As a Christmas present to myself, I decided to get a new laptop. My second generation Dell “Sputnik” Ubuntu Edition is getting a little long in the tooth. The screen resolution of 1366×768 is a little confining, and I’ve never been in love with the trackpad.
Now, while most of the folks at The OpenNMS Group are Mac users, the freetards in the group tend toward the Lenovo X1 Carbon. As Eric says, when it comes to Linux laptops you can’t go wrong with Lenovo.
Well, apparently you can.
While I ordered my unit in late November, it didn’t ship until the new year. I got the shipping notice the same day they announced the second generation X1 carbon at CES. Since I wanted the new shiny, I called Lenovo (their customer support is located in nearby Raleigh and is awesome) and returned the unit before it arrived. I then ordered the new model with the the extremely high density “retina” display. It arrived last week and I started playing with it this weekend.
In short: do not buy this laptop if you like Linux.
While sleek and stylish, the first thing they broke is the trackpad (one of my main reasons for switching). Instead of discreet mouse buttons like most Thinkpads before it, it is a single unit. I found it very hard to get used to using the “pseudo” buttons. Plus, it is mechanical and it feels really clunking when you press down on it.
The next thing they broke was the keyboard. While I’m not sure if the top row is OLED or just OLED-like, the functions keys are now programmatically displayed and gone are things like volume and contrast (those do exist when booted to Windows 8). And while I don’t know if this is new, but the “backspace” and “delete” keys are right next to each other which I found annoying, as I would often hit the wrong one.
But I could live with that, as it is only a matter of time before someone starts doing something cool with that technology and I could get used to the keyboard. Here is why I’m sending it back:
- Suspend Doesn’t Work: Well, technically, resume doesn’t work. The system will suspend, but the OLED top row never dims and the laptop just starts heating up as something is obviously still running. The pm-suspend.log shows an error free shutdown, but once “suspended” you have to hold down the power key until it turns off and then reboot.
UPDATE: I got this to work, sort of. Once Hibernate worked I ended up using this post to determine the issue was with the xhci_hcd (USB3) driver. I disabled it and now suspend works. However, the network doesn’t come back nor do the function keys.
- Hibernate Doesn’t Work: Since this is a solid state machine with something like an 8 second boot time into Linux Mint, I’d be okay if I could hibernate instead of suspend. However, hibernate is just a shutdown with no warning to save your work.
UPDATE: I got this to work, sort of. Removed the encryption on the swap partition and then updated /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume to match the new UUID and then “update-initramfs -u” to re-read that file. The resume isn’t always flawless (when run from the command line the mouse never came back and once I had to bounce the network).
- Backlight Doesn’t Work: I like having a backlit keyboard. You can see the backlight come on when booting, but it never comes on when running under Mint.
- Fingerprint Sensor Doesn’t Work: While I don’t know how much I’d use this, the model in this laptop by Validity Sensors (USB device ID 138a:0017) isn’t supported under Linux yet.
- Weird Power Issues: Sometimes the unit fan turns on for no real reason, like something with Linux and the power management are out of sync.
I took this laptop on a road trip and was very unhappy with all of the effort I had to put into a system that was just supposed to work out of the box. At one point in time I changed a BIOS setting that wiped out grub (I had left Windows 8 on the system in a partition) and Windows Bootloader took over and wouldn’t let me back in to Mint. I finally based the whole thing just to see if that might help (I had to turn of secure boot to get Mint on it in the first place and thought maybe some weird UEFI issue was at play) but it didn’t improve things.
So it is a very sad day for those of us who looked to Lenovo to provide us Apple-quality laptops for Linux. Snatch up those Generation 1 models while they last or check out the new Dell “Sputnik 3“, but don’t buy this laptop.
7 thoughts on “Review: Second Generation Lenovo Carbon X1 with Linux”
Hey, great! I was starting to wonder if I was the only one running Linux on this machine still.
I will try your tip about xhci. Thanks for digging it up!
About the keyboard backlight, the soft key second from the right on the dynamic keyboard strip does work to adjust the keyboard backlight in three steps. So while we don’t have brightness control for the screen backlight until we can get someone to write code for this weird keyboard strip, we can turn the keyboard backlight on.
Step away from the bleeding edge Sir 🙂
I was seriously thinking of getting one of these before reading your review but now I am totally scared. You mention Raleigh in your post; are you in the area? if so, do you still have the machine and could I have a look at it?
Salvatore – I sent it back. I took several days before they would even send me a return label so I was very eager to make sure to get it back to them in time for a refund.
thank you anyway for your answer. I guess that the software issues you pointed out will be addressed with time. The keyboard is what is scaring me the most.
The keyboard was okay – I didn’t like that the backspace key and the delete key were basically in the same place which made me hit the wrong one frequently, but that could be corrected with time.
I just didn’t like the mouse at all.
Thank you for the info,
I will see, when they finally decide to allow some customization, if I feel like risking the 15% restocking fee. I am basically looking for a light laptop with a good keyboard and trackpoint; I guess thinkpads are the only options.
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