Kubuntu Focus | Review and Final Thoughts

So a little over a week ago I uploaded an unboxing and first impressions video of the Kubuntu Focus Laptop. For those unaware the Kubuntu Focus is a laptop built in partnership with Tuxedo computers and its designed specifically for Linux. It comes preinstalled with Kubuntu and features a modified version of the KDE desktop environment. I’ve been using it as my primary computing device since that video was uploaded and it’s now time to update you guys on how I got on.

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Starting with the overall build of the machine. It’s made from a mixture of metal and plastic materials but for the most part feels like a solid and sturdy device. On the lid you’ll be greeted with a rather fresh looking Kubuntu logo that lets you and anyone around you know this isn’t your typical laptop with windows or mac os inside. When the device is powered on and the lid is open you also get some rather cool lighting effects shining through the top.

On the sides you’ll find a generous selection of ports which should keep you from reaching for a dongle to connect extra accessories. On one side you’ll find an Ethernet port, multi card reader, usb 3.0 port and audio jacks.

On the other side you’ll find your power in port, a full HDMI port, a display port, 2 usb type c ports and another usb 3.0 port. I have absolutely no complaints here as I am all about that dongle free life.

Flipping it over to the bottom of the laptop you’ll find that all it takes is a standard screw driver to take the back off and get inside of the laptop. This is very refreshing for a premium laptop and makes user upgrades that much easier.

Opening the laptop can be done with one hand as the majority of the weight of this laptop is where its should be, at the bottom. Here we have a full-sized keyboard including a number pad to the right. The keys have a satisfying multi colour LED backlight which I found especially useful while using this machine in darker rooms while I was getting used to the placement of the keys. After a couple of days, I was typing away with the same speed and efficiency I get from my own personal keyboards and was more than happy with the feedback from the keys. You get some decent key travel at 3MM and to put the icing on the cake it has a Kubuntu logo on the super key and some custom outlined key caps for WAS and D. Theres just something satisfying about having a laptop designed for Linux without any windows logo and branding.

When it comes to the touchpad, I’ve read some users complaining about the sensitivity though I didn’t notice the sensitivity being too out of whack on mine. Overall I had a good time using the glass touchpad with has multi gesture support and two physical buttons for right and left click.

The Kubuntu Focus has two stereo speakers that are positioned on the bottom of the device on the right and left corners. I’m not entirely convinced this is the best placement for speakers but I’m sure they had their reasons. What I can say is they get loud enough at full volume though the overall sound results in a rather tinny quality and lacks any real depth. If you intend to be listening to a lot of music or watching movies on this device I would personally suggest you connect a decent pair of headphones or some external speakers.

Now we have the screen. It’s a 16.1″ inch 1920×1080 IPS panel with a refresh rate of 144hz. I found the viewing angles were brilliant as you would expect from an IPS panel and I could make out a good amount of detail of whatever I was looking at when viewing it from less than optimal angles. I found it to get plenty bright for me although I’ve been informed that due to the 144hz display the maximum brightness you can achieve in this device is around 278 nits. What I can say is I spent most of my time using its brightness at about a 1/3 of the maximum and only really needed to crank it up more when using it outside. Though if you’re someone that likes to crank the brightness right up and get a lot of light out of your screen you might find it a little lacking in this area. Thanks to the wealth of ports available on this laptop you will be able to extend your viewing pleasure by adding up to 3 external monitors at a full 4K resolution.

The bezels are an alright size too. While not quite infinity display levels I did not find them too large to the point it bulked out the overall size of the unit. In the top bezel you have the webcam that features a shutter that will give you privacy concerned user’s peace of mind. Anyone attempting to spy on you while the shutter is closed will be bang out of luck. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise ends on the webcam for me. Now I know we shouldn’t expect too much from laptop cameras I think we should expect a bit more when paying a premium. the webcam here has a max resolution of 720p which wouldn’t be too bad of it was of a decent quality. As you can see here it gives you a rather grainy image without a lot of detail.

Taken with the Webcam

While I’m here we may as well mention the inbuilt microphone too. While it does have noise suppression the sound quality isn’t great.

Now let’s jump into the software side of things. Each of these Kubuntu Focus laptops features a rather unique desktop setup. You’ll find your panel and application launcher to the right-hand side of the screen. Here is where you will launch and minimize your applications. Personally, I found this hindered my productivity. I’ve always used and become accustomed to having a panel on either the top, bottom or left-hand side of the screen. I’m not going to complain too much about this however as we all have our personal preferences here and the beauty of Linux and KDE in particular is the fact a user can customise pretty much every aspect of the desktop look and feel without breaking too much of a sweat.

Kubuntu Focus Desktop

I actually grew quite fond of the way it handled the application launchers with them not being quite pinned apps but shortcuts that then move over to running applications when they are in use saving you some space on your panel. Another thing I wasn’t overly keen on here was the way they have set up the virtual desktops. Again this will be my personal preference but I prefer to cycle through desktops in the direction of left to right as opposed to up and down. But it doesn’t end there. You can also trigger the virtual desktops to switch by moving your cursor to the top or bottom screen edges. Accidentally triggering these reminds me of the modest rage I enter when triggering hot corners without meaning too. Fortunately for me this can all be turned off too but I decided at the beginning of this week i wasn’t going to change too many of the defaults and put myself into the shoes of someone just buying this laptop without too much inner knowledge of Linux.  Now we have got my little niggles out of the way everything else was absolutely fine. I found the default applications were a good mixture of programs to get most users up and running without having to download too many additional packages as soon as they turn it on. Some notable includes here are kdenlive, steam, libreOffIce and a whole lot more. I’m a big fan of the desktop widget which houses a lot of commonly used keyboard shortcuts. You’ll also find a few links on the desktop and one of which will be for validated workflows. What this is is a link to a page On their website that is regularly updated with guides on how to perform particular tasks and get the most out of your Kubuntu Focus. I’ve been more than happy with how KDE has been implemented here and I don’t think most Users will have too much to find issue with. New software installations can be performed in the Discover store as well as system updates. Or if you are more comfortable with the command line just pop open console and away you go.

On the performance side of things, I’ve been a happy bunny this week. Without beating around the Bush too much this thing is a beast. The unit I have here is equipped with 32GB Ram and i7 9750h and an RTX 2060. It has powered through every task I have thrown at it. I’ve played a mixture of games and as you can see the frame rates have been high and didn’t dip once during my whole week with it. It also excels in other recourse intensive tasks like editing videos and images. I will mention though that when the fans ramp up they are exceptionally loud and at points louder than my desktop computer. When playing games like Counter Strike GO I’d recommend using headphones so you can hear the little details of your enemies foot steps. It was also more than ready to manage multiple virtual machines due to the amount of RAM and CPU cores. It comes preinstalled with VirtualBox too to make that process even easier. Multi-tasking on the Kubuntu focus has been a dream. I found myself running multiple programs all at the same time of varying requirements without even pushing the laptop to anywhere near breaking point. I’m not used to having so much power in a laptop and it really has been a fun time spent with this hardware.

When it comes to the storage you will be getting a Samsung evo plus with the base model starting at 250gb which can be encrypted at no extra cost during your purchase and go all the way up to 2TB plus you can also equip it with an additional Samsung Evo Plus again all the way up to 2TB.  I was getting an average read spead of 3.2GBS. No complaints here

Networking is taken care of by am Intel Dual AC 9260 for the wireless which provided a strong and reliable connection at all times. It also has gigabit lan from Realtek and you get Bluetooth 5 though I didn’t use the Bluetooth much during my time with it.

Battery life is quite impressive too. I did two tests to see how long it lasts before you need to run to the power socket. One for the integrated and another for the dedicated GPU. I found when using the GPU and performing light tasks like surfing the web, sending emails and watching the odd YouTube channel it lasted around 2 hours. When I switched to the integrated graphics to perform the same test my battery life increased to around about 4 and a half hours. For a laptop of this size and power I don’t think that’s too bad going. you will also notice it pops up with a dialogue when using the GPU on battery that suggests switching to the integrated graphics to increase the life of your battery. This however does require a full reboot in order to make the switch.

Customer support has been absolutely brilliant. Any time I’ve had an issue or query I shot them a message and they replied almost instantly despite the difference in time zones. The offer free live support for all of their customers and even if it’s something you only have to use once or twice it’s brilliant to have it there when you need it. I can’t speak more highly of how pain free this process was and think a lot of other companies could take a leaf out of their book!

So in conclusion who is this laptop for and should you buy it? If you’re someone who is looking for a power laptop that will blaze through all of the intensive tasks you throw at it but also comes preinstalled with Linux out of the box then this is for you and if you’ve got the cash to burn you should probably buy it. Especially if KDE is you go to desktop environment. It’s built on top of a a sturdy Ubuntu LTS release and they offer great customer support. You get 1 year warranty as standard but can increase it by an extra year at checkout. Despite it’s shortcomings when it comes to the quality of the webcam, microphone and inbuilt speakers it more than makes up for it in other areas. And while it’s expensive, if you compare it to some of the other premium laptops out there and the hardware they come with it kind of evens out. Plus every purchase of a Kubuntu focus means a small portion of your purchase money will be donated directly to the Kubuntu council. What this means is you’ll be playing a small part in making Kubuntu a better distribution. I’ve personally really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with this device and if I had the disposable income I would probably buy one for myself. Though at the point I would completely redesign the desktop look and feel as I don’t think I could ever get used to the way the desktop has been laid out.

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