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The Entroware 'Proteus' Gaming Laptop, Reviewed For Linux

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Entroware is a UK-based startup aiming their sights at the Linux market, and we have been sent the “Proteus” gaming laptop to give our thoughts on.

See a bigger clickable image of this unit below:
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I have to admit, I had never really heard of Entroware before, so I didn’t know what to expect. For a smaller company I expected some crap plastic shell with no configurability, boy I was wrong.

This is also our first ever official hardware review with an item sent by a vendor, so while we are new to this, I will be as thorough and interesting as possible.

One thing Linux is lacking, is a big presence in shops in the UK, and I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. Microsoft is so entrenched in it that Apple have their own stores, so to see more shops appear online directly for us, that pleases me, a lot.

The last two times I’ve looked to buy a laptop I ended up buying a Windows machine, and spending time wiping Windows and getting it all setup is a real annoyance, not to mention having to mess around with setting up graphics when the stores kindly don’t mention it has two graphics chips which gets messy.

Entroware haven’t been around for long, in fact they only surfaced early last year, so I have been keen to see what their products are like since our communication started.

I have been secretly using their ‘Proteus’ for all of my GamingOnLinux work recently, and for gaming to give it some proper thoughts after real world use, and the Proteus performance blew me away.

Enter The Proteus
I’ve owned a fair few laptops in my time, and some of them have been at the higher end of the spectrum, so I have a decent grasp of what to expect from a laptop of such calibre. This is easily the most powerful unit I’ve ever touched though.

You have the option of Ubuntu 14.04, Ubuntu 14.10, or no operating system. The no OS option I imagine will keep a lot of people happy. Personally I would load up Linux Mint, but for the purposes of this we are reviewing it as you would buy it with Ubuntu.

You have a number of configurable options when picking your unit which is what I already love about Entroware, but this is the unit I was sent to test:
CPU: Intel Core i5 4210M
GPU: Nvidia GTX 860M
RAM: 8GB DDR3
13.3” 1080p matte IPS display
120GB SSD
Distro: Ubuntu 14.04

Pricing
That unit would set you back about £788.97, so you will need to dig deep into your wallets for it!

Comparing it to other Linux stores around the globe, and general stores it does seem to be a reasonable value. While there may be a slight markup on Entroware, not many places will test all their units for Linux compatibility, and that’s exactly what we want. It does get annoying when buying a laptop to find out it has some badly supported wireless chip for example, so Entroware prevent this major annoyance for you.

My only gripe with their starting specifications is that the RAM is only a measly 4GB, as the bigger games Linux has been getting tend to eat through RAM, and I really consider 8GB to be a minimum now. If anything it gives you a bit of breathing room for future ports.

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When opening her up I did get a slight giggle at the size of the power brick. It’s no way near reaching WiiU levels of stupidity (the power brick on that is massive), but it’s not exactly small either. It’s about the size of a 360 controller to give you an idea, only a bit thinner. You might not think it’s a big issue, but the point of laptops is portability, and so you want as small a power brick as you can get.

Style & Build Quality
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In the looks department it’s one of the few places it falls a bit flat. It doesn’t look like anything special, but for me that’s really not an issue at all. I never understand why people want something with neon lights all over it, I like to use my computers, not enter them into a beauty pageant.
I get this may be an issue for some, so if you really are looking for something to show off to the masses, then the Proteus isn’t what you’re looking for.

The build quality does seem fantastic, and it doesn’t feel cheap at all. Everything about it feels incredibly sturdy, and I feel a lot safer using this than my Macbook Air.

Screen
Wow, if you can afford it, you should really look at getting an IPS display. The clarity of the screen at different viewing angles compared to my regular desktop screen is quite noticeable. The colours are also very vibrant, so for general use it’s excellent.

Keyboard
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One thing I really dislike on laptops are the keyboards, as most of the time they can be quite horrible to type on as lots of them skimp on the keyboard, making them feel cheap. I’m not sure what can be done to solve this, as the Proteus seems to have a pretty standard keyboard without any extra bells and whistles.

I was also hoping it wouldn't have a Windows icon, but they haven't customised the keyboard.

Boot time
Thanks to the SSD the boot time is good, but it could be better. The Proteus took a nifty 25 seconds to get into the desktop. I would have thought it would be quicker, and it seems to spend about 6 seconds before you even get anything to appear at all.

Weight
It’s not exactly going to win any awards here; it’s heavy! You don’t notice it when it’s sat on your lap, but the moment you go to move it you are reminded it’s quite the beast.
Weight is an issue with any higher end laptop I’ve ever had, as you’re cramming more and more into such a small space. It’s still easily portable and I had no problems carrying it around, so I don’t think it’s anything to really be bothered about.

Battery Power
Battery wise, it has a 5600mAh removable battery at the bottom, so that should be sufficient for general use, but won't last too long gaming on it.

Touchpad
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Thankfully, it has a pretty normal touchpad with physical buttons. It's nice to use when comparing it to a clickpad like in the Macbook Air (which is awful to use!).

The touchpad does stay reasonably cool under load too, and I never really felt much heat around that area.

The touchpad scrolling is a little iffy, as I had to turn off two finger scrolling as it didn't work a good 70% of the time, and seemed to work at random. Edge scrolling with one finger seemed to work fine, but who really uses a touchpad all that much? Mouse all the way!

There is a bug on Linux with the latest Nvidia drivers, as when using the touchpad the entire unit can freeze up, this is a known issue, and seems to be a mix between a bug in the Nvidia driver, and the Linux touchpad drivers. This only happens on one specific version of the closed source Nvidia drivers.

Continuing my test of the Proteus from Entroware, I tested it in some real world gaming situations, and hammered it with the Unigine Heaven benchmarking software, so I really did put it through its paces.

Game tests
I gave the laptop a really good crack at a number of different games, and it performed admirably! It looks like the Nvidia GTX 860M is an outstanding chip for laptop gamers. It actually gave me just as good, if not better performance than my original desktop card, the 560ti, and for a laptop chip I find that astonishing. It really does surprise me what you can fit into smaller form factors now.

I was actually expecting a single graphics chip due to how terrible dual chips have been in the past, but I was shocked at how far Linux has come in that department. The Nvidia drivers came pre-installed and allowed me to switch between the Intel and Nvidia chip, something not too long ago was a severe pain to do. This is also thanks to Entroware for setting it all up of course, and you can expect the same when you buy with them.

There is still a minor drawback though, as when switching between chips you do need to logout and log back in, so it still has some way to go before it’s a seamless experience.

One thing Entroware do need to do is be more clear about it, as I couldn’t find any mention on their website that it has dual graphics chips.

Borderlands 2
I cranked up the settings to high, and the resolution up to 1080p and wow, the game managed to always stay above 40FPS, reaching highs of middle 60’s. It feels smooth, responsive and was a blast to play.

Not sure if that’s due to the powerhouse graphics chip or Aspyr’s excellent porting, but the game ran really well on the Proteus.

Dying Light
I know, not the best choice, but stick with me. Even with the major OpenGL performance problems with this game it’s interesting to see how a laptop chip can perform against my desktop card.
Note: Dying Light doesn’t officially support any mobile chip, this is just for fun.

I was really surprised by this one, as with settings on Low, and AA on, the game actually managed to keep at about 17-20FPS (only about 9FPS lower than my desktop!), and considering Dying Light hasn’t had the OpenGL performance patches yet, I can imagine it even being playable on this unit in future.

UPDATE: I re-tested this unit with the new Dying Light patch, and with everything on Medium at 1080p, well, it was amazingly playable, see the screenshot below:
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Click it for a bigger image.

The Witcher 2 (Latest beta)
This is my biggest surprise. Testing it on High, with the 1080p resolution was pretty damn smooth. It was mostly at about 30FPS, with the occasional, but not often, drop below, and often highs nearing 40FPS.
The Proteus is constantly surprising me at how well it performs even in such intensive games.

Unigine Heaven
Without Tessellation
Running the benchmark on High, with 2x AA:
FPS: 32.5
Score: 818
Min FPS: 7.8
Max FPS: 55.0

Running it again on Medium, with 2x AA:
FPS: 37.1
Score: 933
Min FPS: 16.1
Max FPS: 59.6

Considering how demanding such a benchmark is, to get above 30FPS on High settings is actually really quite good, especially for a laptop.

With Tessellation
Running it on High, with 2x AA, and Normal Tessellation:
FPS: 29.3
Score: 738
Min FPS: 7.3
Max FPS: 54.1

Running it again on Medium, with 2x AA, and Normal Tessellation:
FPS: 33.0
Score: 832
Min FPS: 7.7
Max FPS: 59.2

It’s worth nothing that the unit gets hot, really hot. The fan does a good job of pumping that heat out too, and gaming with this in the winter will probably keep you pretty warm indeed.

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It has a single fan on the underside of the unit to the left, so it would be a good idea when using it to make sure that it has a bit of room to breathe.

Final Thoughts
Can I keep it?

If you’re looking for Linux hardware then it looks like Entroware are a serious contender, and I hope they continue to do well. For a startup that hasn’t been around very long, they seem to have a really good unit ready for the masses that need gaming on the go.

The Proteus was a powerful beast to take a look at, and impressed me constantly to the point of seriously wanting to own one, and I’m very sad it’s out of my price range right now.

I will certainly be looking to Entroware if I want to buy a machine with Linux pre-loaded on it.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Hardware, Review
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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
See more from me
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nvllsvm 10 Mar, 2015
For those curious, this is actually a rebranded Clevo W230SS. In the US, a company called Sager sells this as the NP7338.

I've had the Sager for roughly a year (i7-4910mq, 16gb RAM) and this thing is a complete beast. Battery life ranges from 3.5 to 5.5 hours.
dubigrasu 10 Mar, 2015
Congratulations to GamingOnLinux for the first hardware review and good luck to Entroware :)
STiAT 10 Mar, 2015
Most importantly: matte display :D.

The config option I'd use would be pretty expensive, but I'll need a new laptop this year, so I'll probably give it a look later this year.
ljrk 10 Mar, 2015
What? nVidia allows switching the graphics cards? Since when? What driver version do you have?

Currently being back at nouveau which at least works - kinda.
minj 10 Mar, 2015
Is it just me or 1080p for 13.3" is a total overkill?
Liam Dawe 10 Mar, 2015
Quoting: LeonardKWhat? nVidia allows switching the graphics cards? Since when? What driver version do you have?

Currently being back at nouveau which at least works - kinda.
It seems to use Nvidia-prime from what I can tell, and it works quite well.
N30N 10 Mar, 2015
Quoting: liamdaweThe touchpad scrolling is a little iffy, as I had to turn off two finger scrolling as it didn't work a good 70% of the time, and seemed to work at random.
I'd suspect it's one of those cheap touchpads missing multi touch support then (but I agree, at lease it doesn't click :)). If so the two finger emulation is done via pressure, so just press a bit harder. Once you know this it shouldn't be an issue (and lots of tweaking and other options are always available via the synaptics driver settings).
FutureSuture 10 Mar, 2015
I have known about Entroware for a while but am genuinely surprised to see this review. Very out of the blue! Glad to see that Entroware and GamingOnLinux have found each other. A pleasant surprise indeed. With how small our market share is, building off of one another is quite necessary.
Segata Sanshiro 10 Mar, 2015
Am I seeing wrong or is the screen 4:3?? Who makes screens like that anymore?
FutureSuture 10 Mar, 2015
Quoting: minjIs it just me or 1080p for 13.3" is a total overkill?
1920x1080 is the lowest resolution option for this laptop. Next up is 3200x1800.
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