So, I've had my laptop a little over a year now, and I was satisfied from the beginning. I spent a little over $3k on it, so it's hard to be dissatisfied with hardware so advanced, but build quality, longevity, reliability, and many other factors couldn't really be well known until in use for quite some time. So, how do I feel after a year? Fan-freaking-tastic!! Literally no buyer's remorse and the thing still looks and feels brand new.
On the topic of looks, I was worried about the plastic body and how keys are spaced getting dingy and hard to keep clean. I've honestly had to clean it twice. Normal human juices on the screen and dirt on the lesser used keys, but otherwise it's stayed fairly new looking. The stickers where my left hand rests have slid down a little, but that really doesn't bother me. The damn thing is still brand new otherwise. The plastic making up the body and bezel have no wear or aging what-so-ever. Nothing has broken off. Grime on the mouse pad is easy to clean. The exhaust vents are completely clear. Everything is perfect even though it's been through a bit. Including being used on a construction site.
As far as performance goes, I installed Gentoo immediately after I got the thing. While that isn't "supported", it has run much more proficiently and has used far less drive space since. Regardless, performance has actually improved over time. I credit mostly software improvements. I upgrade the kernel whenever the Gentoo devs release them, and upgrade everything else daily as released. Though I do credit software, the hardware has to be good in order to improve with the software, so, therein, I have to say the thing is rock solid. The hard drives (1 M.2 SSD and 2 2TB spinners in raid 1) are all passing SMART tests with flying colors despite one of the spinners idling at 49C and the other at 45C while reaching peaks of 54C. Not particularly optimal, but seems to be alright still after the year. The SSD runs surprisingly cool and has no speed or sector issues. That is quite surprising considering the amount of data it's seen, but I'm not complaining.
The processor, while 2 generations old, kicks some serious ass. I compile kernels in less than 1 minute. The only thing that concerns me is that while compiling, gaming, or crunching numbers, the CPU hits 97C. The threshold is 120C, but I would much prefer it stayed cooler so everything else stayed cooler. Doesn't seem to matter much, but I've been researching ways to bring it down. Still not sure what I will do or when I will find time to do it...
The GPU is not the best. It's sufficient and was high-end for laptops at the time, but the Bonobo can use desktop GPUs. While not that big of a deal for me, I now somewhat wish I had gone with the Bonobo and the desktop GPU for number crunching. I get work done just fine now, but I would have more gaming time if I got it done faster. Ah well... As far as gaming, this is a Linux system, so I didn't expect to do much gaming on it. Since I got the system many more games have been released on Linux and I have gotten most of them. GRID works extremely well, Mad Max equally, Tomb Raider could be better, and Borderlands 2 works well. I haven't done any benchmarking for frames per second or anything, but I can't see any lag... That's good enough for me. Tomb Raider was the only one that lagged a little at max settings, but it's only in certain parts of the game. I would have to play all the way through again to know if it was the GPU or if some of the patches Feral has released has fixed the lag. I'm not really that concerned as long as I can play the games and it's not consistently laggy. None of the games I've played have been the laggy enough for me to care, so I'm going to say, for gaming, the GTX 970m is good enough for the games out on Linux. F1 might be an exception, but I don't really care for F1 racing. I score the GPU as good enough.
RAM is slow by today's standards, but it works well enough for me. DDR4 actually doubles I/O bandwidth at the top tier 3600mhz, but you really can't miss what you haven't experienced. Regardless, the RAM is sufficient for me at 1866mhz DDR3. I really needed LOTS of RAM more than fast RAM. I got this system with 32GB (38GB if you count the 6GB dedicated VRAM) and it was overkill, but better to have too much than too little. While I wish systems were more modular and I could use DDR4 on this system, I think this RAM will suffice for years to come. I will likely get to experience the lower power consumption, cooler running, and faster DDR4 with my NAS build later this year.
Battery life sucks. It's more a UPS to get you between outlets. It's not designed to be great in this respect. It's meant to replace your aging desktop computer. It can be tweaked to do minor web browsing or mahjong for a few hours before needing plugged in, but anything beyond that is going to deplete the batter in an hour or less. As stated, it's not meant to be a portable device as such. It's meant to be a portable power house. At almost 10lbs as I have it configured, you won't really want to take it too many places anyway. If you need something like that, go for the lower end laptops. This is a work horse to replace your desktop with a "more portable" system.
In summation, literally nothing has gone wrong with this system. Everything works as well as, or better than, the day I got it. Hopefully I will be saying the same in another year. If you're looking for powerful Linux systems, the one below is redonkulous. There's a step up laptop called the Bonobo and the desktops and servers +System76
offers are capable of being absolute overkill for just about anything you would need. They also have the more portable stuff that people like. Light weight and long battery life. Just won't be a desktop killer like mine. Either way, they will have what you're looking for. The price might shy away a few, but it's totally worth it. Save up (they also have 12 month financing) and get one. You won't regret it.https://system76.com/laptops/serval