I recently bought a 15.6″ Samsung Series 7 Laptop (NP700Z5B-S01U) from BestBuy for $999. While I generally loathe BestBuy, they are very convenient, and I tend to go shopping at strange hours, like 11pm at night. It was their good fortune, as well, that I decided to buy this laptop during Passover, as my normal go to NYC techshop, B&H Photo, was closed for the week.
I haven’t had a new laptop in four years, and so this was a purchase made with great preparation and trepidation. It came down almost entirely to weight, screen size + resolution and battery life. While an ultrabook was an attractive idea, I have grown used to a high-resolution, widescreen with my four years of using a MacBook Pro, and could not give that up. In addition, most ultrabooks are still quite under powered, and I still do quite a bit of serious development work, and need something beefy.
The Samsung Series 7 has an i7 processor and 8GB of RAM, but still manages to achieve 7-8 hours of battery life on Windows 7, and around 4 hours on Ubuntu (linux is still working on really solid battery management, and also companies like Samsung and Microsoft work quite a bit together on tuning). Still 4 hours for something this powerful, is pretty great, considering what I was getting with my old MBP workhorse (about 30 minutes!).
As my intention was to run Ubuntu on this hardware, I did quite a bit of research ahead of time around issues that others were having. It seems like with Ubuntu 10 and 11, there were a wide range of compatibility issues. With that in mind, I decided to jump ahead to the current beta of Ubuntu 12 Precise Pangolin. Right away, pretty much everything seemed to work, including the much aligned trackpad, though I did have to adjust the way tapping and dragging works, and basically stop using the click-and-drag method. The screen was clear and bright, suspend and resume worked flawlessly, the wifi was fast, and all my standard apps and tools were screamingly fast.
The big two breakthroughs to really making this hardware hum were though were finding a way to enable the custom Samsung function keys and to stop the endless fan noise from whining away. The fan noise was an indicator the processor was too hot, which also meant the battery life was not going to be so great. The estimate was only two hours, which was not good enough for my needs.
What I had to do was install the proprietary ATI/AMD graphics driver, instead of using the open-source video driver that is default in Ubuntu now. While I am used to this with MBP’s and the NVidia driver, and I had hoped not to have to use the proprietary driver with my new laptop. However, once I realized that by using the proprietary driver that the fan noise would stop, and my battery life would double, it was an easy choice to make. This driver can be easily installed through the System Settings -> Additional Drivers menu.
The second breakthrough was finding the Linux on my Samsung project, aka Voria. By installing the tools offered in this repo, all the various function keys necessary for brightness, volume and other options control mostly seem to work. I think there is also some other under the hood improvements, as well, but I haven’t fully parsed that. To install the tools, just follow the installation info from the link above, which basically involes Aptitude or ‘apt-get’. Here is a more specific example:
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:voria/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get install samsung-tools
$ sudo apt-get install samsung-laptop
$ sudo reboot
This will enable the fan control hardware function key to work, and you can attempt to set it to “Silent” in order to stop those crazy fans!
I can happily say that I used my new laptop all weekend for an epic, intensive open-source hackfest, and it performed like a champ, had fantastic battery life, and generally impressed everyone who saw it. In a sea of Macbooks and Thinkpads, it definitely stands out, and at the current price, can’t really be beat.
From here, I am going to look into better utilizing the 8GB SSD cache as a swap or perhaps installing the core OS directly onto that. I don’t have much time these days to tinker in that way, but I would love to be able to get Ubuntu back up to a 7 to 8 hour battery life, especially with the travel I do. Otherwise, I will be experimenting with the HDMI video out, the Wifi Direct support and more in the coming days, as well as keeping up to date with the final Ubuntu 12 releases.
All in all, if you are looking for a new laptop and want to make the switch to Ubuntu, this is a setup I would highly recommend.
Update May 6, 2012: I have found an excellent new resources at http://bgrande.de/chronos7.html which provides a detailed overview of the status of various hardware components of the Series 7 support by Linux.
It also provides a new grub configuration to utilize that has helped reduce fan noise issues quite a bit. Just put the grub file here: http://bgrande.de/scripts/grub in place of your ‘/etc/default/grub’ then run ‘update-grub’.
If you are not having success with the proprietary video drivers aka fglrx (I am not using them b/c they do not work with 3.3 kernel), then you also should add ‘blacklist radeon’ to the end of ‘/etc/modprobe/blacklist.conf’ and then run ‘update-initramfs -u’ command to update the configuration of blacklisted hardware modules. Instead, your graphics will be powered by the on-chip Intel graphics driver, which works just fine.
You will want to reboot to see all the changes take affect.
Update September 3, 2012: After weeks of diving back into tuning of Ubuntu on my Chronos, I have finally made some progress. I had never entirely solved the fan noise issue, resulting in a constant, annoying “puff, puff, puff” sound, over and over again while I was working. It was not the CPU fan, it was the AMD Radeon graphics card fan, and all of the previous information in this post, would do nothing to calm or quiet it. I had solid battery life still (4-5 hours), but just this little constant annoying noise that drove me nuts.
I am happy to say that it seems (cross my fingers) , that I have solved the issue, as I now have a dead silent laptop. I am not sure what exactly did it, but here are the variety of combinations I have going now:
1) Ubuntu Precise 126.96.36.199, all the latest and greatest updates
2) Kernel 3.5: Here’s a YouTube video on installing it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=traegZveTKo
2) Update to latest BIOS firmware from Samsung. You can find your exact model, but it will be a page like this: http://www.samsung.com/us/support/owners/product/NP700Z5A-S02US
then go to “Manuals & Downloads” then “Firmware” and get the “Update Software (Firmware)” Windows EXE. You will need to boot into Windows to run this.
3) extra settings from /etc/default/grub
(make sure you used the proper escaped quote \”Linux\” below)
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”acpi_osi=\”Linux\” pcie_aspm=force acpi=noirq acpi_backlight=vendor intel_iommu=off i915.modeset=1 i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.lvds_downclock=1 i915
.i915_enable_fbc=1 i915.semaphores=1 i915.powersave=1 iwlagn.power_save=1 snd_hda_intel.power_save_controller=1 snd_hda_intel.power_save=1″
#to make sure your keyboard backlights are on
echo 8 > /sys/devices/platform/samsung/leds/samsung\:\:kbd_backlight/brightness
4) Using open/default graphics driver for internal Intel graphics, so blacklisted radeon and fglrx. In “/etc/modprobe.b/blacklist.conf” add these lines:
alias radeon off
alias lbm-radeon off
then make sure to update your initramfs with command > update-initramfs -u
5) Still using the various Voria/Samsung packages: samsung-tools and samsung-laptop
Again, I am not sure exactly which is the key element here, but I think it may be the combination of the latest BIOS update and Kernel 3.5. Good luck, and please post any comments or successes you have.
I am getting this laptop next week for my birthday and was planning on doing this, but I was wondering would I still be able to use the express cache normally in windows like to speed up boot.
I’ve got a Samsung Series 7 14” notebook.
I used Ubuntu the last years on Desktops and Notebooks, starting with Version 12.04 I change everything to Kubuntu because I don’t like the new Unity GUI.
So I installed Kubuntu 12.04 beta2 (i think) on this samsung notebook and nearly everything worked.
But the it ended up to install Windows 7 because of these reasons:
* support keyboard backlight switching
* support for switching graphics between Intel3000 and ATI
* support for the ambilight sensor
* better battery life
* smoother scrolling in all applications
the really no-go for Kubuntu were:
* no right click and click and drag with the touchpad
In half a year I’ll try again – I really prefer Kubunto over Win7 😉
hi. great post. have you tried installing ubuntu on the SSD yet? I want to do the same but im worried that it might be difficult to make a comeback to windows if it all goes wrong because if the SSD is formatted to ext4, windows will not be able to use it? otherwise i know it could be formatted to the way it was before but not sure what format it uses. I am eagerly waiting your reply so i’ll check this blog often. Thanks.
Thank you for this article!
I got one question though: Did you disable the integrated intel video card? Or are you using both? I could not manage to get the fan issue solved even when I disabled the dedicated radeon card.
I did try to get the fglrx working but it does not seem to work right now after I have disabled the radeon before.
I have not experimented with using the SSD cache yet, or switching out the drive to SSD entirely. Will let you know if I do.
I think regardless though, you can still install Windows 7 on any sort of partition, though you would likely have to buy a new copy, and not use the “restore” disk provided.
I am using the fglrx aka proprietary ATI driver, and have not made any others changes at all. I basically got to a “happy place” and decided to stop messing with it for the time being. I hope to do some more tuning over the next week, and will let you know if anything changes.
Thanks for the reply Nathan (if that is you admin). I was really excited to get Ubuntu up and running on this laptop after reading this article but now I think I will wait for the Ubuntu 12 final release. I’m still gonna check back here though to see if you managed to get that working :).
Elek, I am sorry to hear that Kubuntu doesn’t work so well on this laptop. I just hope that Ubuntu 12’s final release will sort out those issues.
Thanks for this article. I’ve just successfully installed Xubuntu 12.04 on my 700Z3A (the 14 inch one), and I pretty much love it. I wasn’t able to make the fglrx driver provided with Xubuntu install properly, not sure why. So I purged it (sudo apt-get purge fglrx), and tried to install the driver from amd.com using just their .run file. This worked fine! And after doing so, the fan noise indeed disappeared.
Regarding formatting the little SSD: I’ve done it, leaving 4GB unformatted (just as a partition) – What happened when booting into windows was that the Samsung apps that manage it asked whether I wanted to “speed up”, like it does on first boot. I opted not to do it this time, I suspect it doesn’t care what the content on the disk is, it will just erase everything and use it for fast-loading the boot and other often used apps.
Hey I just got this same computer also and I did the same things as you to get it working good with Ubuntu. I’m running into some issues and was wondering if you had them also or fixed then. When closing the lid no natter what setting I use, either nothing or suspend, it just goes blank and I have to restart the computer. Also I can’t get the keyboard lights to work. Thanks for your guide and any help you can give.
I bought this laptop in January 2012 (NP700Z5A-S02FR).
I installed Arch Linux on it.
Several things didn’t work out of the box (mostly “because of” Arch Linux), but with a little research, quite everything works.
– Really nice trackpad: tap to click, horizontal/vertical scrolling (one and two fingers), right click, drag and drop while left button is clicked, right click with three fingers tap, etc.
– Keyboard backlight turned on/off by kernel automatically with the light sensor
– Fn + Key to configure screen brightness, sound volume, CD/DVD eject and trackpad enabling/disabling
– Of course WiFi, webcam, USB 3, etc.
This doesn’t work:
– Radeon graphic card: I’ve never managed to get this graphic card working. I also blacklisted the “radeon” module, otherwise, the fan is always running on high speed because the card is too hot
– Fine tuning of the keyboard backlight (only on or off depending on the ambient light)
Thanks for the article. On my laptop (Samsung series 7 700z5b-s01), the volume and brightness keys worked on 12.04 out of the box. However the fan and wireless keys do not work. Do you mind giving more detail about which Samsung project packages you installed? I can’t seem to find much documentation on them.
Also a couple other things of note: I used fglrx-updates for the proprietary video driver instead of fglrx. I believe it’s more recent though to be honest i’m not sure it matters. However fglrx-updates wouldn’t install through the system settings -> additional drivers. I used synaptic pkg manager to install (probably apt-get works too). Then did “sudo amdconfig –initial -f” to create xorg.conf.
Finally, suspend/resume did not work for me. I found this fix, which works great: http://thecodecentral.com/2011/01/18/fix-ubuntu-10-10-suspendhibernate-not-working-bug/comment-page-11#comment-59994
Hey there. Good article.
Did you get the Wi-Fi Direct working? I own a similar model (NP300E5A) and no matter how hard I try, I can’t find the proper way to set it up. Been bugging me for days now.
I have not tried getting Wifi Direct working yet, but am interested in that, since I have an Android device with it as well. I will let you know if I make any progress.
I used the Voria.org samsung packages as discussed here: http://www.voria.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=3&sid=8d7b2f6cc19f8283abca10a458d79354
I am using the 3.3 kernel right now, which also might make a difference. Suspend/resume worked even on 3.2 though.
However, this has also caused problems with fglrx.
All in all, the latest kernel improves battery life, but definitely tweaks some of the other compatbility.
Yes, now with 12.04 final and the 3.3 kernel, I am having issues with the graphics card again, and may end up blacklisting radeon. I am fine without it honestly for 90% of what I need.
Are you running Ubuntu 12 with the latest 3.3 kernel?
Thanks for the note on using the SSD. Have you noticed any impact in your use of it on Xubuntu? Any great speed up there?
You can reformat the SSD from Linux to use it as a boot or swap partition. It may not be easy to do, but is possible!
Thanks for you article. I bought the same laptop (NP700Z5B-S01U), I blacklisted readon but the temperature still higher than the one that I have on Windows…. 50C vs 60C when idle. What temperature do you obtain with yours? I’m running the last ubuntu 12.04 64bits with 3.2.0-24 kernel.
This worked perfectly to get switchable graphics working as they should. Dynamic switching still doesn’t work, but that’s a kernel issue.
As long as you are only using Linux you can use the internal SSD like any other SSD. Just partition and format it and use it as swap device or whatever you want.
Anyone have problem on MIC / headphone jack combo on ubuntu 12.04.
Can get sound from my headphone!
Just discovered that you need to both install the samsung-tools package AND the samsung-laptop package if you want to get the fan control support.
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:voria/ppa
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get install samsung-tools
$ sudo apt-get install samsung-laptop
$ sudo reboot
Regarding the SSD/ExpressCache, for now, I want to continue using the SSD as ExpressCache for Windows, since I will still use Win7 as my primary OS. My concern: I’m new to Ubuntu but my understanding is that Ubuntu replaces the MBR, and displays it’s own Boot Loader to show the OS options. Can anyone confirm if this will or will not affect the Windows/Samsung ExpressCache and quick boot setup?
has anyone solved the clickpad issue? i’m running Mint 13, but technically that is built off of Ubuntu 12, so it should be similar. I have no right click on this laptop, nor can i click with one finger and drag with another. these are some major inconveniences and really keeping me from switching to mint full time.
i found a gist which sets some synaptics configurations… and i now have click+drag and a tiny right click area. so this is a huge improvement. i am 90% sure this is due to the gist, but i did also update some drivers and patched the ps2mouse binary. (all copy and paste b/c i didn’t really know what i was doing).
anyway i did the following
sudo mkdir /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d
sudo gedit /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/51-synaptics.conf
then paste the gist contents from:
into the file, save, and restart X (log out/reboot)
i’m using Linux Mint 13, but it should work in Ubuntu too i’d think.
i also followed the instructions here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1930450 for dealing w/ the switchable video cards. installing the ati driver broke X on me b/c somehow the fglrx driver had been blacklisted. i reset X with the backup (in the forum post), and then since that was the only thing in the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-local.conf file i deleted that file. i tried to comment the offending line out, but it was read only and wouldn’t let me. so my advice would be to check on that blacklist status first, but with the 2 commands provided in the thread i can toggle between graphics modes which should help with the battery life.
I suspect that the reason your battery performance is significantly lower, is because the box keeps the ATI card fully powered and using its GPU for video rendering. While still in its starting stages, linux does have hybrid graphics support which will allow you to switch between the on-die intel GPU and the ATI card (some solutions on a per-program basis). I suspect that you don’t do a lot of highly GPU-hungry tasks, though the on-board intel will handle quite a lot (including latest games on low settings, most certainly most video needs), so setting up the hybrid graphics, and switching to intel until you need more graphics power, may buy you some significant run time.
Just my $.02
I am very pleased with (X/L)Ubuntu on my Samsung Series 7. I did disable the ATI GPU because it wouldn’t run vmware Workstation or Chicken Invaders Ultimate Omlette. My Fn-F12 fan speed control works well. I can’t control the keyboard lighting with Fn-F9/F10, but the auto back-lighting works well. BTW, the light sensor is behind the 1st of the for blue led’s above the key.
I use the SSD as a swap partition, but since this laptop has 6GB memory, I haven’t had any use for it yet. 🙂 I was reluctant to use it as the boot partition since I didn’t know how much space I would need, but since May when I last posted, the Xubuntu installation still isn’t above 5.6GB. Might give it a shot.
Another thing I’ve done is configure the “Clickpad” more properly, giving it two extra “features”:
* Clicking with one finger and dragging with another (like you can do on a Mac) – makes it a lot easier to move things around on the screen, and to select text.
* A right click button area in the bottom right of the pad. Nice to have sometimes.
* Also, I prefer a slightly less sensitive pad, so I’ve reduce sensitivity a bit. Avoids accidental mouse clicks.
Just paste the following in /etc/X11/xorg.conf
Identifier "touchpad catchall"
Option "Clickpad" "true"
Option "FingerLow" "19"
Option "FingerHigh" "21"
Option "SoftButtonAreas" "50% 0 80% 0 0 0 0 0"
My colors on Ubuntu are very weird. They almost hurt the eye.
Windows comes with Samsung easy settings that sets colors to pleasant tone. But in Ubuntu they are very sharp, like white tint.
Does anyone know how to fix it? or have an icc profile that might suit the display?
Get color profile from this thread (icm file):
use xcalib command (may have to install first) to set the color profile.
I have the same laptop, too. A great machine. Unfortunately Ubuntu has much more problems than Windows 8. Installing Ubuntu in the first place was quite a hassle, Boot-Repair helped. Installing the samsung-laptop package does not work at all, it says
Unable to locate package samsung-laptop.
The function keys to adjust the backlight settings do not work, the other keys do. The multitouch gestures on the touchpad refuse to work, also. But the worst thing are occasional Kernel Panic errors, as I described here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/221328/kernel-panic-fatal-machine-check . How do I get rid of these?
If anyone encounter any problem with audio not coming from headphone / mic jack, just install the ALSA/DKMS package for Intel sound cards https://code.launchpad.net/~ubuntu-audio-dev/+archive/alsa-daily/+packages.
I have installed Ubuntu 12.04 on Samsung 700z alongside Windows 7.
I installed GRUB on sda (HDD), not on sdb (SSD) that was default item proposed by Ubuntu installer. For now i can choose Win7 or Ubuntu on bot and it is great.
Where have you installed boot loader? on sda or sdb partitoin?
But i have notice sum small bugs
1. If i close lid of laptop Windows is hibernated. If i open lid in an several hours Windows restores without any problems. But if i open lid in a day or more – i see GRUB menu. Do you know why?
2. To get free space for Ubuntu i have shrinked disk D: and created partitions for root, swap and home. After that Samsung Recovery solution doesn’t work and show error that it can’t find restore partiotion. Do you have the same error?