Leopard Extreme Desktop Review – System76

  • The Leopard Extreme is the high-end desktop computer from System76.  This beast of a machine is build for hardcore computer users, such as video producers like myself.  As a disclaimer, this review is for the leox2 model I got in 2011 . It has since been upgraded to the leox3.  I’ve had this system for almost a year now but never got around to reviewing it.  Better late than never I guess. :)

    Coming from a laptop, the Leopard Extreme is my first desktop computer since the family computer way back when.  I had always used laptops since high school.  I was hesitant to go back to using a desktop after having used a laptop for so long.  Seeing as I never moved my laptop off my desk and I wanted a system with more power to produce my Ubuntu tutorials, I decided System76’s Leopard Extreme would be a great help for me.

    Hardware

    The Leopard Extreme base price starts at $1,399, while with the upgraded components I chose, this review system cost $2,700.  The innards of my system feature:

    Processor: Intel Core i7 970 3.20 GHz L2 12 MB QPI 4.8 GTs – 6 Cores with Hyperthreading
    Memory: 12 GB – 3 x 4 GB – Corsair Vengeance Triple Channel DDR3 – 1600 MHz
    Graphics: 1536 MB nVidia GeForce GTX 580

    The Leopard Extreme is built with high quality, top of the line components from Intel, Nvidia, etc.  All of these top notch components are house in a black case, which features a glass preview window on the side to gaze at your prized parts.  I always get a great response from people who see the window on the side of my case.  They love how they can see all of the parts inside my computer. The back of the case features 2 thumb screws that will allow you to remove the side panel, for easy access to the inside of the case.

    All of the hardware runs very well with Ubuntu, as it has been thoroughly tested by the folks at System76.  I have had no trouble with drivers, connecting to the internet, etc.  I had minor trouble setting up my system, when I first got it, however.  Some due to bad researching on my part.  I bought my monitor and keyboard separately from System76 because I wanted certain ones.  Little did I know that the monitor did not support using a DVI to HDMI adapter.  I really wanted HDMI but had to settle for DVI.  It took me a while to find that out.  Second, the back of the system did not have a PS/2 port to plug in my keyboard.  I had to go out and buy a PS/2 to USB adapter.  Those 2 things aren’t a fault of System76.  I’m sure if I ordered a monitor and keyboard from them, I would have been fine.  The last thing I had a tad trouble setting up (and I say tad because it took all of 30 seconds to fix) was the speakers.  Ubuntu had the speakers muted by default.  Simply opening up the Gnome Alsa mixer and unmuting fixed it.  In Ubuntu’s defense, unmuting in my Windows partition I use for my job took ALOT more digging around, to unmute the speakers.

    Software

    There isn’t too much to tell about the software aspect of this system.  It runs pretty much stock Ubuntu 64-bit.  I say “pretty much”, because System76 adds no extra programs compared to a typical Ubuntu install.  The only thing added was a little utility in Ubuntu’s System Settings to install drivers.  They come preinstalled, but if you want, you can reinstall them from there.

    System76 has the system as plug in and go as possible.  All you have to do is plug it in, power it up, and complete the Ubuntu setup (Choose a username, password, location, language, keyboard, etc).

    Performance

    Now for what everyone has been waiting for…the performance.  How’ does this puppy perform?  I have got to say, it is night and day between the laptop I used to use.  I was unable to do any official benchmarking, so I have no numbers you can cross compare with.  I bought this computer to make my Ubuntu tutorials.  I got to say, it definitely helps!  I can now render a 1080p video, in Kdenlive, in about a minute and a half, or 3 minutes if it is a 2 pass render.  Other CPU intensive tasks are also very fast.

    One of the great things about the computer is it runs super quiet.  You wouldn’t know it is even on.  I was worried that buying a desktop computer with this much power would be really loud.  That is not the case.  The only time it makes some noise is when burning a cd/dvd.  The drive can be loud.  Of course that is not a deal breaker for me.  I never burn CDs anymore.  I only did it recently when making an Ubuntu cd for someone whose laptop didn’t support booting from a flash drive.

    The only downsides I have with the Leopard Extreme is I wish I got a SSD with mine (not fault of the computer) and the heat.  The Leopard Extreme model I have puts out a fair amount of heat.  It works out very nice in the winter, in my small office. No need for a space heater. :)  It is melty in the summer though.  Luckily for you guys looking to buy the Leopard Extreme now, it comes with water cooling to remedy the heat issue.  I’m thinking of having a water cooler put in mine.

    Conclusion

    As you can imagine, I am very pleased with my Leopard Extreme from System76. The worst thing you could find above I said bad about it, is the heat. But like I said, the newer model, because of its water cooling, shouldn’t have experience that problem.

    A big selling point for me regarding the Leopard Extreme, is System76 themselves. Being an Ubuntu user, of course I wanted to purchase a system with Ubuntu preinstalled. System76 is one of the companies that sell those systems. My appreciation for System76 doesn’t end there. I was experiencing some system freezes when rendering videos. I contacted System76 about it. They were very helpful working with me. They were very very responsive. When contacting them, I would get a response very quickly, unlike other companies where it may take a couple days. They had me do a couple tests to make sure I didn’t a problem with my ram, etc. As it turned out, the motherboard from Intel was faulty. They had me ship back my system to have it swapped out. This was done at zero cost to me, and I had it back safe and sound in 10 days. I was very impressed. How long did it take you to get your computer back when you sent it in for repairs?

    Overall, I am very happy with my purchase from System76. They make great systems, at competitive prices, and treat you like family. I have never had a better experience with a company before, like I have with System76. If you are looking for a new Linux computer, I would HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend System76. Tell them Joe sent ya. ;)

    About System76

    System76 has been manufacturing laptops, desktops, and servers, with Ubuntu preinstalled, since 2005.  Their systems feature the highest quality materials and components.  System76 thoroughly tests their systems to work flawlessly with Ubuntu, as well as, strives to provide leading support and superior customer service.  You can find System76 online at:

    https://www.system76.com/

    and on their social networks:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/system76
    Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/104919222657565747428/posts
    Twitter: @System76

    Share

    April 26th, 2012 | Joe Steiger | 8 Comments | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Joe Steiger

The owner and chief editor of JoeSteiger.com. Ubuntu user, android fanatic, tech enthusiast, Baltimore Ravens fan,...

  • Kenneth Andrews

    good review.. but being overly picky.. sometimes the small things that you missed would bug me such as how does the case open, are the drives easily accecable for swapping/adding, ect?

    you should make a video review to compliment this.

  • Yeah, I realize maybe I’m being overly picky.  :)  I added a bit about removing the side panel, to access the inside to swap out drives.  I couldn’t tell you how easy it is to do so, as I have never done things like that before.

    As far as a video review, I’m handicap so I don’t know of a way I could record a video review.

  • Kenneth Andrews

     no i meant i was being overly picky lol.. in a review your supposed to be picky.

    p.s facebook sign in for you’re comments doesn’t seem to be working. could be my browser, but iceweasle is basically Firefox..

  • What are you being picky about.
    The Facebook sign in is a bug with Disqus.  Nothing I can do.

  • Neil Griffiths

    The case looks A LOT like the Antec 300 (Love that case, have one my self.) But the panel where the USB/Audio/Power/Reset are laid out different. Bit of a shame as I need a new one and refuse to pay the high price Antec charge for that part (couple of quid more and I could get a whole new Antec 300 case).

    Great review, I wish I had the cash to get one my self, also wish they offered a self build option for a cheaper price, as I love getting hands on with my machines and building them my self.

  • Their Gazelle Professional laptop is quite impressive.

  • Ghost Ryder

    7 days