7 months ago I was faced with a problem I'm sure everyone who writes code in their free time has dealt with. Buying a new laptop that will be used for side projects (and maybe the occasional side work).
Do you get a Mac by default? A massively powerful gaming laptop? An expensive but powerful windows machine? A Surface? A cheapie machine? After all, how much power do you really need!
It's a great problem to have.
I wrote a post about it on dev.to titled "The Lemur Pro - Random Developer's Opinion" because I wanted to write out my thoughts after reading so many other partial opinions across the internet.
So now, 7 months later I've used this laptop for at least 4 hours a day and I wanted to summarize my thoughts again, this time highlighting whether or not I regret making this purchase.
I'll be updating the previous article with a link to this one.
Just to set the stage, this was my situation about 7 months ago. I'd been given a 16" Macbook Pro 6 core for work, had a desktop with an 8 core 16 thread CPU (3700x) and 32GB of memory, and my personal machine was an $800 HP Envy x360 laptop.
It was very apparent that the x360 wasn't able to keep up with the workloads I was trying to run on it and I can't use the Macbook for non-work related projects.
I primarily work with Java professionally, so a Linux-like environment was my default. That doesn't leave a lot of options.
I checked out the XPS Ubuntu line, every variation of Macbook and of course, System76. After extensive research, I decided the best bang for my buck would be the $1100ish dollar Lemur Pro from System 76.
I got the machine in the mail, wrote my "Random Developer's Opinion" piece, and moved on with my life.
Since then, I've spent a ton of time using this machine and there are things that I love about it, and things that I hate.
Diving right in, all the points raised in my first article still stand strong. The Lemur Pro is super light, the keyboard is punchy and still feels great to type on.
I get about 11 hours of battery life while doing moderate usage. Namely web browsing or some small-scale development. Maybe a single IDE window and a single browser window with ~10 tabs. 11 hours is absolutely bonkers, considering my macbook nets me about 3 on a good day and my old x360 got me a cool 5 hours at most.
Additionally, PopOS is a phenomenal operating system. All of the comforts of Ubuntu with a fresh coat of paint. With such a small 14" screen, tile snapping is an excellent way to move windows around.
I installed a resource monitoring tool straight away that displays in the top bar and I can say getting System76's top available NVMe drive makes an insane difference. I've yet to wait on the drive for anything, making software load up that much faster as everything gets pulled off disk.
All of the reviews I recall reading talked about the heat. But as I'll show later what kind of workloads I was running, I never once felt like the laptop was extremely hot sitting on my lap. The fans would kick on as needed and they are relatively quiet, and it would just chug through the processing fine.
Time for the "bad".
This. Thing. Holds. Fingerprints. From reading a review, the chassis is made out of a Magnesium-Aluminum alloy. Whatever it is actually made up of, it very easily smudges and cleaning it lasts until I pick it up again.
After about 2 months, I started to have a peculiar issue. If I closed the machine and put it to sleep while I was running anything at all, upon re-opening the laptop the left click on the touchpad wouldn't work.
I got in contact with System76 and we went back and forth for a few weeks debugging. I sent a bunch of debug logs and reinstalled drivers constantly.
Eventually we agreed that it was a "weird" issue and I reinstalled the OS. This worked for about a week until the issue came back 10 times worse. Any time I walked away for a few minutes my left click and touchpad would just stop working.
Thankfully, I think this was a temporary bug, because I updated PopOS to 20.10 and the issue went away and hasn't come back since.
Along the same vein, occasionally when pressing the power button, the machine would just hang on a gray screen until it was force killed.
I removed docker from my start processes and that seemed to resolve that issue.
8GB of memory is definitely not enough. I recommend purchasing a 32GB stick of laptop memory to install along with the soldered 8GB. Having 40GB of memory gives this laptop so much headroom, it's crazy.
I think a lot of this stems from this being a custom firmware and OS, so nothing I'm heavily faulting System76 for.
The included charger is so short, I ended up picking up a 65 Watt 6 foot long charger that uses usb-c to charge the Lemur with.
Here's some examples of workloads I was able to run with no issues on the Lemur Pro:
- 12 docker containers running in a local kubernetes
- 3 IntelliJ IDEA windows and 5 browser windows with 10+ tabs each
- Android Studio, Android Emulator and 20+ Chrome tabs
- Multiple postgres database instances, with 6 small java apps deployed along-side
and more along those lines above.
Overall, I'm really happy with the machine and it's quirks. Much better than if I'd have gotten a Macbook Air or a similarly small windows laptop.
If you're looking to pull the trigger and you need a middle of the road laptop, and you'd prefer it to be ubuntu, I'd say go for it. System76 support was quick and professional, and the Lemur Pro is pretty competitively priced for the specs.
I don't regret this purchase one bit and if I need a more powerful machine or a new machine for work, I might be checking out the Oryx Pro series from System 76!
Hopefully this follow-up helps anyone else who's looking into making the Lemur Pro their next portable machine!