First Impressions: Sager NP2092 Laptop Running Ubuntu

I recently described how I came to purchase a Sager NP2092, after searching high and low for a laptop that would meet my requirements. Now, I’d like to share some first impressions about the laptop, upon which I’ve installed Ubuntu.

The specs on the machine I got are:

  • 15.4″ screen running at 1680×1050, Nvidia 8600m GT w/ 512 MB RAM
  • Core 2 Duo T9300 (Penryn 2.5Ghz, 6MB cache)
  • 2GB RAM (One DIMM,max 4GB)
  • 80GB HDD, DVD/RW
  • Bluetooth, Intel Wireles, Broadcom GB NIC

It’s a fairly high-end machine, nearly as powerful as my desktop, really. It weighs about 7 lbs, so it’s still fairly easy to carry. That’s a couple pounds heavier than I usually like, but with the release of inexpensive devices like the eeePC and Cloudbook, I can get an ultraportable that I can treat as an accessory to this larger machine and not have to compromise on performance like I have in the past. The best part is, I saved so much money buying the Sager instead of the Lenovo or Dell machines I was considering I can do that and still be about $500 under budget.

First Impressions

As I mentioned the Sager is a bit chunkier than I like a laptop to be, but the fit and finish is very good. Not as solid as the Thinkpads I’m accustomed to but still better than average. The keyboard is very nice, and though I miss the trackpoint, the touchpad works well.

I was disappointed to see that the lid has a glossy paint job on it. It’s not clear from the pictures on the website that it is glossy, and I don’t remember it being explicitly mentioned anywhere on the site. I am not at all a fan of glossy gadgets, they collect fingerprints and generally scratch easily. That said, I’ve found that a quick polish with a soft cloth easily brings it back to a like-new shine. Who knows though, I may get ambitious and refinish the lid at some point.

There are two buttons to the left of the keyboard, which enable the two most unique features of this machine. One allows a “quick charge” of the battery. If this button is pushed while the machine is off, it will bring a totally flat battery to 70% charge in only an hour. This is substantially faster than the normal charge rate, and can maximize your re-charge potential on layovers while traveling.

The seond button enables another power-releated feature. Pushing it delivers power to the USB ports on the left side of the machine without booting it up. This is also very useful while traveling, I can charge my other gadgets from the computer, even if I’m not actually using it. Super handy.

Getting up and Running

Installing Gutsy was something of a non-event. The one hitch was that I had to pass the “vga=vesa” option at boot time to get the live CD to come up. I understand that this is true of all Nvidia 8xxx-based laptops though, so I can’t really knock the NP2092 for it. Once up, the install was as I expected. A few clicks and a reboot and everything looked good, but I had no sound. I quickly found this page, which has directions for getting sound going which worked for me. Once that little hiccup was overcome, everything that I expected to work did, with no fiddling. The wireless, camera, and card reader all work 100%. Suspend works, but sounds doesn’t come back when waking up. This is a minor niggle for me, and can be worked around by having the system reload the kernel module when it resumes, but I haven’t tried setting it up yet. The fingerprint reader is also lacking Linux support, but other models from the manufacturer are supported, so it seems possible that this may change down the road.

Looking Good!

The display on this machine is great. It has a nice low-glare matte finish and is generally very bright and crisp with good off-angle viewing. My old T23 looks particularly dull sitting here next to it. Compiz is easily handled, and all the catchy eye candy looks great. A couple of my co-workers were really impressed when they saw me working on this machine the other day, tabbing through windows and rolling the desktop cube around. This machine really makes Ubuntu look good.

I couldn’t resist putting Quake War: Enemy Territory on here, and I’m happy to report it runs quite well. With “normal” detail settings at the native screen resolution it stays in the 30-40 FPS range with the occasional dip into the high 20’s. Not perfect, but very playable. Less demanding games like Nexuiz, Warsow, and Tremulous are even better, sticking pretty close to the 60 fps sweet spot.

When running these more intense applications, the machine does get noticeably warm on the left side, but I would not consider to be overly hot. The cooling system seems to be fairly effective, quietly venting all that heat out the back before it has a chance to build up.

The standard 9-cell battery lasts about 3 hours doing my typical on-the-road tasks. I did a little web surfing and nearly watched two movies while waiting for a flight, all sans AC power. I did turn off the wireless while watching the movies and turned the brightness of the screen down a bit, but other than that did nothing special to extend my charge time.

Conclusion

All in all, I am extremely happy with the Sager NP2092. It is a very solid feeling machine that meets my performance needs. It was also available without Windows, and for substantially less money than I had planned on spending. I wish it were a little slimmer, and did not have a glossy lid, but those are hardly deal breakers. I’d happily recommend this machine to anyone looking for an Ubuntu capable laptop that has the power of a desktop replacement, but without the heft of a 17″ screen. Be sure to check out System76, ZaReason, and even Dell, but if they don’t offer something that meets your needs, an OS-less machine from Sager may be right up your alley!

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10 thoughts on “First Impressions: Sager NP2092 Laptop Running Ubuntu

  1. Great review! I’m shopping for an new Ubuntu laptop and I’m wondering if you could describe the “feel” of the keyboard? I’ve been using an Acer 4650 for the past couple of years but I really detest the mushy keyboard. Given your IBM background I expect the keys but be similarly “clicky” or you would have mentioned it.

    Also, have you tried a dual monitor setup on it?

    thanks,

    humble

  2. Humble: I describe it as “moderately clicky”. I like the keyboard feel. It really feels pretty close to the T23 I’m replacing, though it’s a little bigger which is nice for my ham-sized hands. I’m very happy with it, also coming from a Thinkpad. I do miss the trackpoint though.

    As far as the dual-head setup, over the last couple of days I’ve tried it both on a monitor and a TV, and it worked very, very well. Between the nvidia-settings tool and the Xrandr utility in Hardy, everything has basically just worked. Even the display hot-key works.

  3. Well I received mine and it’s everything you said – the power is amazing, the screen is beautiful and I’m really happy with the feel of the keyboard.

    Running AMD64 Ubuntu and the install of needed 32 bit apps became a snap once I found getlibs.

    My remaining issue is the sound after suspend. Did you ever get this sorted out and if so, how?

    many thanks,

    humble

  4. I’m glad you’re happy with your purchase! I put some minimal effort into getting that behaving, but I don’t have it sussed quite yet. As I alluded to above, I intended to pair this machine with a Cloudbook, which arrived last week. Needless to say I’ve been putting most of my energy into really digging into that guy. I think once the “new toy” syndrome wears off, I’ll revisit the sound after suspend issue with more vigor.

    The core of the fix seems to be adding the appropriate modules to /etc/default/acpi-support in the “modules” variable. If with that pointer you’re able to achieve success I’d love to hear about it!

  5. I was thinking about getting this laptop to play The Sims 2 on, do you think it will hold up well with long periods of non-stop running of the game on the highest graphics setting? None of the desktops in my house can run the game and getting a laptop is my only option considering the desktops are taking up all the room in the house, and I can choose to get a blu-ray player(when I got my PS3 I sold all of my DVD’s and getting a laptop without the blu-ray player wouldn’t be very good because I wouldn’t have any movies to watch. So far while I’ve been looking this is actually one of the cheapest laptops(after the blu-ray option is added). Other than The Sims I would only really use it for surfing the internet, occasionally watching a movie, and adding songs and whatnot to my iPod. Would you recommend this laptop to me?

  6. I don’t know about the Sims specifically, but I have played ET Quake Wars and Savage 2 for fairly extended periods on this machine and not had any problems. Assuming that The Sims is not more demanding than either of those two, you ought to be fine, it will likely be fine. As far as Blu-ray goes, I don’t know what the status of Blu-ray playback on Ubuntu. Assuming there is software available for it, I’d wager that this machine would have plenty of horsepower for it.

  7. Im concerned about the noise level of the Sager

    How often does the fan run? Can you hear it running? Can you feel it vibrate in the keyboard?

    Have you ever tried using PHC for undervolting this laptop? That would be the first thing on my to do list.

    Thanks

  8. The noise level on this machine is minimal. I forgot to mention that that is another of the items I’m particularly happy with. The left side fo the keyboard sometimes gets a little warm and you _can_ hear the fan toggling on and off if you’re in a quiet room but even with the fan running at max (I assume it’s at max) the sound is barely audible.

    I discovered that my no-sound after suspend problem is ‘fixed’ by toggling the mute button (above the keyboard) so everything is good!

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