus M2 is a great choice.

Kubuntu Focus M2 gaming benchmarks:

  • Alien Isolation – 144 FPS average, 1080p ultra
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider – 160 FPS average, 1080p highest preset
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider– 150 FPS, 1080p average, highest preset

Kubuntu Focus M2 – Software Experience

Kubuntu KDE Plasma menu

While the Focus M2 delivers wonderful hardware, it’s the software experience that makes this an incredible Linux laptop. Ubuntu and its derivatives tend to be fairly user-friendly on the whole. But Kubuntu takes this to an entirely new level. When you first boot into Kubuntu, there’s a helpful software setup wizard which runs. It walks you through some initial configuration including changing your password, choosing an avatar, and enabling various optional software packages. For instance, Kubuntu prompts you to turn on Dropbox, enable InSync, and turn on the open-source password manager KeePassXC.

Kubuntu KDE desktop environment

Moreover, there’s a helpful list of recommended applications. You can launch this with ease from the taskbar. Suggested software options include Steam, Kubernetes, Lutris (for playing Windows games with WINE), JetBrains Toolbox, the LibreOffice suite, and more. I appreciated the software wizard and recommended apps list. Although most Linux enthusiasts should have no issue installing different apps, these features make the Kubuntu Focus M2 great for newcomers switching from Windows or macOS to Linux.

Since Kubuntu utilizes the DPKG package manager, downloading apps is pretty fast. The KDE Plasma desktop is an excellent, visually pleasing graphical user interface (GUI). KDE looks similar to Windows for a familiar experience that should ease the transition from a non-Linux OS. The KDE Plasma desktop environment uses few system resources for a snappy experience. Loading up apps and switching windows was seamless.

Privacy Features on the Kubuntu Focus M2

The Kubuntu Focus M2 touts a slew of safety and security features. You’ll find full-disk encryption, optional pre-configured YubiKey 5 NFC two-factor authentication (2FA), and a BIOS Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 disable option. Its YubiKey 5 NFC 2FA support lets you enable hardware-based authentication for bolstered security. There’s even KeePassXC open-source password manager compatibility.

Outside of its robust software security features, the Focus M2 packs hardware security goodies as well. There’s a Kensington lock port for securing your Linux laptop to a desk. And its HD webcam has a physical privacy shutter cover.

Privacy features:

  • Full-disk encryption
  • YubiKey 5 NFC 2FA
  • Disable BIOS TPM 2.0
  • Kensington lock
  • Physical webcam privacy cover

Should You Get the Kubuntu Focus M2 – Who is the Kubuntu Focus M2 For?

Alien Isolation Linux Kubuntu

So now on to the real question: Should you get the Kubuntu Focus M2? As a versatile Linux laptop, the Focus is a compelling choice for all sorts of users. Because of its NVIDIA GPU options, the Focus M2 is great for gamers, designers, and video editors. Steam comes preinstalled for gaming. Under the curated apps list, you’ll find Blender for 3D modeling as well as Lutris for running Windows games on Linux with WINE.

Since Linux is an extremely popular environment for programmers and developers. As such, the Focus M2 is a fantastic choice for devs. Spinning up Docker containers is blisteringly fast, with generally under two-minute install times. That’s mostly because the Focus M2 runs Linux natively, so it eliminates any filesystem emulation layers like you’ll find on macOS or Windows. And there’s a whole host of different programming tools available including Kubernetes, JetBrains Toolbox, IDEs (integrated development environments) like IntelliJ or PyCharm, VScode, and more.

Furthermore, with its extremely user-friendly Linux OS in Kubuntu, the Focus M2 is a solid choice for anyone switching from Windows or macOS. Although it’s a full-fledged Linux distro, Kubuntu lets you install apps, run updates, and customize your system without needing to touch the command line much.

Who is the Kubuntu Focus M2 for:

  • Gamers
  • Developers/programmers
  • Designers/animators/3D modelers
  • Anyone switching from macOS or Windows to Linux

Kubuntu Focus M2 Review – Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to love about the Kubuntu Focus M2 third-generation. It offers a spectacular, user-friendly experience that’s suitable for everyone including gamers, programmers, sysadmins, and designers. The pre-loaded Kubuntu Linux OS is easy to use and great for anyone switching from macOS or Windows to Linux. Gaming performance is superb, and many apps for development like Docker benefit from the native Linux environment. With Linux preloaded, the Focus M2 is ready to use out-of-the-box. You can outfit the Focus with outstanding hardware all the way up to an NVIDIA RTX 3080, 4TB of NVMe SSD storage, and 64GB of RAM.

The touchpad is a bit stiff, though I eventually got used to it. While the Focus includes switchable graphics, you’ll have to restart the desktop environment in order to toggle between the high-performance GPU and energy-efficient integrated graphics chip. Although that’s not the end of the world, it’s somewhat cumbersome. Admittedly, the price (beginning at $1,945) is a bit high. However, it’s about in line with premium laptops. For instance, the RTX 30-series Razer Blade 15 starts around $1,700 while the MacBook Pro 14-inch normally starts at $1,999. Thus, the Focus M2’s price tag is aligned with the competition. And for the unparalleled experience of a pre-installed Linux laptop, it’s well worth the cost.

In the end, the Kubuntu Focus is an extraordinary piece of kit. It should satisfy a variety of different needs and makes getting started a breeze. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, sysadmin, developer, designer, or merely a curious new Linux user, the Kubuntu Focus M2 is a spectacular machine, and arguably the best Linux laptop on the planet.

Your turn: Which Linux laptops are you using, and what Linux distros are you running?

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