Entroware Apollo: a killer Linux laptop with excellent Pro Audio capabilities!

APOLLO-1000 by Entroware.

I recently purchased an Apollo 1000 from Entroware, a young British company specialized in Linux computers. I had it with Ubuntu 15.04, not really my favorite Linux distro, but I needed a working Linux environment quickly to replace my old Presario CQ61, that seemed close to death (still alive and well though…). Only in the last days I have been able to install Arch Linux and do some audio configuration. The results are quite promising!

My configuration

I got it with an i3, 8 Gb RAM and 250 Gb SSD.

The package

The laptop itself is not like most of the startup products out of there. It is well built, compact and fairly resistant. It happens to hear some click when manipulating it. Also, something slightly moves inside when shaking it a little. Nothing to be worried too much about. Construction quality is OK, no need to treat it as a fragile glass. Better not be too rough though.

Noise factor

With SSD memory only it is dead quiet. Only a very faint hum on heavy loads.

Keyboard

It feels quite nicely despite the small size. All FN keys work out of the box. The super key has a sticker with Tux on it. I would have preferred the Tux symbol to be on the key itself but hey, it is fine.

Touch-pad

Probably the worst part. It is sensible to touch all over the surface and it can be physically clicked on the left and right bottom. So, when you click, you must click on the very bottom corners to avoid to move the cursor while clicking. Scroll is activated on the side and it is very slow, but I guess that one can mess around with Synaptics until profit. Still usable though in the event you don’t have your mouse.

Battery Life

Still on the 5 hours mark after more than one month of usage. ’nuff said.

Out of the box Ubuntu

Err… didn’t really looked at the details too much… I was so annoyed by Unity that I wiped out all the OS as soon as I could, without looking at all the configuration details. However, it totally seemed a vanilla Ubuntu install. Although I have only a SSD memory there wasn’t any relevant factory made optimization. It is totally fine: you start with a laptop with a standard Ubuntu or Ubuntu MATE you can build on… or have it without OS! Finally free from corporate configuration/software!

Accessories

Battery charger, very small and light, maybe a little short, but totally fine overall. Some Entroware stickers. That’s it. I love this simplicity. The laptop is totally unbranded, it feels sleek and nice.

The Audio Capabilities

Screenshot from 2015-10-02 14-52-40

I didn’t test them under Ubuntu, but only under Arch Linux. I did a complete install of pure Arch following the Beginners’ Guide. After reading this I chosen to set up the system with a single root ext4 partition. Swappiness on the system is just 1, as loads of RAM make swap not really useful. In fact, my swap is actually a file, just a bit larger than the RAM itself, to allow the suspend functionality to work. Also, I have implemented periodic TRIM (# systemctl enable fstrim.timer does the job) and switched to the noop scheduler at boot to maximise SSD performances (more details).

I have installed GNOME 3 on top of that, that comes with PulseAudio, and followed the Pro Audio guide until profit, adding the archaudio repos for the realtime kernels.

The very first audio tests, did today, showed a roundtrip latency as measured by jack_iodelay around 7 ms already, working at 96 kHz, 64 as Periods/Buffer. To achieve that, after installing and configuring, I just have to boot into Arch. No other scripts, or manual interventions before, as I had to to do with my Presario. Stability is  good already with the standard kernel, with few xruns in sessions more then 30 mins long. Seems to be rock solid on RT, I will report soon after an accurate measurement. This is remarkable since GNOME 3 is not really lightweight and TLP is also running all the time.

Verdict

If you need a small, light and powerful well build laptop for your Linux OS look no further. The Apollo has everything you need. Also, if you want to do some audio stuff, Apollo can do it right. It is behaving very well already and there are tons of further audio optimizations that can be done, starting from the desktop environment (my choice was GNOME cause I have a thing for GNOME… for some reason…). It does not cost too much money for the value and supporting a startup makes also feel better! And HEY, the Apollo 2000 is about to come!

Finally, the obligatory lspci -vnn can be downloaded here.

More detailed audio tests outcome here!

A comparison with a Mac Book Air can be retrieved here.

Here a review of the laptop performances after a year of usage.

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41 thoughts on “Entroware Apollo: a killer Linux laptop with excellent Pro Audio capabilities!

  1. Hi,

    I was wondering if you can give any updates on the touchpad.

    Did you play with synaptics to fix it, or it is still a pain and external mouse is the only option?

    I’m thinking to get one, so I’m quite interested.

    Like

    1. Hi there! I did not look into synaptics as I dislike even the best pads and I always use the mouse. It is not impossible to with with: it is just sightly more annoying than the macbook air I am using at work. I got some monitor weirdness today by the way. Not sure what to suspect, but it could be something in the monitor hardware connection. I wish I had more time to test must stuff for interested people. Maybe I will have a look at synaptics these days.

      Like

      1. Hi there! thanks for the answer.

        I’m also a not big fan of touchpads. TBH, I didn’t really find one that I like for a long time (And I do not find the apple ones comfortable).

        Do not worry about synaptics testing, was asking, just in case.

        What happened with the video weirdness? Was a problem with an external video, or was the screen of the laptop?

        Like

      2. I got some kind of heavily distorted/ noisy images bursts in the laptop screen. It does not seem to be doing it with the latest rt kernel, so maybe it is a bug in the latest standard kernel. HDMI works like a charm by the way.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, i got a couple of questions:
    What are the thermals like with that laptop? (did it heat up to much?, how loud were the fans?)
    And under what scenarios were you getting 5 hours of battery life? (as in: what you were doing on it)

    Thanks

    Like

    1. Hi Dumitru. I use lm_sensors to monitor that. I had many looks at it in various situations, both just idling or under stress (like while compiling). I never saw a temperature higher than 51°C actually. The laptop is dead quiet, a part at chunks when compiling. You can hear the fans turning to maximum speed and make a faint high pitched hum. I wish I used a clock to accurately measure how much the laptop lasted really. I could do it in the near future I guess. I am starting using the laptop very often and a such I am starting feeling like the battery duration is dropping. However, got no problems to stay around 5 hours up to now. And that while running data acquisition and post processing with MATLAB pretty much all the time. Or pushing the system for some low latency audio.

      Here how a standard lm_sensors output looks like:

      acpitz-virtual-0
      Adapter: Virtual device
      temp1: +48.0°C (crit = +105.0°C)
      temp2: +48.0°C (crit = +105.0°C)

      coretemp-isa-0000
      Adapter: ISA adapter
      Physical id 0: +48.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
      Core 0: +48.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
      Core 1: +48.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)

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    2. Hi! A little update. It has been a while since I compiled something. Today I did it again and 57°C is actually the highest observed temperature:

      acpitz-virtual-0
      Adapter: Virtual device
      temp1: +57.0°C (crit = +105.0°C)
      temp2: +57.0°C (crit = +105.0°C)

      coretemp-isa-0000
      Adapter: ISA adapter
      Physical id 0: +56.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
      Core 0: +56.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
      Core 1: +56.0°C (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)

      So, there is pretty much a 10°C gap between idling and stress. The fan turned on while compiling, at chunks. They make a faint hum.

      I am used to charge my battery up to 80%, using until discharged to 20% and repeat. This because I have read somewhere that this improves battery life. In the near future I think I will complete a full cycle discharge (100% to 5% sort of thing). I hope I will remember to note down the amount of time required.

      Like

    3. Ok I just timed a couple of discharges:

      While doing low latency audio recording and effects, discharging from 80% to 20% on the Linux arch 4.1.13-rt15-1-rt kernel: 2 hours.

      While watching a movie, browsing the web an playing YouTube videos (the usual stuff, pretty much); discharging from 100% to 5% on the Linux arch 4.4.1-2-ARCH kernel: 4 hours.

      The last couple of months I have been using the laptop each day for at least 8 hours a day, doing 80% – 20% discharge cycles. Seems that this made one hour of battery duration to disappear…

      Hope this helps.

      Like

      1. Yes, Thanks a lot!
        And one more question, about the build quality.
        How is the hinge, and don’t know if you ever experienced a macbook air, but how does the build quality stack up against it.

        Thanks again, apart form Linux Actuion Show, you are the only source of information about this specific laptop.

        Like

      2. Hi there! I wrote a post comparing the Apollo to a macbook air. I think that the macbook is more solid. The hinge especially. I don’t think the Apollo is fragile, but I would not stress the hinge. The Mac one is very sturdy, but the Apollo can bend also sideways a tiny bit. I am away for a short holiday. If you want I can upload some pictures to show the hinge construction, when I will be back.

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  3. Thanks for a useful review. Could I ask for one piece of info? We are off-grid, so power consumption (as opposed to battery life) is important. Could you mention what powertop reports when the system is at rest and when it is active?
    Do you think the other processors in the range would change the power demand?
    Many thanks.

    Like

    1. Hi there! Thank you for suggesting to use powertop. Just to be clear, what do you mean by “at rest” and “active”? I would guess that you are asking for what changes between idling after login and doing some heavy work (compiling some source for example).

      I am not sure about the processors. The choices for the Apollo are i3, i5 and i7. My guess is that the i3, being the less powerful, would be the less power demanding core, but I could be wrong. Probably the best source of info in this case is the Intel documentation (i3 i5 and i7 models available for the Apollo).

      I will wait to complete one of my usual discharge-charging cycles (80% – 20% -> 20% – 80%), run powertop while on battery and then I will report back!

      Like

      1. My apologies for being unclear. Yes, I mean idling, and some indication of how many watts it uses when its doing something, perhaps showing a movie. Powertop should show power in watts while the machine is on battery.
        I’ll ask Entroware about the chipsets before placing an order, but power is such a big deal for us, that the info you can glean from powertop would be the most decisive factor, so thanks for being happy to do this.

        Like

      2. Brilliant! Keep in mind, however, that I have the older Apollo so there might be differences with the new one. Also, I guess that the operating system could play some role. You could ask entroware about power consumption as well I guess. I feel like they are honest enough to not made up numbers and you will be able to compare with my data as well.

        Like

      3. It’s good to know your experience of Entroware’s service.
        Yes, OS and settings make a difference, but hardware does too. On this old Lenovo E145 with an AMD E1-2500 chipset, using Xubuntu with the Radeon driver, at idle it uses about 8.5w. WIth the proprietary fglrx driver (shudder…) that reduces to 6.5w. This more than doubles when the laptop is working hard, but shows to what extent video can absorb power. (Backlight setting makes a big difference, though and the latest fglrx drivers are clumsy with this.) By the way, with Xubuntu 14.04 the idle consumption could dip below 5w, but the real point, for our off-grid requirement, is that this laptop uses a lot less than 10w most of the time.
        We tend to run OpenSUSE and Xubuntu on laptops, with Xubuntu having the edge on power consumption. The tlp utility makes quite a difference to power too, and makes it unnecessary to spend time optimising power consumption.
        I’ve run Arch on this laptop, but can’t recall the power use under it or Manjaro.

        Like

  4. Hi there, I got a report for you. I used powertop at more or less regular intervals along processes. In a very naive way tho, just by launching and quitting it in the terminal. I guess there is a way to collect data at regular intervals… but I think this method will be sufficient. The intervals were about 5 s. At idling after cold boot the discharge rate is of 6.8 W. While compiling source code and compressing packages it peaks at 12.1 W. It drops to 7 – 8 W soon after. YouTube full-screen produces a peak of 16 W. Building the same source code as above while YouTube is playing full-screen produces a peak of 17.9 W. It drops back to 7 – 8 W soon after the above finishes. I also had a look to the sensors. Temperature never raised above 59 degrees Celsius. You can find the detailed report here. All was performed just after a 15% – 86% recharge, laptop unplugged. Hope it helps!

    Like

    1. That’s really excellent, both the power consumption and your kindness in carrying out the tests. Really pleased your site came up high when searching for Entroware reviews, and thanks for being willing to go the extra mile and run the tests. Seems like the Apollo is the right bit of kit for our requirement.
      To put the power into context, at idle an Atom laptop I have uses 15w, and doing anything, and I mean anything other than being flat idle, that climbs to the low 20s – by a device that was punted as using little power.
      I hope you get a thanks from Entroware for all the extra info.

      Like

  5. Oh, I forgot to mention that back-light was about one quarter (my favorite setup), the wifi was on and an external mouse was attached. Idling after boot with wifi off, back-light at minimum and mouse detached produces a discharge rate of 6.5 W.

    Like

  6. I have needed a new laptop for some time, and Entroware kept lurking there at the corner of my mind. The Triton seemed good enough for my needs, albeit a little bulky. But after reading this review I am seriously considering saving up the extra money to go for the Apollo. I even got the extra gem of power consumption from an off-grid perspective, which is my goal in the future.
    One question: Is the power cable standard enough that I can find a EU charger to fit as well? I regularly travel from UK to Norway, and prefer having two different power cables to bulky and inefficient adapters.
    Thank you very much for your review, it was really useful!

    Like

    1. Hi Kristine! Yep, the power adapter is very standard. It is an APD DA-40A19. The power cord can be detached from the adapter, so you don’t need to buy a complete new adapter but only a new power cord. I will give also the specs:

      Input: 100-240V~ 1.0 A 50-60Hz
      Output: 19V 2.1A

      Although I am not sure it is the very same model, this one looks very similar to it. As such, it should give you an idea. It is small an light.

      Hope it helps, let me know if you need some more info.

      Like

    1. Yes I am. It is still working very good. It is the only computer I have at the moment, so I am using it daily for everything (programming, gaming, music, etc…). I am still very happy with it and I think I well invested my money.

      Like

  7. Ours arrived today! Just doing a re-installation according to the way I like the disk laid out, but so far it looks really classy. Many thanks for this review, crocoduckoducks. Without it, I may well have shied away from the purchase.

    Like

  8. Hi there,

    I was wondering if you also are experiencing problem with the wireless and the bluetooth, due to the iwlwifi driver.

    I’m running wily, and I do not have the bluetooth working anymore, and my wireless performances have decreased, experiencing a lot of weak signal.

    Does it happen to you as well?

    Like

    1. Hi Michele. Actually no, everything is working fine with iwlwifi. I use network manager to manage the connections. Bluetooth was working fine when I tried but I am checking it now and seems dead. I will try to troubleshoot it.

      Like

  9. Hi there! I got my bluetooth working again. I think that it stopped working cause the switch I did yesterday from GNOME3 to XFCE4. I purged all gnome and dependencies, together with gnome bluetooth stuff. So, this made it work for me on Arch:

    pacman -S bluez-utils blueman

    systemctl enable bluetooth.service

    usermod -aG lp your_user_name

    I have successfully paired with my phone and shared files with it.

    I am not sure about Ubuntu, but I think that the substitution pacman -> apt-get install will do the job:

    apt-get install bluez-utils blueman

    If these packages have the same name in Ubuntu repos, of course. All the commands above need sudo.

    Ubuntu uses systemd, right? I stopped using Ubuntu quite a lot of time ago. If not, the second command will not work.

    About the wifi, on Arch I would find the device name with iw dev and configure it with wifi-menu. I am not sure wifi-menu is available on Ubuntu tho…

    I tested a live image of Ubuntu Studio few days ago and it seemed to be working just fine…

    Like

      1. Here we go:
        uname -a:

        Linux arch 4.4.5-1-ARCH #1 SMP PREEMPT Thu Mar 10 07:38:19 CET 2016 x86_64 GNU/Linux

        lshw -C network

        *-network
        description: Ethernet interface
        product: RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller
        vendor: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd.
        physical id: 0
        bus info: pci@0000:02:00.0
        logical name: enp2s0
        version: 07
        serial: 00:e0:4c:bb:00:c2
        size: 10Mbit/s
        capacity: 1Gbit/s
        width: 64 bits
        clock: 33MHz
        capabilities: pm msi pciexpress msix vpd bus_master cap_list ethernet physical tp mii 10bt 10bt-fd 100bt 100bt-fd 1000bt 1000bt-fd autonegotiation
        configuration: autonegotiation=on broadcast=yes driver=r8169 driverversion=2.3LK-NAPI duplex=half firmware=rtl8168e-3_0.0.4 03/27/12 latency=0 link=no multicast=yes port=MII speed=10Mbit/s
        resources: irq:48 ioport:3000(size=256) memory:b2100000-b2100fff memory:d0000000-d0003fff
        *-network
        description: Wireless interface
        product: Wireless 3160
        vendor: Intel Corporation
        physical id: 0
        bus info: pci@0000:03:00.0
        logical name: wlp3s0
        version: 83
        serial: 34:e6:ad:4e:c5:9b
        width: 64 bits
        clock: 33MHz
        capabilities: pm msi pciexpress bus_master cap_list ethernet physical wireless
        configuration: broadcast=yes driver=iwlwifi driverversion=4.4.5-1-ARCH firmware=16.242414.0 ip=192.168.0.13 latency=0 link=yes multicast=yes wireless=IEEE 802.11abgn
        resources: irq:50 memory:b2000000-b2001fff

        Like

  10. Thanks for everything! You have been a great deal of help! I should be getting mine some time in the next few months and I plan to make a video review of it, if I will, will make sure to mention/link you.

    Like

  11. I want to get out of Windows but am as complete novice and know nothing about Ubuntu or Linux. I read one scathing review of customer service about Entroware that did not fill me with confidence. Do the off the shelf machines require any technical competence?

    Like

    1. Hi. You can of course install Linux on any off the shelf computer. I would do some research before you buy, as newest computers might not have fully supported hardware by the current Linux state. Compatibility issues are by far the hardest to solve. I am afraid I have not many brands/models to recommend, but you should be able to find sufficient info by googling. Be sure to make appropriate research before to commit to installing a new OS. In particular, you might have the right to download a Windows installation media covered by the license for your machine. I would do that to make sure you can reinstall/ripristinate Windows in case something goes wrong. The installation procedure for distros like Ubuntu is very easy and it will go smooth on compatible hardware. Hope this helps.

      Like

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