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Recommendation on laptop hardware Thinkpad/Sager

roguetechx86

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#1
Hello everyone!

After rigorous use of my current laptop (the keyboard keys are starting to become intermittent), I will be needing to buy a laptop coming May. My current computer was a system76 laptop, which is also by clevo/sager.

Reasons/Usage requirements:
The issue I have is that I want a durable laptop, hence I have a preference to the Thinkpad but want ~14" screen size due to walking all the time. Generally, I write C/C++/python code for calculations and latex for physics work (nothing to extensive, but if I need to I have a desktop with much better hardware). I use FreeBSD on my desktop and server, so I would like to keep things the same on the laptop.

Usual setup is either Lumina or i3 for a desktop to limit resources anyway. The real question I have is if the intel HD5500 is workable using the vesa drivers? As I have not read or come across anything about it, I would prefer the lightweight durable solution.

I have had two laptops that I am interested in, my budget is ~$900, I realize I could go to a Lenovo T540 with Nvidia but that increases laptop size (15.6"), weight and is more expensive.

1) Lenovo L450 (within budget)
Specs of interest:
Intel HD5500

2) Sager NP7339/ZaReason Specs X345
Specs of interest:
Nvidia Geforce 960m

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

jrm@

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#2
The real question I have is if the intel HD5500 is workable using the vesa drivers?
I maintain one desktop with a Haswell card and it works with the VESA driver. I've been told that all Haswell cards should work as long as you don't UEFI boot. Apparently UEFI doesn't set up the same things as legacy BIOS does, which means the VESA driver can't find the video card BIOS.

P.S. What about the Lenovo X250?

UPDATE: A second developer, ftigeot, says
even with the ibm-pc boot method, vesa modes may not be setup correctly
on some asrock mainboards, I got a screen full of a solid color with vesa
 

roguetechx86

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#3
Hm, is UEFI going to be a concern with the laptop? This might be a question with lenovo to solve, hopefully someone here may know.

See, the conundrum I have is is the Canadian price, which changes the L450 to $775 and the X250 to $1090, Although I could stretch my budget to accommodate it. With the X250 being 12.5" I would assume that over long durations that it becomes uncomfortable to type with since the size of the keyboard would have to shrink.

I think the L450 is a better value (even increasing the screens ize to 1920x1080 is still $200 cheaper, plus nicer keyboard size. Although I would love to hear why you recommend the X250! I am just not sure about the too small size (I remember having a acer one netbook at one point but moved on since then, and 12.5" does sound like pushing it), but I could be persuaded, because traveling does change things!

As you said, Haswell works! But isn't the new laptops of this year Broadwell? I haven't heard anything about them, or their status with the vesa driver.
 

wblock@

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#5
Lenovo got caught selling systems with a paid MITM SSL compromise. Were their compromises limited to software, or do they have interesting things hidden in their firmware?

And yes, other manufacturers might be as bad, but if they are, at least they are competent enough to not get caught at it.
 

jrm@

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#6
Hm, is UEFI going to be a concern with the laptop?
You will likely be able to legacy boot, but I'm not sure.

See, the conundrum I have is is the Canadian price, which changes the L450 to $775 and the X250 to $1090, Although I could stretch my budget to accommodate it. With the X250 being 12.5" I would assume that over long durations that it becomes uncomfortable to type with since the size of the keyboard would have to shrink.
Are you sure the keyboards are different sizes? My firend has a T530 and I have an X220 and the keyboards are about the same size. When I measured from the left edge of the CAPsLock key to right edge of the Enter key both were 28 cm. The extra space around the keyboard on the T530 was for the speakers. The X220 keyboard bascially goes right up the edge of the laptop, although looking at the X250 I do see a little space on the edges. Unfortunately I don't see any detailed information on the keyboard sizes, but I can say I really like the keyboard on my X220 and I don't notice any difference compared to the T530 in terms of size. I have fairly large hands.

I think the L450 is a better value (even increasing the screens ize to 1920x1080 is still $200 cheaper, plus nicer keyboard size. Although I would love to hear why you recommend the X250! I am just not sure about the too small size (I remember having a acer one netbook at one point but moved on since then, and 12.5" does sound like pushing it), but I could be persuaded, because traveling does change things!
Maybe something larger is right for you, but I commute on my bicycle a lot and it's convenient to put my X220 in my Pelican Hardback 1080 case and not worry about. A case for something the size of the L540 would be too large for my backpack. Moreover, the L540, while not overly heavy is still about 50% heavier than the X250.

As you said, Haswell works! But isn't the new laptops of this year Broadwell? I haven't heard anything about them, or their status with the vesa driver.
Good quesition and I'm not sure what the answer is. The freebsd-x11@ mailing list will be your best chance at getting a clear answer.

An update: You should confirm the VESA/Haswell situation. While one developer told me that VESA/Haswell with legacy boot works, another said that there are still some boards that cause problems. Hopefully this will soon be a moot point.

ADDED: I'm also wary of Lenovo's business practices and will think carefully about my next purchase, but FWIW they didn't install the malware on their Thinkpad (business) line. I'm just describing what I own and my experience with it.
 

jrm@

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#8
For Canadians considering a Lenovo, try this Lenovo Friends of IBM EPP Site. It's annoying that the price isn't the price, but there are some pretty good deals there from time to time. I think I saved about 30% compared to the default page.

Since I sound like a sleezy marketer: I have no affiliation with Lenovo.
 

jrm@

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#9
And yes, other manufacturers might be as bad, but if they are, at least they are competent enough to not get caught at it.
Any large company that attempted something so ridiculous would have eventually gotten caught.
 

diizzy

Active Member

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#11
It's simple, don't buy consumer laptops as they're loaded with 3rd party software and that applies to all major brands (Lenovo, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Packard Bell, Acer etc) and overall quality is poor.

Shouldn't this be moved to mobile computing btw?
//Danne
 

roguetechx86

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#12
You're right! This should be put into mobile computing, at first the issue was the broadwell driver support with vesa. So I had assumed it made sense to go here but the flow of this message should be in mobile computing.
 

roguetechx86

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#13
Read this thread
If you're on a budget I'd have a look at ASUSPRO laptop series as they're a good value option and they don't blacklist/whitelist hardware like Lenovo does.
//Danne
Thanks for the heads up! Although these seem more expensive that what I am looking for.

Lenovo got caught selling systems with a paid MITM SSL compromise. Were their compromises limited to software, or do they have interesting things hidden in their firmware?

And yes, other manufacturers might be as bad, but if they are, at least they are competent enough to not get caught at it.
Well people who at least get caught have to fix their issue and deal with damage control, sounds like discounts! (I jest)

You will likely be able to legacy boot, but I'm not sure.
Are you sure the keyboards are different sizes? My firend has a T530 and I have an X220 and the keyboards are about the same size. When I measured from the left edge of the CAPsLock key to right edge of the Enter key both were 28 cm. The extra space around the keyboard on the T530 was for the speakers. The X220 keyboard bascially goes right up the edge of the laptop, although looking at the X250 I do see a little space on the edges. Unfortunately I don't see any detailed information on the keyboard sizes, but I can say I really like the keyboard on my X220 and I don't notice any difference compared to the T530 in terms of size. I have fairly large hands.
This makes it sound compelling! I am going to delve into researching the X250 more!

Good quesition and I'm not sure what the answer is. The freebsd-x11@ mailing list will be your best chance at getting a clear answer.
This is a good point!

An update: You should confirm the VESA/Haswell situation. While one developer told me that VESA/Haswell with legacy boot works, another said that there are still some boards that cause problems. Hopefully this will soon be a moot point.
I hope so! I have a few months still, hopefully something works out!


For Canadians considering a Lenovo, try this Lenovo Friends of IBM EPP Site. It's annoying that the price isn't the price, but there are some pretty good deals there from time to time. I think I saved about 30% compared to the default page.
I tried to go here but it requires a passcode? Also I cannot sign up to this either? I really appreciate this though!

Since I sound like a sleezy marketer: I have no affiliation with Lenovo.
Not sleazy, informative! +1

Most of the business laptops have similar specs, just that I think the thinkpad offers durability over all. Also I would be trashing the installed OS, no need for it. So I am not overly concerned with the malware, if there are hardware issues put in then well Lenovo would be going to great lengths to acquire data, haha.
 

protocelt

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#15
ASUS Laptops are hit or miss. I personally wouldn't buy one exclusively for FreeBSD unless it was a model known/proven to work. I say this as someone who owns ASUS hardware almost exclusively. I do own an 11" 3rd generation Intel ASUS X200CA netbook that is fully functional under FreeBSD except for the F keys. They may work under 11-CURRENT now but I haven't checked recently. I think it is a bit small for what the OP is looking for however and only runs for 2.5 hours at best under FreeBSD(3 Cell non-user serviceable battery)
 

lonestar

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#19
Hm, is UEFI going to be a concern with the laptop? This might be a question with lenovo to solve, hopefully someone here may know.
I can tell you that I have successfully installed FreeBSD 10-1-RELEASE, using the UEFI image, on a Thinkpad T530 purchased in December 2013. Using the REFIND boot manager, it harmoniously shares a disk with Windows 7.

I've replaced the stock Realtek wireless card with an Intel 6205 Taylor Peak. Otherwise everything is stock. Good performance and compatibility all around.

If you need more specifics let me know, I'll be happy to post them.
 

roguetechx86

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#20
I can tell you that I have successfully installed FreeBSD 10-1-RELEASE, using the UEFI image, on a Thinkpad T530 purchased in December 2013. Using the REFIND boot manager, it harmoniously shares a disk with Windows 7.
...
If you need more specifics let me know, I'll be happy to post them.
Have you tried to install without the need of the REFIND boot manager? That is, have you tried using the legacy/bios option? UEFI is not necessarily a concern for me, just ease of install. Also now that the time is getting close, I am looking at either the T440p or the X250 as suggested by jrm.

I also have no need for windows as a native install (VirtualBox is fine if it is necessary, but doubtful). My requirements are just easy install and visuals for firefox and graphs and portability.
 

lonestar

Member

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Messages: 47

#21
Have you tried to install without the need of the REFIND boot manager? That is, have you tried using the legacy/bios option? UEFI is not necessarily a concern for me, just ease of install. Also now that the time is getting close, I am looking at either the T440p or the X250 as suggested by jrm.

I also have no need for windows as a native install (VirtualBox is fine if it is necessary, but doubtful). My requirements are just easy install and visuals for firefox and graphs and portability.
[Disclaimer: This is my first run with FreeBSD on real hardware, so there may be methods of going about this that I'm unaware of.]


I did initially install FreeBSD on a separate external USB drive, using the legacy/BIOS option. It worked fine, in terms of booting the system successfully.

With that setup, I did experience some much-discussed problems related to the Intel driver, mainly the inability to return to a visible text console after starting/exiting an X session. Supposedly this can be fixed by adding the following to /boot/loader.conf -
Code:
kern.vty=vt
But that didn't work for me.

After installing the UEFI image, returning to the text console from X just worked out of the box.

Also when I installed the UEFI image, I wasn't able to get an entry for FreeBSD to show up in NVRAM, which is why I fell back to using rEFInd.
 

roguetechx86

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#22
Supposedly this can be fixed by adding the following to /boot/loader.conf -
Code:
kern.vty=vt
But that didn't work for me.

After installing the UEFI image, returning to the text console from X just worked out of the box.
I am okay with vesa drivers at the moment, nothing too extensive on my part is required.


Also when I installed the UEFI image, I wasn't able to get an entry for FreeBSD to show up in NVRAM, which is why I fell back to using rEFInd.
Hm, hopefully I don't run into this issue, as I don't want to mess with the deeper internals such as rEFInd, I like trying to keep that stuff stock in case of warranty (just re-image windows back on and be merry).
 

lonestar

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#23
I considered vesa to be a deal breaker. I've gotten used to dual monitors at work so even with native resolution of 1600x900, I feel like space is pretty cramped on my laptop. My video card is the Ivy Bridge, which I think is one of the most recent versions to have full support in 10.1.

And rEFInd was easy to install, in my opinion much less tricky than messing with boot codes & flags via gpart.

If I wasn't sharing the disk with Windows 7 (which must have EFI to boot on GPT), I would have preferred the traditional BIOS method. The fact that my graphics card worked better with UEFI was an unexpected benefit.
 

roguetechx86

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#24
Thanks for the feed back! One concern I had was drivers etc. but I have a desktop for work, dual monitors aren't that big of deal, Laptop is portable where work is home. If I go with the 440p then I would get Nvidia and it wouldn't be a concern at all, but the lightweight of x250 is nice... I wish I knew how the touchpad was on the T440p since that might be the deal breaker.
 

lonestar

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#25
Well it looks similar to my T530, and the touchpad works fine with a few tweaks. The only feature I really wish I could get, which I haven't, is vertical two-finger scrolling.
 
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