Monday, October 8, 2007

First Impressions

It's been a month or so, and I've been using the r500 on a daily basis for work (coding, browsing, email, documentation, etc). I've had a bit of time to get used to it; here are my thoughts.

Case/Form Factor
The r500 is just about the perfect size. After the Sharp Actius, I wanted my laptops to be the size of one of those Mead composition books. The size of the display and keyboard on the r500, however, are probably ideal; if this were as thin as the Actius MM20, it would be perfect.

The weight cannot be beat. A friend held it and said "it feels like paper!", another said "haha, very funny, now where is the actual laptop." Even after the Actius, and in direct comparison to the Vaio Tz and G2, this has to be seen (and hefted) to be believed. The slightly larger size is what does it; there is almost no mass to this.

Contrary to the impression of the pre-release reviews, I find the r500 to be quite durable. There is a small bit of flex in the seam at the front of the keyboard, and the case picks up smudges somewhat easily, but I've chucked this in my backpack and hauled it all around town without a problem.

The keyboard is great: decent size, nice and responsive. The touchpad is interesting: it feels the same as the surrounding case, which gives it a bit more traction for your finger. I'd still prefer one of the nipple/eraser/trackpoint mouse jobs, though. Be nice to have those as an option again.

There is a ton of light bleeding from the edge of this, which doesn't bother me, but the viewing angle is VERY bad. Only noticeable when viewing dark colors; the brights are all fine at most normal angles. Using a dark WM theme and sitting on a train seat or a couch, you certainly notice.

Suspend-to-RAM works fine out of the box; suspend-to-disk worked with a fresh kernel compile, though I had to resume via single user mode for some reason. Suspend-to-disk is probably ideal for this machine, given the SD drive. Suspend-to-ram takes 10 seconds or more, and is as stable as every other Linux laptop that suspends to RAM (i.e. one time out of 10 it will resume incorrectly). One downside of suspend-to-ram is that it is a battery hog; I've had the
machine lose 30% of its battery when suspended for 6 hours or so.

The 3-cell battery that comes with this lasts about 3 hours; I haven't tried the 6-cell. I've made some changes to get a bit more life out of this, and may have it at 4 hours for normal usage soon (more for no net/browsing/X). Charging time is horrible, almost as long as it takes to drain the battery. Also been noticing some funny stuff when trying to run down the battery recently: when idle, the laptop will stay at 3-4% (via the 'acpi' command) with 4 or so minutes left for 10 or more minutes.

SD Drive awesome. Fast, fast, fast. For those on the fence, it is well worth the price. Suspend/resume suddenly becomes less important, since booting takes only a few seconds. And suspend-to-disk is suddenly viable.

The wifi works great, no fuss. Ditto for audio, display, lan, usb, etc. The SD reader is one of those "known problems" that should be fixed in the kernel soon (my guess is 2.6.24). The fingerprint reader may actually work, as it is recognized by SANE. I've had no luck with bluetooth, though I've only spent a few minutes on it. And the toshiba ACPI kernel support as used by toshset seems worse with the latest patches; none of the LCD controls work any more, and there doesn't seem to be a way to turn the backlight off (which toshset should perform)
-- so no fun transreflective display.

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