System76 Unveils Thelio "Open" Desktops With Intel/AMD CPU Options, NVIDIA/Radeon GPUs

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 1 November 2018 at 11:08 AM EDT. 46 Comments
System76 has finally unveiled the specifications and design for their Thelio desktop systems they have been teasing in recent weeks.

Thelio is their start of what they say is an open-source computer albeit in its current stage it's far from being there. They have open-sourced some elements of the functionality and the chassis and other key elements they are manufacturing themselves are open-source so anyone can reproduce if they have the manufacturing capability, etc. But powering these systems are Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors and at this time the key motherboard functionality isn't yet freed.

It doesn't appear they are using Coreboot at this time for their BIOS / motherboard firmware. Newer Intel chips can work with Coreboot on some motherboards albeit with still relying upon the Intel FSP. AMD Ryzen meanwhile doesn't have any Coreboot support yet.

These hand-crafted, built-in-the-US systems start out at $1099 for an AMD Ryzen or Intel Core CPU and options of Radeon or GeForce GPUs. The graphics card options are another interesting choice... They do offer AMD Radeon (Polaris) graphics card options with the open-source driver (granted, the AMDGPU firmware is binary-only) but they also offer GeForce RTX and TITAN V graphics card options that are not suitable at all for open-source driver usage. The newer NVIDIA GPUs don't work well at all on open-source or really anything post-Kepler right now I cannot recommend with anything but the proprietary NVIDIA driver.

As far as the chassis, it looks quite nice and there are maple and walnut finishes. Pricing starts at $1099 USD for an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G desktop with 8GB of RAM and 250GB NVMe SSD and integrated Raven graphics. With the Thelio Major kit at $2299 USD is when there are Threadripper and Core-X CPU options or a dual Xeon option beginning at $2899 USD with Thelio Massive.

Given they are a small hardware manufacturer, their pricing obviously still doesn't compete as well as tier-one OEM/ODMs or if you were to assemble the system(s) yourself. But these desktops do look very nice and appear to be of similar quality (or perhaps better, we haven't seen any Thelio hardware hands on yet) to other boutique PC manufacturers. Their open-source effort is at the beginnings and hopefully they will be able to sway more hardware vendors moving forward into providing open-source firmware, etc, while for now the open-source aspect is primarily the design of the chassis and other basic components.

It's a nice start and those wishing to check out Thelio can find more pictures and data over on Pre-orders start today and will begin shipping in December.
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