After 3.5 years of using a Toshiba Satellite R830 for my laptop needs, I have now gotten myself a new laptop: a Lenovo ThinkPad T440. One of the first things I did was to install the Linux distribution Fedora 21 Workstation unto it, replacing Windows 8 that it was delivered with. In this post I will share my first impressions of the laptop, how Fedora works on it and what I customized with regards to Gnome to feel at home.
The ThinkPad T440 belongs to the previous generation of the T series—T450 was just released. I got myself a used one on Ebay that looks almost new. It cost me $600 (including shipping and import charges to Sweden), so I am very pleased with the purchase. The specifications of the laptop are as follow:
- 14” 1600x900 non-touch screen
- Intel i5-4300U CPU
- 8 GB RAM
- 160 GB SSD
- Backlit US ANSI keyboard
- Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 7260
Why a ThinkPad T440
ThinkPad has good reputation among Linux users for working well with various Linux distributions. Most notable is Red Hat, which is the world’s largest vendor in the Linux space, who heavily depends on ThinkPad laptops for their employees. Therefore ThinkPad felt like a fairly safe option since I want as a hassle-free Linux experience as possible.
When I did my laptop research, I found several things that were compelling with the ThinkPads and the T440 model. To start with, many people seem to enjoy ThinkPad’s TrackPoint. The build quality of the laptops in the T series is also often brought up as a selling point, along with the quality of the keyboards. Upgrading and replacing parts feels encouraged with the T series laptops, as opposed to other laptops such as Apple’s where the opposite seems true. Furthermore, since the T440 is a laptop for professional usage, it has accessories such as a docking station that I would like to try out in the future. Finally, I think ThinkPad has a better brand reputation and emits a more professional feeling compared to something like a Toshiba or Acer laptop.
Why I opted for a previous generation and used ThinkPad was a matter of cost. Brand new ThinkPads are very expensive, especially here in Sweden, and cost they cost far more than I am willing to pay for a laptop.
Replacing Windows with Fedora was quite a straightforward process. In Windows, the only thing I did before wiping it was to update the BIOS. Then to enter the BIOS settings, to update the boot sequence, I had to do that using Microsoft’s new weird way of doing it. Other than that I did not interact with Windows.
For creating a bootable USB stick I would recommend the tool Disks
gnome-disks), part of the package
which comes pre-installed on Fedora, at least on the Gnome spin. On Ubuntu I
have in the past had good experience with the app Startup Disk
Creator, which I
think comes pre-installed. However, I have no recommendations for how one would
create a bootable USB on Windows; a tool that I have used in the past is
UNetbootin, but it has been a little
hit-or-miss in my experience.
Installing Fedora is a very smooth process thanks to their [Anaconda installer](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaconda_(installer)). It is even able to automatically create a BTRFS partition scheme, which I very much appreciate.
How well Fedora works on the T440
After the installation and I had booted up Fedora from the SSD for the first
time, I noticed a couple of things that did not work as expected. The first
thing was the TrackPoint which did not work; strange since it worked in the
live USB environment of Fedora. The other thing that neither worked as expected
was the Wi-Fi, which was horrendously slow. However, both of these things were
easily solved by simply updating Fedora; I did that by disabling the Wi-Fi,
plugged in an Ethernet cable, enabled the Ethernet, updated the system by
sudo dnf upgrade and finally I rebooted the computer.
As far as I can tell, everything on the laptop now work as expected. The brightness buttons work out of the box. The Wi-Fi and TrackPoint work after an update. Sleep mode works. The touchpad works. Audio works. However, since this is only my first impressions, I have not had time to see how it works for extended usage or what battery life I can get out of the machine. But so far it feels solid.
I quite enjoy Gnome’s default settings, which is one part of why I like Gnome.
However, there are a few things that I change. The first is to change the
keyboard layout from QWERTY to Colemak, which is possible to do in the Anaconda
installer. The next thing is to enable natural scrolling and tap to click
for the touchpad. Then I also add a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Alt+T) for starting
gnome-terminal and lower the delay for repeat keys in the keyboard
settings. Finally, using
gnome-tweak-tool, under Typing I set Ctrl key
position to Caps Lock as Ctrl.
Then there are of course a lot of other things that I configure and install on a fresh Linux installation, such as ownCloud, tmux, Vim and zsh. But that is perhaps something I could write about another time.
The ThinkPad T440 feels like a solid laptop and writing this blog post on it has been pleasant. In my experience there are often a few things that do not work on a fresh Linux install, such as the brightness keys. However, the T440 seems to be an exception to that rule and has so far (one day) worked very well.
I am going to replace the touchpad though, to one of the same model found in the new T450 with the physical mouse keys brought back. I am also thinking about replacing the screen with one with full HD resolution.