Buying a new laptop in 2015

My son was starting to monopolize my Asus ROG i3 laptop for games, and it was his birthday, so... time to buy him a gaming laptop! Our criteria were: That's a tough combination. At any one time, there might be one or two models on sale that meet that, but prices usually shoot up after a few days. The one we grabbed was Acer Aspire E5-573G-59C3 from Newegg for $530. (It's a lot more now.) Specs:

Power Consumption

At idle, with no tweaks, the system uses 13 watts. Running in Chrome on Ubuntu, it uses 33 watts. The power factor of the power brick is terrible, about 50%. This won't usually matter, but it's a sign of cut corners.

Dual GPUs

By default, in Linux, the Intel GPU is used, even if you have Nvidia drivers installed. After I figured out that one has to actually edit Bumblebee's config file to point it at the nvidia drivers, and that Chrome doesn't trust Bumblebee yet, and that you have to add the user to the bumblebee group, I got opengl working on the nvidia gpu. It wasn't hard, but you do have to be aware of it. But I still don't have it working with The Long Dark on Steam on Wine, where I just get a black screen with a mouse cursor, even though tld.exe's environ has /usr/$LIB/optimus in LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Shrug.


Feels snappy enough. Cold boots in about 22 seconds to either Ubuntu or Windows.

"google-chrome" could handle about 90 fish and not fall below 60 FPS. "optirun google-chrome --ignore-gpu-blacklist" could handle about three times as many.

Here are some benchmark results for the i5-5200u (vs. the i5-m430 of my laptop):

I measured time to build Wine without and with -j4:

$ sudo apt-get build-dep wine
$ apt-get source wine1.6
$ cd wine1.6-1.6.2/
$ time debuild -b -uc -us
real	34m29.362s
user	31m35.680s
sys	2m20.168s
$ dh clean
$ time debuild -b -uc -us -j4
real	20m26.511s
user	60m30.072s
sys	3m52.164s
So, a bit more than half as fast as a desktop.

Dual Booting Linux and Windows

Both Windows 8 and Ubuntu 15.04 support booting either in legacy BIOS or with modern UEFI firmware... but dual booting only seems to work with legacy mode for now. So I didn't even try dual-booting with UEFI mode. Here are the steps I used:
  1. In preinstalled Windows, create recovery discs (both OS and driver) per vendor instructions
  2. Prepare vanilla bootable USB install keys for both Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu 15.04 per OS vendor instructions (not per laptop vendor instructions)
  3. In BIOS, enable legacy boot mode
  4. insert Windows install disc, boot in legacy mode
  5. select the expert mode, remove any and all existing partitions, create a partition smaller than the size of the disk (to leave room for Ubuntu), and let installer finish
  6. boot windows and disable fast boot (start / gear / control panel / power / buttons / disable fast boot)
  7. insert Ubuntu install disc, boot in legacy mode, select "install alongside windows", let installer finish
Windows evidently gets the license key automatically from BIOS, so no typing in of tediously long keys was required.