For the last few years I have been looking around as new laptops came on the market, but nothing really interested me enough to consider moving from my trusty thinkpad T510. This fall there is a new crop of laptops that actually have higher resolution screens and are more interesting.
First, what am I personally looking for in a laptop? Well, I use my laptop full time (I don’t have any desktop setup here at all, just laptop and servers). This allows me to move around the house, go to coffee shops, travel, etc and have pretty much the same env as always. My usaage is: terminals/shells for administrating servers, irc client for talking to people, email client, rss reading and of course web browsing. I don’t tend to run virtual machines on my laptop (I have servers for that), but sometimes it’s nice to be able to. I really want lots of resolution in my laptop screens. I look at it all day and want things to look crisp and not hurt my eyes as well as get a ton of stuff on the screen at once when I am doing work on a number of systems. I also wanted to join in all the fun with EFI and secure boot, as my T510 is too old to have either of those.
The first of the new laptop crop to come up was the Samsung Ativ book 9+. 3200×1800 screen and looked nice. Before it started shipping however, Lenovo announced the yoga 2 pro (same screen) and then dell announced it’s XPS 15 would also have a 3200×1800 screen (although in a 15.1″ form factor). I have really been wanting to move to a smaller laptop form factor for a while so the dell didn’t interest me as much, and then Best Buy came out with a really great deal on the yoga 2 pro and I could just go pick it up from the store, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger and did so this week. 😉
- i7 haswell cpu
- 8gb ram
- 250gb ssd ( seems to be a: SAMSUNG MZMTD256)
- 13.3″ 3200×1800 lcd
- backlight keyboard (you can enable/disable this with a key, it’s not auto, also no levels, it’s on or off)
- 1 usb 2 and 1 usb 3
- sd card reader (the card doesn’t go in flush with the laptop, so it sticks out)
- micro HDMI out
Not too much in the box, just the laptop, power brick (new style lenovo power), some small bundle of useless manuals.
I booted up the installed windows 8.1 to make sure everything worked. Side note: windows now seems to require you to have a MSN account? And uses that for your username and password? At least I couldn’t find any way to skip that step. I used the windows disk tool to carve off some space from the main drive for a Fedora install, then got to work. The first gotcha is that there is a backlight issue. If you just boot Fedora media, when the i915 module loads you will get a completely black screen. After poking around a bunch, the solution/work around seems to be that you pass ‘acpi_backlight=vendor’. There is however an additional confusion that caused me a bunch of wasted time. If you hit alt-f2 when booting you go to the EFI firmware setup screens. If you do that (say to change boot order or to check something) and then try and boot linux, you will get a wacked out screen that doesn’t work (even with the acpi_backlight=vendor). Somehow the EFI setup screen messes with the video. ;( So, power off after making any firmware changes or you will be tearing your hair out trying to see why a working linux install no longer works. 😉
The next gotcha I ran into was that the wireless didn’t want to come up. I found that I could manually bring it up with a ‘ifconfig wlp1s0 up’ and on further investigation it seems the ideapad_laptop kernel module was causing some kind of issue with rfkill, making NetworkManager not see the interface. For now I have simply blacklisted the ideapad_laptop module, but I suspect that we should get this fixed as that module might be needed to run some of the special keys on the laptop.
Other than those two items, everything seems to work very nicely. 🙂 (after poking around, I then wiped the drive completely, and reinstalled Fedora Fresh. Note that there’s no windows disks or way to reinstall windows, so if you do this be sure you are sticking with linux full time)
- The screen is a delight (aside the color issue which doesn’t bother me much, see below). I can have pretty amazingly small print and it looks sharp and nice.
- The keyboard backlight is nice. Being able to switch it on/off easily is nice.
- It’s well made and very light (around 3lbs)
- secure boot/efi works fine.
- It’s nice and fast. 😉
- It was a pretty cheap deal (~1200+tax at best buy)
- It seems pretty sturdy and well constructed. The hinge seems to work fine, you can have it in ‘laptop mode’ and ‘tent mode’ and ‘tablet mode’ easily enough. There’s not (yet) any support I could see on the linux side to rotate the display, etc in those modes, but scripting and using xrandr should work fine.
- It’s very quiet. Even when cpus are pegged it’s hard to hear the fans. There’s 0 blinkin lights, so it’s also sometimes hard to tell if it’s doing anything at all. 😉
- webcam seems to work just fine with cheese. Haven’t tried google hangouts, but I suspect it will work fine there.
- With the brightness fix above, brightness up/down keys work great. The lowest brightness is backlight off, which might be handy for some low light situations.
- Suspend/resume works just fine.
Cons/Might be Bad:
- Everything is built in. No replacing SSD/mem/battery. This seems to be the trend in ultrabooks to get them as small as they are.
- The sd card reader has the card sticking out. Might be bad if you use the sd card reader a lot. I don’t really.
- There’s no trackpoint. It’s touchpad only. I hate trackpoints, but if you like them this might not be the laptop for you.
- There’s a issue being discussed on laptop forums about the color on the display. Yellows don’t show very bright, more ‘muddy’ or brownish. There’s speculation that it’s due to the way the LCD is setup. I definitely do see this here, but it doesn’t bother me all that much. If you are doing photo’s/pre-printing/graphics work this might be a show stopper for you. It’s also possible it’s a firmware thing and they can fix it in an update.
- The network on the laptop is wireless. There is no dedicated wired connection. You could use a usb network, but if you move large volumes of data around and want full gige speeds, this may not be the laptop for you.
- Some of the hardware keys don’t do anything (yet): Mute, Vol up / Down, The little arrows thing, disable monitor, airplane mode. Might be related to the ideapad_laptop module.
- Will take some getting used to the keyboard. It’s not got as much travel as a regular thinkpad keyboard and the control and Fn are in the wrong order. 🙂
- You can set in the firmware if the top row of keys is always f-keys or always the laptop specific functions (brightness, etc). Not sure which way I will leave it yet.
- I miss the two buttons next to the direction arrows on my t510, I used them to switch desktops, so will have to get used to control arrows again. ;(
- I’ve not done much on battery yet. The estimate I get when just unplugging it is between 4 and 5 hours. I was hoping haswell would make this much larger, but the jury is still out.
- The laptop has a touchscreen as well, and it works fine under linux. However, it just works as a mouse, you can’t easily use it to drag browser windows around or the like. I think thats just a matter of looking around at how to configure it. Not sure how much I would be using the touchscreen, but in tablet mode (with the screen all the way around) it would be nice to be able to drag browser contents, etc.
- The touchpad is overall great, but the ‘buttons’ on the bottom of it are really hard to use. Luckily you don’t have to most of the time: one finger tap: left click, two fingers tap: right click, three fingers tap: middle click. Side scrolling works great, etc.
- Of course with the resolution that high a lot of stuff is very very tiny. I’ve adjusted Xfce to mostly be fine with it, but there’s still wierdness to addess. In midori, content seems to be stuck in the middle, and some pages text gets cut off vertically. I think it’s all solveable tho. Also, I still need to try the gtk3 high dpi settings work.
- There’s a little windows logo under the screen (built into it). I might just have to put a Fedora sticker over it. 😉
I’ve switched over the the yoga for my main/full time laptop, so expect more updates about it as I use it more. If there’s any questions about anything I didn’t answer, feel free to ask in comments or drop me an email or catch me on irc. 😉 I am of course running rawhide on it, so not sure I can report much about older versions, but happy to try.
Overall I am pretty happy with it at the moment, we will see if that lasts. 😉