On 2014-02-13 I went to collect the laptop from these guys, which I paid around R12500 (~$1200) for. It's a 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, FHD model. I would have happily paid for more RAM and storage, but this seems the only model available in my home country. I am glad that it's also not a touch screen... I don't need the reflection.

Anyways, there was much pain involved trying to get it to work. I struggled to get Debian booting, and I don't know what I did wrong because after a few attempts of trying this and that, things worked. And man, that SSD is fast: it takes 6-7 seconds to GUI login screen. Package installation is also insane fast.

There was much pain trying to get audio to work. Luckily I got some help, where I needed to change two lines in /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf:

defaults.ctl.card 1
defaults.pcm.card 1

VLC video didn't work well either, but I needed only change Video Output to OpenGL GLX video output (XCB), and all was well.

Performance

I am now going to check how this machine compares to these others.

Specs:

$ uname --all
Linux thome 3.12-1-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.12.9-1 (2014-02-01) x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ cat /proc/cpuinfo | sed --quiet '5p'
model name      : Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-4200U CPU @ 1.60GHz

CPython build (changeset b6a1a78818fe):

$ make distclean; time (./configure && make --silent --jobs=4)
[...]
real    1m52.372s
user    3m12.460s
sys     0m6.764s

CPython test suite:

$ time ./python -m test --multiprocess=0
[...]
real    3m34.582s
user    5m12.260s
sys     0m20.640s

Linux kernel build (commit 6e4664525b1d):

$ make distclean && make defconfig && time make
[...]
real    11m57.220s
user    11m1.544s
sys     0m38.260s

So the machine still doesn't compare with my work machine, a ~2 year-old desktop. It is faster than my old laptop as expected, and comparable to the DigitalOcean VPS, no surprises there. The storage is a lot faster though... I've seen sustained read speeds of ~500MB/s.

Issues

  • The corners of the laptop are rather sharp, making it a little uncomfortable to handle.

  • The power button is not so easy to press, and offers very little 'feedback'... it has very shallow movement. Luckily there should not be a frequent need to use it, but there are times when something is buggy enough to cause OS hangs and other misbehaviour.

  • The fan is too quick to kick in, and easily gets noisy. Running the following commands does not help, at least not in a way I could notice:

    echo silent | sudo tee  /sys/devices/platform/sony-laptop/thermal_control
    

    I don't know why this happens, given that I have never seen the temperature rise above 60 °C:

    $ sensors
    acpitz-virtual-0
    Adapter: Virtual device
    temp1:        +48.0°C  (crit = +97.0°C)
    
    coretemp-isa-0000
    Adapter: ISA adapter
    Physical id 0:  +48.0°C  (high = +100.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
    Core 0:         +46.0°C  (high = +100.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
    Core 1:         +45.0°C  (high = +100.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
    
  • The screen brightness control is painful. It requires one to press the combination of the Fn key and F5 (dim) and F6 (brighten), which is fine. But one cannot just hold the two latter keys, but has to repeatedly press them to reach the desired result. That would not be such a big problem, except that it takes such a long time to get there... more than 50 presses from the two extremes!

  • I still haven't got used to Pg Up/Dn and Home/End being accessible only via the Fn key. It's so awkward.

  • The touchpad is a great pleasure to use, except when pressing and dragging. It's a hit-and-miss affair... you have to press quite hard, and that makes precise control challenging.

  • The flexibility of the body results in keyboard marks on the screen.

  • The worst problem, however, is the flexibility of at the bottom of the touchpad. Too often the touchpad fails to respond because I've put the thing at the wrong angle... I mostly use my laptop in bed.