Friday, 1 August 2008

Recommending the MSI MegaBook PR200WX-058EU laptop to Linux users

I recently bought a new MSI laptop and I am really pleased with my choice so far.

Since with the previous laptop I managed to kill two of my desired features, long battery life and pretty portable, I decided is time to look really well and see what the market has to offer.

I settled on a MSI PR200WX-058EU which has the following:
  • built on a Centrino platform
    • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU T8300 @ 2.40GHz
    • Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG or AGN
    • Intel mobile chipset
  • 3GB of memory (yes, I would have enjoyed 4, but it seems the 32 bit barrier still decides hardware configurations)
  • 320GB HDD
  • DVD+/-RW
  • Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics Controller
  • 12" wide screen (1280x800)
  • 1 Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet
  • 8 cell battery by default (long battery life)
  • 1 USB 2.0 Camera - uses luvc driver
  • bluetooth
  • 1 card reader
  • 3 USB port, 1 HDMI, 1 D-sub 15 connector, 1 PCI Express port, modem port
  • fingerprint reader
  • an advertised weight of 1.8kg (I weighted it at 2.1kg with the 8 cell battery)

In other words a small and mobile powerhouse for which I payed 3800 RON (approx. 1100€). I'd say not too bad at all.

Thanks to Gonéri Le Bouder and some searches on the internet I concluded that
the brand is not bad at all, and now that I have it I really am sure.

Of course, I installed Debian Lenny on it (I also sent an installation report), and, in spite of the initial problems, I managed to make the laptop work pretty nice, but I am especially excited about the webcam, which works with the linux-uvc driver.

There were some issues, but I managed to fix some them while I have been ignoring some other. The LaptopTestingTeam page for MSI PR200 on the ubuntu wiki was very helpful.
What have I been ignoring?
  • it seems that from time to time the battery charge status isincorrect, or acpi report that the AC is plugged in
  • headphones don't automatically turn off the speakers
  • fingerprint reader is not used yet, but I intent to experiment at some point with it (authentication via the fingerprint would be cool)
  • the keyboard seems a little bit too hard (but I hope it will loose up with time)
  • modem isn't probably working, but I don't think I'll ever try
  • there are some issues in gnome-power-manager which cause strange behaviour and grief wrt screen brighness
  • sleep doesn't work,but hibernation does

What would you do if I'd tell you that the battery lasts 4 hours or even more while the wlan is on and working (browsing and stuff like installing new packages, configs) with the brightness set to minimum?

I am really excited about this and I can say that I think I have found my next generation laptop, so if you're thinking of a cheap mobile powerhouse on which Linux must run, this laptop might be for you.

I find the following to be selling points (for a Linux buyer or others):
  • comes with FreeDOS, so no extra money for an OS you don't use
  • wifi works
  • webcam works with luvc
  • no big problems during install (the most severe are already fixed)
  • long battery life, even when using wifi (4+ hours in browsing+some package installation mode, according to my tests)
  • light enough to carry around easily (2.1kg, 2.4kg with charger)
  • nice design - some people asked me if I bought a MacBook
  • 4 state kill switch for all possible combinations for wifi/bluetooth
  • hibernate works with 2.6.24 or newer (sleep doesn't, but I will try a few things later)
  • there's no mechanical latch for the lid, there is a magnet, so there's no plastic to be broken, the laptop is more robust
  • the 8 cell battery is thicker than the regular one, allowing better ventilation
  • it seems it doesn't get too hot to put on my lap (still, I am a little afraid of blocking its ventilation due to the fabric of my clothes, so I'll probably try to carry around a hard paperboard or something like that)
  • the big resolution 1280x800 (for this screen size) seems to partly compensate for the reduced physical size of the screen (12")
  • bright screen

So, thanks again to Gonéri, Debian Installer team, LVM2 maintainers, Ubuntu Laptop Testing team, linux uvc developers, Lilo developers and maintainers, all the nice people who made and still make Debian possible.


Anonymous said...

i bought a MSI PR310x about a month ago and i have to agree with you: is a nice option (having in mind price/quality)

To me almost-everything worked out of the box (except for the webcam and fingerprint reader which i didn't really cared to even configure)

The only issue i'm having with this laptop is the wifi, i did managed to made it work with the kernel 2.6.24, but with 2.6.25 i couldn't so far.

Tim Richardson said...

Your configuration is very similar to mine in a Toshiba u400, on which I run Ubuntu 2.6.24. The screen brightness seems to be a problem with the Intel driver. I reported it upstream, the next X version apparently fixes it. I have booted my Toshiba into Lenny with 2.6.25 and the LCD brightness problens are much improved (but not solved). I changed some power management scripts to improve the LCD brightess control. Maybe it helps you.