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Lenovo ThinkPad T460 – A Good Linux Laptop for Development (karussell.wordpress.com)
319 points by karussell on Jan 2, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 375 comments

As an ex-linux user and current mac user, I'm still frustrated by linux laptop hardware support. Ethernet ports that need to be re-plugged, suspend-to-disk not working... lots of glitches things that were already annoying 6-7 years ago but now are hard to justify compared with the polish you can expect from other systems. I could never go back from my macbook because I need everything to just work - no glitchy touchpads, dodgy networking, haphazard sleep (and that's before we get into the quality of the available hardware). I want to actually do things with my computer, not spend my time fixing glitches.

I recently switched back to Linux (ThinkPad/Arch/Kernel4.8) after 5 years using a Macbook Pro (after using linux for 5 years previously).

Linux hardware support has become much better without a doubt.

However just in the last couple days I've had the following sporadic issues:

* External usb keyboard/mouse simply wouldn't work (and doesn't show up in lsusb). Restart fixed.

* If left overnight, occasionally won't wake up from sleep; requires restart.

* Upon start trackpad/trackpoint occasionally doesn't work; do not show up in xinput; probably fixable, but haven't dug into it.

On the other hand, mac had its own issues:

* Macbook takes relatively forever to come back from sleep; thinkpad is practically immediate.

* Macbook wireless constantly has issues connecting, to the point of having to turn off wireless and back on multiple times (this occurs often).

* Opening many tabs in chrome on mac causes serious slowdowns. Have yet to see any slowdown on thinkpad even with 20-30 tabs. This also goes generally for mac beachball issues.

In general, Arch/i3 combo is far better than MacOS for my needs (95% of time in terminal/browser).

But macOS is famous for having fast wake from sleep. It's always had this, years before Windows and Linux started catching up. It's always been near-instantaneous for me.

That said, it would seem that they have, and continue to have, issues with waking up with a new external monitor. Maybe you're being hit by this? Occasionally when I arrive at home or the office and plug my asleep-and-lid-closed MBP 2015 in, the screen will display garbage for a while, and hang for 10-30 seconds until it shows the unlock screen. Sometimes it doesn't recover at all.

I should have been more specific, and the word 'forever' was overly hyperbolic - though when you're doing it 20 times in an hour it gets to feel that way.

Relative is the key:

Linux wakes up in milliseconds every time; by the time I open the lid all the way it's ready to go. rMBP (2012) can be from almost as fast as linux to ~10 seconds. I'd guess the average is ~3 seconds; though sometimes even when it wakes up fast I'll still get a beachball for a bit.

I mostly use my laptop around the house and often open and close it many times in a short period -- for instance say I'm reading something technical on the kindle in the armchair; I'll flip it open quite often to test or look something up quickly, so even having to wait a few seconds gets obnoxious.

I could just leave it open, but I don't always have a safe place to put it while open.

note: no external monitor, so that's not the issue.

> * Macbook takes relatively forever to come back from sleep; thinkpad is practically immediate.

What about battery life?

Have you tried [1]? This is based on a HN comment. Explanations on the functions are also found here [2].

> * Macbook wireless constantly has issues connecting, to the point of having to turn off wireless and back on multiple times (this occurs often).

Which macOS version was this? Wasn't a related framework replaced recently? Or was that only DNS?

> * Opening many tabs in chrome on mac causes serious slowdowns. Have yet to see any slowdown on thinkpad even with 20-30 tabs. This also goes generally for mac beachball issues.

How much RAM is in the MBP? I had 100+ tabs open on a MBP 2010 (4 GB RAM default, replaced with 8 GB RAM, replaced 512 GB HDD with 256 GB SSD) and never had any issue with that after the hardware replacements. Are you comparing a 5 year old machine with a new one?

> In general, Arch/i3 combo is far better than MacOS for my needs (95% of time in terminal/browser).

Have you ever tried Homebrew (+ Cask) + Amethyst + iTerm2 + Tmux on the Mac?

[1] http://pastebin.com/F3Sh2mjY

[2] http://blog.taylormcgann.com/2012/07/05/hibernate-from-termi...

>* Macbook takes relatively forever to come back from sleep; thinkpad is practically immediate.

Waking up from sleep has been nice and fast in Linux for a while, but I have to say that regardless of all the frustrations I've found using OS X over the last year, waking from sleep isn't one of them. It has been nice and fast every time.

>* Macbook wireless constantly has issues connecting, to the point of having to turn off wireless and back on multiple times (this occurs often).

I've found wireless to be a really bizarre experience on OS X. If there are two networks it can connect to in range, it doesn't seem to pay much attention to the strength of the signal, and it always seems to overstate how strong the signal is (that may feed into the former).

I can be sitting in the same room as another wireless endpoint, and it'll choose the one furthest away from it, where wireless strength is pretty low, and constantly suffer communication problems. I've made it a point now to go check which wifi it has connected to.

You can change your sleep mode to get rid of the hibernate restoration. I have to warn you although, your battery life of your sleeping laptop will go down:


Indeed, very useful. On Android I had similar issues and had to install a program called Wifi Prioritiser (or something akin to that as there's multiple solutions available). Unfortunately it has a slight impact on battery life.

Thanks! I didn't know about that. Maybe that's the difference as my linux is solely suspend to ram (never could get hibernate to work)

It has a user definable order of preference across all SSIDs which you can tweak in network preferences.

Sure. I'd rather it just went with the one with the strongest signal, however. I shouldn't need to juggle SSID priority order based on which room I happen to be in.

A few notes for context on why (for my needs) linux is better than mac:

Off the top of my head there are a few primary reasons I prefer linux:

* WM Aesthetics - Arch+i3 (or any minimal, preferably tiling WM) provides a gorgeous minimalist aesthetic -- checkout /r/unixporn for examples. MacOS is just too visually noisy for me.

* I was going to buy a new macbook pro, but then they went and got rid of the escape and function keys. Escape I could probably live without (I tap caps-lock for escape), but function keys I want (at least until the apple touchbar proves itself to be comparatively useful).

* I'm tired of Apple's hyperbole and smugness, especially considering they haven't done anything really interesting since Jobs passed away.

* Customizability: really no comparison here. This is my big one.

* Pacman/AUR - honestly homebrew is pretty good though.


* Occasional weirdness/breakage.

* Can take a lot of research to figure out how to get things to work at times (note: usually not common things anymore though, like wifi etc); sometimes they just don't work without an unreasonable amount of work, or at all (e.g. hibernate). Many things are esoteric in general and have marginal documentation (arch wiki is great though). Granted this is part of the fun (I mean, I am a programmer :).

* Spent tens of hours setting things up to function the way I want (keep in mind I don't use gnome/kde so that would likely fix a lot of issues like external monitor support for HiDPI, and I tend to do heavy/esoteric customization of the user experience). Most of this is because I haven't used linux as my personal machine for ~5 years (i.e. setting it up again would be a few hours or less likely). If you use Gnome/Unity/KDE this probably wouldn't be the case.

* HiDPI (x1 carbon): I think this is actually decent in kde/gnome/unity (?), but it's pretty terrible in most GUI apps in my minimal setup. After some fiddling chromium is fine and I generally simply don't use GUI apps otherwise, and when I do it's still usable if not great. Retina screen and OS support was the primary thing that kept me on a mac. (edit: terminal and chrome look great so I'm happy)

* Miss a few apps: Quiver, Artful, Dash

* I still keep my mac around just in case, but haven't needed it yet.

* Touchpad: nothing touches a macbook (although I'm not jazzed about the huge new one), on the other hand the X1 Carbon's is actually quite good.

oh, and I use Manjaro-i3 [1] -- I've been there, done that with setting up Arch from scratch...highly recommended.

1: https://forum.manjaro.org/t/manjaro-i3-16-06-16-06-1/3329

FUD. I do use the features you are mentioning, but encounter none of the issues. Thinkpad + Arch user.

We Linux users need to realize we are an island, and it's our duty to:

- Either Linux-QA-check on our own / as a community the hardware we're buying before we buy, because the constructor isn't doing it (it's doing it for the actively supported OS, Windows).

- Or buy {System76 / Thinkpad}, and get {a lot of / some} help from the constructor.

EDIT: agreed that Mac hardware quality is miles ahead though, not contradicting you on this specific point.

Dismissing anecdotes about failure as FUD is not constructive. FUD is first and foremost a business tactic.

Sure, anecdotes aren't necessarily that useful. For every happy Mac user there seems to be an angry one who always had hardware problems, for example. But it's not exactly news that Linux has issues with hardware compatibility. It's the nature of the beast, really; Apple is able to target a very specific configuration, whereas Linux has to work on any old crappy Windows PC.

> "Dismissing anecdotes about failure as FUD is not constructive. FUD is first and foremost a business tactic."

Hm, reading {your, UnoriginalGuy, mwfunk} comments, I realize "FUD" is a loaded term. I was using it literally, missing the strong stuff associated with it. Point taken, thanks.

+1 Thinkpad+Fedora user here... things have never been better.

I'd also try out an XPS-13 if I could afford it; but my $300 second-hand x230 works like a charm for now.

> FUD.

That's a very disrespectful way of starting a post. In particular as you conclude that you largely agree with them. So which is it, they're spreading "Fear, uncertainty and doubt" or they're right? In either case, seems unconstructive.

> So which is it, they're spreading "Fear, uncertainty and doubt" or they're right?

They're spreading the FUD that Linux laptop hardware support is frustrating, no questions asked. It's FUD because it's a fear-inducing oversimplification of the current state of things, which is that Linux laptop hardware support is enjoyable -if you do your homework-.

It's not FUD by definition because they are literally talking about their personal experiences. FUD is a form of astroturfing. FUD is knowingly and intentionally dishonest, by definition. If you're going to immediately sink to that level, why bother with FUD accusations- just go full Slashdot and accuse them of shilling for some company you don't like because of some random tribal affiliation.

I think the point was that most would rather just have a machine that works out of the box so they can do their actual work instead of 'doing their homework' on how to get their machine to hibernate, connect to wifi reliably, etc...

You're re-framing the context of "doing their homework".

I agree you shouldn't be doing any homework to perform basic tasks such as "get [the] machine to hibernate, connect to wifi reliably, etc...". I'm not doing any of it on my Thinkpad, where these tasks work without messing around.

And in an ideal world, yes, I'd love not having to ever think about it too :) . But in the current Windows-dominated non-Mac consumer hardware world, what I say is that you should be doing homework prior to buying a machine you expect to install Linux on.

OP meant on what machine to buy (something you'd probably do before buying a Windows laptop anyway). But if like me can't be bothered with even this then just buy a system 76 or an xps with ubuntu pre-installed... No homework required.

Having to do your homework rather than it working out of the box is frustrating.

From your perspective, maybe. But it's a very close minded thing to say.

Similar story here. Used linux in my HS/early college years, but switched to Mac when the swapped to intel. Recently looked at the possibilities of using linux again, but haven't really found any hardware that "just works." There is that one dell ubuntu dev laptop, but that is a pretty expensive gamble at $1800.

The best luck I've had for now is installing ubuntu on a crappy cheap Samsung Chromebook. Runs really well and everything seems to work fine, but the hardware is junk (The screen is atrocious coming from retina IPS displays.) Fun to play around with though, plus the battery life is incredible for it's $180 price tag.

We have more than one (dell.com/sputnik), several of which are less than $1800. If you're in Europe, you can also order online most of our Latitudes with Ubuntu too (should be able to by phone in the US too).

I've got a Dell dev laptop on order now. Hope to give a full report on how well it work soon.

Dell has a 30 day return policy for what it's worth though.

I've owned and used both the Dell Precision M3800 and now the Precision 5510 running Ubuntu. They've generally worked well for me. The M3800 with UHD screen and discrete graphics generally sounded like a jet taking off when the fan was going. The 5510 is practically silent in my experience and works more reliably to boot (e.g. I have a lot less trouble with the new Intel WiFi card than I did with the M3800's Broadcom card). Your mileage may vary of course.

I recently got the Precision 5500, which is great for the most part. The screen flicker is a trifle irritating, but I've had zero Linux compatibility problems. (I opted for Intel graphics.)

I just got one with the discrete graphics, and it works great with nvidia-prime. I only had to configure the touchpad a bit to avoid bumping it while I type. I upgraded from my beloved T420, and this is a great laptop.

What chromebook and how hard was the install?

I hear you on the display. My retina screen makes anything else painful.

I have a Samsung ARM (2 core, 2G RAM, 16G Flash) based ChromeBook, Model XE303C12. It's rather simple to get Linux to work on it. You first enable developer mode and then install Crouton (which basically runs a full fledged Linux in chroot jail - to satisfy the based Linux install.

It works exceptionally well and I generally get about 10 hours of use on each battery charge. I store my work in progress on a USB3 USB flash drive.

The screen is only 1366 x 768 and the touchpad is rather lousy. So given the shortcomings, I've gone back to using an old MBP. Maybe buying a second-hand MBA and installing Linux on that is the better option.

It really seems like only Apple can do touchpads. Thank you for the feedback! It saves me doing it and regretting it. Though some of them have better monitors.

I'm running linux on my laptops for decades and experienced none of the problems you mentioned. Everything works flawlessly. If you plan to run linux on your laptop, you will have to research first how well the computer is supported. You can't install MacOS (or even Windows) on just any computer neither.

I'll raise you one and say that even if you installed Linux on a laptop built for Linux, it would still be inferior to a MacBook. I bought a System76 GalagoPro a few years back, today it is a media center. It's the most use it's gotten since I bought it.

Depends...I had more problems with my work MBP to be honest than with my Arch clevo laptop I use at home.

On the MBP, I experience semi-frequent freezes, kernel panics, overheating, unstable WiFi, inaccurate battery status reporting, scaling issues, occasional green tint, FS lock up etc. - it's still nice, but I wouldn't say it's more smooth than modern Linux with GNOME 3, in fact I've had much less problems with that setup than with my MBP.

Arguably the difference is still the amount of resources Apple throws at the Macbook line compared to the amount of resources System76 throws at their computers. Truth be told I'd rather buy a Thinkpad or Dell XPS than a System76 laptop.

Apple has engineers dedicated to building hardware and software that work together. They design and manufacture their own hardware. System76 doesn't. They pick out some components, and get them assembled elsewhere, and ship that out to you.

A better comparison would be Dell's XPS line, which at least has some number of people actively working on making sure they work well and are well supported, but still not to the same degree as Apple, and my understanding is they're generally told "make this work with Linux", as opposed to building a laptop specifically for linux.

The basic issue with all this is hardware manufacturers, and their fire and forget attitudes towards products.

Thus they barely get their stuff working on the major commercial platforms, and all the rest have to either beg for specs so they can write their own (good luck) or reverse engineers (and risking bricking the hardware because of abusing standards for firmware flashing and whatsnot).

And your primary complaint boils down to power management, aka ACPI. And it, like UEFI, suffers from the second system effect (Linus Torvalds do not hold either in high regard for example). There is at least one documented case of a name brand motherboard offering up junk ACPI data unless Linux claimed to be Windows.

Linux appears to be at a standstill because each time a new motherboard or expansion card gets released, the process basically starts from ground zero unless it happens to be based of some bottom of the barrel chip with zero modifications so the Linux devs can just add another product ID to the driver table and call it a day (resulting in things like USB webcam drivers that support some 100+ camera models).

> There is at least one documented case of a name brand motherboard offering up junk ACPI data unless Linux claimed to be Windows

I hadn't heard about this and was curious. Google turned up this:


> Thus they barely get their stuff working on the major commercial platforms, and all the rest have to either beg for specs so they can write their own (good luck) or reverse engineers (and risking bricking the hardware because of abusing standards for firmware flashing and whatsnot).

Thus the shortest way to get a working system is to stop being an hipster and use one of the major commercial platforms.

> Thus the shortest way to get a working system is to stop being an hipster and use one of the major commercial platforms.

Being a hipster has very little to do with using Linux these days. Wanting a productive, customisable work environment has a lot, on the other hand.

Whenever you're stuck with bad drivers, hardware issues and having to reverse engineer your platform, you are not productive.

Perhaps, but I get very annoyed with basically everything to do with Windows. Best case scenario for actually getting work done on a computer running Windows for me is to just setup a virtual machine running some flavor of Linux, and just spend all my working time in that VM.

Which, in that case, why even have Windows installed, you're just giving resources to something that isn't doing anything besides giving you access to an entirely separate operating system.

Yes, this is perhaps a manufactured problem, but windows is just generally not conductive to my style of work. And really all I need is zsh, tmux, and vim working without causing an audible ping every time I hit a key to be happy.

I'm probably the only one around here that went from Mac to Linux... I decided to do this after a number of frustrating problems with hardware: ethernet port not working [1] and a severely swollen battery (although I followed all the advices to prevent this) which was not covered by the warranty "because of the laptop's serial number".

I decided to buy a Lenovo E540 a couple of years ago, on which I run Linux Mint: I like KDE's awesome interface add much add I liked Mac OS X's. I wouldn't ever go back...

[1] https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5687308?tstart=0

I still run Linux despite all the challenges and all the hardware constantly breaking and working just-not-right, because I just love the openness and I don't understand how can Apple (and windows) users survive without "apt-get". Homebrew is a poor substitute for me.

I am basically using linux just for apt-get, the configurability and the ability to test server-side software in the same-ish environment as it will actually run in is a nice plus.

But yeah, people that argue that "there are no issues" are either lying or were incredibly lucky. I actually bought a laptop that had ubuntu pre-installed that stopped working immediately after doing a system update! (Because the laptop had a binary blob driver for a graphic card, and that stopped working with some new kernel or whatever.)

I run linux mostly because I want to be able to use the machine in whatever way I like. MacOS is designed around "You use it this way", and tries to keep you away from the warts by kind-of enforcing that position.

One of the most ridiculous examples of "You must do it our way" is the inability to remap mouse buttons (or even support buttons on a mouse with more than left, right and scroll.) MacOS would rather you use gestures on the magic mouse (that thing is an ergonomic nightmare). To be able to support extra buttons, you have to pay for software from the app store, e.g. USB Overdrive.

Homebrew has been pretty great for me. You can install desktop apps with brew cask, dump your current app install state with brew bundle and then reinstall it all with one command on a new machine. You can even manage mac store apps with brew bundle with the `mas` app. It has been pretty central in my dotfiles script.

Consider using a VM, and using either Windows or OS X as graphical user interface. You can then easily SSH into the VM, and do most of the development there. If you run a samba (or nfs) server on the VM, you can even easily use e.g. VS Code. Add an X server and you can run (albeit not very fast) run graphical programs (e.g. and IDE) as well.

And what would be the upside to that?

Sure, HW would work better, but I don't want to update two OSes instead of one.

And the only thing I am really missing on Linux is Adobe Creation Suite. GIMP and Inkscape are not nearly adequate (although they are for a better price). And there is literally nothing like Flash, for a simple animation.

Which introduces issues on other sides ...

I've found apt-get compared to homebrew close to useless, it has rapidly outdated packages that have been modified and "fixed" in various ways by maintainers. It also does not properly separate two completely different concerns:

1. Provide a updates for a base installation, the details of which you essentially don't want care about (working drivers, recent kernel version, recent version of wayland/x11 etc.)

2. Provide a repository of curated, versioned and up-to-date software development dependencies

Apt-get does an adequate job at 1., although I have more than once broken my base installation because the binary graphics driver broke after an update, but not so much at 2.

Homebrew is good because you can completely mess up your installation and not effect the base system at all and it is a good starting point to get reasonably up to date development packages. It also offers a much smoother user experience than most package managers.

YMMV. For me, I got angry that there were many parallel ways of updating and getting software on Mac.

Some elevated Apple apps are updated via System Update. Some are updated via Mac App Store. Some are updating themselves when they feel like it. Some are updated via brew, or via macports.

But I am not gonna argue much or anything, I grew out of my teens and I no longer want to tell other people that my OS is the best :) it's not, I definitely wouldn't give Linux to my mom (at this state).

It does provide this via PPAs

Being a current Linux and former macOS user, I actually miss Homebrew sometimes. It's much easier to get recent versions of software and also easier to set up your own repository (tap).

This is one of the reasons why Arch is so popular, AUR + a client has a very similar feeling to Homebrew.

Huh. Didn't know. Perhaps I should take a look at Arch more seriously :)

In my experience Linux on Mac when the hardware is supported brings overall better experience for development than Mac OS. USB-to-anything dongles that just work without any driver installation, much better behaviour under memory pressure, container technologies that allows to run not-so-trusted software without overhead of VM, fancy networking setups for stimulating production setups.

For that I tolerate ocasional (like twice in a week) forced power offs when the notebook does not wake up or when wifi stops working.

About drivers: You are right... but things get a lot lot more messy if your specific USB driver is not maintained in the Linux Kernel.

I have the opposite experience with memory pressure (speaking only about desktop here). macOS (& Windows) do memory compression by default and most of Linuxes I know don't do that by default. I also have the feeling that at least desktop Linux get's incredible slow when you run out of memory and swapping begins (never encountered similar amount of slowliness on Windows or macOS with low memory).

Regarding container technology and macOS. If you are into docker checkout latest dlite beta: https://github.com/nlf/dlite/releases It runs docker on Kernel virtualization level on macOS with xhyve without the need of VirtualBox etc.

I installed Docker today on a fresh macOS installation and was very delighted to find out that VirtualBox is no longer required. The latest official Docker version for Mac uses HyperKit, also based on xhyve.

I always activate zswap as a part of Linux installation. With that Linux handles memory pressure better than mac os or Windows especially when the size of dataset reaches 130-150% of RAM.

All operating systems suffer from similar random, minor, glitchy issues. I use all three extensively on a daily basis and while there are things I like about all three, there are also things I dislike about each of them.

Linux is generally a little worse. However, from my experience Windows and MacOS are approximately equally buggy in comparison to one another.

An example of an issue I have with my Macbook is that every single day I have to plug my network cable into it 2-4 times before it will recognize the connection.

I agree to this, but Linux gives other advantages in the long run like better updates and greater independence.

Furthermore you have a lot less problems these days with Linux IMO and so often the quirks are fast to fix. E.g. the full installation cost me 1h plus 1h for copying my old data and I could start working.

> dodgy networking

Had recurring wifi issues on a Macbook Pro as well (as did many of my co-workers)... Not saying it's great on Linux but I would hardly call the alternatives much better...

Same, after about 48 hours uptime my MacBook will start dropping network connection every few minutes. This can only be cured by a full reboot.

The MacBook also regularly (at least once per week) drops all input devices (including built in keyboard and trackpad), which can only be cured by a hard power-strangle and reboot.

My colleagues experience the same problems too.

Basically, the ultra-reliable Mac is a myth, its as prone to failure as any computer.

Exact same experience. Roughly 48 hours of uptime and then I have to reboot in order to maintain a SSH connection.

That, and Finder that becomes unusably slow after working with images for a few hours. (Admittedly, tens of thousands of images, but it degrades to the point that merely opening an empty folder takes 2-3 seconds.)

I have this issue with my 11" MacBook Air as well as my 15" MacBook Pro from work. I do not have the issue with my personal MacBook Pro, which is identical hardware configuration and model to my work machine. All are running the same version of macOS. It's honestly a kind of a mystery to me.

I've never experienced this. Have you considered taking it into the genius bar?

Same. Also never-ending Bluetooth issues.

Agreed. I pay extra $$ for system 76 machines for just this reason. Things just work.

I haven't found a model from system 76 that has a display more than 1080x1920, but I really want to support them.

To be fair, I've only bought their Meerkat (like a Mac Mini). I looked at their laptop offerings, but couldn't justify the high price for underwhelming specs. I wound up giving up and just buying a $200 Chromebook.

Witnessed both a mac and windows machine having software/networking glitches, both with non-esoteric hardware pretty much at factory settings. I wish it was a case of use just fire up and forget, but sadly 'bugs' plague all platforms.

Yes, yes, exactly this. I've been using Linux for 15+ years on my desk/laptop, but switched to Mac roughly one year ago. I'm afraid I can never go back.

I had none of problem stated above for years. I use/used Acer/Dell/HP/Medion notebooks with Fedora Linux.

I don't really have problems with any of these things ...

I've owned Thinkpads in the past and almost bought the T460 last month, then I discovered the Dell XPS / Precision line and fell in love. I picked up a manufacturer refurbished XPS 15 on eBay and wound up swapping in a Dell Precision E3-1505M motherboard I stumbled across.

The line has Intel quad core CPUs, minimal bezel (my 15" is almost the same size as the 14" System 76 Galago Ultra Pro it's replacing), reasonably slim for a quad core, 84Wh battery, 10+ hours of low power dev (baseline power is about 5.25W on my 8GB + 1080p + Xeon E3-1505M machine) in (Arch) Linux? YES.

Oh yeah, and for nerd points the Dell Precision M5510 has the option for Intel Xeon and Ubuntu stock for people doing CPU intensive Linux work (in my case Linux embedded system builds that grind for tens of minutes to two hours).

To add icing on the cake, you can easily get parts (batteries, motherboards, etc) on eBay if you ever need to fix it yourself which is a sharp contrast to the non-existent System76 Galago Ultra Pro I picked up a few years ago after I ditched my last Thinkpad.

I keep looking at the Thinkpads, but they seem a generation behind.

> Xeon E3-1505M machine

Except they don't ship with ECC memory.

> 32GB, DDR4-2133MHz SDRAM, 2 DIMMS, Non-ECC [0]

So what's the point of having a Xeon? The Core i7 options offered for the laptop support all the same processor features [1], except ECC memory [2], which Dell isn't even shipping.

[0] http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/precision-m5510-workstatio...

[1] http://ark.intel.com/products/88970/Intel-Core-i7-6820HQ-Pro...

[2] http://ark.intel.com/products/89608/Intel-Xeon-Processor-E3-...

Edit: I think it's a legitimate gripe, Dell is selling a Xeon but there's zero benefit over buying an i7 equipped model. But thanks for all the downvotes!

In Dell's Belgian shop at least, you can pick every memory config for the Precisions with or without ECC, provided you have picked a Xeon CPU as well.

I upvoted you. I agree that shipping non-ECC ram with a Xeon is at best unconventional.

I suppose the ability to install ECC memory on one's own is still a benefit. Still would be nice for Dell to ship with it, though, instead of requiring customers to buy it elsewhere.

What's the benefit of ECC on a laptop? Less frequent system failures? I haven't seen a system halt on my laptop in months.

Maybe better rowhammer resistance?

It's just more frequency and cache for me, but for enterprise there are more management features.

Maybe in the firmware Dell is shipping, but the CPUs are identical in their feature set as per the ark links I supplied.

The only difference in the processors is the Xeon supports ECC, while the Core i7 doesn't. But Dell isn't shipping the laptop with ECC anyway.

The specifications don't even list support for ECC RAM! [0]

[0] http://i.dell.com/sites/doccontent/shared-content/data-sheet...

> The only difference in the processors is the Xeon supports ECC, while the Core i7 doesn't. But Dell isn't shipping the laptop with ECC anyway.

The clock is faster, try the compare link[0].

And since I originally bought a XPS 15 with the i7-6700HQ then scored a deal on a Precision E3-1505M motherboard and frankensteined my laptop, I spent 30 seconds doing a benchmark[1]. The tl;dr is that for 6% faster clock, you actually get about 10% better performance, so the cache is contributing. Is it worth the Xeon mark-up? Probably not if I didn't come across a deal, but hey, this thing still costs way less then the local fruit farm alternative.

[0] http://ark.intel.com/compare/88967,88970,89608

[1] https://github.com/kylemanna/dell-xps-9550-precision-5510

> The clock is faster, try the compare link[0].

Now the interesting question is of course whether that 3 % difference holds up when these are used in an actual laptop, ie. does it make a difference before all of them throttle anyway?

> does it make a difference before all of them throttle anyway?

I thought this as well, figured the i7-6700HQ was popular because it maxed out the thermal design, but haven't observed this.

Mine didn't throttle at all. Test setup was on a desk plugged in to the 130W power adapter, nothing special. The benchmark ran for 10 minutes without throttling, note that Github tests show that the first pass was just as fast as the last.

If anyone is really interested, I can run the tests again, but I expected it would throttle after a few minutes of the fans roaring and hence why I ran a few tests back to back and averaged them. Also, I cut the test short because I wanted to swap the motherboards and get on with life. :)

It may throttle if the Nvidia GPUs were enabled and working at full load, but they weren't as this is how I normally work and what I bought the laptop to do.

Update: Ran CPU Burn's `burnmmx` x 8 for 20 minutes and monitored it with i7z, and the cores remained at 3.3GHz the entire time with the cores ranging from 60C - 70C. Recorded it with asciinema, but apparently it doesn't play nice with tmux so it's not really readable.

+1 on this. And for people planning to buy an XPS, just wait for a month. new models of XPS are being announced at CES. https://mspoweruser.com/dells-new-convertible-xps-13-leaks-a...

The convertible, bezel-less XPS convertible = macbook pro + ipad pro

Actually convertible is a disadvantage for me. Why would I need this?

I got cheap HP envy 360 ($699) with convertible design.

Love that feature - use it a few times.

Great to convert it as huge 15 inch, 1080p, 16GB RAM tablet and browse the web/amazon with a few people together. 16GB makes is much better browser experience than ipad and most of the android. The con is that it does weight a lot more than regular tablet.

Well, the old non-convertible will get cheaper when the new convertible model comes out, that is advantage :P

You don't need to use it, so I wouldn't count it as a disadvantage (only the things that come with it, like increased weight).

Reduced battery time (?), more stuff to fail and being dependent on software for hotswap functionality which may have some serious issues with non-Windows and even none NT10 based Windows operating system and the list can go on.

We're not talking about a fingerprint reader here. Convertible laptops have to make very specific design choices/compromises which come with some disadvantages currently.

this is FUD. reduced battery has nothing to do with a convertible form factor. You are talking about the display resolution perhaps - QHD displays are obviously more power hungry than FHD. But then again, most people want "Retina".

Software has largely matured for hotswap. Fedora 25 with kernel 4.9 is brilliant on a convertible. Windows has had it for decades.

We already use the cheaper yoga and Dell inspiron convertibles in my workplace. They are awesome. Dell and Lenovo have had many years of experience in building convertibles by now. We are talking of 500$ laptops here. The Dell 5368 hinges are well reviewed by now [1] [2]

IMHO the design of Yoga 900 (with its "watchband" hinges are unparalleled).

BTW, we are in non-Apple territory here. Replacing hinges is damn easy. You can buy a ton of them on ebay.

[1] http://www.techarp.com/articles/dell-inspiron-13-5000-laptop...

[2] http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1404957/dell-inspiron...

No I do mean design constraints, hinged screen is one thing, a fully convertible one is another.

As far as the hinges, I had to replace the hinges on my Yoga 900 due to lose cylinders twice already under warranty.

Getting the wristband replacement as an aftermarket part hinge is well impossible.

On my Yoga 1 I've replaced the hinges myself and it never really fits like it came from the factory don't know if they do fitting but it's never 100% straight and with the amount of glue and crap they use to seal laptop with its never really like new.

Laptops with a rotating screen add complexity and have to add weight to make the laptop balance depending on the modes that the screen have to operate under.

They also have other design constraints for the keyboard and buttons which means the typing experience is often sub par due to a shallower keyboard and the screen has to be touch.

Laptops with a detachable screen as in convertibles have other issues including still blue screens (my Surface Book will still blue screen from time to time) as well as a lot more design constraints as far as what goes where in terms of hardware.

The Surface Book is probably the best designed by you still get a very top heavy laptop with a very small battery in tablet mode and problematic thermals.

If I'm buying a laptop I don't want a rotating screen, I don't want a touchscreen, and I don't want any of the crap that has to be tacked on or removed to allow it to turn into a tablet.

> this is FUD.

I wish people who stop using "FUD" as a synonym for "incorrect" or "wrong".

FUD ("fear, uncertainty and doubt") is a disinformation strategy to undermine the opposition and "influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information and a manifestation of the appeal to fear" [1].

FUD was famously a tool used by Microsoft against its competitors.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt

what's the right word for "you are suffering from FUD that Apple has inflicted"?

you are fudded?

Touchscreens do use more power than equivalent regular screen.

As the OP suggested to wait for a few months for the new XPS 13 I thought this was about "touchscreen" vs "touchscreen + 360° hinge".

If you get the XPS and plan on Linux, plan to buy the Intel 7260 2x2 WiFi card. I tried the Dell DW1830 3x3 Broadcom WiFi and the driver support is rough for both WiFi and Bluetooth.

They do not ship Intel/Broadcom anymore, the current gen has Atheros ("Killer") wifi.

Does anyone have any idea if I could buy the Intel wifi and have Dell swap it in? I have whatever the highest non business warranty support is at the moment.

It takes 10 minutes to do it yourself. The Intel card costs about $15, consider getting the 8260, which is $5 extra and newer (Bluetooth 4.2). While your at it swap out the M.2 SSD for something bigger (1TB ~AU$600)

I don't know, but I swapped it myself recently and it was easy, once I found a T5 screwdriver and a guitar pick.

You can choose the intel card on the Precision 5510, which is basically the same as the XPS 15. I doubt you can send your intel Wifi card to Dell and have it installed.

I had the 7260 but for some reason it was slow and was always dropping the connection. Happy with the 8260 now.

Oops, I meant 8260. That's what I'm using.

Since my MacBook Air is long in the tooth (4 GB ram, non-upgradable), I'm thinking of getting an XPS when they're announced. Kaby Lake + Iris sounds fantastic, I hope that's what they announce.

A lot of people who buy Thikpads, myself included, are doing so mainly for the track point, which the XPS doesn't have.

I prefer using a Trackpad, however the Thinkpads have a middle button, which I use all the time in Linux.

I think by default hitting the left and right mouse buttons in linux emulates a middle click. You can also configure three finger clicks as a middle click, which is my preference.

The XPS touchpad is comparable to Macbook one, you won't miss the track point.

I was forced to use a Mac for one of my job ; didn't get converted to the touchpad!

The Thinkpad p50/p70 also have the Xeon option and can be configured with ECC.

I just got through installing Ubuntu on my p70...love it so far. I've lost count of how many Thinkpad Linux Laptops I've gone through over the years, but not a single one ever failed or had compatibility issues with Linux: my 6 year-old w510 is my DHCP server has been up and running for 467 days running Ubuntu (it was powered off due to a power outage). There's a w540 and w520 sitting idle, and other T-series ones that are unusable only because the batteries are shot. Well-built and reliable.

How's the keyboard and the TrackPoint?

"just works". Touch surface is smooth, clicks require slightly more force then an old rMBP I had. Only real concern is that it might be too sensitive and clicks while my finger is hovering. This might be configurable, but haven't cared enough to try.

As for keyboard, feels great to me, but I'm not that picky.

That sounds like a trackpad.

With discovered you mean you bought one? What about the noise and battery time under normal and high work load?

> With discovered you mean you bought one?

Yes, ordered a manufacturer refurbished XPS 15 from eBay, apparently that's a popular thing to do. A day or two later I stumbled on a deal on the Precision 15 E3-1505M motherboard and took a gamble on swapping it. Worked out without any issues other then likely warranty complications if I ever go down that road.

I can easily get 6+ hours on it doing vim + chromium + GCC builds. If I baby it, it can do 10 hours I assume, but it's to the point it doesn't matter unless you need to go a weekend without charging.

My old System 76 ultra pro was lucky to get 2.5 hours doing the same things.

Most of my components are selected for power. I've heard the 4k display with touch is brutal for battery life and selected 1080p instead. I have 8GB of RAM, started to swap in 32GB but the baseline power at idle went from 5.25W to around 7W. The bigger 84Wh battery is an obvious choice and I use the Intel GPU 99% of the time (sometimes the Quadro M1000M for the rare times I play games via bumblebee).

I used to have a Dell Precision M4800 and honestly you don't buy them for battery life. They're desktop workstation replacements that you haul off to meetings occasionally. I got about 2-3 hours of battery time on that thing when running usual work-related workloads on it... (IDE, VM's etc.). I don't remember the noise, but I'm not very sensitive to noisy laptops so I may have never noticed.

I miss that laptop. The build quality was through the roof and it was solid as a brick.

The new Precisions are a lot less Desktop workstation replacements and more power efficient. I wonder if they still offer the same kind of performance though.

> I wonder if they still offer the same kind of performance though

Base clock speed is down a tick (2.7ghz vs. 2.8ghz) compared to previous generation Intel chips in the M4700/M4800 line vs. the new Precision 5510. Same 8M cpu cache; presumably newer intel chips are more efficient and make up for performance difference elsewhere (e.g. less heat = less cpu throttling during intensive tasks).

Sitting on the fence here, waiting to see if Intel's next line of mobile CPUs bring significant performance improvements. Current setup (M4700, i7 extreme, 2 X SSD, 32GB) is awesome modulo the battery life, which is about 2 hours for minimal workloads.

And one of the most awesome things about Thinkpads not mentioned; you can get every (most?) replacement part directly from Lenovo. You can actually look up the part number in the service manual, order it, and replace it yourself. For nerds like us, this is sooo nice sometimes, when you just wanna get it fixed quickly, from the comfort of your own home.

The fact that there are easily accessible service manuals (that tell you how to fix the computer) or sometimes videos (that show you how to fix the computer) is also a nice plus.

Good to hear that Lenovo has continued to do this after the split from IBM - I ordered a new front bezel for my X40 when it cracked and the amount of parts available was staggering.

Didn't knew this, thanks. I also like the fact that the (rear) battery is easily replacable. Also something more recent laptops do avoid due to "the thin contest"

Recent laptops don't just avoid replaceable batteries due to thickness or weight; they avoid them because they want to cram as many battery cells in as possible, and provide longer battery life. A modern laptop chassis contains 50-80% battery cells by volume; every bit of the volume not occupied by other components gets filled by battery.

So thickness and weight are the drivers for this: You can always build a laptop that has the same battery capacity with a detachable battery as you can with a non-detachable. It's just going to be thicker and heavier.

It'll also have a great deal of wasted space, more moving parts, more breakable components, less structural support, additional hardware and software validation requirements, and require some careful engineering to avoid having it fall over backward when you open the screen slightly past vertical (battery cells work nicely as a counterweight). All for a laptop that wouldn't sell as well because people do care about size and weight.

Getting the same battery capacity would require a battery much larger than the classic removable ThinkPad battery; you'd need a system where you can remove a battery 60-80% the size of the chassis.

On the flip side, you can still replace the battery after a few years when it loses enough of its capacity; it just requires a bit more work. And for people who want more battery capacity and currently swap batteries for that, the trend towards using USB-C as the universal charging port will make it easier to have compatible external batteries, that will also work with your phone and other devices.

Why would you open the laptop screen when there is no battery? The only time when you have no battery in the laptop is the few seconds it takes to replace one with another.

AFAIK, fixed batteries are located in the very same place as the removable ones: at the rear of the laptop. They are not spread everywhere, there is no hyper-advanced design is that respect, and they definitely do not occupy 60-80% of the chassis. They could be pulled away / inserted back from the rear is the design choice was such.

> AFAIK, fixed batteries are located in the very same place as the removable ones: at the rear of the laptop.

Not typically. The tiny system board lives near the back of the laptop, to connect to the ports and the screen. (Often, the system board doesn't even take up the full width of the back of the laptop, and instead has ribbon cables connecting the ports on one side to the system board.) The battery takes up all the space under the front and middle of the laptop.

> They are not spread everywhere, there is no hyper-advanced design is that respect, and they definitely do not occupy 60-80% of the chassis.

I've seen the insides of many laptops, both in person and via pictures. I've seen battery cells laid out in many different shapes around the system board and other components, including Ls, Us, and Hs, and in multiple packets of cells with minimal connections between them.

As for "advanced design", https://www.apple.com/macbook/design/ made a point of talking about its terraced battery cells to fit the enclosure. And while some laptops might not go that far, I've seen many laptops shape groups of battery cells around other components to make a non-rectangular battery.

And as for volume, I've personally seen the internals of many laptops, and the better the laptop, the higher proportion of the volume that consists of battery cells. I wouldn't have given those estimated numbers if I hadn't seen laptops fitting both ends of that range and various points in the middle. (Some quick searches suggest that much smaller laptops, and lower-end laptops, may dip as low as 40-50% battery cells; medium and large laptops, and those intended as higher-end or with higher expected battery life, have more.)

I totally agree that integrated batteries sell better - I just wanted to point out that the driver is "cram the same capacity in less space and weight". It's a tradeoff between the three, and since a lot of people prefer lighter, smaller laptops over serviceability, that's where things go. (Written on a laptop with a non-removable battery).

I'm still waiting for a USB C battery pack that can output the 20V that the XPS 13 requires. That said Dell's external battery pack is excellent, though extremely expensive.

Being able to replace the battery on the go gives you more batterylife than a single cramed one.

Except Lenovo takes forever to ship anything. I can walk down to the Apple Store and have most fixes done the same day.

How much do parts cost though? Are they reasonably priced?

Usually they are.

A new keyboard is like 40-50 € for most models, for example. But don't expect to get a sparkling new system board for 200 €. New rubber feet are like 10 € (but it's the whole set for all rubber feet of the system). For the X20x there are still some parts available new from distributors. Which is like 6-7 years of parts supply.

New ThinkPad keyboards can easily be found on eBay, too, for a bit less. Even ones for models that are many generations old. Very convenient.

This is definitely a hold over from the IBM Thinkpad days. I used this service once to replace the CD-ROM module for my old Thinkpad 760LD. Fun times!

I'm still using an ancient Thinkpad T400 I bought when they first came out (2007, I think?), and I still love it. Despite heavy use, everything works perfectly and the case could probably last for decades. Doing normal dev work on Arch Linux (everything from low level C++ to Python/Julia, but no web stuff) is pleasant despite the dated CPU.

Every time I look at reviews of "modern" laptops or try a friend's machine (Apple, Dell, HP, mostly), I get a little sad over how the market has regressed in the past decade. Thus, the only upgrade I'm considering is getting a few T420/X220 machines to last me another decade or so. My dream would be a T60 case with modern hardware and there's a number of retro Thinkpad projects out there, but it's probably not going to happen. Not sure what I'm going to do when a T420 is finally too dated to be productive on, but thankfully that's a very long way off.

I also still have a T400 chugging along with Arch. It got put in storage for a few years until I dug it out while recycling some other junk and realized it still had considerable life in it.

I just set someone up with a T420 with a few upgrades and it's a fantastic value. Hardest part was finding a source for the rubber HD rails needed to swap a 7mm tall SSD in place of the original 9.5mm platter drive. It was technically a downgrade from a newer thinkpad laptop that they had, but the T420 is just a better machine from fit/finish/touchpad/upgrade/repair perspectives.

If anyone has advice on swapping the screen on a T420 please point me towards it - the T420 screen is, for me, the only negative.

> If anyone has advice on swapping the screen on a T420 please point me towards it - the T420 screen is, for me, the only negative.

There's a lot of people swapping them (one example [1]), but I don't know if there's a consensus on which are the best options, and there's quite a few. I think the T420 and the X220 are by far the best options for reasonably modern but not yet ruined Thinkpads, but for both of them the screens are definitely the weak points.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comments/3hjlbu/so_i_did_t...

You can replace the T420 screen with a $45 Alienware 1600x900 screen that is allegedly plug-n-play and amazing https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comments/4no5ak/t420_alien...

Considering doing it to my T420S :)

I agree that there doesn't seem to be a consensus, which is why I haven't made progress.

The guide you linked to does seem to be more complete than the ones I've seen in the past, thanks!

The gallery linked was especially useful: http://imgur.com/a/O8ntb

I've used a T400 as my kitchen laptop for years, and recently put Win10 on it. I put my SSD in it, back with Win8. The laptop still works great, and it's my main PowerShell workstation - it's where I wrote my Arkdata player tracker static site. (Yes, I wrote it while standing in my kitchen.)

The market is the same, really. What you're seeing is the end of Moore's law, with 10 year old laptops still being effective compute devices. This wasn't true in 2005 - that 1995 laptop was painfully old.

When I said the market has regressed, I wasn't referring to the slowing advances in CPU performance, etc. Normally, such a slowdown would enable manufacturers to focus on creating better cases, improve peripherals, etc. Instead, the obsession with thinness and design fads has led to worse usability, much worse keyboards, fewer ports, etc., and maintainability is virtually gone as a concept.

Obviously, this is largely a matter of preference and I understand that many users care more about thin shiny things than robust cases or high feedback keyboards. That's fine. The issue is that the market segment that the classic Thinkpads used to fill is completely gone now and those users, however few, are stranded.

Those things are still there, but you have to get into the B2B section of the OEM offerings to find them.

Thing about Thinkpads was that IBM didn't do consumer products.

The market for laptops and computing devices has traversed us like an ocean wave. Where we were once among the bleeding edge for such devices, our obsessions - with connections, with customizability, with function over form - have left us among the long tail of compute users.

To rephrase, for the meme generation: https://i.imgur.com/TvSgLr1.png

I keep buying refurbished T420 laptops; even though my employer provided T450, I cannot switch to keyboard without standard Insert/Delete/Home/End set - not to mention losing the Ultrabay flexibility etc.

T420 was the pinacle of the Thinkpads for me; T530 was a meh, T540 is the only time I've seen co-workers genuinely slam their laptops (removal of touchpad buttons etc). T450 brought touchpad buttons and some separation between Function keys, but the home row seems to be gone for good :<

> I cannot switch to keyboard without standard Insert/Delete/Home/End set

Learn the alternative shortcut keys. You can keep your hands closer to / on the home row instead of reaching across the keyboard.

> not to mention losing the Ultrabay flexibility

How often do you swap drives? I haven't used optical media for 5+ years.

- I have more than one keyboard and more than one computer/laptop:). The new thinkpads have non-standard home-row placement. All my external keyboards have standard home-row placement. If I ONLY used Thinkpads, I agree that getting used to their quirks would be viable (certainly explains the vehemence of certain brands;). However, the non-standard home-row patterns of new Thinkpads make them an unwelcome part of my ecosystem.

- I swap drives once or twice a month these days; used to do it more often. Main usage pattern was day/work and night/personal computer - by swapping the drive, my work "computer" had no personal stuff or data; my personal "computer" had no work stuff or data:). Secondary usage pattern is easy transfer of large amount of data - for example, I may have 300GB of photos to process for a wedding on one drive that I put in the ultrabay to process via Lightroom.

Swapping hard drives and batteries is much more useful. It's also nice that you can take your optical drive, which seemed indispensable a decade ago, and replace it with something useful today.

I have a coworker who uses an old thinkpad, and he's swapped out the optical drive with another battery.

For personal use I'm still very productive with an x120e (under Arch naturally). I love the trackpoint device, and I miss it with my work-issued Dell Precision 5500. That being said, the latter works great under Arch as well, and my only annoyance is the weird screen flicker.

I'm still using a T61/T60p hybrid I built. Sometimes it's kind of slow, but plenty of new machines still have 8gb of RAM and an SSD just like mine.

After this model, they switched to a keyboard with a skeletonized baseplate instead of solid steel, though I think the old keyboards can be swapped in to slightly newer models. The big thing for me is the screen. 1600x1200 is perfect for two Emacs windows side by side containing code up to 80 characters wide at a comfortable font size. Later "wide" screen resolutions are more likely to be shorter than wider.

I've been hoping for a change to this resolution monoculture, but I think I'm going to have to build something much more custom to replace this.

It would be so much easier to love my Thinkpad T460s if it wasn't for the touchpad. Coming to Thinkpad and Linux after many years as a Mac-user this was almost a deal breaker for me. The palm detection in synaptic driver is laughable. People installing Linux on the new Macbook Pros are going to have a blast with that gigantic touchpad.

And I don't even think it's just a driver problem, as the touchpad can register a finger hovering over it, or not register it at all, if the finger is somewhat dry. I've spent countless hours trying to fine tune the thresholds, but it's just complete and utter shit.

I would have returned it and gotten a Macbook Pro if it wasn't for the fact that the new Macbook seems more geared towards light weight users with the smaller battery, memory and crazy expensive upgrades.

I've had to re-position my cursor three times while writing this, because my palm moves it around. It's rarely a problem when coding, because I don't stop to think for shorter periods, like I do when typing. A quick fix is to set the syndaemon to lock the touchpad when typing, but you can't have that treshhold too high either or it gets in the way.

Oh, and don't get me started on the speakers. There is no way in hell that Lenovo spent any time to tune the acoustics. Listening to people talk almost always gives resonance in the case. I know it's a laptop, but in the current state they are more or less useless.

On the other hand, what I do love about it:

- Super light weight, very noticeable when coming from a Macbook. - Amazing battery life, I can easily do a full days work on a single charge. - Recharges very quickly, which I think is a result of having two batteries. - Really good keyboard. Probably the reason I'm keeping it. - Debian Stretch was a breeze to switch to. Everything just worked (except for touchapd and docking station!)

But I honestly expected a little more from a laptop that costs $3000.

If you have a very poor touchpad experience you are probably using synaptics driver. Replace it with libinput for much, much better feel (some distros use it as default including Fedora).

I have the same problem with speakers though (X1 Yoga).

nope. stretch uses lininput by default and doesn't even install synaptics unless you ask it to.

Learn to use the trackpoint instead and disable the touchpad.

That's what everyone seems to be saying, but that is more of a workaround than solution, if you ask me.

More than a decade ago I worked in a shop that was all Thinkpads, and I thought I'd never understand the trackpoint users. Then my wife got an x140e for some light-duty work a couple years ago, and somehow the trackpoint (maybe due to my xmonad use) just clicked. Now I love it.

As an aside the x140e is about the cheapest Linux laptop money can buy. It's built like a tank for school kids, and has nothing exotic inside. You can replace the HDD with an SSD, and upgrade the RAM (shared video / system RAM) up to 32GB I hear. It's not a particularly speedy machine, but it runs well enough, and the price is right.

i switched to a mac for work 2 years ago, and i still miss the track point.

The method of interaction is so different it would be nicer to advise people to not use a pointing device at all. I've always wanted to like them, but the track point is a poor man's trackball, and where do you see a trackball these days?

One of the attractions of the trackpoint is that you don't have to move your fingers from the keyboard. Hence, people who are keyboard-centric get pointer access without the usual tradeoff. A dev running a tiling window manager can still have full use of their web browser.

Expect it would be messy to work with for photoshop. For example, it recalibrates if you hold it down too long, and then creeps away when you release it.

Idea for precision work: small trackball and scrollers built into the side of the laptop (like a port).

I got an external Lenovo keyboard because I really like the trackpoint.


Trackpoint is superior to trackball and touchpad because you don't need to raise your fiber from it when going long distance (say one corner of your screen to another corner), and of course the fact that you don't need to take you hands off the keyboard like others mentioned.

Trackpoint only lets you move the cursor or scroll. The touchpad can do a lot more things with multitouch.

It sounds like you're using tap-to-click. If you don't want to get used to the trackpoint you could disable that and actually depress the touchpad when you want to click. Setting the synaptics parameter "ClickPad=0" makes that touchpad work a lot like the Apple defaults. I've been using this configuration for 3 years and I never have the cursor jump around or misbehave at all.

Thanks for pointing me to the correct wording 'palm detection'. Investigating this I found it was completely disabled and now when using it it seems to improve the situation, but will test further.

I'm wondering why this touch pad issue is so important for you if you do development. When I'm not mobile I have a mouse, an external keyboard, headset or external sound system, external monitor etc

The trackpad of a mac really is addictive. Especially if you get used to any gestures.

I guess it's a workflow that has stuck with me from using a Macbook Pro. For some reason I rarely feel comfortable sitting with a monitor, keyboard and mouse for many hours.

Which distribution you are running? You want to post output of xev to xorg-libinput bug tracker. Generally they are very responsive about fixing touchpad for new devices. I don't know why - but it appears that each device needs to be tuned separately (like there is no Universal Palm detection that works for all laptops).

FWIW, with my new T460 (likely exactly the same touchpad hardware as the T460s mentioned) on Fedora 25, the palm detection is actually pretty good. In a typing situation (recent keyboard events) it's engaged and I see the cursor sit rock solid, but if I remove my hands for a few seconds, replace them on the home row without typing, and then wiggle my palms I can see events generated.

This is IMHO exactly the desired behavior. Not sure whether this is a feature of Xwayland or Gnome...

I had the touchpad problem on my T430. Installing Touchfreeze greatly reduced the problem. That was 3 years ago though, now gpointing-device-settings is recommended. Haven't tried that.

I run windows on my t460p and haven't seen those touchpad issues, so it does sound driver-related.

Lenovo are on my personal shitlist after superfish and abusing the windows platform binary table. When my current laptop dies (a thinkpad T440p that I'm reasonably happy with), I may have to suck up the performance hit and go to minifree for a machine I can actually trust.

ThinkPads never had Superfish nor the Lenovo Service Engine (the Windows Platform Binary Table thing you're referring to).

Of course you're right that Lenovo never should have put those on any of their machines, but my impression is that ThinkPads and the consumer line are run by very different groups within Lenovo.



Unfortunately, even a recent (Aug 2016) new Thinkpad T460p included a Lenovo Windows app that apparently runs daily to send "usage data" to Lenovo. It is easily disabled, but still troubling because most customers will be unaware that it exists.



> As of September 2015: Lenovo systems may include software components that communicate with servers on the internet - All ThinkCentre, All ThinkStation, All ThinkPad

To be fair, if it comes with a preinstalled version of windows you can never really be sure what is on the machine, can you?

I suspect that if a company really wanted to hide something they probably could. So unless you install windows or another OS on it yourself, you don't know what the manufacturer put on it.

I guess it would not be too hard to find in general if it shows up in the list of processes, but they could make it quite obscure and hard to find.

But yeah, I agree that this is quite an annoying move from Lenovo. The least they could do is make it opt-in instead of on by default.

> you can never really be sure what is on the machine, can you?

Yes, but "not sure if it has spyware preinstalled" is much better than "sure it has spyware preinstalled".

If you are not sure if it has spyware installed, you also do not know what the spyware is doing exactly and it could potentially be worse than what the spyware you know of is doing.

I guess I could argue that the former is actually worse. If you know spyware is installed, you can opt to remove it. If you are not aware of the existance of spyware on the system, and it happens to have spyware, you are more vulnerable.

You could of course take the risk and assume that it does not have spyware, and maybe you're right and everything is fine, but you can not _know_ that it is fine.

That is completely inane. You're telling me that a superset of something is worse than the thing itself, which can only be true if "I know it has no spyware" is worse than "I know it has spyware".

The rest of your comment disingenuously assumes that a computer can only have one piece of spyware, and if you know what it is you can remove it and now you're safe. What if there's more spyware you don't know about? And if your remover is completely safe, why not just run it on all your computers, safe or not?

Not to mention that removing spyware from a computer turns it into a computer that might or might not have spyware.

consider that "sure it has spyware installed" also includes "not sure if it has _other, 'unknown-unknown'_ spyware installed". it's strictly worse.

Lenovo have been repeatedly caught doing this. They have shown that they do not want or plan to have this as an opt-in - instead they are trying to hide it better. It's obvious that it's their strategy, not some one time "mistake". (They put it in BIOS even! (!)). http://thehackernews.com/2015/09/lenovo-laptop-virus.html

I'd recommend going with another vendor than Ministry of Freedom (by Leah Rowe). I ordered a laptop from there and it took months to get the payment processed and the laptop shipped, with barely any contact in between. I thought it was very unprofessional and it definitely was the worst online shopping experience I've had so far.

Expect to wait at least three weeks for every time you send them an email.

The laptop is OK, though it was dirty when it arrived. It had a bunch of some kind of sticker glue on it.

Any vendors you'd recommend? (Non-x86 is fine.)

This is the only other option that has the FSF RYF certificate:


One piece of hardware I'm very excited about is LowRISC: they're developing a fully open-source SoC, including open source chips, SoC and firmware.

I think it's the most promising platform for formally verified computing, because it's open and thus possible to model and verify all the way down.

Thank you, but it doesn't ship outside the US. Are you aware of any other decent libreboot machines, even if they can't be liberated end-to-end?

I'm afraid I don't know of any premade options.

I've been considering building my own and have recently dropped out to start working for myself; I'm thinking, perhaps I could build one for you?

It'd depend on how soon you need it and to what spec, as I'll have to source it from scratch. If you leave some means of contacting you I will, I'm quite interested in building these things for another purpose than "I like having and making these".

I'm passively looking for a machine at the moment but not really actively looking yet - this one's still got a fair amount of life in it. If you want to reach me, the email in my profile works.

Are you planning to do a libre hardware startup or something?

I don't currently have much of a plan aside from "do contracting for personal development and sustenance, while looking for interesting opportunities".

"Secure hardware + software for the masses" is one area I'd really like to work on.

Personally I think the FSF ideology taken too far is pretty ridiculous anyway.

Any reason? I'm not sure I disagree, but it would be helpful for you to provide some justification for calling them "ridiculous".

microcode updates, for one

Sounds like a non-problem if you are going to wipe out Windows and install Linux anyway?

And additionally a non-problem with the ThinkPad line, which is far less susceptible to this sort of tomfoolery.

Why would it be less susceptible? Isn't it the same company that makes them?

Yes, but the ThinkPads have a much bigger reputation on the line than the IdeaPads. Lenovo seems to know better than to annoy the businesses and power users that typically buy ThinkPads, whereas the IdeaPad-buying ordinary user is more tolerant of bloatware.

Not if they have shown that they can go so far as to put in BIOS. Imagine the level of effort it requires to develop something like this? If that is true, why not develop a small dedicated chip for it and put it somewhere unaccessible on the motherboard? (I mean, it's likely that they did or will do this.) http://thehackernews.com/2015/09/lenovo-laptop-virus.html

One thing to consider w.r.t. SuperFish is it was two years ago, and Lenovo did apologise for it. Sometimes you have to keep a grudge, but my opinion on this is it was something that pretty much any laptop manufacturer could have done and they did deal with it. YMMV.

I have avoided buying anything significant made by Todhiba for 30 years. It's probably time for me to drop my grudge against them (it has to do with milling machines and corporate misconduct during the Cold War).

For those of us that were somewhat puzzled about the mention of misconduct, I think this is what todd8 was referring to.


Ah, "consumer" vs "business" computers. I wonder whether this distinction even makes sense. I think the biggest reason it still exists at this point is Best Buy and similar retail outlets, right?

The consumer space at Best Buy is focusing on whatever shit can be made and sold for < $500 dollars. And they are incredible at making stuff cheaper (whatever they may need to drop and break to reach that price).

Business require better built laptops than that, they've got money to pay and they want to have decent services and support. As a special characteristics, they also never bother to have a GPU (save money and power but missing for some consumer folks).

They seem to have signed up for the MS Signature program, so you might now get pure Win10 without bloat.

I'm not sure Win10 is any better than Superfish..

Superfish MITMed SSL communications in a way that created serious security problems.

If you're genuinely not sure then that shows a not-very-good judgement in my opinion. If it is a joke, then it's getting old.

I have a signature ThinkPad bought at a Microsoft store and it came with plenty of software that I would consider bloat. Lenovo ships a lot of extra software on their systems. I'd still recommend a reformat and reinstall of Windows.

After I made a few comments here on HN about the T460, I felt I should condense all the stuff into a short blog post. Feel free to add your experience or alternate developer machines, with pros and cons.

What I missed at Dell and Apple is the possibility to configure your hardware a bit so that it better fits your needs. This was better for Dell when I purchased the Dell Latitude 7 years ago.

I did not choose an MBP because I feel safer with Linux in the long run. I heared that the security updates stop two years afterwards and the software upgrades makes the 'old' hardware a lot slower.

In the end every OS somehow sucks, but Linux sucks least.

I've got a T460 and have been pleased with it although I am running Windows on it at the moment. However it has just developed a fault on the screen (bright spot in the middle).

synclient PalmDetect=1

That should fix the palmdetection problem. If not, also do:

synclient PalmMinZ=0

Ive went with a T420 recently, mostly because of the keyboard. But also because $400 for laptop + battery + Samsung SSD + 16GB hyperX Ram sounded so cheap i could not resist. And honestly even after a 2015 MBP it feels perfect for all my needs. In fact due to the superior RAM and SSD it feels often way faster than the MBP for 5 times that price felt. Plus it has way better battery life.

Seriously Thinkpads are the best dev laptops ever.

The T420 is a 5 year old machine, i highly doubt it can have the same battery life as a modern Haswell/Broadwell/Skylake chip.

Well i am sure more modern chip sets are better overall. But its still better with my 3 cell than i had on a brand new 2015 MBP.

Sorry, but then you did something wrong. Since Haswell they are not only better overall but also much more energy efficient. The Macbooks went from 5-6hours to 10 in that generation.

not sure what we are arguing, maybe i should have mentioned the fact that my macbook ran OSX and my Thinkpad runs Arch Linux? I've did several battery management optimizations as well.

If i could run Arch painfree on a mac i would agree that i would have better battery life most likely.

I am mostly just arguing against the constant mention for "macbooks having the best battery life for developer laptops". Which is not true if you could also use a Thinkpad with Linux

Typing this from a refurb T410 with added SSD. It was dirt cheap and the only issue I have running Ubuntu on it is a funny wake-from-sleep issue that sometimes makes some text display badly. Apart from that it has a lovely keyboard and does what I need. Battery life is not an issue for me, I have a laptop due to lack of space for a desk, but I am normally plugged in. Screen res could be higher, but it makes no practical difference in writing Python code or browsing HN

I wont upgrade until a) it breaks or b) someone pays me to get a new one

What about the T-series keyboards changed recently that bothers you?

If it's actually the touchpad changes, they reverted them on the xx50 and up (or made them optional, I forget which).

(Typing this from a T430 I'm using while my W550s is being repaired, and I can't recall any drastic keyboard changes that had me in an uproar in the last while.)

Not recently but simply the amount of keys have dropped from T420 to T430. The Home - End - PgUp - PgDn keys are the same place on my T420s (which is upgraded to a quality full HD screen) as any 101 key keyboard in the last 35+ years. Insert - Delete isn't but that's kinda OK because Insert is rarely needed anyways. Taking away the 7th row is the cardinal sin of the T430+ keyboards. Also switching to keyboard backlight from ThinkLight is a moronic decision, there are more things to light than just the keyboard.

I have not tested a t430 but the t450 feeled a lot more "mushy" or rubberdome like. The t420 has a solid click (without the "click" :/) which is something i really like.

From what ive read it got worse after the t420. So it was a easy choice for me.

> Plus it has way better battery life.

How much battery time are you getting?

And which battery do you use?

And are you running Linux or Windows?

(I'm considering a T420 right now)

Linux, the 3 cell one (the one i got it with a 2 cell has about 4 hours left). I get about 9 hours with full light and wifi and about 14 with ethernet & slightly dimmed light. Obviously linux (also Arch), i dont think Windows can be optimized for such battery life. And in my experience Arch also beats Ubuntu. At least without a lot of hacking.

Good to know, thanks! :)

Huh, didn't know that t420 supported 16gb of ram - time to upgrade my trusty & dusty workhorse!

It's "unofficially" supported but it does work if you stick to the recommended RAM.

I picked up a cheap, off-lease T420 several months ago and added in 16 GB of RAM and an SSD and had a pretty decent machine for ~$250 all-in.

Have their trackpads improved at all during the last five years?

The current X1 Carbon has an excellent trackpad, to the point that I actually consider the trackpad a usable alternative to the stick.

Palm detection is pretty terrible still though (on Linux at least). Tap to click is unusable for me for this reason.

libinput has much better palm detection than synaptics.

Personally, I haven't had tap to click enabled for a long time, since I have physical mouse buttons available.

I don't know why Lenovo doesn't just flat out copy the behavior of Apple's trackpad.

I dont know. But the keyboard got slightly worse.

I bought a used W520, as it was one of the last Thinkpads with full/normal keyboard. I just can't get work down as quickly using modern island-style keyboards. I recommend it especially if you are still using an older Thinkpad.

It's fast, supports up to 32gb of memory, 3 hard drives (regular, micro SATA, ultrabay), and has a good video card.

I also find the touchpad with its mouse thumb buttons to be easier on my wrists than the trackpoint or other laptop trackpads.

As a W (workstation) version it is heavy and requires a heavier charger. The T520 could solve this problem and also be a cheaper option.

Hopefully Lenovo's "Retro Thinkpad" project is brought to reality.

I got a 520 with quad core i7. I had to swap the motherboard with integrated nvidia for the normal non nvidia motherboard to get dual monitor support under linux. But other than that, I got quad core and 16gb of ram. I think this will last me until 2020 or so. (or at least I hope so) Can't stand lenovo's latest offerings with offset keyboards with a number pad. Though looks like this 460 has a normal enough keyboard. That might be an option, just has a smaller screen :/

I got the P50, it got a full keyboard, 64 GB memory and a "desktop class" HQ CPU, 2 M2. disk slots and 1 SATA slot.

Have you considered using an external mech keyboard? There are a decent number of small ones: Pok3r, Planck, HHKB Pro 2, others.

This is just for mobile computing and being able to work in different places. I do have a mechanical for my desktop and like it, but I don't like being anchored to the same spot everyday.

My experience with Lenovo:

Personal Machine: (Ubuntu/CentOS with 1 or 2 VM running sometimes) For me: AMD Quad Core - A10 7300 , with 8GB DDR3 RAM and 1TB HDD (acer aspire e15) is perfect Linux development machine, it costs less than $500 . Unless you are running 3 or more VM or stuffs like high-end data processing using 16GB RAM for development is worthless.

Work machine: (Windows / Fedora-19 with 3VBox vm running most of the time) We (team of 7 members) received new Lenovo thinkpad in 2012, with 256SSD, 16GB ram, and i7 processor. Within 18months 3 or 4 of my friends faced hardware related-issues (suddenly stopped booting etc). Luckily mine survived until I left the company in 2015.

> ... I find the boot time compelling enough (~23sec until login, plus 2sec to open the browser) that I do not need this.

I think something is slowing down your boot, I get faster boot on a 2008 thinkpad running the same OS.

OT: systemd was supposed to improve boot performance but it has actually become much worse. Upstart on a weak chromebook boots in under 2 sec, why shouldn't your current generation thinkpad with a fast SSD match that?

I find it curious that you care about boot-times. I use macbooks and just close and reopen the lid. Waking from this sleep takes less than a second usually.

My average uptime is about 22 days until I reboot for an update or something.

I used Linux for years, and I understood that in 2008 sleep/resume on notebooks didn't properly work, but now we have 2017 - 9 years later!

I don't really care about boot times, but as a tech guy 23 seconds sounds like an error to me and I want to find it and fix it :)

Also, old laptops with dieing batteries (or new ones with always-on sensors such as fingerprint readers) have some leakage during sleep so it may be better to turn them off if you are not going to use them for a few days.

edit: resume/suspend in linux works just fine and has done so for many years (in response to eltoozero)

I have disabled the UEFI Network Stack (updated the article to reflect this) and now the BIOS boot time is down to ~2seconds :) !

Mac is my daily driver for this very reason, I'm a consultant and I need to frequently grab and go.

I've had Linux on mobile for ages and have yet to have reliable sleep/wake behavior on a dozen machines over the years.

Sleep on Linux works reliably if you run it inside a Mac VM though, FWIW! ;)

Important difference: sleep usually works and is fast. What often does not work is hibernation (recover from disc)

...which is crucial since you don't want to lose your data when closing the lid. (Non-tech-term is on purpose here, since users shouldn't need to know about the difference. Also I believe OSX uses a hybrid approach).

You do not loose your data with both methods as power is used for suspend to RAM.

BTW: OSX has not a "pure" suspend to disc anymore and the default method is suspend to RAM when closing the lid

Parent poster stated "What often does not work is hibernation (recover from disc)".

Which means the user loses data.

Parent poster was me and you do not loose data. Instead it just does not go into hibernation in my case :)

According to a comment in the post it fails when the swap partition is encrypted. However why enable swap with 16 GB of RAM? I've been running without swap for almost 3 years and never had any trouble. If I start approaching the limit I'll buy another 16 GB.

The comment also talks about suspend to disc.

Exactly, the comment in your blog is "suspension to disk does not work if your swap partition is encrypted. This is due to how Ubuntu encrypts your home (ecryptfs) but not due to Linux itself."

I was reporting that.

I use whole drive encryption to protect data in the event I leave my old X220 (Fedora) on the bus.

I don't mind boot times in the 20s range (X220/Fedora/cheapo SSD) too much, but I do need to close down/reboot a couple of times a day otherwise no point in encryption.

> but I do need to close down/reboot a couple of times a day otherwise no point in encryption.

Given, I'm not a Linux user, but I don't understand this at all.

On Windows, encrypted is encrypted-- the lock screen is exactly as secure as the login screen. Are you saying that in Linux the lock screen is easily-bypassed? So you have to keep your computer logged-out when you're in a place it might get stolen?

> On Windows, encrypted is encrypted

Wasn't there a recent story about how Windows is storing keys so that it can wake up in the middle of the night and apply updates? I thought that the conclusion was that locked isn't as secure as logged out.

I believe that would be 'encrypt my home drive' on Linux, then you basically log out to protect files. Not sure though.

What I'm not understanding is why logging out or rebooting is required to keep a computer with full disk encryption secure. That's certainly not the case on competing OSes like Windows.

Usually in Linux the system is installed on an encrypted filesystem (cryptsetup, LUKS). Only kernel and so called initrd image (early boot stuff) is outside the encryption. The disk is opened at very early stage in boot when just about the kernel is loaded. Thus, the encryption is open whenever the operating system is running. Everything is of course still transparently encrypted on disk but the "lock" is open. One must shut down the computer to close the filesystem's encryption.

"Then click Install Now, and follow the rest of the instructions until you get to the “Who are you?” page. Make sure to choose a strong password — if someone steals your laptop while it’s suspended, this password is all that comes between the attacker and your data. And make sure that “Require my password to log in” is checked, and that “Log in automatically” is not checked. There is no reason to check “Encrypt my home folder” here, because you’re already encrypting your entire disk."

Above quote is from the section titled 'How to encrypt your disk in Linux' on the page at


I'm just a bit confused about how Windows can remove keys without messing up file handles &c when suspending to RAM.

The level of security I have now is adequate to my purpose but certainly something for others to take into consideration. Thanks for posting.

Would be nice to have a faster one, yes :) ... some recommendations?

Just fyi: I measure boot time from the time I press the power button. The BIOS logo appears a staggering 8sec or something although the BIOS fast boot is enabled. (Maybe the sync with NSA or something ;))

8 seconds for the BIOS sounds ridiculous; that should take less than a second. Check that you've booted and shut down successfully on the prior boot; with those, the boot should take much less time. (On an improper shutdown, the BIOS may do some extra work that takes longer.) Also check that you don't have some option enabled to make it wait around a while for a keyboard key.

For the Linux portion of your boot, try running "systemd-analyze plot > /tmp/boot.svg" and looking at that. (Also note that "kernel" includes any time spent waiting in the initramfs for you to type your disk encryption passphrase.)

Unsurprisingly UEFI didn't change much about vendor firmware shittiness. There's also still firmware around which just takes 5-10 seconds of black screen before doing shit.

I haven't tested any of these myself, but this page contains some great suggestions:


The initial boot delay is VERY annoying. I wish libreboot was supported on my laptop, then I could ditch lenovos ancient BIOS (and the NSA ping) once and for all:


Check that PXE boot is disabled.

When I disabled UEFI Network Stack ipv4 and ipv6 it is indeed much faster: just ~2seconds

Oh yeah, with Arch linux and some tweaking I got under 10 seconds on my X240. But I switched to Fedora, which is still under 20 seconds.

I don't think this is a problem with systemd. On Archilinux using it - it's quite simple to get < 5s boot times.

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