System76 Galago review
I bought a new System 76 Galago Pro 5 around 2020/09. I was excited because it was the first time I'd heard of a vendor specializing in laptops meant to run Linux and that come without Windows preinstalled. (At the time I didn't know that OEMs get to install Windows for free, so I was under the false impression that computers that come with Windows have an extra $100 factored into the cost.)
It's been disappointment all through.
Bad physical design
To be fair, I could've known about this if I had've inspected the images of it more closely before buying, but:
- The trackpad has no buttons nor even markings to show what areas function as what mouse button. Even after a year of using it, I still often left- or right-click when I mean middle, middle-click when I mean left, etc.
- The power button, rather than being above the top-right of the keyboard, is on the right side of the laptop near the charger port. It's easy to accidentally press this button while moving the computer, and *a single tap* initiates a shutdown - you don't have to hold it. There is no BIOS configuration menu in their open firmware, so as far as I can tell, there's no way to change this behavior.
Misleading about Intel Management Engine
They claim they disable Intel Management Engine on their laptops. In their firmware update guide, they state:
For laptops not running Open Firmware, a few extra steps may be required after an update to ensure the Intel ME is disabled.
System76 Firmware Update guide
This clearly implies that it's disabled if you're running open firmware, which I was. But during my first firmware update, I found out it wasn't and there wasn't an option to disable it! I contacted support and they said something about releasing a future firmware update that would allow me to disable it, but they still haven't.
In the blog post where it's originally announced, they do specify "on Intel 6th, 7th, and 8th Gen laptops" (there's no such specification in the firmware update guide) but when I read that I assumed they said it because 8th was the newest model they sold at the time (it's posted in 2017) and that this would continue with newer models. I can't find any announcement saying they don't allow it on newer models, they just silently stopped. The responsible thing to do would've been to both post an announcement and to update the 2017 announcement and firmware update guide to make it clear that this is not supported on models newer than Intel 8th Gen.
I was plagued for the first two years of owning this computer by some major bugs that seem like they must be at the hardware or firmware level. (They seem to have stopped happening a while ago, I'm not sure when. They were ongoing when I first wrote this review.)
- The fan bug: sometimes, with no apparent cause, the fan starts spinning really loud, as if the CPU was at max, but the CPU is idle. It continues spinning no matter how long I wait, until I reboot.
- The boot entry clearing. Often when I reboot, I find my EFI boot entry has been deleted, so I have to use a live environment to re-add it. It happens even if I haven't messed with my OS in any way since the previous reboot.
Irreplaceable keyboard and no customer support
In 2022/10, I ruined my keyboard with a water spill. The rest of the computer was fine. I went to their website to order a replacement keyboard, but found no such option. I also couldn't find any information anywhere on what model it is to order it from a different vendor. Their manual has instructions for installing a replacement, but without any way to actually get one, that's useless. I asked their customer support twice and never received any response.