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R Cubed's thin, fast Linux notebook

By Rob Reilly on July 21, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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Linux users are flocking to the stay-connected, work-anywhere contemporary lifestyle. R Cubed's LS1250-L Linux laptop is just right for these active mobile professionals.

The model I tested sported a 1.73GHz Centrino processor with a 533MHz front side bus, 512MB of DDR2 memory, and a 60GB 5400RPM hard drive. Other options are available, with CPUs from 1.5 to 2.266GHz available, double the RAM, and hard drives up to 100GB and 7200RPM. Additional hardware features include a 12-inch 1024x768 screen, 10/100 Ethernet adapter, Wi-Fi, DVD-RW drive, USB ports, 1394 port, and an external monitor port -- but no parallel printer port.

My test machine came with Fedora Core 5, the GNOME desktop, OpenOffice.org 2.0, the Firefox browser, and Evolution mail client. The lineup also includes the normal assortment of multimedia players, administration tools, and games. If you prefer, you can choose SUSE 10.1, various flavors of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and even Microsoft Windows XP.

I needed to enable multimedia extensions when the machine was first booted. With the extensions turned on, DVDs and various other content could be played without a problem.

Performance was fairly impressive, in spite of the average amount of RAM and midrange disk drive. Heavyweight applications like OpenOffice.org Writer were functional in around 15 seconds. There was no lag in normal function after startup.

Mandatory notebook features

The LS1250-L is a good example of a Linux notebook that is both lightweight and small in size, while having a reasonable heat signature.

Anybody that travels knows that weight kills, when it comes to lugging around your suitcase and mobile computer. The R Cubed notebook has just the right amount of heft to make it feel durable. By itself the 11x9x1.5-inch LS1250-L weighs in at a svelte 3.62lbs. Add 14 ounces for the power brick and cord combination, and you have a slim back-friendly Linux computing package.

The notebook's compact size make quick trips around the corner or across the country infinitely more pleasurable. You can close the top and wrap your fingers around the hinge side for a naturally secure grip. The LS goes into sleep mode when you close up the screen, too. To get going again, just open the top and push the blue power button once. Fill in your password, and within a couple of seconds, the desktop is right back to where you left it. The battery life seemed pretty normal, with a full charge running about 2 to 2.5 hours.

The LS notebook doesn't give off that much heat. It's slightly warm under the keyboard palm area, but nothing really objectionable. Running the notebook on your lap is bearable.

This notebook would be a joy on the subway or at business meetings. I wish I had had one of these to carry around with me at a few recent conferences.

Could use a bit of refinement

While the light weight and fast operation are real sellers, a couple of things could improve the usability of the R Cubed LS1250.

Wi-Fi connectivity seemed to be kind of flaky. The notebook sometimes wouldn't reconnect to the same access point after being in sleep mode. Occasionally, the Wi-Fi also wouldn't start up automatically after a reboot. A couple of times, I'd have to go into the Network tab, under the System and Administration menu items, and re-activate the network. I've had similar problems with Red Hat-based distributions in the past.

I was a little disappointed that the touchpad didn't have any mouse wheel-like scrolling capability. That, coupled with the necessity to push the FN key to make the page up/down keys work, made navigating around OpenOffice.org Writer and Firefox tedious. Why should you have to move the cursor to the vertical scroll bar to move up or down through long documents?

But overall, the machine's good features offset the things that could use some tweaking.

The LS comes with a one-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects. Two- and three-year warranties are available for additional cost.

Linux software support is available on a best-effort basis. Corporate support services are negotiated with the client.

Wrap-up

The R Cubed LS1250-L notebook feels like a good, solid machine. Performance was snappy; you won't waste a lot of time waiting for programs to start. It has a few things that could be improved, but that is true with just about any machine.

The $1,433 suggested retail price for the reviewed model seems high. On the other hand, saving your back and being able to slip the laptop into a small day bag offset that premium. The old hot rod question applies, with a twist: "Speed costs money -- how fast do you want to spend?" The same goes for weight savings.

With just a bit of tweaking, the LS could be great. As is, it's a good choice for the active professional who needs a strong mobile Linux machine.

Rob Reilly is a consultant, trend spotter, and writer. He advises clients on portable computing, presentation technology, and business process integration.

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on R Cubed's thin, fast Linux notebook

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Another Option

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 21, 2006 10:09 PM
I have had this similar machine with Ubuntu for 12 months with zero problems. Upgraded the distro twice without issue:
<a href="http://www.linuxcertified.com/linux-laptop-lc2100.html" title="linuxcertified.com">http://www.linuxcertified.com/linux-laptop-lc2100<nobr>.<wbr></nobr> html</a linuxcertified.com>

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Re:Another Option

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 25, 2006 01:32 PM
I have exactly this laptop (LinuxCertified LC2100), which has been trouble free, and has excellent wireless performance. Now running Ubuntu on it<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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What about standby/suspend/hibernate ?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 21, 2006 11:08 PM
What about standby/suspend/hibernate ?

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Re:What about standby/suspend/hibernate ?

Posted by: dukeinlondon on July 21, 2006 11:25 PM
Can't believe the reviewer failed to test that.

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Re:What about standby/suspend/hibernate ?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 23, 2006 07:53 AM
Can't believe dukeinlondon didn't read the article.

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Re:What about standby/suspend/hibernate ?

Posted by: roblimo on July 22, 2006 10:32 AM
From the article:

"The LS goes into sleep mode when you close up the screen, too. To get going again, just open the top and push the blue power button once. Fill in your password, and within a couple of seconds, the desktop is right back to where you left it."

- Robin

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another Linux laptop option

Posted by: Drew on July 22, 2006 04:39 AM
Another option is <a href="http://www.system76.com/" title="system76.com">System 76</a system76.com> for laptops and desktops.

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Re:another Linux laptop option

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 22, 2006 11:10 AM
Thanks, dragonbite! I didn't know about that company...looks like I found my next PC.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-D

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Re:another Linux laptop option

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 22, 2006 07:34 PM
I just bought a System76 laptop. $1304 for an ASUS based laptop with 2GB of RAM, a 1.83 GHz Core Duo, 224MB Intel Integrated Graphics GMA950 & Integrated HDA Sound, Widescreen (1280x800) DVD+/-RW and built-in wireless. Best deal I could find on specs this good, excepting cheapo ones from Dell and the like. It had a few problems because they had _just_ released my version of the laptop series (I actually ordered an earlier version with lesser hardware for more money but they emailed me and said would you like this one instead the other is out of stock and I said sure - they even sent me a check for the difference in price) but their support team was very helpful in getting problems worked out, and most things have already been fixed within a week of buying it and everything else should be withing another few weeks. I'm very happy with my purchase, especially as I sit here writing this post on it.

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Great machine

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 22, 2006 11:50 AM
I've been using one of these, from SWT, for almost a year, first with Debian, then Ubuntu, and now Kubuntu. I have had absolutely no problems, and would point out to the reviewer that (1) the Wi-Fi issue is a Fedora issue (no replies please; I am also a Fedora user), not a problem with the ASUS machine, and (2) what do you mean that it doesn't have mouse scrolling capability? That's one of the hallmarks of the machine! Try sliding your finger along the right margin of the pad. Or is this another installation problem?

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consider the PowerPro I 12:2

Posted by: andrex593 on July 22, 2006 07:34 PM
About 2 months ago I did extensive research to find a compact, lightweight, capable, Linux-ready notebook. I looked at models from Alienware, GamePC, Groovix, Linux Certified, MSI, R3, Powernotebooks, and System76. In the end I bought the PowerPro I 12:2, from Powernotebooks (with whom I am not affiliated in any way). Compared to the R3 LS1250-L reviewed in this article, the PowerPro has:

- a 1280x800 display. As long as your eyes are good, why would you choose a 1024x768 display that takes up the same space but gives you less real estate on screen?

- 1 GB RAM instead of 512 MB.

- A 3-year warranty that includes overnight shipping in both directions. Think about that.

- No operating system installed. Ubuntu Dapper installed flawlessly, with the exception that I had to fiddle with the modem to get it to work.

And it cost me $1,180 shipped -- $250 less than the R3 model reviewed here.

BTW, the System76 models do look good, and they come with Ubuntu preinstalled, for about the same price. In fact, the System76 Gazelle Value is the very same model as the PowerPro I 12:2. But, the System76 modles come with only a 1-year warranty. Think about which you'd rather have: Ubuntu preinstalled, or a 3-year warranty.

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Re:consider the PowerPro I 12:2

Posted by: Joe Klemmer on July 23, 2006 07:57 AM
For those of us who are extremely laze, it would have been nice to have a link to Powernotebooks in the comment.

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imerpail units... :-(

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 23, 2006 03:16 AM
I wish you'd use some sane units for size and weight.
Noone sane understands pounds and ounces.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-P

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Re:imerpail units... :-(

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 24, 2006 10:59 PM
It's not our fault you live in the wrong country. B-)

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thinkpads!!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 23, 2006 05:22 AM
I picked up a refurbished Thinkpad T40, 1.4Ghz Centrino-m, 512meg ram, 40gig HD, Intel 2200 PRO b/g, dvd-rom/cdrw, with 3yr warranty for $800 shipped, from overstock.com. Why would I want to spend $1,100+ for something similar that doesnt even support WPA on the wireless?

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Re:thinkpads!!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 23, 2006 01:02 PM
Why wouldnt it have wpa? Are you implying that linux doesnt support wpa? Because my ubuntu 6.06 does so wonderfully...

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Re:thinkpads!!

Posted by: andrex593 on July 23, 2006 05:02 PM
Well that sounds like a pretty good deal. But any laptop with Ubuntu Dapper and a supported wireless card (e.g. the one on the PowerPro I 12:2) includes WPA/WPA2 support.

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added to TuxMobil Linux laptop installation survey

Posted by: Werner Heuser on July 24, 2006 01:01 AM
I have added this report to the <a href="http://tuxmobil.org/mylaptops.html" title="tuxmobil.org">TuxMobil Linux laptop and notebook installation overview</a tuxmobil.org>.

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Free software compatibility: video chipset

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 24, 2006 01:57 PM
I can't find any information, in this review or on the product web page, about what video chipset is used. Is it one which can do 2D and 3D acceleration with free software, or is it one of the zillion proprietary-driver-only video chipsets out there?

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Re:Free software compatibility: video chipset

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 25, 2006 12:13 PM
It's a GMA 950 (or could be the GMA 900) chipset which is fully supported by open source 2d and 3d drivers. If your using a odd (not VESA-standard) resolution you have to use the 915resolution hack to get the resolution you want.

It's paticularly well suited for mobile graphics being a light users of power, produces little heat, and provides good performance for day to day desktop activities.. even with XGL. And it's usefull for most older video games. (no DOOM3)

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Synaptics Touchpad?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 24, 2006 03:25 PM
If the touchpad is one of the almost ubiquitous Synaptics devices, you should be able to solve the problem of the missing scrolling buttons by configuring edge scrolling. The Linux driver comes with a utility for generating the necessary lines in xorg.conf.

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impressive performance ?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 24, 2006 05:30 PM
I do not find anything impressive in taking 15 seconds to launch a word processor.

My 6 years old Ahlton 600 MHz needs less time to launch writer from OpenOffice.org 1.1.x

Honestly, 15 seconds for such a basic desktop application is really worse than bad. 5 s should be a maximum.

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Check out HP's website

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 25, 2006 10:21 PM
You can get better h/w, cheaper. In fact, the turion notebooks ( esp the compaq brand are cheaper) even include the on board ATI radeon card over intel on board video.

A celeron notebook for almost $1200, these days ? Please.

And who cares about the 'case' ? Most notebook components fail long before the case does, even when you drop it.

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Can't get Auditor to load

Posted by: Administrator on July 22, 2006 10:45 AM
I downloaded the latest ISO file to my drive. I used Roxio, Nero, and others to mount the ISO to a cd. I can't get it to work. I comes in a tar file. What are the steps to make this work?

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Hmm

Posted by: Administrator on July 27, 2006 12:40 AM
I thought I was the only one, I cant seem to get it to work either

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