I never hesitate to praise System76. After all, they not only produced some of the best Linux hardware around, but they are also the creators of my daily Linux distribution (Pop!_OS) as well as a proud champion of open source technology.
I’ve been using a Thelio as my main desktop computer for several years and I’m looking forward to the company producing the perfect laptop. Don’t get me wrong, the laptops they currently offer are stellar, but I’ve always been less of a fan of Linux on laptops than on the desktop. That’s not to say there’s nothing wrong with Linux on a laptop, but there were some issues that I think kept it from excelling as it should.
The new effort from System76 and HP made me change my mind about this position. Not only have the two powerhouses proven that they can work together to create stunning hardware, but they have also made it clear that the power and flexibility of Linux can be harnessed for mobile devices to brilliant effect.
It’s the HP DevOne, a 14″ laptop produced by both System76 and HP. It’s very much an HP laptop, powered solely by System76’s Linux distribution, and it strikes the perfect balance of form and function.
My only issue with the Dev One is that it’s marketed to developers and not the masses. Yes, I get it, developers are a prime target for Linux because all the tools are readily available and the operating system is perfectly at home in the hands of any type of developer. But the Dev One is too good a laptop to be marketed only to developers.
Before diving further into the review, let’s talk about the specs.
SEE: Linux Turns 30: Celebrating the Open Source Operating System (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Dev One specs
Here is how the technical data sheet of the Dev One looks like:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 5850 8 CPU cores, 16 threads
- Memory: 16 GB (2 × 8) DDR4 3200 MT/s, 2 SODIMM slots, expandable to 64 GB
- Storage: 1TB PCIe 3×4 NVMe M.2 2280 SSD
- Keyboard: Backlit, Splashproof, Tuned Linux Super Key
- Display: 1,000 nits, 14-inch diagonal FHD
- Battery: 53 Wh 3-Cell Long Life HP Li-ion with HP Fast Charge
- Ports: 2 USB3 Type-A, 2 USB3 Type-C, 1 HDMI, headphone jack, Kensington lock
There is also a cool addition they made to the chassis. If you look very closely at the webcam, you will see a small sliding cover that moves to the right to completely block the camera (Figure A).
Let’s see what makes the Dev One a laptop for everyone.
The Dev One keyboard and trackpad
To give you an idea of where I’m from, according to Grammarly, I’ve written over eight million words since the start of 2021. Needless to say, I write a lot, so I know what I like in a keyboard. And while no laptop keyboard will ever compare to the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard I use daily, the HP Dev One keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on a mobile device.
This title used to belong to my Chromebook Pixel v2, but the Dev One keyboard has a very similar feel. The keys offer just the right amount of feedback, without a ton of noise. Best of all, the Dev One keys feel like they could withstand a severe beating from someone typing as much as I can get it through.
Replacing the Windows key with a key marked simply super, (Figure B) is a good idea, because no Linux user wants to see the Windows logo on their laptop.
Although the Dev One’s trackpad can’t compete with the Apple MacBook Pro’s, it’s still one of the best I’ve used. The trackpad is as slick as the MacBook Pro M1, but not as big and doesn’t support the number of gestures found in macOS, but that could still be a sticking point with Linux. And with the addition of a physical right and left mouse button (Figure C), the Dev One can adapt to any type of workflow.
And, yes, you see a small joystick above the B key. For those who prefer cursor control options, this will be a welcome addition.
The HP Dev One’s battery life is the best I’ve experienced on a Linux laptop. I can get through most of the day with regular use, which doesn’t include streaming a lot of media or compiling a lot of code. For anyone looking to have a Linux laptop with a battery that can go the distance, you’d be hard-pressed to beat this one.
The Dev One’s display is amazing. This is hands down the best Linux laptop screen I’ve ever used. It’s bright, bright, and its color accuracy is solid. The only complaint I could elicit for the Dev One screen is due to the size of the laptop. Since it’s a 14″ device, the screen is a bit more rectangular than I’m used to. Coming from the Chromebook Pixel and MacBook Pro, I’m used to the slightly squarer screens. However, it’s a small detail to choose from, given that you get a bit more side-by-side screen real estate.
The operating system
For me, this is where the HP Dev One really shines. It’s not just that it’s Linux, it’s that Pop!_OS works so well with all aspects of hardware to create a perfectly productive environment. The operating system absolutely stands out on this device, performing well above what you might expect.
What’s great about Pop!_OS is that it can be the desktop you want it to be. On first boot, System76 offered users the option to choose their desktop layout. If you want a GNOME closer to GNOME, then they’ve got you covered. And if you prefer some sort of macOS-like GNOME, that’s available too.
With the Dev One, you have the choice of three different GNOME layouts as well as the ability to enable/disable the COSMIC desktop tile functionality, which many developers will appreciate. So yes, the combination of HP Dev One hardware and the System76 operating system makes this laptop a great choice for just about any type of user.
It goes without saying that the HP Dev One is TCO certified, meaning it meets all TCO certification criteria for durability. To become TCO certified, a device must meet the following criteria:
- Socially Responsible Manufacturing
- Eco-responsible manufacturing
- User health and safety
- Product performance
- Product life extension
- Reduction of hazardous substances
- Material recovery
The Dev One even includes a TCO-certified desktop icon (Figure D) which launches the default browser on the TCO certified Your product page for more information.
Will the System76/HP Dev One be your next laptop? I strongly recommend that you consider the possibility.
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