​System76 readies release of American-made powerhouse Linux PC

Can you make a PC in the US anymore? Linux system builder System76 proved you can do it.

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Finding a native Linux PC isn't easy. Any Best Buy has an assortment of Windows PCs and Chromebooks. But Linux-powered computers? Not so much. Now System76, one of the leading Linux PC companies, has created something even rarer: A PC built in the US.

This wasn't easy, as System76 stated: "We've been working on the Thelio design for about three years. The philosophy around Thelio's design was fourfold. The design should reflect our company character and culture, the design must support the maximum performance of the fastest available components, be easy to service and upgrade, and must represent the open source roots of System76."

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To do this, the company had to build a factory in Denver, Colo. But not everything is built in Denver. "We use components that we source outside the US, like the motherboard, memory, and drives to assemble orders to the customers' needs." Technically, Thelio is "designed and manufactured in the US with domestic and foreign components."

Some would say this isn't enough to make the Thelio systems "American made." System76 argued, "If we sourced every part externally, this would be called 'assembled in the US.' That's not what we're doing here. We're transforming raw materials into a final product."

That final product includes "Thelio Io." This is a System76-designed chassis controller and hard drive backplane. It moves proprietary functionality from the motherboard to the open source Thelio Io daughterboard.

Thelio IO also handles chassis and thermal control. System76 claimed Thelio Io granular performance optimization uses motherboard data, fan speed, and GPU, and OS data are used to coordinate optimal airflow. The top of-the-line Thelio Massive also includes an open-source System76 designed Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) backplane for high performance 2.5-inch PCIe storage.

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This gear is Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) certified. It's licensed under the GPL v3 and CC-BY-SA. You can see, adapt, improve, and make your own open-source hardware using the GitHub-hosted Thelio and Thelio Io design files.

In this new line of open-source PCs, System76 Thelio, are three powerhouse systems for power users:

  • Thelio (Up to 32GB RAM, 24TB storage)
  • Thelio Major (Up to 128GB RAM, 46TB storage)
  • Thelio Massive (Up to 768GB of ECC Memory, 86TB storage)

Each comes with a wide-variety of hardware choice. That starts with your pick of an AMD or Intel CPU. This ranges from an Intel Core 5 or AMD Ryzen 5 at the bottom to Intel Xeon Scalable series or AMD Ryzen Threadripper. For graphics, the default is AMD chipsets, but NVIDIA graphic chips and boards are available, too.

These systems come with your choice of Linux operating systems. First, there's System76's own Pop!_OS. This is an Ubuntu Linux variant. It comes with full disk encryption and a custom GNOME-based desktop. You can also use Ubuntu 18.04

Each PC comes with your choice of or mahogany wood finishes on one side of the computer, with the other matte-black aluminum side featuring etched mountains.

The prices start at $1099.99. If you want to absolutely max out the system, consider if you will what I'm calling "Steven's Christmas present," if any of you want to get me a little something. This starts with a pair of 3.8Ghz Intel Xeon Scalable processors with 28 cores, 768GB of RAM, 2TBs NVMe storage for theAC operating system and applications, 11TB NVMe storage for other applications, 32TB SSD storage, and four NVIDIA TITAN V GPUs with 12GB of VRAM each. This supercomputer in a box can be had for a "mere" $77,780.

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On a more financially sane level -- -unless you're running machine-learning routines at home -- the Thelio Massive begins at $2,889 with a 1.7Ghz Intel Xeon Scalable Bronze 3104 processor, 16GB of RAM, 250GB of NVMe storage, and an AMD Radeon RX550 with 2GB of RAM. That's still more than enough power to keep most users happy.

These systems look darn good for anyone who loves power computing, or more practically, anyone who needs to do a lot of graphics or developer work. You can order your system now, but they won't be shipping until December. Still, if I needed a great Linux desktop for 2019, I'd consider ordering one today.

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