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Review of ThinkPenguin

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Here I'm reviewing the Linux custom computer vendor ThinkPenguin. Earlier this year I purchased a Linux computer tower from them. I had wondered whether they were reliable or legit. I'd purchased a couple of smaller items from them before (USB Wi-Fi adapter) but I had not bought a computer there until just this year. Here is my experience shopping at ThinkPenguin for a computer tower.

What is ThinkPenguin?

  • ThinkPenguin puts together customized Linux computers specced the way you want them. You get to customize almost every aspect of it, which happens to be incredibly fun. They pre-install whatever Linux operating system you want.
  • ThinkPenguin also sells accessories like USB drives, printers, keyboards, etc. All of these have been carefully vetted to ensure they're compatible with Linux systems, so you can relax and just order it with the confidence that it will work with your system. You don't have to buy a computer system from them to buy accesssories; you can choose to shop for one tiny USB drive or a whole Linux system - it's up to you.

Pros

  1. Reliable, honest and legitimate. Everything arrived as specified in a timely manner. They did an outstanding job.
  2. Excellent range of customization options, you can choose how many gigs of ram; one or two hard drives; capacity of the hard drives; which Linux distro you want pre-installed, and so on.
  3. Very cheap considering what you get. I purchased my Linux computer tower for under $1000 including tariffs, shipping, everything; it had 16G of RAM and 2 hard drives. I wouldn't have been able to get that low of a price for similar specs on a pre-made off-the-shelf Microsoft PC. In addition to the affordability of the specs, ThinkPenguin was even better value for money for me because I was able to custom order it configured exactly the way I wanted. This price/customization combo makes ThinkPenguin stand out above and beyond other Linux computer vendors. Whether you want a basic low-end computer or a fancy high-specced system, you can choose how you want it.
  4. They get back to you quickly if you have questions. I had a couple of quick questions before ordering which I emailed them about; they got back to me quickly and were really helpful. These people are passionate about Linux. They're not just a random e-commerce outfit looking to make a quick buck off Linux customers. They really know what they're doing.
  5. Comes with 1 year support warranty; you may choose to add extra time to your support period at the time of ordering.
  6. No confusion when the product arrives. Safely packaged with custom-fitting foam blocks. No extra parts you don't know what to do with; no complicated stuff. It's ready to go and works out of the box. I just hooked it up to my keyboard, mouse and monitor and I was up and running right away.
  7. Product looks awesome. It has a super-professional looking case, and the inside LED lights shine blue near the fan when the computer turns on. Very nice! Different models will have different cases etc but yes they do make an effort for the final product to look great.

Cons

  1. Tariffs and fees are only shown after you put the item in your cart. It's still before payment, so that's OK, but I was a bit surprised to see an extra tariff appear at that point. On a positive note it was well explained in the cart: they said that due to the U.S. import tariffs of parts from China, they would be adding this surcharge to the cost of the computer. I would have liked it better if instead they'd put an explanation in the previous step, just above the "add to cart" button. Something along the lines of "In your cart, you'll see an extra surcharge to cover increased import tariffs of computer parts from China. The cost of this depends on your desired configuration, so that's why it's added after you put your item in the cart."
  2. Ditto the above for shipping charges. I was of course expecting a shipping charge and had accounted for it in my budget, but it still would've been helpful if they'd indicated typical shipping estimates for at least some of the popular countries somewhere in the product page. In my case, the tariff and shipping cost combined added an extra 20% or so to the cost of my computer, so just be aware of it when you shop. This is not a big criticism as the final price was still much cheaper than for other Linux computer vendors.
  3. Poor communication about shipping. I would have expected a little more information such as "your computer shipped; here is its tracking number" etc etc. Nope. The good news is that it shipped quickly and arrived safely. There was a ring at my doorbell and lo and behold, a big box from ThinkPenguin was there. It would also have been helpful if there had been info when ordering for whether the customer needs to be at home to sign for it, or what. Luckily I happened to be home when the courier company delivered - I don't remember whether or not I had to sign for it. The lack of shipping communication is not a big problem since the item arrived safely and promptly, but I would have liked a "heads-up" about it after ordering. It might be scary for new customers to hear nothing about shipping after they've placed an order and paid! It's quite possible that that ThinkPenguin did send a shipping email and it somehow went to spam, but I certainly didn't get one in my inbox.

The verdict

ThinkPenguin is an honest, reliable and legitimate seller of custom Linux computers. You can spec your computer how you want; whether that's a basic cheap computer or a fancy system. My experience shopping there was overwhelmingly positive, and the only criticisms I had were very minor ones which did not in any way affect the product I received.

What now?

You'll almost certainly find you're more productive on Linux than on Microsoft or Apple, because you can set up your Linux operating system and desktop exactly the way you want. I've made many gains in productivity that way and can get a ton more done in less time.

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