System76 Shows First Pics of Fully Customized Linux Laptop Prototype

System76 Virgo prototype laptop parts
(Image credit: System76)

Consumer Linux hardware pioneer System76 is readying its first fully own-designed laptop. Codenamed "Virgo" the firm hopes to move beyond whitebook customizer status, with a range of fully bespoke Linux portables. Teasing this important milestone in the company’s evolution, Founder and CEO of System76, Carl Richell, took to Twitter with some images of prototype parts.

In the pair of images we appear to have the upper clamshell of the laptop, where a display panel and wireless antenna will be located in the final design. On the outward facing side of the milled 6061 aluminum part you can see a sizable System76 logo has been engraved using a CNC engraver as part of the milling process.

(Image credit: System76)

In some follow-up Tweets Richell explains that the milling gives the part an interesting undulating finish and what you are seeing is “raw metal off the mill.” However, he commented that this laptop lid isn’t made using production techniques. It is too early to decide whether such parts of the laptop will be milled or casted but the firm went with the prior manufacturing technique with their in-house Launch keyboard design as the quality from casting wasn’t appealing enough. It also isn’t certain where the components and finished laptop will be manufactured.

Turning our attention to the inner side of the milled lid, most evident are the reinforcing struts that have been formed to minimize panel flex while keeping the weight down. Towards the bottom of the shot you can see the Virgo prototype will be a dual hinge design. Let us hope System76 can achieve good hinge durability, smooth flexing, while minimizing any bounce or wobble induced by heavy typists.

(Image credit: System76)

So, these prototype milled parts don’t give a lot away, but the Virgo laptops should be the best ever to bear the System76 logo, or else the firm will have put a lot of time and energy into the project for little return. One aspect of the design that isn’t obvious, but was spelled out by Richell, is that it is important for the firm to be able to offer a repairable and upgradable design. There are now laptops such as those from Framework which offer easy access to repair and upgrade components. Even Valve's Steam Deck has a full teardown and replacement parts courtesy of iFixit. Over on social media folks appear to be interested in a quality built-in keyboard, with arguments over the merits of laptop numpads already flaring up. Let us hope there are simply lots of keyboard configuration choices to make sure everyone is happy.

There are challenges and opportunities in this own design process and we hope System76 can shrug off the former while making the most of the latter.

Mark Tyson
News Editor

Mark Tyson is a news editor at Tom's Hardware. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • PlaneInTheSky
    PoP!OS is great. It's the only Ubuntu distro that has decent Nvidia GPU support out of the box.

    8 out of 10 users with dedicated GPU use an Nvidia GPU.

    If you want anyone to switch over to Linux, you need to make sure decent Nvidia drivers are included. PoP!OS includes those, while every other distro is too busy whining and complaining about Nvidia.

    I also prefer the GNOME environment over others like Cinnamon or KDE. The built-in blue light night filter is great. Hopefully the new DE System76 is building has a similar night filter. Rust is a great programming language.