Orion Ubuntu Laptop Review: The Powerful MacBook Pro Alternative – Forbes
The choice of a new laptop for many consumers is still seen as the head-to-head comparison of Microsoft’s Windows 10 or Apple’s macOS. The third option of moving to a Linux-powered machine has always been a much trickier prospect. A dizzying range of Linux “flavors” coupled with the mysteries of hardware support stops many adept users from making the switch. What if you had an off-the-shelf approach to Linux hardware that just worked?
Setting up a computer to use a Linux distribution, even an accessible one such as Ubuntu, is not a straightforward process. Compatibility with hardware is a constantly shifting target, and most laptop manufacturers would rather you stay with the bundled operating system. Which is where Entroware comes into the story.
The UK-based retailer specializes in “providing Ubuntu Linux-based computing solutions and services.” It stocks a wide range of laptops, desktops, and servers that run Ubuntu. All the hard work of setting up hardware, configuring drivers, and ensuring compatibility is taken care of.
I’ve spent some time with its Orion laptop to get a flavor of mobile computing, Ubuntu style.
My review unit was set up with an Intel Core i3 processor running at 2.4 GHz, 8 GB of DDR3 memory and 250 GB of SSD for storage. All of this is configurable on the website when you order the laptop so you can bump up to an i7, increase the RAM to 32 GB, and choose the amount of storage you want (up to 4 TB on the primary SSD and another 2 TB of secondary storage). Price is dependant on the options, but my review configuration came in at $650 (£530) plus tax.
The Orion has a plastic construction, which is almost inevitable at this price point given the chip specifications, but it has a solid feel to it. There is very little flex in either the base or the lid of the laptop. It also helps to keep the weight down. The Orion comes in at 1.8 kg, still slightly more than the MacBook Pro but not enough to make a huge amount of difference. There’s also no branding on the lid of the machine and part of me thinks that keyboard warriors picking up this laptop will be happy to have a blank canvas for their full collection of EFF stickers.
Design wise there’s nothing spectacular on show here. It’s almost but not quite ‘generic laptop’ but that’s fine. This isn’t a laptop you pick up for looks, it’s one you pick up for software. That said the fact that the screen overlaps the hinges and lifts the rear of the keyboard up by a few millimeters to create a comfortable typing angle is appreciated.
The extra bulk also helps with heat distribution and airflow inside the laptop. The Orion stayed cool to the touch throughout my review. A quick look down the two sides of the Orion and you will find a plethora of ports on offer; ethernet, VGA out, SD card, HDMI, 2x USB-A, 1x USB-C, and separate microphone and headphone jacks. It’s a world away from the current minimalist approach taken by more mainstream laptop manufacturers.
For me, one of the best things about the Orion is the keyboard. It has a familiar chicklet style keyboard, but unlike the fashion for ultra-thin laptops that sacrifice the key action, the Orion’s keys have a decent amount of travel that fits well with my style of typing with no discernible flex in the action. Where you would normally find the Windows key is an Ubuntu key or Entroware’s own logo (you can customize this at purchase). This is one of the best keyboards of any laptop I have come across in recent times.
The trackpad is probably the weakest link of the package. It can be quite coarse in registering movement so making very small moves can be tricky. Tap to click and double tap clicks are also very narrowly defined so it takes much more time to get used to than when I have reviewed other laptops. There was a point where I was considering digging out a mouse to help drive the OS. After experimenting with a number of settings I settled on a good compromise, but it still feels a touch awkward.
The screen is also crisp and sharp. Running at 1080-pixel resolution it is the equal of many Windows 10 laptops at higher price points (although it is not touch enabled). Ubuntu packs more information onto the screen than the touch-focused Windows 10 and the ‘trying to look like iOS’ macOS, so it feels much more information heavy to me than other computers. That fits in well with how I like to work on my computer.
Next: Using Ubuntu on the Orion…