Friday, December 27, 2013

Perfect Linux Laptop - Asus UX31E & Ubuntu 13.10

Linux Laptop Nirvana - I've been searching for the perfect rig for some time. However ever since buying my first Macbook Air no laptop or Ultrabook has ever been good enough to run Linux with style. My biggest beef with most laptops and so called Ultrabooks is their cheap plastic feel and absolutely ugly exterior. Enter Asus UX31E Zenbook Ultra Slim. This puppy is sexy on the outside, super thin, all aluminium design, runs an i5-2467M Intel Sandybride processor with 128GB flash storage. It's the perfect Macbok Air competitor on the PC side. Problem one, solved!

Problem two ~Linux support. When it comes to laptops, out of the box Linux support has always been a mixed bag. Even at best of times support is abysmal. Graphics, wireless, bluetooth, trackpad, audio are among some issues I've experienced in the past. But not this time, Asus has packed hardware nirvana into the UX31E. After installing Ubuntu 13.10 everything works as expected including suspend. Wireless, audio, graphics work great. But I'm most excited about keyboard functions. Audio volume, screen on/off, wireless on/off, screen brightness and other typical Fn functions you'll find on a typical laptop work flawlessly.

As for Ubuntu 13.10, Unity is starting to grow on me. The more I use it the more I like it. So far I've found a native or equivalent to most applications I consider critical to make the Linux switch successful. Those Apps include Evernote, Twitter, most Google Apps, Dropbox, development apps, graphics apps, music apps and even got Netflix working. I'm still missing a few minor applications but overall, Linux is providing a great environment and experience on the Asus UX31E Zenbook. If you're looking for a Linux laptop I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this model.

I'm very pleased with Zenbook's hardware. The processor is plenty fast for my needs. I wish I had 8GB ram but 4GB seems fine for current needs. I may run Virtualbox later at which time more ram would be warranted. On the flip side flash storage, read and write performance is fantastic. I haven't noticed lags or hesitation. Screen is very crisp and bright. Wireless functions work well including Bluetooth.

So what's the catch? Well, I do wish Ubuntu supported TRIM, but I've manually configured it at boot. Keyboard back-lighting is not an option. This model doesn't support it.  One thing that is a little annoying is the touchpad. I find it a little to temperamental but I think that is only because I'm used to a Macbook Air touchpad, this one works a little different. I'm sure its just a matter of adjustment. Other features I haven't tested is HDMI output, dual monitors or gauged USB 3 throughput. Although i have connected USB 3 hard drives and transfer time seemed relatively quick.

Overall I would recommend the Asus UX31E Zenbook with Ubuntu 13.10. Mileage may vary but my experience has so far been excellent, in fact its the best Linux experience I've had on a laptop. Before picking it up, I was looking at a System76 certified Linux laptop, but the Zenbook is esthetically pleasing with great hardware. Most of all, the price was right. If you're looking for a Linux laptop I highly recommend it.

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