The Ultimate Linux Laptop
Besides the four aforementioned features, there is much else to like about the Raven X60. Regarding the things under Emperor's control, it provides a well-planned Linux experience. The Raven X60 came dual-boot with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn or Fedora Core 6 installed, both of which had many nice features. (However, Ubuntu was a little more polished than Fedora.) Standard features were all working out of the box (including wireless networking and Bluetooth), and with a few clicks on both distros, I was able to install the codecs that allowed me to play unencrypted DVDs, MP3s and Windows Media and Audio files.
Of course, one of the critical tests of a good pre-installed Linux laptop is how well the function keys work, and the Raven X60 performed well here. Despite sluggish brightness controls, functions such as volume control, external VGA and hibernation worked well. The media player controls worked, but only with Totem.
Emperor also ensured that the docking station, otherwise known as the UltraBase, works; however, it's not hot-plug yet due to it containing an IDE device, but Emperor says that this feature is on the way. The UltraBase, which ships standard with the Raven X60, holds the DVD+/-RW out of the box, but one also could swap in an extra hard drive if desired. It also has several additional ports (parallel, serial, four USB, PS/2) and pass-through for RJ-45 and VGA.
Other features where credit is due to Lenovo (and Intel) include the 1,667MHz Core 2 Duo processor, conveniently recessed ports and a non-wimpy display swivel that looks and feels like it will go the distance.
The only complaints to record are that the Raven X60 I reviewed came with 32-bit Linux rather than 64-bit, though Emperor indicated that, at the time of this writing, it is nearly done with tablet support for the latter. By the time you read this, you should be able to utilize Emperor's Web-based configurator to install 64-bit Ubuntu or Fedora for this machine. In addition, the hard drive I received runs at only 5,400RPM, and given that this was the Ultimate Linux Laptop competition, I would've expected to receive the faster model at 7,200RPM.
Because Emperor started with a well-built Lenovo machine and then made sure that its bells and whistles all worked under Linux—most notably the tablet support, biometric fingerprint scanner and excellent documentation—it deserves to take a proud victory lap for its hard work on the Raven X60. These aspects show that the company clearly values attention to detail and wants to maximize your Linux-based laptop experience.
After the victory lap, however, we hope Emperor will continue to innovate and push forward the dynamic domain of Linux-based laptops. It will have to keep looking over its shoulder though, because the market for Linux laptops is maturing, the competition is fierce, and the market for exotics will get more interesting. See you next year!
James Gray is Linux Journal Products Editor and a graduate student in environmental science and management at Michigan State University. A Linux enthusiast since Slack 1.0 in 1993, he currently lives in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife and kitty.
James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal.