MSI GX640 - Anyone ordered one yet? / experience

I might be forced to buy a new laptop due to my old one breaking down and the place I got it from going bankrupt. (just my luck…)
(it’s also a barebone, so no contacting the manafacturer option either)

So after going over all that’s available that meets my demands (with some concessions) I ended up finding this beautiful piece of hardware:

Given it was only released this month I can’t find any information on how well Linux (or in particular openSUSE) will run on it. I only found some Australian reseller that offers it with a variety of Linux flavors pre-installed if so desired.

Videocard being ATI isn’t quite what I wanted but it’s quite the beast (for laptop standards).

In a case like this, what I recommend you do is search on each component for linux compatibility. ie search for compatibilty with

  • Graphics : Video Card ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850
  • CD Drive Blu-ray : model ???
  • Wireless Integrated 802.11bgn Wireless ???
  • Sound HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output - hardware audio codec ???
  • Webcam (Built-in 2.0 Mega pixel webcam) ???

Ideally if you can lay your hands on the laptop before purchase and boot to a live CD and get the information you need to research this better, that would be helpful.

Given it’s usually quite hard to find the proper name of a component and it’s easy to overlook a vital part I was hoping for some first hand experience.
As it will be purchased from a webshop (I never buy computer hardware from a physical store, way too much of a price/options offered difference) I will not get the chance to give it a test run.

Still hoping my own laptop (a Compal HL90 that works perfectly besides the fingerprint sensor/scanner/whatever it is) can be repaired. If not… I guess the the HCL will receive an update for the GX640.

I understand that difficulty.

Just over 4 years ago, my wife purchased from a German Webshop her PC which has a 32-bit AMD Sempon-2600 w/1GB (Epox EP-8K7A motherboard) w/AGP ATI RV280 (Radeon-9200Pro) graphics. Initially we could not get details on this PC from the web advertisements. Since I don’t speak German (my wife does), at my request, my wife sent them an email asking for more detail, and they replied with sufficient information that I was able to research and confirm a high probability Linux compatibility. So she went ahead (with my blessing) and purchased the desktop PC.

So maybe send them an email asking questions as to exactly what wireless, what webcam, what hardware sound codec ? etc …

Can try, not sure if they know much more than I do though as most these webshops keep nothing in stock and get everything directly from their own suppliers.

So little choice if you’re looking for an affordable 15" laptop with 2 times some form of video output (VGA and HDMI is fine) with a 1680*1050 resolution.

I was looking at the MSI, too. Although, probably out of my budget, it has good specs for an all-around machine (well, many people will state it’s a gaming machine!). I think the wireless is Intel which should be good. However, the ATI mobility card is not the same as the desktop even though it shows up as HD 5850. Also, I think the ATI support is a WIP for that series. Last I read, it doesn’t even have open source driver support yet. I am not sure a Live CD will give an accurate portrayal of what one would expect with such a video card although I definitely can’t say for sure or confirm.

If ATI can have decent driver support, I think that is a good choice for a laptop in that price area.

The only negative for me regarding the GX640 is the lack of a LED backlight screen. I wish it had one. I don’t understand why a LED screen is lacking in so many laptops. I thought it would be standard by now.

The liveCD may or it may not. It depends on whether one can update applications in a liveCD session without rebooting, and whether the laptop has sufficient RAM for the liveCD session to contain major driver updates.

I have tested proprietary ATI graphic drivers on a Dell Studio 1537 laptop (with a Radeon HD3450) using only a liveCD. Solid/average experience is needed to do this. I had to download, build … etc … A new user is not IMHO likely to succeed with such a proprietary driver in an openSUSE liveCD test.

I purchased and received the laptop. The ATI card is indeed troublesome, there are no drivers for it and I can’t find any information at all on when ATI releases them.
The card is however extremely powerful, it blows the 9600M GT in the previous laptop completely out of the water.
For comparison… couldn’t play the Starcraft 2 beta on 1280x1024 on medium settings decently before. Now it runs smooth at 1920x1200 with the settings on high.

I guess I wont be using openSUSE for a while as the 1400 by something resolution isn’t very pleasant on a 1900x1200 (external) monitor.
The wireless and touchpad both work at least… didn’t test anything else, so I do hope the ATI releases the drivers for the graphics card sometime soon.

Are you certain there are no ATI drivers for Linux for the Video Card ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 ?? According to the ATI web site the Catalyst 10.3 driver supports the HD 58xx series. Did you send an email to ATI and get that answer ??

While its possible the radeon and radeonhd do not support it, I suspect the vesa and fbdev will provide very low performance support, after which one can load the proprietary ATI driver. It does mean one should likely do a vesa or text install, to minimize installation problems.

What sort of test/reference did you do to come up with that indicates there is no support at all in Linux?

Enable ATI repository, update… you’re staring at a console and an error when manually trying to run ‘start xserver’.
Uninstall the drivers and you’re back to basic (VESA?) support…
Go to the ATI driver page select ‘Linux_X86_64’ > Mobility Radeon > and watch the lack of Radeon 5000 series ;), Also a few posts on other forums of people eagerly awaiting a driver release.

How familiar are you with this process ? Did you also try “the hardway” (which is not hard)? Have you done this before “the hardway”. I’ve read this from so many users who simply do not know how to do it, that or who have been ‘getting away’ with doing it “wrong” that I simply am always skeptical when a user (whose experience level I am not familiar with) reports what you reported. Apologies for that skepticism. Its a function of watching dozens of users mess this up.

Hence when you state that, I simply note I’m "from Missouri … "

OK, so you established it works under VESA ?

I went to that page and I did NOT see a lack of support for the 5000 series. I saw support for 5xxx series and also support more specifically for 5830 series. Its possible the 5xxx series of support addresses your 5850. Its possible that given 5830 is specifically listed and 5850 is not, that there is no 5850 support.

I don’t know. But is not correct to say there is no 5000 series support and when I read that statement about there being no 5000 series support and I know it NOT correct, it makes me suspicious of the correctness of other aspects you reported.

If it were me, I would try it out on a liveCD. I regularly test the new proprietary driver releases with a liveCD on my Dell Studio 1537 with Radeon hardware and 4GB of RAM without installing on the hard drive any software. BUT it does take solid advanced Linux knowledge to do such a test and hence such a test is NOT for everyone.

I think you missed the “Mobility Radeon” bit. As the desktop series are supported, the mobile variations aren’t (yet).
It works with whatever openSUSE defaults to when you don’t install a specific driver but not at the resolutions I need and naturally lacking all the good stuff like 3d acceleration.

I am not convinced a specific mobility entry is needed. My logic/reason is experience: The mobility HD were not present for my Radeon HD3450 for a long time, yet the Radeon HD 3xxx series proprietary driver worked fine on it.

Did you try an 11.3 milestone-5 live CD to see if its radeon driver is any better than that in 11.2 ? Re: the proprietary driver in 11.2 I’m not fully convinced it won’t work, but I do agree there is a reasonable likelihood it won’t. One only knows for certain if they can do an accurate test.

The deskop version of the drivers throws a nice ‘No display adapter was recognized’ or something along those lines.

Downloading 11.3 atm.

11.3 M5 has installation problems, so my recommendation is to boot to the liveCD, but not install.

If the 11.3 milestone liveCD does not boot with the radeon (or radeonhd) driver automatically setup, I recommend you write a bug report on this, so that the need for this to be implemented is tracked.