TUXEDO Pulse 15 | Possible AMD Linux Laptop Upgrade

My main machine a Dell Latitude E6440 has very happily been chugging away and meeting my needs very reliably. For most tasks, I don’t have any issues. I do probably push it by keeping too many tabs open far too frequently but for the things I need to do, CAD, video editing office tasks, VMs this silly CubicleNate.com site, I am very happy with the performance. I think where I am having trouble is that now that I have had a taste of high-resource application multitasking, now I want more of it. Also, the Server / workstation that I built last year has further wet my appetite for more power.

I have looked at Tuxedo Computers several times and have been very interested by their many offerings. Looking at the 10th Generation Intel machines, I found the prospect of super long battery life with greater processing power compelling but not compelling enough. The difference in performance of the integrated GPUs vs the onboard AMD of my current laptop wasn’t enough of a difference to get me to make the purchase. I wanted more of a leap frog than a hop forward if I am going to make a major purchase.

Then I have this article pop up in my Twitter feed. Now I am intrigued as this wasn’t just a few percentage points faster than my current machine. This was almost 6 times the CPU power and although uncertain the GPU performance increase, I am quite certain that the RX Vega 7 will do far better than the Radeon HD 8600M Series GPU I am currently enjoying.

Exciting Features

I am going to outline the features that mean the most to me. Everyone is a bit different so I will illustrate the most compelling aspects of this machine that get me ready to open up my Bitwarden client to punch in my payment information.

CPU

For starters, this is an all AMD laptop. Nothing against Intel, outside of the Spectre and Meltdown issues, I have enjoyed great performance and Linux compatibility over the years. Even now, I am quite satisfied with my 4th Generation Intel. What an all AMD laptop means to me is no funny hybrid graphic commands to utilize the more powerful GPU. By default, having a Vega 7 paired with the Ryzen 7 CPU with 8 cores and 16 threads means a LOT more that I can do and in less time. Specifically, more efficiently working in 3D design, such as Fusion 360 and rendering audio and video files. I shouldn’t complain too much, generally my rendering takes about 1 minute for each minute of video but the more effects I layer on the longer this can take.

GPU

Maybe I should have lumped this into the previous paragraph but I do want to highlight my reasons for a better GPU. For starters, Gaming. I don’t do a lot of it, but when I do, I find that my GPU is a bit lacking for the newer games. I don’t need superb graphics but I would like to be able to play some of the newer titles without having my graphics turned all the way down to the lowest setting to keep up. Obviously that is not all the games but the “Triple-A” titles are just not possible.

“Psss, that is why you built the new server / workstation system”

“Shhhhh, let’s not talk about that computer right now!”

CubicleNate talking to CubicleNate

Whenever I want to use the AMD GPU in my E6440, I have to invoke “DRI_PRIME=1” to activate it and it can be annoying to do it for all the applications that draw on GPU resources. Admittedly, that is not a huge deal but convenience is worth something.

Memory

I don’t tax my memory all that often but I tend to as I have said earlier that once I got a taste for taxing application multitasking, I have wanted to do more of it. Maybe I don’t need to but I have been known to use up the 16 GiB of RAM on my system quite regularly. This machine has a max of 64 GiB and since that number sounds great, I just may want to have a “Linux 64” system to compliment the Commodore 64. See what I did there, 64 GiB of RAM and 64 KiB of RAM?

(Insert eye roll)

Seriously though, I would like to have a bit higher ceiling to work with when doing more complicated tasks and that additional memory should keep me quite satisfied for the next several years.

Battery

The battery performance of this machine looks to be about 10 hours under normal office loads. Now, that is not much more than what I have with my E6440 on a good battery as I get between 6 and 8 hours, depending, but 10 hours is nothing to sneeze at. The battery is also user replaceable in this machine as well. Not as easy as a couple retaining latches on my E6440 but I can live with having to employ a screw driver to remove the lithium-polymer battery, so long as it doesn’t require a heat gun and careful prying to get it out. The question I have here is, “how easy will it be to get a replacement battery?”

Ports

Here is where many machines fall on their face. For the most part, ports on newer machines are loathsome. Possibly the most egregious design I have seen has been Apple laptops. It is as though they have no thought or concern in what users will need. I have seen all brands with this shortcoming. This machine is fairly well equipped and I would be comfortable in saying is far better than most.

It has 1 – USB 3.2 Generation 1 Type-C that can also be used to deliver power. That is great because it opens me up for having a universal USB-C type dock station, which Tuxedo Computers also sells. It seemingly is not DisplayPort capable but I am okay with that. Two ports would have been nice but one is good.

There are 2 – USB 3.2 Gen1 Typ-A ports. I am rather accustomed to the 4 I have on my Latitude but I do NOT currently have a USB-C port so the world of USB-C is out of reach at this time. There is 1 – USB 2.0 Type-A and I wish that this would be a USB 3 instead but the reality is, this is fine, really. I mostly have USB 2 type devices and things like Mice and controllers waste that USB 3 port so I am fine with this.

1x HDMI 2.0 that has output capabilities I don’t fully understand but it can do 4k. I don’t own any 4K anything so this is not a huge deal to me. I am more concerned about having multiple screens that I can plug into the dock station. I will have to get some kind of HDMI to SVGA adapter I keep in my computer bag for the eventuality that I run into a display with that standard.

This has a real RJ45 Gigabit LAN port. So HUGE win here. I can’t have a machine without a real port. Not having a real LAN port is just silly to me.
This has a real 2-in-1 Headphone/Headset (Headphone & Microphone) port. I do use this still even though I have many Bluetooth audio things

It also has a micro-SD Card-Reader. I would prefer a real SD Card slot but I can live with this. Supposedly there is an adapter to read 8 other card formats but the only two for which I am interested is the Large SD Cards and Compact Flash.

Honorable Mentions

It has all the other standard options of the day like Webcam, sound card, speakers and internal storage. I will probably just go with the 2000 GB option as to not have to mess with that in the future. I mean, maybe not, maybe I can live with just 1000 GB but that would be a storage downgrade from current machine.

Concerns

I am a bit concerned by the change in keyboard layout would change how I use tiling on Plasma. This is a small issue and thinking about it, I actually may be able to use it more effectively as there are more keys near by that I could more sensibly configure to take advantage of the tiling features.

Getting more power supplies is my other concern. I can’t have just one or two. I need to have several but there is that USB-C option that everyone is seemingly excited about these days. I do have several Dell Power Supplies and I don’t want to just retire the lot. I wonder if they would be compatible.

Tuxedo Computers is in Germany, I am in the US. I am a bit concerned by the customer service issues I may have. Specifically, replacement parts, like batteries, or should I monkey something up. This is a small concern as I prefer to work on my own machines and assuming I upgrade my E6440 one more time, I could easily fall back to it should this Rysen machine have issues… and I think that is the path that I need to take.

What I wish it had

There are two things I wish the computer had. The first, a TrackPoint, as you see on the Dell Latitudes and ThinkPads. I am quite accustomed to using it regularly when I am mobile with my computer. Perhaps I could become used to using the track pad only, not sure, but this is the only thing that would be difficult. With that TrackPoint comes three physical buttons beneath it. I do like physical buttons too.

Secondly, I wish it had a built in smart card reader. This is not a huge deal and external USB models will work fine, it is just that there is something incredibly convenient in having a built in device so it is always ready to be used. My last 13 years of Dell Latitudes have had them built in and working great in Linux.

Final Thoughts

After a lot of thinking and pondering. I am not going to make the plunge… yet. I have to call myself out right here and remind myself that I previously said that I would buy an all AMD Linux laptop when they became available. My reason for not making the plunge yet is I can squeeze a bit more out of my E6440, I just purchased a new battery for it and the price of 4th Gen CPUs are rather low right now so I am going to extract a bit more performance out of this machine before I replace it. I may make this Tuxedo Pulse 15 a Christmas gift to myself, or maybe Santa will send one my way to end 2020 on a positive note.

Dell has been good to me for nearly two decades and I will never say a new Dell is a bad way to go, but with the changes in the power supply connection, my reasons for staying Dell have become fewer. They new keyboard layouts from Dell are also enough of a difference that I will have to alter some of my shortcut key sequences anyway. The two major reasons for staying with Dell are the lack of TrackPoint and Smart Card devices.

The part that truly interests me most is that I can buy a laptop, from manufacturer that has openSUSE Linux on it. Sure, it’s Leap and I would end up putting Tumbleweed on it but having a computer, from factory, with openSUSE brings about a kind of excitement. I haven’t ever purchased a Linux laptop before, let alone an openSUSE Linux laptop. I would certainly call this a “flagship” experience and for my first [factory] Linux laptop, this sounds like a great way to go.

References

Tuxedo Computers Unveils the Tuxedo Pulse 15 Linux Ultrabook with AMD Ryzen 4000H Series
Tuxedo Pulse 15 Details and Configuration
Dell Latitude E6440
Fusion 360 on openSUSE Linux | Review
Building an AMD Server and Game Machine out of Yester-Year’s Parts
openSUSE.org

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