Before I start, there is only one thing glaringly wrong with the ZaReason Limbo 5440: having to give back the review model to ZaReason in Berkeley (it’s on its way back to you, Earl).
The ZaReason Limbo 5440 is, in three words, an outstanding machine; a simply outstanding machine that can easily handle any work load ranging from that of the average household user who’s just surfing the Web to the constant tinkering and tweaking by the most restless Linux user (to the latter, I plead guilty). Ruggedly built and with a clean design, the desktop fits in nearly any location in the home — it spent a day or two in the “lab” (a.k.a, “The Jungle Room,” where all our computers live in the house and where I do my best work) but spent the rest of the week in the living room in an unobtrusive manner.
But enough of the interior decor talk: The attention to design, both internally and externally, is completely as functional as it is stylish. But perhaps its best physical feature — expandability — makes this model an exceptional one for those who may have an overwhelming desire to add the latest and greatest hardware features to an already exceptional desktop. (A side note: In conversation with ZaReason CTO Earl Malmrose, I was given a green light to add software and hardware to my liking. But I passed on the latter — why spoil a good thing?)
As far as performance goes, everything I threw at the desktop during the course of the week, the Limbo 5440 handled without breaking a proverbial sweat. The only time I could get any of the processors to peak at 100 percent was running folding@home on a regular basis: Using the system monitor, CPU1 (which I would assume is processor 0 in the quad-core scheme of things) ran at 100 percent while using folding@home while any of the other CPUs displayed on the program barely passed 20 percent at any time during program use. The rest of the time, even running multiple programs, I got the sense that reading the graphs on the system monitor, the lines were gentle smiles laughing at me at my attempts in vain to make the desktop work hard.
The price tag for the Limbo 5440 as tested — $969, which is up from the base price of $499 thanks to a variety of upgrades (specs are below) — might seem a little steep to some. But ZaReason’s advantage, one that clearly benefits the consumer, is the issue of value, and how the value of this outstanding machine eclipses the issue of cost. Yes, you could by a cheap box from an OEM that has Windows presinstalled, but then there are a plethora of issues around that — buying a cheaper box at a big box allows Redmond to chalk up another user and the hardware in some of the cheaper desktops are — how can I put this tactfully? — not up to par.
So buying hardware from a company dedicated to Linux has its advantages. To his credit and that of the company, Earl Malmrose and the engineering staff at ZaReason sends out 100 percent high-quality Linux-supported hardware.
Quality and value are ZaReason hallmarks,and the Limbo 5440 lives up to them. This desktop would be a keeper, if I didn’t have to give this review desktop back, and given the opportunity to purchase this machine in the (near) future, I would easily jump on the opportunity to do so.
Now to find a spare $969 . . . .
Specs as tested (the standard Limbo 5440 specs can be found here):
2nd Generation Intel Core i5 3.3 GHz
Fedora 16 GNOME with shell extensions (changed to Fedora 16 KDE at mid-week)
8 GB DDR3-1600 RAM
3 500GB Hard Drives, 7,200 RPM, RAID-5 array
One year warranty
Size of case: 7″ x 14.6″ x 13.8″ / 17.8 x 37.1 x 35.1 cm
Internal Slots: 2x PCI, 1x PCI-Express x16
Rear Ports: 4x USB 2.0 Ports; 1x PS/2 Ports (for that old keyboard/mouse); 1x VGA Port; 1x 10/100 Ethernet Port; Audio I/O Jacks
Front Ports: 2x USB Ports; Headphone Jack; Mic Jack
“A Week in Limbo Series” (for those of you keeping track)
A Week in Limbo, Day 0
A Week in Limbo, Day 1: Under the hood
A Week in Limbo, Day 2: Fedora 16
A Week in Limbo, Day 3: Fedora 16 KDE
A Week in Limbo, Day 4: On second thought . . .
A Week in Limbo, Days 5 and 6: Get with the program
A Week in Limbo, Epilogue: An oustanding machine
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started testing and developing software in his new home office, which is the development side of Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, United States.)