System76 Oryx Pro 7 Review

Updated on August 27, 2021

System76 Oryx Pro

System Specifications

Oryx Pro 7 Configuration

See the System76 Technical Documentation for more information.

  • OS: Pop!_OS 20.10 (64-bit) with full disk-encryption
  • CPU: 5 GHz i7-10870H (2.2 up to 5.0 GHz - 16MB Cache - 8 Cores -16 Threads)
  • GPU: 8 GB RTX 3070 w/ 5888 CUDA Cores
  • Memory: 8 GB Single Channel DDR4 at 2933 MHz
  • Storage: 240 GB Seq Read: 540 MB/s, Seq Write: 465 MB/s
  • Display: 15.6" 1920x1080@144Hz LCD
  • Warranty: 2 Year Limited Parts and Labor Warranty
  • Link: System76 Website
  • Price: $2,209.47

Additional Parts

Storage

  • Model: Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe SSD
  • Size: 2TB
  • Link: Amazon
  • Price: $319.99

RAM

  • Model: HyperX Impact DDR4 CL17 SODIMM Memory (Kit of 2)
  • Size: 32GB
  • Speed: 2933MHz
  • Link: Amazon
  • Price: $219.00

Upgradeability

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.


Experimenting with Linux Distros

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 I think) 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.). The GNOME edition immediately ran into crashing and system break issues, so I tried the KDE Dragonized edition. It looks pretty nice and uses KDE plasma instead of GNOME. After still encountered freezing issues, I switched to 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 haven't encountered the major freezing issues that I had with GNOME and KDE.


Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The display is really good, I am highly satisfied with it. Everything is just so much smoother in 144Hz.
  • Keyboard is not bad at all, but it definitely doesn't match up in terms of quality and satisfaction to the excellent HP Spectre x360 keyboard that I used previously. I really don't mind it though and love that it includes a full sized number pad. The layout doesn't feel cramped and it has plenty of keys that can be customized via the keyboard configurator.
  • Gaming performance is amazing! Recently got Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Steam. It runs at around 70 to 80 fps with all the settings turned up to the max. I love that I can use my favorite operating system without having to compromise too much on gaming performance.
  • Love the keyboard backlighting and color changing on the fly. Would love to be able to customize this further in software though.
  • When I need a mouse, I tend to use an external one, but the trackpad feels excellent to me. My finger just glides across the super smooth surface. I think the overall trackpad size is good as well. Not as large as one you would find on a Macbook, but definitely good enough for my use cases.
  • It was a bit more difficult than I expected to remove the bottom plate when upgrading the RAM and storage, but overall a very easy process. Really appreciate the focus on upgradeability in the hardware design.
  • I absolutely love the port selection. No need to live the dongle life when the laptop has so many built-in already.
  • The build quality is pretty solid. It definitely feels like a premium device.

Cons

  • Speakers are really sub-par. I understand that System76 doesn't design the hardware, but this was my main disappointment. I have bluetooth bookshelf speakers and bluetooth headphones I can use, so this isn't an unsolvable problem, but just generally annoying.
  • Webcam is functional, but not good at all. Definitely need to use an external webcam for video calls.
  • The microphone has a strange oscillatory behavior where there is some buzzing sound that increases and decreases regularly. Additionally, you can really hear the fans ramping up and down in the mic, makes it difficult to have a meeting if you use the integrated mic and the fans suddenly turn on. Definitely need an external mic.
  • Battery life is really bad when the discrete graphics card is on (as expected). Maybe a little more than an hour a time, sometimes more depending on how willing I am to lower CPU frequency and stuff. As a desktop replacement, that is to be expected through.
  • Mouse click buttons are not great. Regularly left click on something in GNOME and nothing happens. "Tapping" with the mousepad works very reliably though.
  • Fans can get really loud at times, especially when gaming. I often have to turn up my speakers or wear noise cancelling headphones. This is an understandable limitation with gaming laptops though. Using a custom kernel solved a lot of my complaints with the thermals and fan noise though. Now the fans don't turn on as often. When they do, they don't ramp up to the maximum speed, so noise is kept to a reasonable level.
  • Random freezing is kind of an issue, but is generally resolved by using a custom kernel.
  • While the display itself is great, I really wish the hinge would rotate farther back. It looks like the screen can only rotate about 120 degrees from fully closed, so getting a good viewing angle (especially when the laptop is propped up or really low) can be difficult.

Conclusions

It may seem that the cons outweigh the pros, but this is only in number and because I am really nitpicking. The things this laptop get right (e.g. gaming, refresh rate, switchable graphics, general performance) are much more important to me than the other things. 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.


Images

These are some images from when I unboxed the laptop, installed the RAM & SSD, and customized my setup a little.