The company I work for encouraged me to use a top of the line Linux laptop — one of the latest ThinkPads — as my daily driver. Here’s what I’ve found in the first few days of using it, with Ubuntu 20.04.1:
- Coming from a MacBook with its butter-smooth trackpad, the touchpad is painful. It’s not smooth at all, even with the default Synaptics drivers. It’s almost impossible to precisely focus your cursor in a small area. It’s really astonishing how bad it is.
- Don’t expect to have external monitors work right away. I plugged my LG 4K monitor with a USB-C cable that works fine with several MacBooks into the ThinkPad. All I got was a cursor on the external monitor screen. That’s it, a cursor. Changing resolutions and refresh rates hasn’t helped. A colleague spent half a week futzing with settings until he finally got it to work. Another colleague recommended an unstable open source Nvidia driver instead of their proprietary driver, but I haven’t gotten that installed yet.
After I haven’t been able to get a single Bluetooth peripheral connected. Not a wireless keyboard, wireless trackpad, or wireless headphones. The Ubuntu Bluetooth settings app either hangs, crashes, or just displays a spinning cursor on the device you try to connect.After updating the ControllerMode to bredr in /etc/bluetooth/main.conf , I was able to get my AirPods to connect. To get the wireless keyboard or trackpad to connect, I had to unpair them from another laptop.
- You’ll need a couple utilities to get most keyboard shortcuts to behave like a Mac, including spacebar for QuickLook, and Cmd-H to quickly move an app out of the way. I still haven’t figured out how to change the keyboard shortcut for going back in my browser. Alt-Left-Arrow just scrolls to the top of the page. Update: The author of Kinto, the keyboard shortcuts utility, is going to make Alt-Left-Arrow/Alt-Right-Arrow work in browsers in an upcoming release.
- Scrolling web pages (in any browser) is slow and choppy. Supposedly you can fix this in a config file somewhere, but I haven’t found where yet.
- 10% of the time, the laptop refuses to wake from sleep, requiring a long press on the power button to power off and reboot.
- The fans spin up for no good reason when I plug the power cord in. Thankfully, they aren’t too loud.
- I kept having my wireless bluetooth trackpad disconnect and reconnect, every 2-4 minutes. Eventually I figured out this was due to the UPower daemon polling the trackpad for battery status. Adding NoPollBatteries=true to /etc/UPower/UPower.conf and then running systemctl restart upower.service and the problem seems to have gone away.
- I also had the problem where every time the bluetooth trackpad disconnected/reconnected, it would lose its trackpad speed and natural scrolling settings. To fix this, I updated the mutter package.
- Finally, the brightness on my external monitor kept resetting itself. I would have to run xrandr –output DP-1 –brightness 0.7 to reset it to something non-blinding, multiple times per hour. I fixed this by disabling night light and stopping the GNOME Setting Daemon’s color plugin from starting at login.
So what’s good about it?
- The fingerprint scanner is actually pretty good. It’s not quite as reliable as the MacBook’s, but it’s 80% of the way there. It’s nice to unlock the machine and use sudo with a fingerprint.
- In full screen mode, you can put another app window in front of the full screen app. This is convenient, and unlike macOS. On the Mac, you’re forced into the full screen app and have to switch completely out of it to get to another app.
- Gnome’s Activity view (Alt-Space), a hybrid of the Mac’s Spotlight and Expose, is very nice. It’s fast and accurate.
- The ThinkPad itself is fast and battery life excellent. The plastic body isn’t as solid feeling as an aluminum MacBook, but it’s better than your average creaky PC laptop.
- WiFi works without a problem.
The janky touchpad and choppy scrolling are the hardest to deal with. If I figure out how to fix these, I’ll update this post.