Notes on the Thinkpad X280

I got my Thinkpad two days ago and already installed at least four linux distributions.
Here are my first thoughts:

  • The hardware or rather the build quality is great. The only minor nitpicky issue is the camera slider, it feels cheap. Still better having a camera slider than having none I would say. CPU and NVMe SSD are fast, I did not expect anything else.

  • The keyboard is a pleasure to type on. When I got a 2018 Macbook Pro at work I said that the keyboard is fine but I did not have the comparison to this one yet. This keyboard is more than fine, it is amazing.

  • The trackpoint is... a trackpoint. It works fine, sometimes seems to be stuck and slowly moving the mouse into a corner of the screen, but I had that with my X220 as well. The trackpad is good, not as good as a Macbook trackpad though. Not sure if it's hardware or software that makes the difference but everybody: please catch up.

  • The display is good. This resolution on a 12.5" screen is almost too much. If we could at least have fractional scaling on Linux, that would be great. It is fine on 1x scaling though, not an issue. I now want a matte display on my Macbook as well. The bezels around the screen could be smaller, you can get that with basically all the other vendors.

  • The speakers are bad. They are on the bottom of the device, way too quiet, they sound like shit. This is actually quite a big deal for me since I want to watch videos on YouTube or Netflix on this device. When the device is not laying on a flat surface it is almost impossible to hear anything.

While replacing Windows 10 Home on the device I wanted to see which Linux distribution would offer the best out of the box installer experience.

  • I had to find out the hard way that Debian does not ship with the firmware needed for the intel wifi card. At least it warns you before you nuke your partitions. Interesting to know for people that usually do not use Debian: it only ships with Firefox ESR which is currently on version 60 and does not include the performance improvements from the latest versions. There will not be another version until july of this year.

  • Promising contender for the it just works award is Pop!_OS. It actually kind of just works. Based on Ubuntu with an opinionated configuration and defaults this was to be expected. The only issue I had thich I did not want to fix is that it reset itself to 2x scaling on every reboot and after every hibernate.

  • Never have I tried to use Fedora. At least not in the last 10 years. It is great, really. It is also what I am writing this blog post on. I had wayland crash on me two times when I first installed it, but it did not happen again until now. You can get a very integrated vanilla Gnome experience which I actually like.

Anything you want to know about the Thinkpad or Linux? Let me know on Twitter or Mastodon. I'll try to use this thing for at least a week. I will then evaluate how many issues I have and if I am able to solve them. Also let me know if you know other devices that will make me happier than this one does.