At the end of 2020 I decided to buy a laptop that could be used by everyone at home. The reason was my wife and I both have personal computers but they’re both desktops, sitting in our study together with our work laptops, which is where we prefer to be when we work from home. Due to the pandemic, we were afraid at some point in time one or both of our children would have to stay at home confined and, at least in the case of my son, would have to do some school-related activities on a computer. I couldn’t imagine one of us working in the same room where my son would be, talking to the other parent and using the computer. We needed a laptop that could be moved and easily carried around the house, and it could also be handy if we had to take our computer with us somewhere in the future.
Because it would be used by children, which is always prone to accidents, I didn’t want it to be too expensive. At the same time, since it was unlikely to be used for heavy-duty tasks, I wanted it to last as much as possible and I wanted to be able to install Linux on it without much trouble. I aimed for it to have 16GB of RAM and a medium-sized SSD. I soon realized every laptop I could find on the market with 16GB of RAM had a premium price tag on it, and those which did not were out of stock.
Those of you living in the US can get very decent laptops with Linux preinstalled from Dell (but Linux models are usually expensive) or from other more specialized shops like System76. Fortunately for me, there’s a small company in Spain called Slimbook that offers affordable and well-built laptops and other computers oriented to Linux users, so I got myself one of the most modest models, the Slimbook Essential 14, with an Intel i5 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD. Its final price, shipping included, was below 700 euros.
It’s very nicely built, has an aluminum body and a comfortable trackpad and keyboard. Connectivity is pretty good too, sporting a couple of USB 3.2 ports (USB-C and the classic USB-A), another extra USB 2.0 type A port, an HDMI connector, audio jack and even a Gigabit Ethernet port (yay!).
On the not-so-good part, because they’re a small shop and work basically on-demand, getting your laptop built, tested and delivered to your door usually takes several weeks (normally 4-6, around 6 in my case). The global pandemic has not helped them at all, with some supply issues that sometimes even delayed a bit their usual schedule.
Apart from that, the speakers are just there. They’re good enough if you need someone else to listen to something with you, but using headsets or earbuds is preferred, in my opinion. Laptop webcams are usually not very good and, in this model, while quality is not atrocious, it falls a bit on the lower end, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it’s good enough for videoconferencing, specially if your room is nicely lit and the other end is going to look at you using a phone, tablet or a small-ish square in a larger screen.
On the bright side, apart from the good build quality and connectivity I mentioned above, the bottom cover of the laptop is easily removed and gives you easy access to the RAM and SSD slots, making them easy to upgrade and repair if needed.
All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the purchase so far, so I’ll wait and see how it evolves as time passes.