March 10, 2004

Review: LinuxCertified LC2430 laptop

Author: Joe Barr

My first impression when sitting down in front of the LinuxCertified LC2430 laptop for the first time was, "Wow, look at the size of that screen!" After a few weeks of testing, I found the LC2430 comes up big in just about every respect.

LinuxCertified is now selling laptops preloaded with Linux. Unlike certain OEMs (like HP and IBM) who happily sell laptops preloaded with Linux overseas, but who shy away from doing the same here in the U.S., LinuxCertified actually puts Linux on the laptop for you. At the factory. Then they send it to you. No installation required. It's called "preloading." What a concept. I wonder why more operating systems don't do it.

Compared to the Sony VAIO PCG-XG700K I've used the past couple of years, the LC2430 is big. It's probably not the laptop the typical suit would want for styling in airport terminals and trading emails with his secretary. But it is exactly the powerhouse laptop a roving geek, a developer, or a reporter would want to have when they need to take their desktop/workstation with them on the road.

The LC2430 weighs in at 7.7 pounds. That's about 1.3 pounds heavier than the Sony. But the Sony is powered by a relatively puny 700MHz Pentium III, has only 128MB of RAM, and sports a 13-inch screen. The LC2430 has a firebreathing 2.8GHz Pentium 4, comes stock with 512MB of RAM, and features a big 15-inch LCD display. If your power needs on the road exceed the default offerings, you can beef it up with the optional 3.06GHz CPU and up to 2GB of RAM.

The keyboard

I don't have dainty little fingers. A lot of laptops and notebooks leave me feeling like I'm trying to type inside a shoebox that's just not quite big enough to hold both hands at once. By contrast, the keyboard on the LC2430 is especially to my liking. It spans just over 11 inches from the outside of the Caps Lock key on the left to the outside of the Enter key on the right. That's the same measurement as the full-size IBM keyboard on my desktop machine.

The extra real estate of the larger frame also gives me more than ample space to rest the heels of my palms while at the keyboard. All in all, it's the best laptop keyboard I've used.

The distributions

The LC2430 comes with your choice of Red Hat Professional or Debian, and as an option, either can be loaded to dual-boot with Windows XP. I chose Debian. The root password was on a page of documentation included in the box. Debian looks good on the laptop, but I experimented with other recent distributions on the LC2430 while I had the chance.

The screen

The 15-inch TFT display was set to a resolution of 1,400 by 1,050, which makes it crisp and clear. The video card is an ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 with 64MB of Integrated VGA RAM.

The modem

The LC2430 comes with a SmartLine 56Kbps internal modem. When you receive the laptop from LinuxCertified, it comes with the proper driver installed. But if you replace the distribution LinuxCertified installed with something else, you may run into problems. I did, but it was a problem of my own making.

In my case, after installing the latest LindowsOS Laptop Edition, I could not use the modem because of a "NO DIALTONE" error. LinuxCertified verified that the same combination of LindowsOS release and laptop worked at their end, so I tried a different phone jack. It worked perfectly.

The multi-function card reader

The LC2430 includes an "all-in-one" card reading unit that is compatible with a number of removable storage devices. On my last road trip, I carried an external Memory Stick reader with me to access photos I had taken with a Sony digital camera. I used Gphoto to read the contents of the Memory Stick via the serial port on the Sony VAIO.

If I had been carrying the LC2430, all I would have had to do would be to slip the Memory Stick into the reader and wait a couple of seconds for the USB storage device icon to appear. Well, that's not quite true. The first time I tried it nothing happened, because I inserted the Memory Stick with the copper teeth facing the wrong way. After inserting the Memory Stick correctly, and opening the image folder, all the photographs on the device were available to me.

The DVD/CD-RW drive

I decided to exercise the CD-RW in a practical way. I downloaded the latest Knoppix ISO and burned it using K3B. I wasn't sure how fast the drive was at the time, so I selected an 8X burn speed. It booted perfectly and Knoppix had no problem recognizing anything on the laptop. Later I learned the CD-RW was rated at 24X for both reading and writing. I burned a second copy of Knoppix at full-bore, creating the LiveCD in a shade over 3 minutes. It worked just fine.

To test the DVD and the video system, I dropped a copy of Seabiscuit (a legal copy, of course) in the drive and started MPlayer. The movie played with acceptable quality. I noticed a little lip sync slippage now and then, but the video was certainly watchable.

Odds and ends

There are quite a few additional ports for connecting the LC2430 to a variety of devices: 15-pin CRT, S-Video Out, parallel printer, IEEE 1394, P/S 2, headphone, microphone, one PC Card slot, and four USB slots. An AC power adapter, battery, carrying case, and user's manual are also included. Regular price on the LC2430 is $1,849. Dual-booting is an available option.


This box is the nearest thing to a perfect match for my traveling needs as any laptop I've ever used. The keyboard and screen size are big pluses for me, as are the built-in all-in-one card reader for accessing digital photos and the built-in Linux-compatible modem and Ethernet adapter that replace the three PC Cards (modem, wireless, Ethernet) I travel with now. With the LC2430 I only need one, and I'd need none if I had chose the wireless option that's available. All in all, this is a very powerful, very attractive laptop.

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