All-in-one Sable Complete PC, an Ubuntu-based desktop PC that competes on price and power

OMGUbuntu reviews the new System76 Sable Complete, a $799, expandable, open all-in-one computer that is price-competitive and performance-competitive with iMacs and other all-in-ones. I've owned some System76 laptops and have been generally impressed with both the build-quality and the support offered by the company -- they're always a good bet if you want to get a pre-installed GNU/Linux machine.

The Sable is a gorgeous looking PC that (on paper at least) is faster, cheaper, more expandable, and better at running Ubuntu than the 2011 iMac I’m writing this article on.

More impressively to my mind (and my wallet) is that although System76 are a niché retailer (meaning costs are often higher than those of mass-manufacturers) the all-in-one PC is competitively priced, even without WiFi, a disc drive, or input accessories.

Compared against two similarly specc’d machines using other OSes – namely the Vizio and the 2011 iMac – the Sable stands up well.

Meet The $799 All-in-One Ubuntu PC from System76 (via Engadget)


  1. It’s an ugly iMac, but an attractive price.

    Wish I could use Linux to be honest – it’s only the handful of apps I need OSX (or windows) for that keep me on a commercial OS.

    If I were Joe Public then it’d be Linux all the way.

    1. Photoshop, right? You should give GIMP a second chance. :)

      The 2.8 version adds Single Window Mode, accessible under the “Windows” navbar item, which makes things a lot less awkward. And when resizing the canvas, always remember to select “resize all layers” as well for it to behave like Photoshop. I’ve been using GIMP for freelance lately, and found it to be everything I need. It’s as powerful as Photoshop, and opens and saves multilayer .psd files. The only trouble I’ve had is with layer effects, and I hear there’s a plugin for that.I’m running Lubuntu on a Pentium M that is barely able to run Windows XP, and it’s beautifully smooth. If you haven’t checked out Linux in a while, you should try it again. I think it’s at least even with the competition, especially when you consider that it’s expert-friendly as well as user-friendly. It’s hackable on purpose, and everything can be scripted.

      1. I’m afraid I didn’t read past the word GIMP.

        For what it’s worth I have a long standing love/hate relationship with Photoshop, but the thought of opening GIMP again makes me want to change professions. God awful piece of software. Akin to recommending a washboard as a viable alternative to a washing machine.

        Now Pixelmator is a real competitor (THAT’S how you compete with PS), but that’s Mac only anyway so wouldn’t solve that particular issue.

        It’s not just for PS though, else I could probably just about manage – but slowly, over time my reliance on an OS is decreasing and the nature of my work is changing in a way that much more is being done in the browser – so maybe one day!

          1. File formats are as important as software choice unfortunately, and GIMPs support of PSDs is only as good as anyone else’s, i.e. not quite 100%

            I will conceded that it looks like its come along a bit since I last used it – but it’s always felt like software built and designed by an engineer.

            As I say though, there’s plenty I dislike about PS, it’s just the lesser of all evils for the work I do.

            And if you haven’t looked up Pixelmator to see what someone else can do within a couple of years of dev time it’s worth a look. Puts into perspective how bad GIMP is in my opinion. Fair enough Pixelmator isn’t free, but it’s $30, so…

    2. Virtual machines are easy to use. You need a bit more of RAM, 8 gigs, but totally worth it. I can run any almost program on a VM.

      1. True – I’m not unfamiliar with VM’s, and use Wine for a few bits as well.
        I suppose I was coming at it from a new buyers perspective. i.e. if in a few years I needed a new machine, I’d like something like this to be viable, so admittedly it could be with that approach – something to consider.

        I have no intention of getting rid of my iMac in favour of one of these though.

          1. I’ll fill in. Yeah, who wouldn’t want the thing considering it comes in such a bezeliciously black color in homage to Henry Ford.

          2. I am not a purist of “Open”, like Stallman. I love my Linux, what I can do with it, but I can use closed programs when I have to. I wrote my thesis in Matlab, when it was more practical than Octave, but I did my 3D graphs in Gnuplot. I wrote it in LaTeX, after OpenOffice was not enough.

            So, I am fine using an Intel processor and putting Linux Mint on top of an HP or a Dell laptop. Even if I like the look and feel of Apple’s machines, I do not simply have the money to invest in one and put Linux on top of it. I can live with a machine I cannot open a lot, except for memory and hard drive change, if the trade off is that I can carry that machine around.

            In the case of a desktop, I do not see why on Earth I should buy a closed box that I cannot tweak. Not a single reason. I do not live in Tokyo, I can spare some real state for a tower that I can open and change parts when I want more memory or a bigger processor. So I would never would get a machine like this. If I would get it as a present I would sell it and desktop I can customize to my taste.

            Disclaimer: I am the owner of a beautiful, blazing fast, sturdy and not expensive System76 laptop that I have not been able to use because their shipping sucks big time and is still in the US. A friend was supposed to get it to me, but System76 took so long to ship the computer (and screwed around for days when I was trying to buy it and ship it to a different address than my billing address) that it arrived after my friend was here.

  2. I use Linux professionally and although it would so wonderful being able to buy something like this – it still costs too damn much (shipping+taxes) and since its an all-in-one I fear its going to be hell to upgrade in comparison with an ordinary stationary

    Also I think the Imac has kinda outlived its aesthetics. It was fun, but its starting to get a bit much now. 

    1. TIL That minimalist, industrial design can be a bit much.

      The iMac is beautiful, that’s why everyone who builds an all-in-one copies it to death.

      Admittedly probably not quite as upgradable as a tower – but that’s more of a preference thing really – most people have as much desire to upgrade their computer as any other device they own. With reliability improvements and a recent leveling out on RAM requirements I haven’t needed to open a computer in years – but with past-me it was a pretty important requirement.

      1. Thats the thing – I don’t like how the Imac look. Its the same with how laptops strive for that Macbook look. I wish we could find a more eclectic design style to sneak into (although ducking the damn “steampunk” thing completely would be great). 

        But yeah – the Imac sells so obviously the design is appreciated… I just wish there could be some kind of choices available.
        Also – about people (me included I guess) dont tinker as much as they used to. Thats just kinda sad in a way. We buy new stuff all the time instead of trying to improve what we got and at the same time we forget how to do it I think, or the confidence to. 

        1. I think that’s the pessimistic way of looking at it though. The reason we used to tinker was because we had to, it was a necessity. Whereas now hardware doesn’t end up on the junk heap quite as quickly and we can spend more time doing things rather than maintaining things. That said, there is a pleasure in creating something yourself, even if you are just assembling parts.
          I agree about the need for more variety though – its the reason I appreciate the new windows mobile approach over android – they innovated, and to a certain extent succeeded. It’s not for me, but it doesn’t have to be – not every user is the same.

    1. A bit… but Steam is coming for it now (finally) and appearently their really pleased with the results so far when it comes to porting games to Linux… Other than that, there are some brilliant games and then allot of stuff that is great mainly because its free and available on Linux (You know what I mean).

      Or you could use Playonlinux/Wine (which I, being a huge newb, have never gotten to work very well)

    1. Netflix uses Silverlight.  Netflix’s choice to use Silverlight is what’s keeping you from Linux.

      It’s also what keeps me from buying a Netflix subscription for my XBMC.

      DRM ay?

  3. Things I haven’t seen in opensource for Linux

    A motion compositing program on the level of After Effects
    3D character animation (don’t suggest Blender)

    1. Is that 3D character animation IN after effects, or are those 2 separate requests?  Because after effects isn’t very good for character animation…

      AE will run in Wine I believe with enough hard work.  I liked Wings 3D for modeling and Blender isn’t at all bad with the right amount of modding.  But admittedly coming from a 3DSM background everything feels a bit tame.

      Flash?  What’s that?

    2. Actually Linux flash is second only to the windows implementation.  Adobe’s decision to not release a 64-bit version had the side effect of forcing browsers to run it in an external process.  That means that for several years now, when flash crashes it does not take down your browser.  Arguably, this negatively effects performance though.

  4. Is niché any kin to cliché? Or is it a term with caché, cached in its own special cachet niche?

    (Sorry–the temptation was just too strong.)

  5. Wow, yes that is good value.
    Let’s see an iMac 20.5″ is $1299 with a 2.7GHz quad core i5/8Gb ram/1Tb drive/nvida gt640M.
    Trying to get a reasonably equivalent spec on the sable – the cpu/gpu doesn’t have direct match but I *think* that the i7+HD4000 would be about the same? I’m sure I’ll be corrected if not.
    8Gbram, ok. Can only include a 750Gb disc, though I think it spins faster. Add a cordless kbd/mouse.
    Oh, gosh $1166! What a huge saving.

    And it doesn’t even come with OS X, so phew, saved that pain too. Have to avoid that huge Apple Tax.

  6. Yeah, I don’t think the Sable is that much cheaper after configuring it to match an iMac, (add Wifi, wireless keyboard and mouse, optical drive, etc…plus iMac has Firewire, Thunderbolt, and Bluetooth, which apparently the Sable doesn’t have available). Not saying that Sable is a bad machine, but it isn’t the same performance as an iMac at a much cheaper price.

    Also, you can get iMacs on Amazon with no tax and free shipping, not sure if that’s true with the Sable or not.

  7. I don’t get the concept. When I have to change to a different computer, I have to throw out a perfectly good monitor?

  8. This isn’t my cup of tea; I don’t care for all-in-ones.  I could make do with one, I suppose, if it included an eSata port; all my external drives connect that way.  This one doesn’t have such a port.

    That said, I’ve been a happy user of System 76 computers for a long time.  I’m on a Wild Dog right now.  I ordered a fairly top-spec machine, swapped the boot drive for an SSD, added a 2TB data drive and have been happily doing all my general computing tasks with little fuss for years.

    Wine and VMs are used occasionally to overcome problems that I could probably fix in Linux if I were just better with the OS.  Flash sucks but not nearly as bad as it did a while back.  Overall, I’m happy and can recommend System 76.

    So, wondering what this all-in-one is supposed to accomplish for the company, I started poking around on the web site.  They used to sell a model or two small enough to mount to a bracket behind a large monitor.  Those models made perfectly functional ersatz all-in-one machines.  Now I no longer see those machines in their product line.  I guess people thought of them as an ugly kludge and demanded something sleeker.  (My take on it was that they provided all the savings of desk space while being easier to upgrade and more adaptable to more monitors…but I value function over aesthetics.)  This new machine is certainly sleeker.  I hope it sells well for them but I have my doubts.

  9. they compare to the 21.5″ imac.  fail.
    there is a 27″ imac.  and it’s not much more than the 21.5.  and the reason they don’t, more than likely, the IPS screen.  you can barely get a screen that good for the price of the imac by ITSELF.  2560-by-1440   that’s pretty much my minimum now, for 27″+
    the 21.5″ imac is IPS too, but it happens to be 1080 vertical.
    can you tell i’m toying with buying a 27″ imac?
    i’ll get a 2010 model.  probably run gentoo natively and put windoze and osx in VMs

  10. I’ve sworn off Ubuntu ever since they lost their friggin minds with Unity. If Linux wanted to be a Mac, Steve would have stolen it instead of FreeBSD.

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