I never hesitate to heap praise over System76. After all, they have not only produced some of the best Linux hardware on the market, but they’re 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 primary desktop for several years, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the company to produce 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 I have been of it on the desktop. That’s not to say there’s nothing wrong with Linux on a laptop, but there’ve been certain issues that I believe have prevented it from excelling as it should.
The new effort by System76 and HP has changed my mind on that stance. Not only have the two powerhouses proven they can work together to create a stunning piece of hardware, but they’ve also made it quite clear the power and flexibility of Linux can be harnessed for mobile devices to brilliant effect.
That’s the HP Dev One, a 14″ laptop that was the product of both System76 and HP. It’s very much an HP laptop, only powered 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 being marketed to developers and not the masses. Yes, I get it, developers are a prime target for Linux because all of 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 of a laptop to only be marketed to developers.
Before we dive further into the review, let’s talk specs.
SEE: Linux turns 30: Celebrating the open source operating system (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The Dev One specs
Here’s how the spec sheet for the Dev One plays out:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 5850 8 CPU cores, 16 threads
- Memory: 16 GB (2×8) DDR4 3200 MT/s, 2 SODIMM slots, upgradeable to 64 GB
- Storage: 1 TB PCIe 3×4 NVMe M.2 2280 SSD
- Keyboard: Backlit, spill-resistant, Tuned Linux Super Key
- Display: 1,000 nits, 14″ diagonal FHD
- Battery: HP Long Life 3-cell 53 Wh Li-ion with HP Fast Charge
- Ports: 2 USB3 Type-A, 2 USB3 Type-C, 1 HDMI, headphone jack, Kensington lock
There’s also a cool addition they’ve made to the chassis. If you look very closely at the webcam, you’ll see a little sliding cover that moves to the right to fully block the camera (Figure A).
Let’s take a look at what makes the Dev One a laptop for all.
The keyboard and trackpad
To give you an idea of where I’m coming from, according to Grammarly, I’ve written over eight million words since early 2021. Needless to say, I write a lot, so I know what I like in a keyboard. And although 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.
Previously, that title belonged to my Chromebook Pixel v2, but the Dev One keyboard has a very similar feel. The keys offer just the right feedback, without a ton of noise. Even better, the Dev One keys feel as though they could withstand the serious beating of someone who types as much as I could put it through.
Of course, replacing the Windows key with a key marked simply super, (Figure B) is a great touch, as no Linux user wants to see the Windows logo on their laptop.
Although the trackpad on the Dev One cannot compete with that of the Apple MacBook Pro, it’s still one of the better I’ve used. The trackpad is as slick as the MacBook Pro M1, but not quite as large and doesn’t accommodate nearly the number of gestures as found in macOS, but that might always be a sticking point with Linux. And with the addition of a physical right and left mouse button (Figure C), the Dev One can accommodate any type of workflow.
And, yes, you are seeing a little joystick above the B key. For those who prefer cursor control options, this will be a welcome addition.
The battery life on the HP Dev One is the best I’ve experienced on a Linux laptop. I can go most of the day with regular usage, 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 incredible. Hands down this is the best Linux laptop display I’ve ever used. It’s glossy, bright, and its color accuracy is solid. The only complaint I might conjure for the Dev One display is due to the size of the laptop. Because it’s a 14″ device, the display is a bit more rectangular than I’m used to. Coming from the Chromebook Pixel and the MacBook Pro, I’m used to displays that are a bit more square. However, that’s a tiny nit to pick, given you do get a bit more side-to-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 every aspect of the hardware to create a perfectly productive environment. The OS 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 has gifted users with the ability to choose the layout of their desktop. If you want a more GNOME-like GNOME, then they’ve got you covered. And if you prefer a sort of macOS-like GNOME, that’s available as well.
With the Dev One, you get the choice between three different GNOME layouts as well as the option to enable/disable the COSMIC Desktop tiling feature, which many a developer will appreciate. So, yeah, the combination of the HP Dev One hardware and the System76 operating system makes this laptop a great choice for just about any type of user.
It should go without saying that the HP Dev One is TCO Certified, which means it meets all the TCO certification criteria for sustainability. To become TCO Certified, a device must follow the following criteria:
- Socially responsible manufacturing
- Environmentally responsible manufacturing
- User health and safety
- Product performance
- Product lifetime extension
- Reduction of hazardous substances
- Material recovery
The Dev One even includes a TCO Certified desktop icon (Figure D) that launches the default browser to the TCO Certified Your Product page for more information.
Will the System76/HP Dev One be your next laptop? I highly recommend you consider the possibility.
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