Jun 052011
 

The RF511 is a tasty i7 laptop for the price.
Here is another of my real user reviews including Linux notes.

Out of the Box
Most of the basic computing functions work under Linux (Debian 6.0 [Squeeze], CPU, RAM, Screen, Keyboard, TouchPad, USB). Some of the Fn buttons even work! Notably though the Integrated 802.11bgn Wireless (try: aptitude install firmware-brcm80211) and 3D Graphics do not work out of the box on Squeeze. But never fear, everything works in Debian Wheezy which is really amazing considering that this hardware was only released literally months ago. There are only a few ‘multimedia’ buttons to worry about, nice! After installing Linux the Boot-up ‘F4 – Restore’ will no longer work and you’ll get use of the whole hard drive, good stuff.

Hardware
The 15.6″ RF511 lappy is nice and portable but still has plenty of screen and keyboard real estate. I was considering a 17″ model but that really is a little on the large side (for me) to be portable. Of course if you are after a big laptop then give the 17.3″ RF711 a go.

The Keyboard is fantastic, almost as good as my Logitech k750. The slim base and careful key layout means you get a full width keyboard with number pad. The arrow and Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn placement takes a moment to get used to but should be fine after a couple of days use.

The Screen is nice, a wide 15.6″ (1366×768), clear and bright when plugged in. With linux-image-2.6.38-2 and xserver-xorg-video-intel-2:2.15 (and newer) there is now full brightness control. Note that linux-image-2.6.32-5 that comes with Debian Squeeze can’t seem to control the back-light brightness so take note of the update recommendations bellow.

The CPU is the main reason that I purchased the Samsung rf511-s04. One of the first laptops to have the Q1 2011 Sandy Bridge, Intel Core i7 2630QM Quad-Core 2.0Ghz (2.9GHz Turbo). Four real cores on one chip providing 8 virtual CPU’s need I say more, bring on the compilers and virtualisation!

The RAM is supplied with anything from 4G to 8G. Two slots are available and easy to get to. If you happen to buy a unit with 1 stick of 4G then it is very easy to upgraded to the max of 8G for ~AU$100.

The Graphics that the Sandy Bridge CPU has on-board are pretty decent. While this machine also comes with a 1G Nvidia Optimus GT 540M. Unfortunately the Optimus chip is still waiting for full Linux support, normally Nvidia is good at providing drivers (even if only binary) but they are having some trouble since Xorg support is required or some such. Recently I have seen some support from a project called BumbleBee (Debian fork is now historical) but I am happy using the Intel graphics on the CPU which can easily run Compiz 3D desktop stuff, this should also provide better battery life. Although I have seen it written that the Optimus chip may be on and draining battery anyway, I have not verified this.

The Battery seems to get 3-4 hours with steady use (while installing Debian packages).

The 640GB HDD is good but as with all current machines can be the main bottle neck. An SSD drive would provide an optional boost.

Integrated Bluetooth seems to work fine.

The SD card slot seems to work fine.

The Touchpad is large and has a fine texture. Basic tap/click and point works accurately and smoothly but xserver-xorg-input-synaptics continues to report that it is not supported. So no multi-touch in Linux. Which is ok for me since the Fn+F10 disables it for typing and I much prefer my G700 external mouse.

Sound is of good quality and did work after installing alsaplayer and tinkering with all volume controls in alsamixer, there is a ‘speaker’ and ‘pcm’ volume that must be turned up to full. The ‘master’ volume is controlled by the software and Fn keys. The ‘headphone’ volume can be controlled independently, very nice.

Fn buttons.

  • Fn+Esc (Moon symbol, Suspend to Ram) Screen may not resume without correct drivers.
  • Fn+F2 (XF86Battery) Does nothing in my system.
  • Fn+F3 (€) Reports a series of key presses in X.
  • Fn+F4 (XF86Display) Randr to cycle external monitor config.
  • Fn+F5 (XF86Launch1, Brigtness symbol)
  • Fn+F6 (XF86AudioMute) Works in KDE
  • Fn+F7 (XF86Launch2, unknown symbol)
  • Fn+F8 (XF86Launch3, unknown symbol)
  • Fn+F9 (XF86WLAN) Neither this nor the hardware wifi button change the wifi state in my system.
  • Fn+F10 (XF86TouchpadToggle) Handy when using external mouse, appears to be detected by hardware.
  • Fn+F12 (Lock symbol) Does not report or appear to do anything.

Updates
To get support for the Sandy Bridge CPU we really have to be running a newer Linux kernel than the stock Debian (Squeeze) image. At the very least at get 2.6.38 from backports. I’m now running 3.0.0-1-amd64 from Debian (Wheezy) and support is perfect.

Intel graphics support was only added to the Intel driver in 2010Q4 v2.14 with full support only added in 2011Q1 v2.15.
The 2.15 Intel drivers are available in Debian (Wheezy), testing at the time of writing, therefore to get the best from this laptop a dist-upgrade to Wheezy is highly recommended.

Another option, if like me you have the need to stick to stable as much as possible, is to run a mixed stable/testing system which is not recommended but entirely possible :-) To do this we will need to upgrade: linux-image, linux-base, xserver-xorg-video-intel (remove any xserver-xorg-* drivers that you are not using) and the xserver itself will also need to be upgraded…not for the faint of heart…pay very careful attention to the dependencies.

These are the main packages that I ended up running from Wheezy:

$ apt-show-versions | grep testing
 
bluez-alsa/testing uptodate 4.96-1
gcc-4.6-base/testing uptodate 4.6.1-4
initramfs-tools/testing uptodate 0.99
lib32asound2/testing uptodate 1.0.24.1-4
libasound2/testing uptodate 1.0.24.1-4
libassuan0/testing uptodate 2.0.2-1
libcairo2/testing uptodate 1.10.2-6.1
libdrm-intel1/testing uptodate 2.4.26-1
libgcrypt11/testing uptodate 1.5.0-3
libgl1-mesa-dri/testing uptodate 7.11-6
libgl1-mesa-glx/testing uptodate 7.11-6
libglapi-mesa/testing uptodate 7.11-6
libglib2.0-0/testing uptodate 2.28.6-1
libglu1-mesa/testing uptodate 7.11-6
libstdc++6/testing uptodate 4.6.1-4
libva-glx1/testing uptodate 1.0.12-2
libva-tpi1/testing uptodate 1.0.12-2
libva-x11-1/testing uptodate 1.0.12-2  
libva1/testing uptodate 1.0.12-2       
libwmf0.2-7/testing uptodate 0.2.8.4-8.1
libxcb-util0/testing uptodate 0.3.8-1
libxfont1/testing uptodate 1:1.4.4-1
linux-base/testing uptodate 3.3
linux-image-3.0.0-1-amd64/testing uptodate 3.0.0-3
memtest86+/testing uptodate 4.20-1
memtester/testing uptodate 4.2.2-1
multiarch-support/testing uptodate 2.13-21
xorg/testing uptodate 1:7.6+9
xserver-common/testing uptodate 2:1.11.1-1
xserver-xorg/testing uptodate 1:7.6+9
xserver-xorg-core/testing uptodate 2:1.11.1-1
xserver-xorg-input-evdev/testing uptodate 1:2.6.0-2+b2
xserver-xorg-input-synaptics/testing uptodate 1.4.1-1+b1
xserver-xorg-video-intel/testing uptodate 2:2.16.0-1
xserver-xorg-video-vesa/testing uptodate 1:2.3.0-7+b1
xserver-xorg-video-vmware/testing uptodate 1:11.0.3-2+b2

lspci:

# lspci -v
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Sandy Bridge DRAM Controller (rev 09)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
        Capabilities: [e0] Vendor Specific Information: Len=0c <?>
 
00:01.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sandy Bridge PCI Express Root Port (rev 09) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
        Bus: primary=00, secondary=01, subordinate=01, sec-latency=0
        I/O behind bridge: 0000d000-0000dfff
        Memory behind bridge: f4000000-f50fffff
        Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 00000000d0000000-00000000e1ffffff
        Capabilities: [88] Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Capabilities: [80] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [90] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-
        Capabilities: [a0] Express Root Port (Slot+), MSI 00
        Capabilities: [100] Virtual Channel
        Capabilities: [140] Root Complex Link
        Kernel driver in use: pcieport
 
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Sandy Bridge Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 09) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5                                                                    
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 11                                                                    
        Memory at f5400000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=4M]                                                              
        Memory at c0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M]                                                                
        I/O ports at e000 [size=64]                                                                                          
        Expansion ROM at <unassigned> [disabled]                                                                             
        Capabilities: [90] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-                                                           
        Capabilities: [d0] Power Management version 2                                                                        
        Capabilities: [a4] PCI Advanced Features                                                                             
 
00:16.0 Communication controller: Intel Corporation Cougar Point HECI Controller #1 (rev 04)                                 
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5                                                                    
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 11                                                                    
        Memory at f760a000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16]                                                              
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 3                                                                        
        Capabilities: [8c] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+                                                           
 
00:1a.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation Cougar Point USB Enhanced Host Controller #2 (rev 04) (prog-if 20 [EHCI])
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, medium devsel, latency 0, IRQ 16
        Memory at f7608000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=1K]
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 2
        Capabilities: [58] Debug port: BAR=1 offset=00a0
        Capabilities: [98] PCI Advanced Features
        Kernel driver in use: ehci_hcd
 
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation Cougar Point High Definition Audio Controller (rev 04)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 22
        Memory at f7600000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 2
        Capabilities: [60] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+
        Capabilities: [70] Express Root Complex Integrated Endpoint, MSI 00
        Capabilities: [100] Virtual Channel
        Capabilities: [130] Root Complex Link
        Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel
 
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cougar Point PCI Express Root Port 1 (rev b4) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
        Bus: primary=00, secondary=02, subordinate=02, sec-latency=0
        I/O behind bridge: 0000c000-0000cfff
        Memory behind bridge: f6c00000-f75fffff
        Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 00000000e3700000-00000000e40fffff
        Capabilities: [40] Express Root Port (Slot+), MSI 00
        Capabilities: [80] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-
        Capabilities: [90] Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Capabilities: [a0] Power Management version 2
        Kernel driver in use: pcieport
 
00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cougar Point PCI Express Root Port 4 (rev b4) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
        Bus: primary=00, secondary=03, subordinate=03, sec-latency=0
        I/O behind bridge: 0000b000-0000bfff
        Memory behind bridge: f6200000-f6bfffff
        Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 00000000e2c00000-00000000e35fffff
        Capabilities: [40] Express Root Port (Slot+), MSI 00
        Capabilities: [80] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-
        Capabilities: [90] Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Capabilities: [a0] Power Management version 2
        Kernel driver in use: pcieport
 
00:1c.4 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Cougar Point PCI Express Root Port 5 (rev b4) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0
        Bus: primary=00, secondary=04, subordinate=04, sec-latency=0
        I/O behind bridge: 0000a000-0000afff
        Memory behind bridge: f5800000-f61fffff
        Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 00000000e2100000-00000000e2afffff
        Capabilities: [40] Express Root Port (Slot+), MSI 00
        Capabilities: [80] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-
        Capabilities: [90] Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Capabilities: [a0] Power Management version 2
        Kernel driver in use: pcieport
 
00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation Cougar Point USB Enhanced Host Controller #1 (rev 04) (prog-if 20 [EHCI])
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, medium devsel, latency 0, IRQ 23
        Memory at f7607000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=1K]
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 2
        Capabilities: [58] Debug port: BAR=1 offset=00a0
        Capabilities: [98] PCI Advanced Features
        Kernel driver in use: ehci_hcd
 
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation Cougar Point LPC Controller (rev 04)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, medium devsel, latency 0
        Capabilities: [e0] Vendor Specific Information: Len=0c <?>
 
00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation Cougar Point 6 port SATA AHCI Controller (rev 04) (prog-if 01 [AHCI 1.0])
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 0, IRQ 29
        I/O ports at e0b0 [size=8]
        I/O ports at e0a0 [size=4]
        I/O ports at e090 [size=8]
        I/O ports at e080 [size=4]
        I/O ports at e060 [size=32]
        Memory at f7606000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=2K]
        Capabilities: [80] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit-
        Capabilities: [70] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [a8] SATA HBA v1.0
        Capabilities: [b0] PCI Advanced Features
        Kernel driver in use: ahci
 
00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation Cougar Point SMBus Controller (rev 04)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: medium devsel, IRQ 18
        Memory at f7605000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256]
        I/O ports at e040 [size=32]
 
01:00.0 3D controller: nVidia Corporation Device 0df4 (rev a1)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: fast devsel, IRQ 16
        Memory at f4000000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16M]
        Memory at d0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M]
        Memory at e0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=32M]
        I/O ports at d000 [size=128]
        Expansion ROM at f5000000 [disabled] [size=512K]
        Capabilities: [60] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [68] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+
        Capabilities: [78] Express Endpoint, MSI 00
        Capabilities: [b4] Vendor Specific Information: Len=14 <?>
        Capabilities: [100] Virtual Channel
        Capabilities: [128] Power Budgeting <?>
        Capabilities: [600] Vendor Specific Information: ID=0001 Rev=1 Len=024 <?>
 
02:00.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4313 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN Controller (rev 01)
        Subsystem: Askey Computer Corp. Device 7179
        Flags: fast devsel, IRQ 16
        Memory at f6c00000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: [40] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [58] Vendor Specific Information: Len=78 <?>
        Capabilities: [48] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+
        Capabilities: [d0] Express Endpoint, MSI 00
        Capabilities: [100] Advanced Error Reporting
        Capabilities: [13c] Virtual Channel
        Capabilities: [160] Device Serial Number 00-00-9f-ff-ff-94-b4-74
        Capabilities: [16c] Power Budgeting <?>
 
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller (rev 06)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 28
        I/O ports at b000 [size=256]
        Memory at e2c04000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=4K]
        Memory at e2c00000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=16K]
        Capabilities: [40] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [50] MSI: Enable+ Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+
        Capabilities: [70] Express Endpoint, MSI 01
        Capabilities: [b0] MSI-X: Enable- Count=4 Masked-
        Capabilities: [d0] Vital Product Data
        Capabilities: [100] Advanced Error Reporting
        Capabilities: [140] Virtual Channel
        Capabilities: [160] Device Serial Number 01-00-00-00-68-4c-e0-00
        Kernel driver in use: r8169
 
04:00.0 USB Controller: NEC Corporation uPD720200 USB 3.0 Host Controller (rev 04) (prog-if 30)
        Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c0a5
        Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 16
        Memory at f5800000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=8K]
        Capabilities: [50] Power Management version 3
        Capabilities: [70] MSI: Enable- Count=1/8 Maskable- 64bit+
        Capabilities: [90] MSI-X: Enable- Count=8 Masked-
        Capabilities: [a0] Express Endpoint, MSI 00
        Capabilities: [100] Advanced Error Reporting
        Capabilities: [140] Device Serial Number ff-ff-ff-ff-ff-ff-ff-ff
        Capabilities: [150] #18

Gavin Kromhout:


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  11 Responses to “Samsung RF511 (S04-AU) Review with Debian GNU/Linux”

  1. Nice review, Thank you, I have the i5 version with 6gb ram (better on batteries apparently).

    Kind Regards,

    Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    Yes I guess the i5 would be better on batteries, how long are you getting under basic desktop use?

    So far the only complaint that I have is that the graphics driver appears to be over driving slightly and over enhancing the reds and pinks. It’s not the laptop screen since an external LCD monitor looks the same. This is only a problem when doing graphics work, which I don’t do much of as I’m more of a programmer (hence the i7 choice for me).

    This lappy obliterates my old 3Ghz EMT64 water cooled desktop.

  3. Hi Mark.
    I’ve got a big RF711 just today – too bad I’ve just learned that the i7 2630QM is a pain for us open source users… what system would you think I should choose? I’d like a smooth and clean environment like XFCE, or the fireproof gnome is ok?
    Thanks you very much
    Max (from Italy)

  4. Hi Max,

    I wouldn’t say that the i7 2630QM CPU in the RF711 and RF511 is a major issue for for us open source users. In fact I am now running Debian GNU/Linux Stable (Squeeze) with 3.0.0-1-amd64 Linux kernel! Which is from Testing (Wheezy) along with Xorg and xserver-xorg-video-intel from Wheezy as noted in the post. Performance and stability is now fantastic!

    I always highly recommend Debian and you can get Gnome, XFCE / LXDE or KDE install images.

  5. so the kernel is not the ia64 but amd? aren’t they 2 different types of processors?

  6. This is an common and easy error.

    Most new Intel/AMD CPU home PC/Laptops will use the amd64 (64bit) or i386 (32 bit) Debian architecture. Although I seem to recall a message that these two will be merged and just be called i386 some time in the future.

    See Which of the numerous images should I download? Do I need all of them? section.

    The ia64 architecture is for a currently very high end Itanium server.

    The second thing to understand about Debian distributions is that there are multiple kernel, release and 3 “CD-1″ options. You most likely want the GNU/Linux Testing distribution for your RF711 laptop.

    Debian Testing AMD64 CD Images

    Select from CD-1 (gnome), kde-CD-1 or xfce-lxde-CD-1 and you only need one for a desktop install and can then install other desktop environments from the running system in future.

  7. one more things, I feel that my laptop is way hotter when using linux than windows. I’m a bit concerned about this, since ubuntu’s Unity literally fried the monitor of my old hp zd8000 – now works correctly only with an external monitor. Is it because of os drivers?

  8. Awambawamb this could be an ACPI or driver issue. Which I’m not having on the RF511 with Debian GNU/Linux and the updates mentioned in the article. Actually considering the processing power available and how compact and quiet the RF511 is. I am very happy with how cool it is running.

    I have seen issues on machines in the past with the fans not running on Linux and Windows if the correct drivers are not functioning. Usually the machine will go into thermal overload and the motherboard will shut down. It’s not good for it but should protect itself.

  9. Hi!
    I’m back… after various struggles with debian, I’ve ended giving up for now. Debian XFCE isntallation was a success, but when it came down to install nvidia graphics, my hope has been thorn in little pieces.
    I do like open source, but the lords of software are very good at keeping code noobs away. I won’t give completely tough – I’m just preparing myself to move for 6 months to Brazil to end my studies… I’ll have plenty of time after Feb 1st.
    There *must* be a nice way to use my machine the way *I* want.
    (..and don’t remove this page :D I should save it somewhere!)

  10. Awambawamb good to hear from you again.
    You do not want the Nvidia drivers since these laptops use the Optimus chip which is not supported yet.
    Two of my friends are even having trouble under Windows with the Optimus drivers and some programs like AutoCAD.

    The good news, and one of the reasons that I bought this laptop, is that the Sandy Bridge Intel CPU has very good on-board graphics. So un-install all Nvidia drivers and install xserver-xorg-video-intel as noted in the Graphics paragraph in the article.

    Further good news is that the Intel graphics driver has very recently been further improved and we should see that in a Testing kernel some time in the future :-)

    PS. I’m currently running Linux kernel 3.1.0-1-amd64 which is singing along beautifully!

    Good luck in Brazil.

  11. Just to update my current usage again. I am now running full Debian Wheezy. Kernel is 3.2.0-3-amd64 and all suspend and Intel graphics are working well. The CPU is running around 59`C but that is likely because I have some virtualisation, mysql and several other things running in the background all the time.

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