Updated on December 7, 2021
See the System76 Technical Documentation for more information.
I ended up purchasing the Oryx Pro 7 with base memory and storage, then upgraded these components with parts I bought from Amazon. The upgrade experience was pretty good. Removing the bottom cover just involves removing a bunch of screws, nothing too difficult. I had a little trouble with this because one of the screws seemed to get stuck, but I eventually got it out. The Parts & Repairs guide was very clear and helpful in this regard.
Regarding OS, I initially tried to install Arch Linux with dwm like I had on my desktop, but found that switching between the graphics modes (i.e. Integrated, Hybrid, and Discrete) was just a nightmare. I tried installing System76 software through the AUR, but could never get it working reliably. Additionally, the laptop speakers did not seem to work out of the box. I eventually got the audio working thanks to the solution in the ArchWiki, but I ultimately decided to switch to Pop!_OS because of the graphics switching issue. The main change I made to the default Pop!_OS install process was to use btrfs rather than the default (ext4) so I could take snapshots and backup my data with Timeshift.
My experience with Pop!_OS was very positive. I'm really happy that System76 and Pop!_OS have come up with a good solution for switchable graphics. Being able to just click on the option in the GNOME menu is so useful. The window management in Pop!_OS's COSMIC desktop environment is very good too. Coming from a standalone tiling window manager like dwm, this provides a pretty good balance between convenience and usability.
After some more time with Pop!_OS, I realized that I really missed the package management, customizability, and rolling release of Arch. Since I couldn't get Arch working before, I decided to try some other Arch based distros like Manjaro and Garuda. With both of these, I found that switchable graphics (via the system76-power AUR package), now works. I eventually decided on Garuda because it implements a lot of the customizations I usually do in my vanilla Arch installs anyways (e.g., btrfs, zen kernel, chaotic-aur, backups w/ timeshift, easy options to enable gaming tweaks, etc.).
I started with the GNOME edition since I was used to it from Pop!_OS. Unfortunately, I immediately ran into crashing and system break issues. This led me to try the KDE Dragonized edition because it looks pretty nice and uses KDE plasma instead of GNOME. After running KDE for a while, I felt like I wanted something that is more easily customizable and lightweight. I decided to dive into the realm of standalone window managers with the i3 edition, but replaced i3 with Xmonad because I was experimenting with it at the time. After realizing that Xmonad would not really fit my needs (mainly gaming), I replaced it with dwm-flexipatch. Now, performance is amazing and I absolutely love the keyboard based workflow I have configured.
One major complaint I had with the laptop was the loud fan noise and
random application freezing. After some experimentation and
searching, I finally found a solution. Switching to the performance
immediately resolved both issues. Just run
sudo system76-power profile performance in a terminal
if you are running GNOME.
I also found that using a custom kernel improved general system performance and thermals. I'm currently using the linux-tkg kernel with PDS scheduler which is available as a pre-compiled binary in the chaotic-aur package linux-tkg-pds.
It may seem that the cons outweigh the pros, but this is only because I am really nitpicking. The things this laptop gets right (e.g., gaming, refresh rate, switchable graphics, general performance) are much more important to me than the other things (e.g., mic / webcam quality). Regarding price, you are definitely paying a premium for first-class linux support, but it is well worth it in my opinion. I do not want to use Windows anymore and I am happy to pay extra if it means supporting a company that promotes and sells Linux computers and having a device that can be easily upgraded down the line. Overall, I am very happy with my purchase.
These are some images from when I unboxed the laptop, installed the RAM & SSD, and customized my setup a little.