Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bonobo Exteme Laptop from System76 Review

Bought: September 2013

I meant to review this product when it first arrived, but I'm glad I waited. Tech reviews about products that have only been used for a week are never accurate. It's better to know how the product lives up to months of use.

It's been over 3 months of my having and using the Bonobo Extreme from system76 and I have some very mixed feelings about the device and company.

My main reason for choosing system76 is I wanted a company that was dedicated to linux. When my windows laptop broke I promised myself not to opt for another windows machine. But I knew that coming from windows to linux would not be easy and thus wanted a laptop from a company that could offer good customer service and answer all my questions.

I also wanted a laptop that had unbuntu or another linux distro pre-installed. One can download linux onto almost any computer but I had never used the operating system before, and I know next to nothing about computers. I felt it would be less of a hassle to simply get a laptop that was pre-installed. My original laptop had died, and I'm a student that does courses via correspondence. I'm also a writer that had clients waiting on their work so I needed a new laptop asap. If I had more time to browse, I would have looked into things more carefully.

The ordering process from system76 was easy enough. I chose my specs and they 'built' it. One of the things I wished I had known was that System76 outsources some of the work. Most people don't care if their laptops are outsourced. But I do, especially after seeing how under paid and under valued outsourced workers are. Long before my laptop broke, I was researching for a company that built the parts and devices themselves. There aren't many, but system76 claimed to be one such company. Turns out this claim is false and had I known, I would have just bought a macbook.

The reason I was miffed about the false claim is that “home sourced” products are always more expensive. I could have bought an “out sourced” laptop for $800 that had the features I like instead of the nearly $2000 I spent on my bonobo extreme!

But sourcing aside, here are some pros and cons I have with this product.


1. Sturdy. I never buy consumer laptops because most of them are built too cheap to last more than a couple years. I prefer business or even gaming laptops since they often have great features and durability. The bonobo extreme is a very sturdy, very heavy laptop. It's 8.60lbs and is rightly dubbed “a beast of a machine.” It's a gaming laptop and has the weight and durability that I like in my laptops. It makes me somewhat confident that the body will hold up to daily use.

The parts also seem of good quality. My previous dell felt and looked cheap right out of the box, but this one looked rather luxe.

2. Great sound/video quality. I'm not a gammer so I wasn't too concerned about video and sound at first but when I played a video on the bonobo extreme I was impressed with the sound quality! It makes watching video a far more enjoyable experience than on my previous laptops. The videos are crisp and smooth and even normal pics look nice. Things just look better on the bonobo extreme, which really pleased me.

3. Practically worked out of the box. Now, before I rave about how this was a simple set it and go process I want to mention that not everything worked out of the box with this device and I talk more about that in the cons sections. That said, I was able to turn on the laptop and have it do basic laptop things. I surfed the net, wrote up some assignments and projects, watched a video, listened to music, and checked my email all out of the box. Coming from windows, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to type a simple document without first programming and tinkering with it but I was able to do some serious work the very first day.

4. Good forum and service. I had some issues with the laptop when it first came and was able to talk to some one online who was patient with me as they tried to help me. I haven't had too many gripes with System76's customer service. Most people are very friendly and helpful.


Some of the below cons may be linux related, so keep that in mind as you read on.

1. Some parts did not work. When I got my laptop, I was really excited to try out the webcam. None of my past built in webcams worked so I was beginning to think I was cursed. It seems the curse lives on because the webcam was dead when my laptop arrived! DEAD! I spent $2000 and my webcam was dead! I was mad. I tried everything the forums and customer service suggested until he figured out that it was dead. He told me to send it back at the cost of $100 to have it fixed. What?! I get a laptop that doesn't work like it should and I have to pay to ship it back and have it fixed, plus another $100 in customs fees to receive it again. No thanks. I'll get an external one with that money.

The webcam was not the only thing that refused to work, I couldn't get the usd card drive to work no matter what, I learned there was some bug preventing it, and the fingerprint reader was also unusable. I feel like despite it's “sturdy” exterior, my laptop was thrown together without concern. If it had been less expensive I wouldn't have minded having to buy external hardware but it was very expensive and at that price, I expect things to work without me having to spend more money on it.

2. Not as fast. This was totted as a fast laptop but even out of the box it loaded slow. In fact it's only been 3 months and it loads as slow as my old one that I had for years. I don't even have anything on it expcept school assignments so it shouldn't be this slow, this early in the game.

3. Short battery life. The bonobo extreme had decent battery life for about a month, now I can't use it for more than 45min before I get a warning that my battery is low. For the record, this is a working laptop and when it's not plugged in all I use it for is typing. Therefore, it should not deplete quite so soon when there aren't any other programs running.

4. I absolutely detest the touch pad. When I don't have my external mouse using the bonobo extreme is a pain. The touch pad is very jumpy and just difficult.  

5. Linux is fun but...I like linux don't get me wrong. I like that I can customize it, I like that I have more choice with it; I like that I can get many quality programs for free. I'm not sure I could go back to windows, but there are some things windows and mac does better. One is video. The editing programs for linux are either outdated, over complicated, or boring. As someone who does video reviews, I've yet to find a linux compatible program that can compete with some of the programs made for windows or mac.

Another issue I have is that there are a number of hardware and software that aren't linux compatible. With windows, one doesn't have to be too concerned if there digital camera, printer, or even cell phone will work with their laptop. But for every computer related device I buy, I have to check if it is compatible. This can mean spending more or buying an item I don't really like simply because it works with linux out of the box.

I like my bonobo extreme linux installed laptop. It does the basic things I need it to do, but there are some things I still haven't got it do well yet. System76 is not a bad company but they are overpriced. I may choose them for customer service, but I'm not sure I love their products. I didn't need a fancy laptop, I needed one that worked without too much hassle and the bonobo extreme has caused me my fair share of it and it hasn't even been a year. If I was going to buy from them again, I would opt for a much cheaper laptop.

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