Thinkpad x230 Thoughts

2 minute read

My requirements for the next laptop were pretty simple:

  1. 3rd Generation i7 or better
  2. 16GiB of RAM
  3. Light and thin (jealous of the wife’s Macbook Air)
  4. Fingerprint Scanner
  5. Pointer thingie
  6. Run Linux

Additionally I had hoped for a Nvidia GPU, but realized the Intel GPUs have gotten to the point they can play Civilization which suffices for me.

Unfortunately the trend appears to be less is more for the ultra-portables out there. The toughest of the above requirements was the 16GiB of RAM. Most of the machines are maxing out now at 8GiB which is not enough for honest VM work. The HP zBook that was released was a good choice, but the ATI graphics and stupid pricing pushed me away.

Enter the x230 from last years lineup96d103006c8e11e3afad1280a38bb2dd_8. The laptop is VERY well supported on Linux and includes the option for 16GiB of RAM. Saved a ton of money by going with the older model and was able to check most of the above boxes. After upgrading the Wifi, SSD, and mSATA storage I am left with a machine with boatloads of power. Everything works in Linux too! Few of my options that you will need if running latest Arch build:

  • ro acpi_backlight=vendor pcie_aspm=force on the syslinux/grub line
  • _auth sufficient _in your various pam.d files for fingerprint reader to work
  • Synaptics Touchpad and DualPoint Stick xorg settings

There are some downsides to the device though:

  • Battery life is meh. Even with the 6-cell and the slice battery, I am showing around 10 hours of remaining time. The Wife’s MacBook Air does 16 without breaking a sweat
  • The keyboard’s top row is mushy
  • The battery when locked into the device kinda rattles
  • 1366×768 screen is beautiful, but holy crap. It is 2012/2013 and this resolution needs to die. I was able to augment this slightly with an external screen

Overall I am happy with the purchase and speed the device offers. I am hoping this is a hold me over device until Lenovo yanks their head out of their ass and puts buttons back on the trackpad. My build of hardware and software is below for those wanting a similar setup.

  • Operating System: Arch Linux with Cinnamon Desktop. Other than the defaults I have linux-ck for the kernel build
  • Memory: 16GiB Crucial
  • Storage: Samsung 256GiB SSD and Crucial m4 256GB mSATA drive
  • Privacy Filter: Lenovo 0A61770 3M PF12.5W
  • Battery: Six-cell and the “Slice”
  • External Monitor: GeChic On-Lap 1302 — This thing is amazing. USB powered with HDMI gives me a very mobile dual-screen setup. Not the best for viewing angles, but it is great for working. HIGHLY recommend!
  • External Mouse: Logitech m570 trackball