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Linux has somewhat of a reputation of being difficult to use for newer, less tech-savvy users. But thanks to distributions like Ubuntu and System76’s Pop OS, it’s easier than ever for the average consumer to get on the Linux train. The System76 Gazelle has a lot of features that make it a good laptop, but it ultimately fails to compete with our top choices for the best Ubuntu laptop and the best laptop.

Why We Like It – System76 Gazelle

The System76 Gazelle isn’t the perfect computer, but it’s excellent processing power and stellar display make it worth consideration. What will put it over the edge, though, is the vast amount of expandability options that are sure to extend this laptop’s lifetime.

Pros
  • Stunning full HD display
  • Wide variety of connectivity and expandability options
  • Super user-friendly Pop OS
Cons
  • Subpar speakers
  • Middling customer service from System76
  • Unpleasant typing experience on integrated keyboard

Power/Performance

First, the display: the System76 Gazelle has a full HD LED-backlit screen that looks stunningly bright, vibrant, and crisp. The max brightness is more than enough for a brightly-lit room, and there are several increments for finding the perfect brightness for the situation. The speakers on the System76 Gazelle are average at best, but, considering that most laptop speakers have this failing, it’s hardly a dealbreaker. Inside the System76 Gazelle is an Intel i7 Core processor that performs fabulously under pressure. Perhaps the most important thing that differentiates this laptop from competition like the Acer Aspire E 15 is System76’s integrated Pop OS, which is incredibly friendly to users newer to Linux distributions.

Battery

The System76 Gazelle reviewed here is pretty old at this point, so it’s hard to dock it much for its relatively short battery life. Reviews report this laptop can get in a solid 3-4 hours of work before charging is necessary. When comparing that to the 10+ hour battery life of newer Linux-friendly systems like the Dell XPS 13 9370 or the Lenovo Thinkpad t580 makes the Gazelle’s battery life sound absolutely abysmal, but, to some, 3-4 hours is plenty of charge.

Ports/Expandability

On the topic of ports, the System76 Gazelle has several options for connecting a variety of devices, including 3 USB ports, an HDMI port, and an SD card reader. This laptop can be connected with several additional monitors for projects that require some extra workspace. Expandability is a big selling point of the System76 Gazelle, as you can add or replace components with relative ease. For many buyers, this could be an important selling point, as it allows you to upgrade your computer as you need it, rather than settling for subpar specifications at the point of purchase.

Build Quality

The System76 Gazelle is durable enough for toting around to school or work, but it’s definitely not the strongest chassis around. This chassis is made of polycarbonate and has a sleek matte finish. The keyboard is large and has a number pad, a feature many might miss on smaller laptop keyboards. That being said, the keyboard itself can be a bit difficult to type on due to the lack of backlighting and generally awkward, loose-feeling keys. The trackpad is also a point of contention for many reviewers, as several found it would easily get in the way and get accidentally touched while typing.

Value

A modern System76 Gazelle costs just about as much as many of its Windows and Mac-based counterparts, but the ability to swap out components with ease makes it a much better value than most. Should you find the 2013 model listed here, it will likely come with a lower price tag than that of the newer model. As more and more systems come out that are built for use with Linux distributions like Pop OS and Ubuntu, this System76 Gazelle becomes that much harder to recommend for the cost. Another note that could push potential buyers toward a Dell or Lenovo laptop is System76’s customer service, which has middling reviews at best.

System76 Gazelle Wrap Up

Laptops have come a long way since the System76 Gazelle first hit online shelves, especially Linux-based ones. Looking back on this laptop, there’s a lot to love as well as plenty of room for improvement. The keyboard and trackpad are, at best, awkward to work with, the speakers are so-so, and, most importantly, System76 doesn’t have the best customer service track record. What this computer does have, though, is excellent power and performance on a fabulous display, and an operating system that is incredibly friendly to new Linux users.

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Zoe Dumas

Zoe is a digital native who cannot remember a time when she didn’t have access to some type of computer. When she’s not busy researching the latest innovations in technology, Zoe loves playing video games, watching movies and TV, reading books, and playing with her two cats.

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