September 1, 2000

Tuxtop Quartz 795+ review

Author: JT Smith

By: Jeff Field
NewsForge Columnist

With Linux gaining ground in the desktop, handheld and server markets, there is still one market where Linux hasn't made as big of an impact -- the laptop market. With Linux 2.4, Linux becomes more laptop friendly with improved PCMCIA (PC Card), USB and power management support. This, along with the advances made in making Linux user friendly, make Linux an excellent choice for a mobile operating system.

The Laptop
Quartz 795+ Configuration Page
For expansion, the laptop has one serial port, one parallel port, one PS/2, two USB ports and one VGA connection on the back. On the side is the PC Card (PCMCIA) slot which can accept two type 2 or one type 3 PC Card, allowing for such devices as network cards or SCSI controllers. For memory expansion it uses two 144-pin SODIMM slots. In the 64-megabyte configuration I received, the RAM used was two 32 meg PC100 modules, rather than the preferable single 64 meg module. By using two 32 meg modules, you will have to replace one of your modules in order to upgrade RAM, rather than just adding a bigger module.

The Quartz 795+ uses an AMD Mobile K6-2 400MHz CPU. Running at 400MHz and supporting 3DNow, the K6-2 is an excellent CPU for use in a laptop. While not as fast as some of the newer Pentium III mobile CPUs, the AMD K6-2 is an excellent choice for an entry-level laptop such as this model, costing much less than mobile Pentium III CPUs. Also included is 512KB of pipeline-burst cache running at 100MHz.

For storage, the unit includes a 4.3 gigabyte Toshiba hard drive and a 24x internal CD-ROM, as well as a floppy drive. The 4.3 gigabyte hard drive, while adequate, isn't exactly roomy, and there isn't an option to upgrade to a larger drive on the Quartz model, which is unfortunate. The drive is excellent for an on-the-road system, but is a bit cramped to serve as a full desktop replacement.

Look and Feel
Perhaps the most important factors when choosing a laptop are how comfortable it is to type on and the quality of the screen. The Quartz 795+ has a large keyboard that is extremely comfortable to type on. I used it to write this review, and I've used it on the road many times over the past week, and I have to say I am impressed with the keyboard on this laptop. Also, the touchpad positioning is nice. It is close enough to use while typing, but not so far as to be accidentally hit while typing.

The screen on the laptop, a 13-inch HPA LCD screen, is capable of running at up to 800 by 600 resolution. Powered by a 4-meg AGP card, the visibility on this screen is nice. While at times it can appear cloudy, it is easy to read for long periods of time, and clear enough to be used in most situations. Also, the screen is nearly glare-free, nice when using the laptop in the car.

As for the weight of the laptop, while it weighs in at 6.3lbs, it is light enough that it isn't hard to carry around, and doesn't add too much weight to a briefcase or bag. I used a laptop carrying case, and it was no trouble to carry at all.


Battery

The Nickel Metal Hydride battery included with the laptop lasted one hour and 52 minutes after a full charge. This included booting up the machine, playing MP3s in XMMS, and typing this article in Abiword. This is good enough for most users, although a second battery might be a good idea for users who plan on going on long flights or plan on going a long time without an AC adapter.

Specs
Processor, Chipset and RAM
Processor - AMD K6-2 500/400 Mhz
Controller / Bios ALi - Aladdin-5 M1541/M1533
Cache 512KB L2 on-board (K6-2)
Memory (standard/review/max) 32/64/256MB (PC-100) SDRAM

Storage
4GB HDD
4X DVD or 24X CD-ROM
3.5" FDD

Display
13" SVGA HPA
800 x 600 x 16M - Maximum Resolutions
Display Controller SMI LynxEm 2MB AGP 1X HPA
Simultaneous Display

Audio
ESS Solo 1 3D Stereo Sound
2 speakers, microphone
software wavetable

PCMCIA
2 PCMCIA Type II or 1 Type III
Internal Modem 56K V.90 (This Winmodem is not supported by Linux)

Interface Ports
2 USB
16550A Serial
Enhanced Parallel
Fast Infrared
External CRT monitor
TV output (S-Video)
PS/2 KB/mouse
Headphone jack
Microphone jack
Line-in jack
Port Replicator

Input
Touchpad
Keyboard 87 Touch-Type Keys

Battery
Nickel Metal Hydride
1.5 - 3.5 Hrs

Power Management
Suspend/Resume, Global Standby, CPU Standby, Suspend to Disk & RAM, Low Battery Warning Light and Alarm, Non-Disruptive Battery Exchange, Battery "Gas Guage"
AC Adapter Universal 100-240V AC, 47-63Hz

Software - Red Hat Linux 6.2 (Mandrake 7.1 used in testing)

Dimensions - 12.2"W x 10"D x 1.5"H
6.3 lbs

Security Features
Power-on & SCU Password, Kensington Key Lock
Limited Warranty; One Year Parts & Labor Warranty
One Hour LinuxCare Technical Support
30 Days DOA Exchange

The Tests
Mandrake 7.1 with ReiserFS was used in place of the default configuration. 64 Megs of RAM was present, this differs from the default configuration.

Kernel Compiles
To test the laptop, I ran a variety of CPU, I/O and memory-intensive benchmarks. The first benchmark is a set of timed Linux kernel compiles. Compiling a kernel is a common action for a Linux user, making it a very valid benchmark for a Linux system. To do the testing, I used a Mandrake 7.1 installation. I configured the kernel by typing "make config" and selecting the defaults (holding down enter works nicely). I typed "make clean; make dep; time make bzImage" in order to time the kernel compiles.

Kernel Compile Times (Minutes:Seconds)

Tuxtops Quartz 795+
2.2.16 2.4.0-test5
400MHz 9:57 15:00

HDParm
Using HDParm measures the performance (cached and un-cached) of hard drives under Linux. This shows the performance of the hard drive int he Quartz 795+.

HDParm Results

Tuxtops Quartz 795+
Device Read Timings (-t) Cache Read Timings (-T)
400MHz 9.71MB/sec. 29.79MB/sec.

Benchmark Commentary
The Quartz 795+ performs adequately in all tests. I find that it has average performance in kernel times, being roughly half to a third as fast as a Pentium III 933, which is right in line for a CPU without on-chip L2 cache and an older generation of CPU core. The laptop has excellent uncached disk speeds, coming in at 9.71MB/second, an excellent score. Less impressive is the cached disk speed, coming in at 29.70MB/second, which may be adequate but isn't very impressive.

A note. These results should be used in comparison with other similar products to see which is faster, and benchmarks should never be your final determining factor. I always consider stability and support before absolute performance -- if it doesn't work, what does it matter how fast it is? So please, take all benchmarks with a grain of salt.

About Tuxtops.com
Tuxtops.com, founded in 1999, is one of the few companies that presently sells Linux laptops. You can order a customized laptop from them with either Red Hat Linux or a Red Hat/Windows Dual-boot configuration.

Conclusion
The Tuxtop Quartz 795+ is an excellent laptop for on-the-road business use. While a developer might want something more powerful, the average business user would be quite satisfied with this laptop. It provides excellent performance for those on a lower budget. With an excellent keyboard, sturdy construction, and a nice screen, the Quartz 795+ should satisfy the needs of anyone looking for a Laptop to take notes, write reports, or do any sort of business work on the road, or for those who need an easy way to bring their work back and forth between home and business. I can safely recommend this laptop, and on a personal note, I'm even considering purchasing one myself to bring with me to trade shows.

Price: $1,389 (as configured in this review), $1,360 for base model. Price a Tuxtop.

Disclosure: Laptop Provided by Tuxtops.com

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