Lenovo x230 quick review

 

Lenovo x230

Here’s a quick and dirty review and notes on installation of my new Lenovo X230.

Here’s the key specs:

  • Lenovo x230
  • Intel i5-3320m processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • IPS screen upgrade
  • backlit keyboard upgrade
  • Intel AGN wifi
  • 500GB 7200 RPM hard disk
  • 120 GBIntel 525 mSATA SSD (purchased separately)
  • 9 cell battery
  • Weight in this configuration (excluding power adapter) is 1.73kg (3.8lbs if you must). Power adapter is approx 350g.

(Weight was taken after Linux was installed – all those extra bits might add up to an ounce or two)

Total cost was AU$1205 + $AU 184 for the SSD in late May / early June 2013

Windows 8 came installed on the 500GB hard disk. I shrunk it down to around 100GB which left approximately 370GB free for installing linux, in addition to the 120GB SSD. SSD installation was fairly straightforward (although I am an electronics repair technician). A number of screws to be removed from the bottom cover, lift the keyboard and then palm rest off and install it.

I have a DC car charger on order, as well a neoprene sleeve and mini DisplayPort adapters, all from eBay. A 270x350mm padded envelope works well as a slip case until the neoprene sleeve arrives (no, I’m not going to pay $20 for a fake one)

 

Installation / setup Linux Mint

Here’s how I partitioned and installed:

  • / and /home were put on the SSD, approximately 55GB each,
  • swap (8.5GB), /tmp and /var/log (2GB each) were put on the hard disk,
  • the remaining space formatted as ext4 and mounted as /pub, to be used for videos, music and other such things,
  • Linux Mint Debian Edition 64 bit (Cinnamon) installed after a few goes (live distro kept locking up during the installation process),
  • grub was installed on the SSD, and BIOS boot order was changed to boot from the SSD first,
  • BIOS changed to legacy mode

(On boot, hit F1 to enter BIOS setup, and F12 to temporarily select a different boot device).

As far as function keys etc goes, LMDE works great out of the box, nothing required except installing the necessary software, and perhaps encrypting your home drive. I made a few changes as recommended here for better SSD performance, and also installed TLP packages for better power savings

Review of the hardware itself

I’m fairly happy overall. With the 9 cell battery it is a bit bigger and heavier, but for me, well worth the trade off. I have not used it enough yet to get good battery life estimates, but operating on battery with wifi on and decent screen brightness, system battery life estimates range from six to eleven hours, which I’m fairly happy with.

As far as ergonomics goes, this is the first Thinkpad I’ve had so I’m not quite yet used to the trackpoint (my crappy work HP laptop has one, but it is very inferior to this one). The touchpad is disappointing – the left and right bottom corners act as buttons, but cause pointer movement. Even when using the trackpoint buttons (above the touchpad, so takes some getting used to), the touchpad just doesn’t feel that nice. Scrolling is software driven, so can be set for single finger right hand edge, or two finger. Two finger works better for me, as there’s less unintentional scrolling from palms while typing.

This isn’t anything unexpected, but I really wish there was a higher screen res option – 1366×768 just doesn’t cut it, especially in the vertical dimension. I very nearly bought an Acer Aspire S7-191 purely for the awesome 1080p 11″ screen. I would happily have paid an extra $100 – $150 for a higher res IPS screen on the x230.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. Certainly a nice upgrade from the ageing Asus 1201pn (old atom netbook with a completely dead battery) and old Dell Core2duo Inspiron (with about 15 mins of battery life).

 

Asus Eee PC 1201PN + Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook edition – review

I’ve finally upgraded from my old Eee PC 900, which was, quite frankly, getting a bit old. I went with the 1201PN primarily for the larger screen. I would have preferred something with a more powerful “conventional” processor, but there just wasn’t anything in my price range suitable. The 1201PN cost me $699 from Myer (I had vouchers) in early June 2010.

The basic specs for the 1201PN are as follows:

  • Intel Atom N450 CPU
  • Nvidia Ion2 graphics
  • 12.1″, 1366*768 gloss screen
  • 2 gig of ram
  • 320 gig 5400rpm hard drive
  • wifi, bluetooth, card reader, hdmi + vga port etc

It came “pre-installed” with Windows 7 Home Premium. The reason for the quotes is that upon first power-up, it had to go through a “configuration” step, which took approximately 20 minutes, several reboots, and resulted in the system hanging, forcing me to power cycle it. I mean, is it that hard to get things working? Not having installed windows since the early XP days (eight years ago or so) I kind of thought things might have improved a bit. Good to see my hatred of windows has not become unfounded.

Anyway, the only reason I even noticed this was I decided to power it up to play while waiting around at the shops before I could go home. Upon getting home, i immediately downloaded the latest Ubuntu. Using usb-creator i created a bootable USB drive. Getting the 1201PN to boot off the USB drive took a bit of fiddling. Some combination of pressing tab, f2 and delete just after power-on displayed the POST screen and allowed me to choose to boot from USB. Note that even after changing the boot order, I still needed to bring up a boot device selection box, as it would not boot straight from the USB device.

Installation of Ubuntu was, as usual, very quick and easy (a lot easier than configuring Windows 7!)

Out of the box things worked pretty well. Wifi, bluetooth, sound, microphone, screen brightness via function keys (fn-f5 and fn-f6) etc.

There are still a number of things that aren’t working:

  • Volume function keys. These don’t work, nor do they show up in xev, so I’m not sure where to from here
  • Screen brightness on resume. resumes to minimum backlight brightness
  • No on screen display (OSD) for any hotkey functions
  • Wifi hotkey – doesn’t turn on/off wifi
  • multitouch. doesn’t seem to work except in a software emulated mode. It is touted as a multi-touch device, and in windows functioned ok (two finger vert/horizontal scroll, zoom in/out, rotate), however i think it might have been software driven. Ubuntu mouse properties allow you to use the zone based vertical scroll, but this really does suck.
  • battery life. Indicated as around 5 hours by power meter. Not sure if perhaps ubuntu isn’t fully using the power saving features of the CPU/chipset. will have to investigate further.

The touchpad is probably the most irritating issue at this point. Doing some investigating, /proc/bus/input/devices lists the touchpad thus:

I: Bus=0011 Vendor=0002 Product=0007 Version=01b1
N: Name="SynPS/2 Synaptics Touchpad"
P: Phys=isa0060/serio1/input0
S: Sysfs=/devices/platform/i8042/serio1/input/input9
U: Uniq=
H: Handlers=mouse1 event9
B: EV=b
B: KEY=420 0 70000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
B: ABS=11000003

I haven’t looked into the touchpad issue too much, but will hopefully have it resolved and two finger scrolling happening soon.

Overall, Ubuntu works pretty well out of the box. A few minor issues, which hopefully I will sort out in time. I’ll post any updates here as they happen.

UPDATE1:

I have now got volume control function keys working. It seems that the Asus BIOS is a bit stupid in that it will change how it behaves based upon the OS which it is running. Therefore, you need to tell it you’re running linux to get it to send the right keycodes. Instructions came from here, but to summarise, you need to edit /etc/default/grub and add acpi_osi=Linux to the parameter¬†GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT. After you’ve done that, update the grub configuration (sudo update-grub), reboot and volume hotkeys (with OSD) should function.

UPDATE 2:

HD flash video (vimeo, youtube HD etc) doesn’t work under linux, whereas it does under windows. I did some investigation after a query from kajdo, and it looks like the issue is with the flash plugin, not the video driver. I installed the restricted nvidia binary driver (using jockey-gtk), and get good 3D performance in games. Doing some reading, it seems that HD flash video is a feature of the Flash 10.1 plugin for windows – it enables use of the ion acceleration features.

So, basically i think we’re going to have to wait for 3D acceleration support in our flash plugins before we’ll be able to watch HD flash video, damnit.