System 76 Starling Netbook Review

I’m more of a desktop guy myself, but a netbook with a Linux based operating system does sound kind of interesting …

I’ve had the pleasure of trying out plenty of netbook hardware. Just about every form factor and operating system combination available. These netbooks range from the hardly usable, to the might-as-well-be-a-laptop, and everything in between. It’s that “everything in between” space that appeals to the majority of users on the planet and that’s exactly where the Starling lands – but it does so while leaving quite a solid impression on the user.

After plenty of use on this machine, I thought I should report back on the hardware and the OS so that anyone looking for a new netbook might be swayed to the System 76 side.

Specs

Although not a powerhouse, the Starling performs very well. The default machine specs look like:

  • Display: 10.1″ HD WSVGA Super Clear Ultra-Bright LED backlit (1024 x 600)
  • Processor: Intel Atom 1.66 GHz with hyperthreading
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 3100 graphics
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Storage: 250 GB (upgradable with solid state options)
  • Audio Output: Intel High Definition Audio
  • Networking: LAN (10/100), WiFi
  • Wireless: 802.11 bgn
  • Ports: VGA, 3 x USB 2.0, Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, SD Reader
  • Camera: Built-In 0.3 MP Webcam
  • Security: KensingtonĀ® Lock
  • Power Management: Suspend & Hibernate
  • Battery: includes one 3 Cell Lithium Ion
  • AC Adapter: includes one AC adapter
  • Dimensions: 10.47″ x 7.28″ x 0.72~1.0″ (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 2.0 lbs.
  • Operating System: Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook edition

So even by today’s standards, this netbook packs some power.

Interface

The user interface is the Ubuntu Unity interface (that which will grace all of Ubuntu Linux starting with 11.04). To be honest, Unity is one of the best netbook interfaces I have ever used. Not only does it make the small screen space incredibly efficient, it also operates with a small footprint, so the machine seems even faster than its specs would indicate.

And Unity has an incredibly low learning curve. Anyone could hop onto the Unity and very quickly be up to speed.

The apps

Ubuntu Unity ships with all of the apps you will need to have a fully-functioning, mobile office. And, since the Starling arrives with a built-in webcam, you will enjoy the Linux Cheese application. You will also find all of the standard applications associated with a Ubuntu installation. Of course, if you don’t find what you need…there is always the Ubuntu Software Center.

Overall impression

The thing that surprised me most was the keyboard on the Starling. I have grown accustomed to the netbook keyboards feeling more like toys than real hardware. Not the case with the System 76 machine. This keyboard feels real, feels solid, and feel like you could type a novel on it without feeling that old familiar strain in the wrists and fingers.

The screen is another big plus on the Starling. Although the display isn’t the largest I have seen on a netbook, it certainly was one of the sharpest I have seen in a long time.

But ultimately, at least for me, it was the combination of the snappy hardware and the Ubuntu Unity interface that really made this netbook stand out. If you are looking for a very portable machine, that will stand the rigors of mobility, and is as flexible as the average Linux operating system, the System 76 Starling is the right netbook for you.

Price of entry – $385.00.


Ā© Jack Wallen for gHacks Technology News, 2010. | Permalink | Add to del.icio.us, digg, facebook, reddit, twitter
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Western Telematic, Inc. (WTI) designs and manufactures Serial Console Server products and Rack Mount PDU products to simplify remote management of rack mount network equipment.

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