A new laptop at last. I chose to buy an Asus A43E-VX038D machine, which pretty satisfies the requirement I have laid out before. For US$ 519 laptop this machine has rather good, if rather basic, specification. It is powered by Intel Core i3 2130-M 2.1 GHz, a Sandy-Bridge dual-core processor which supports hyperthreading (and expose four logical processors to the operating system), 2 GB memory (easily expandable to 8 GB), a much better integrated GPU than older Intel chips, a rather roomy 500 GB hard disk and six-cell 5200 mAh battery, an Atheros chip which supports IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n, and a card reader. Sadly no ExpressCard slot, no Bluetooth, and it only sports USB 2.0 ports, which will be a bad news if I ever wanted connect use high-speed external hard disk to it.
As planned I installed Fedora 16 (Verne) Alpha with KDE 4.7 on it, and quickly updated to latest version (still Beta as I write this post). As all Linux users can testify, hardware problems are the rule than exception. Good news first: graphics is no problem (it is Intel chip after all). Fedora detects and supports the media keys on the keyboard and it can be used to control media players like Clementine or Amarok. There are other keys that control wi-fi and screen brightness as well. They work out of the box.
The bad news are: (1) the power management is bad. It failed to suspend and hibernate, and I suspect it consumes too much power on battery. In fact KDE power management module estimates about 3 hour battery life, which is rather disappointing. (2) Fedora fails to detect the touchpad, and sees it as ordinary PS/2 mouse.
Fortunately there are various tweakings that can be applied to make the battery lasts longer. First is to utilise pm-utils. A good thread at Crunchbang Linux forum reveals how to create an appropriate script. Another riskier tweak is to fiddle with several power saving features in Linux kernel which are not usually enabled by default for stability reasons. I edited the file /etc/default/grub into this:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="quiet rhgb pcie_aspm=force i915.i915_enable_fbc=1 i915.i915_enable_rc6=1"
Next step is to update grub entry (on Fedora 16, which uses GRUB2, this means applying grub2-mkconfig and grub2-install commands consecutively). This tell the kernel to enable ASPM (active state power management) on PCI Express bus, framebuffer compression and rc6 power management feature on Intel integrated graphics processor. Enabling ASPM seems not to cause any problems here, but sometimes I experience screen corruption when framebuffer compression is activated. These settings may be enabled by default in future kernel updates, and these tweaks will be no longer necessary.
I successfully enable suspend, by following instructions from this blog post. Incidentally the author of the blog owns Asus K43E which seems similar to my laptop. Unfortunately I haven’t found a good way to enable Fedora to detect the touchpad correctly. The aforementioned blog post suggests to patch the kernel, which I am rather reluctant to do. So for now, I left it as it is.
Update (15 Nov 2011): the touchpad is succesfully detected with new Linux 3.1.1 kernel.