Finding a Travel Laptop

I wanted to get a cheap notebook that i can use while travelling. My requirements were the following:

  • Possibility to run Linux or Windows 8.1 (not RT)
  • Minimum 4 GB RAM
  • SSD of at least 128 GB
  • Dual Core x86 CPU
  • Enough power for 720p x264 video playback
  • Maximum weight 1,5 kg

The ACER Aspire V3-371-57S2 (600 Eu) or Microsoft Surface 3 (870 Eu) matched that requirements, but with a price of 600 Euro it was more than I wanted to spend. I decided to get and older Chromebook that had the possibility to upgrade the RAM and hard drive. For a list of Chromebooks and their upgradeability, look at archlinux Chromebook listing. The Acer C710 was one of the very few Chromebooks that allowed to replace the internal hard disk and RAM. There are two models of the C710, the difference is the CPU of 1.1 GHz Intel Celeron 847 vs the faster 1.5 GHz Intel Celeron 1007U. I got the following items on ebay:

Item Price
Acer Chromebook C7 C710-10072G01ii 135 Eu
Elpida 8GB DDR3 SODIMM 45 Eu
Crucial BX100 250GB SATA 6Gb/s 2.5″ Internal SSD 85 Eu

Replacing the hardware can be done in a short amount of time following the instruction of ifixit. Instructions on how to install Ubuntu can be found at http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.de/2013/05/chrubuntu-one-script-to-rule-them-all_31.html. For the overall price of 265 Euro I got a device with the following specifications:

Screen 11.6″ 1366×768 16:9
CPU Intel Celeron 1007U, 1,5GHz
RAM 8 GB
SSD 250 GB
Ports VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, SD slot, 3x USB
OS Ubuntu 14.04 / Chrome OS Dual-boot
Weight 1,4 kg

After using the device for a while, I noticed a few downsides:

  • The current Ubuntu has some issues, the system settings (unity-control-center) crash when trying to open it (“Gen6+ requires Kernel 3.6 or later.”) and system error messages pop up frequently (“System program problem detected”)
  • The battery load jumps suddenly from 15% to 5% with just enough time left to save everything and shut down the device
  • The trackpad misbehaves, the reason for this seems to be a hardware grunding issues, as explained on reddit. A fix for this can be found at http://www.instructables.com/id/Fix-Chrubuntu-C7-Touchpad/

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