My objective was to buy a high end laptop to replace my System76 Gazelle. As someone who lives in the EU it was just too expensive to justify buying another System76 (high shipping +import tax costs) so I turned to PCSpecialist

PC Specialist (Based in UK) build to your requirements so I carefully selected all the components that I knew were supported by the latest stable Linux kernel (4.2* at the time of purchase) as my original intention was to install Arch Linux however after a year of distro hopping I finally landed on Solus. The fact is that must have tried and tested 20 distros on this machine with out any issues

Firstly, the Defiance II is a beautifully well-crafted well-built Laptop which uses the same casing the Oryx Pro (the latest offering from System76). I could not be happier with it and I have no issue recommending PC Specialist to any Linux user providing you understand installation is NOT straight forward in the beginning Some of this was my fault as the M.2, PCIe NVMe SSD drive I ordered was not behaving

Secondly, PC Specialist are open about NOT supporting Linux users in any shape or form however they have a useful Linux section of their forum were prospective purchasers share their experience. It is still an attractive proposition to be able to buy a machine with no operation system (no Microsoft tax) however Linux users buying from PCS should consider themselves “on their own”.

I had plenty of pre-sales and post-sales correspondence with PCS technical support who tried their best but in hindsight were not helpful. These guys are setup to support MS Windows only. Despite this I had no hesitation going back to them this year when my daughter asked for a laptop with Solus on it for Christmas.

Laptop Specifications

  • Model: Defiance Series: 17.3″ Matte Full HD IPS Widescreen
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 Quad Core Processor 6700HQ
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M – 6.0GB DDR5 Video RAM
  • OS Drive: 128GB SAMSUNG SM951 M.2, PCIe NVMe
  • Data Drive (/home) 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, SATA 6Gb/s
  • Audio: Intel 2 Channel High Def. Audio + SoundBlaster X-Fi MB3
  • Network: GIGABIT LAN & WIRELESS INTEL AC-8260 M.2 (867Mbps, 802.11AC) +BT 4.0, vPRO

Installing Linux (important information)

My plan was to install /efi-boot, root and swap on my NVMe drive and partition the I TB Samsung EVO 850 drive as /home. On first boot my laptop it was in UEFI mode and although I shared with PCS at the time of ordering I intended to install Linux (and wanted no OS) it was actually partitioned for Windows. In fact first boot prompted me to enter my Microsoft credentials.

The Fix

  • In BIOS under Security, set Secure Boot to Disabled.
  • I created USB installation disk for the latest stable Manjaro Net edition only to realise the installers Nouveau drivers did not recognise the NVMe SSD.
  • I returned to the BIOS and made the ITB drive the primary boot then selected Advanced | Advanced Chipset Control and set [MSHYBRID or DISCRETE SWITCH] to DISCRETE (this is very important as it solved all my problems).
  • I then downloaded the GParted ISO burned it to USB. This booted however would only run in “SAFE” mode. It could now see the NVMe drive and I was able to remove the Windows partitions and set up my partitioning scheme
  • I returned to BIOS made NVME my primary drive again which allowed me to install Linux
  • This is a also a very important step. Once my Graphics drivers were installed I returned to the BIOS to switch back to MSHYBRID graphics. Job Done !!
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