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!
I got it with an i3, 8 Gb RAM and 250 Gb SSD.
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.
With SSD memory only it is dead quiet. Only a very faint hum on heavy loads.
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.
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.
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!
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
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).
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.
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.