Ubuntu on the Acer Nitro 5

The Acer Nitro 5 is an interesting breed; decent computing power, a mid-range SSD, a large screen with high contrast, a decent and solid keyboard with good haptics at an ok price – but will it run Ubuntu?

The Nitro comes with Windows 10 home pre-installed and UEFI secure boot enabled – booting Ubuntu from an USB drive thankfully doesn’t require disabling secure boot. I downloaded the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS image, installed Rufus, partitioned the USB stick with a single volume and had Rufus install Ubuntu on it. Important: this will not work if a data persistence is chosen; Ubuntu will fail booting then. Since I “just” wanted to try out basic hardware compatibility that isn’t much of a problem – or so I thought.

Ubuntu boots just fine off the stick. These things work out of the box: WIFI (5 GHz), webcam, USB, sound (internal/external), microphone (internal/external), keyboard backlight. I didn’t try bluetooth or the secondary nvidia graphics card.

The first, bit surprise lurks behind actually trying to install Ubuntu on the SSD: no drives are found. The reason is that the BIOS enables Intel’s optane mode. Disabling it is kind of tricky: enter the BIOS, set a supervisor password (this unlocks advanced settings), go to advances settings, press CTRL + S (this unlocks the hidden optane setting), change from optane to AHCI.

A few notes after running Ubuntu for a week now:

  • Resuming from standby will freeze the mouse pointer for 10-20 seconds; everything else works fine and the mouse pointer thaws after a while
  • After resuming from standby the laptop’s screen will freeze at some point (much) later; applications continue to run, key strokes are (apparently) not registered and the screen isn’t updated any more. A cold reboot is required after that. I was able to work around that by blacklisting nouveau.
  • One of the many fans always spins at a low to mid speed
  • The laptop gets pretty warm even at moderate use, but that was an issue already with Windows
  • The battery won’t last more than 2 hours; this worries me as the laptop is brand new
  • The webcam resolution is low and the picture is noisy
  • Sound occasionally stutters under I/O load
  • Ubuntu on the laptop feels overall faster and more responsive than Windows 10

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