Hate to start off this post somewhat negatively, but if you’re only here to
leave a snarky comment about how I overpaid for a crappy Clevo machine, you can save
yourself the time.
That said, System76 does in fact sell machines from OEM/ODM Clevo and brands and
supports them. It’s not even a secret, right on the label on the underside
there’s a Clevo CO Code along with the System76 info 😉
Now that the rant’s out of the way, let’s talk about why I chose the Galago Pro
from System76. It’s probably worth mentioning that this machine is replacing an
Apple MacBook Air 11” Mid-2012.
The machine was still kicking, ran Linux pretty damn well, but sadly, was
starting to show it’s age. Performance just wasn’t quite there when running
docker and the 11” screen was starting to feel a bit too cramped too me.
So I shopped around for a bit, mostly bugging my friends and doing my own
independent research. I only really had a single “must have” which was being
able to have 32GB of RAM in the machine.
It’s kind of funny, at least a few people have said that 32GB is either “too
much” or asked me to justify why I thought I needed that much.
Thing is, I really don’t need that much, but having too much means that I will
most likely never hit any upper limits at all.
As I type this on my 2011 iMac which also has 32GB of RAM I can happily report
that I am not using all 32GB of RAM. I am using 21.5GB of RAM which is well over
the 16GB upper limit of most of the machines that I had looked at.
Okay, so a butt load of RAM was my main hardware requirement, some of my “nice
to haves” included the machine shipping with Linux (System76 Galago Pro, Dell
XPS 13, Purism Librem 13), hardware kill switches on the camera (Purism), a nice
keyboard (Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon) and nice trackpad (sadly, Apple still owns
I was considering trying to procure a pre-touchbar Apple MacBook Pro like I had
when I was working at Sumo. It ran Linux pretty amazingly but at this point, the
hardware would be 3 years old.
So of everything I’ve mentioned, the System76 Galago Pro checked off the most
boxes on both my requirements and nice to haves.
The best part of bugging my friends was that from those conversations I came to
realize how important it was to me to buy from a company that not only Linux
forward, but Linux first with their machines.
Dell’s done a great job being Linux forward with the XPS 13 but they cloud
things a bit by referring to the machine with Linux as the “Developer Edition”.
If Linux stands a fighting chance on taking over on the desktop, we need to
ditch the mentality that it’s only for developers.
Both System76 and Purism are Linux first with their product offerings and
honestly, I probably would have went with Purism if the Librem 13 could be
configured with 32GB of RAM.
Okay, so that was the thought process that went into this decision. I pulled the
trigger on getting a new machine over Labor Day weekend to take advantage of
some back to school special System76 was running (price discount and a free day
planner that’s full of geeky holidays and events).
Incidentally, my bank flagged the transaction which gave me an early opportunity
to interact with System76’s support team as I got things sorted on my end.
I’ve read mixed reviews of their support online but all of my interactions with
them have been superb.
So bank issue is sorted, about a week or so later I’m in possession of
a wonderfully simple white box that simply said “System76” on the outside.
Unboxing was quite the experience as the only new hardware I’ve gotten in recent
years has either been Apple or Amazon-related. When opened, the simple white box
revealed blue artwork reminiscent of their website.
The system was packed up in no tear / no cut packaging that made it very easy to
get into and start enjoying.
Okay, so unboxing was great, first order of business was to mess around with
Ubuntu and then swap out Ubuntu for Arch Linux and then get moved in.
Overall the machine feels pretty sturdy and there’s been a ton that I love about
it. But, for the sake of ending on a high note, let’s talk about the things I
don’t really love about it.
The first thing I noticed with the Galago Pro is that the USB slots seemed
tight. The bottom of the machine has a bit of a lip that every so slightly
overlaps with the bottom of the USB, HDMI and Thunderbolt ports as well as the
The other thing that I don’t particularly like is that the system is mostly
aluminum, but the backside of the screen across the top is plastic. It’s still
fairly aesthetic, I’m just unsure why the system would have any plastic if it’s
being touted as an aluminum body.
Both of the aforementioned things are fairly trivial issues especially
considering the USB tightness seems to have gotten a bit better after a few
times of using the ports.
What isn’t trivial is the trackpad on the Galago Pro. Simply put it’s absolute
garbage in my opinion.
With that, take into consideration that I’ve been using Apple Magic Trackpads
for quite a while. It’s something that Apple has really done right and I can’t
imagine that I would be completely satisfied with any PC trackpads. Nothing I’ve
tried has felt as good so there’s a high level of bias there.
Fortunately after a few nights of tweaking, I was able to get the trackpad
feeling damn close to that of my MacBook Air. Expect a post on how I did it soon
One last gotcha for me was the power adapter.
It’s a fine 40W adapter but I felt it was a touch too short based on how our
living room is setup and where I sit in relation to the outlet when I am in need
of a charge.
This sparked my second interaction with System76 support as I reached out to
find out if they happened to recommend any third party power adapters that had
They got back with me pretty quickly and even though they had no
recommendations, they did give me a head’s up about the size of the barrel I
would need to look for (4 x 1.7mm which is referred to as M3 by some
With said information I was able to find a universal adapter on Amazon that was
only $25.99 in comparison to the $60 System76 charges for additional power
The best part is, the new adapter was not only longer, it was 90W (for faster
charging) AND is only 2 prong instead of 3 prong for plugging into the wall.
There are a few adapters on Amazon that would fit the bill but the one I went
with is the ZOZO 90W AC Universal Laptop Charger because one of the
reviews actually mentioned that the adapter worked great with their Galago Pro.
Was worth a couple of extra bucks for the extra piece of mind.
So enough of the bad already, let’s talk about what’s good!
The system is lightweight and snappy, no complaints there. I opted for the 14”
model because I’ve read that the HiDPI screens tend to be a power drain on
laptops so I thought it would be better for me to just stick with the larger
screen with the lower resolution.
The screen is gorgeous and even though I don’t work out in the sunlight too
often, I still prefer the matte finish for my display.
I will admit, I do feel the resolution is a bit too small for me to be able to
tile a terminal on the left and a web browser on the right the way I do on my
iMac. Not a deal breaker, just worth noting as if you do like to tile windows
you will run into a lot of sites adjusting to their mobile and tablet versions
instead of the desktop version.
The other thing that really wowed me was the keyboard. I’m a fairly particular
about my keyboards and the recent changes to the Apple keyboard (specifically
the depth of key presses) was quite off putting (and part of the reason that I
didn’t think I would be moving forward with Apple hardware).
The keyboard itself seemed a touch larger than my MacBook Air which took a day
to get used to, as well as getting used to the Fn key being where it is instead
of the far end.
The keys themselves feel a bit “squishier” than that of the older Apple systems
and have a good amount of depth and good tactile feel to them.
The real dream and something I didn’t realize I was missing out on all these
years is getting back to having full size arrow keys. I try not to use them when
I’m getting my Vim on, but there are a lot of times that the arrow keys come in
handy and they deserve to be the same size as the other keys.
I had mentioned earlier that I went with the non-HiDPI screen in an effort to
improve battery life. I don’t have any actual metrics, but thus far it seems
like I’m able to get 5 to 6 hours of battery life out of the machine.
I know there are systems out there that tout higher battery lives, but in my
experience those advertised metrics very rarely seem to be what I end up getting
in terms of battery life. Is that it is, but I’m satisfied with the battery life
thus far with the Galago Pro.
Probably also worth noting, even though the machine did suspend quite well out
of the box, the battery drained more than expected while suspending so I
switched to a full hibernation when closing the lid. This isn’t a System76
problem as it’s something I’ve always experienced with Linux on a laptop.
So yeah, the System76 Galago Pro 14” model has been a great machine thus far. It
looks sharp, runs quick and I can feel like I’ve done my part in helping to
perpetuate Linux on the desktop by supporting a company that is putting Linux
One other thing worth mentioning, in addition to the beautiful packaging, the
system ended up coming with a nice little thank you card with a bunch of
stickers. Was a really nice touch and completely unexpected.
I’m one of these guys so there’s a small chance that I may remove
the official System76 branding and just go with the sticker equivalent 😉
If you have any questions or anything about the Galago Pro, feel free to drop
them in the comments below!