Have Laptop, Will Travel—the LS1250 Laptop from R Cubed Technologies
Although you certainly can pick up a laptop from number of mainline PC makers and install Linux yourself, this remains a risky proposition. Whether it's fun or frustrating depends on the distro, the machine and, of course, your skills. The graphics adapters, chipsets, power-saving features and other elements make laptops inherently more complex than your standard desktop. Many of us look forward to the challenge of calling on our ingenuity and resources, such as the Linux on Laptops site (www.linux-on-laptops.com), to make the thing work. But what if you absolutely positively need it to work out of the box?
Your desire for more standard hardware might direct you to the mainline companies; however, there you'll be barking up the wrong tree. HP, for instance, once had a pre-installed Linux laptop. My conspiracy theory on why it disappeared? One of their VPs freaked when the 425 area code popped up on her caller ID; hence the kibosh. Regardless of the reason, your better bet is to call on one of the myriad scrappy, garage-and-basement-founded hardware companies that flourish in our community. If you look around, you'll find a wide array of options, with many of the machines produced by mainline companies but customized by Linux specialists.
A fine example of this innovative breed of Linux company is R Cubed Technologies, whose LS1250 laptop is the focus of this review. Linux Journal Editor in Chief, Nick Petreley, had had his eye on this sweet little machine for some time and asked me to review it, not knowing I had actually just bought one. Thus, I have had the machine for a few months and am in the perfect position to rate it after much day-in-day-out usage.
My old laptop was a beast. I bought it as a desktop replacement with a nice, big display for doing GIS. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a cheap copy of ArcGIS, so I do GIS at my university's computer lab instead. Then, I started traveling more, which left me lugging the beast around the world on my chronically sore shoulder. “Wouldn't it be nice to travel in comfort?”, I thought.
Beyond portability, I wanted a laptop that would fit my mobile editor/student lifestyle. I was looking for solid performance at a fair price and dual-boot functionality, as well as excellent keyboard, display and Wi-Fi support. See the sidebar for information and specs on the LS1250.
LS1250 Information and Specs
Vendor: R Cubed Technologies.
Model: LS1250, based on ASUS Z33Ae platform (usa.asus.com).
CPU: Pentium-M 760 (2.0GHz).
Chipset: Intel 915GM.
RAM (maximum): 768MB DDR2 integrated (1GB).
OS options, as tested: SUSE 10.1, Windows XP Professional (dual-boot). Also available: Fedora Core, Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS, Windows XP (Home, Media Center or 2003 Server).
Display size/type: 12.1" XGA TFT LCD.
Resolution: 1024 x 768.
Video: integrated with 128MB shared memory.
Hard disk: 80GB, 7200 RPM.
CD/DVD: DVD-ROM/CD-RW (fixed).
Ethernet: built-in 10/100Mbps LAN.
WLAN: built-in wireless 802.11b/g.
Modem: yes (56K), but not supported in Linux.
USB 2.0: four.
PCMCIA Type II: one.
Card reader: SD/MMC/MS.
Sound: earphones and microphone.
Battery type: 3-cell Lithium-Ion (2.5 hours, 1.75 hours actual).
Weight: 3.4 lbs./1.5 kg.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.8 x 9.3 x 1.3 in./27.4 x 23.6 x 3.3 cm.
Support/warranty: one year included with purchase.
Price as tested: $1,654 US (including two-year extended warranty).
As you can see from its specs (for example, the older processor), although the LS1250 is by no means cutting edge, it packs a solid punch into a small, easy-to-tote package. Note also that the LS1250 is actually built by Taiwan's ASUS Computer. R Cubed's role is to ship you the LS1250 packed with Linux goodies, as well as other OSes if you so desire. Thus, in order to give credit where due, let's take a closer look at both the LS1250's physical aspects (ASUS' responsibility) and the functional aspects (R Cubed's responsibility) and see how this machine stacks up.
James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal.