Laptop indecision

I wrote last month about buying a new laptop and I still haven’t made a decision. One reason for this is because Dell doesn’t seem to be shipping the E7250. Some online shops claim to be able to deliver it, but aren’t clear on what configuration it has – and I really don’t want to end up with Dell Wifi.

Another issue has been the graphic issues with the Broadwell GPU (see the comment section of my last post). It seems unlikely that this will be fixed in time for Debian Jessie. I really want a stable OS on this machine, as it will be a work-horse and not a toy machine. I haven’t made up my mind whether the graphics issue is a deal-breaker for me.

Meanwhile, a couple of more sub-1.5kg (sub-3.3lbs) Broadwell i7’s have hit the market. Some of these models were suggested in comments to my last post. I have decided that the 5500U CPU would also be acceptable to me, because some newer laptops doesn’t come with the 5600U. The difference is that the 5500U is a bit slower (say 5-10%) and lacks vPro, which I have no need for and mostly consider a security risk. I’m not aware of any other feature differences.

Since the last round, I have tightened my weight requirement to be sub-1.4kg (sub-3lbs), which excludes some recently introduced models, and actually excludes most of the models I looked at before (X250, X1 Carbon, HP 1040/810). Since I’m leaning towards the E7250, with the X250 as a “reliable” fallback option, I wanted to cut down on the number of further models to consider. Weigth is a simple distinguisher. The 1.4-1.5kg (3-3.3lbs) models I am aware that of that is excluded are the Asus Zenbook UX303LN, the HP Spectre X360, and the Acer TravelMate P645.

The Acer Aspire S7-393 (1.3kg) and Toshiba Kira-107 (1.26kg) would have been options if they had RJ45 ports. They may be interesting to consider for others.

The new models I am aware of are below. I’m including the E7250 and X250 for comparison, since they are my preferred choices from the first round. A column for maximum RAM is added too, since this may be a deciding factor for me. Higher weigth is with touch screens.

Toshiba Z30-B 1.2-1.34kg 16GB 13.3″ 1920×1080
Fujitsu Lifebook S935 1.24-1.36kg 12GB 13.3″ 1920×1080
HP EliteBook 820 G2 1.34-1.52kg 16GB 12.5″ 1920×1080
Dell Latitude E7250 1.25kg 8/16GB? 12.5″ 1366×768
Lenovo X250 1.42kg 8GB 12.5″ 1366×768

It appears unclear whether the E7250 is memory upgradeable, some sites say max 8GB some say max 16GB. The X250 and 820 has DisplayPort, the S935 and Z30-B has HDMI, and the E7250 has both DisplayPort/HDMI. The E7250 does not have VGA which the rest has. All of them have 3 USB 3.0 ports except for X250 that only has 2 ports. The E7250 and 820 claims NFC support, but Debian support is not given. Interestingly, all of them have a smartcard reader. All support SDXC memory cards.

The S935 has an interesting modular bay which can actually fit a CD reader or an additional battery. There is a detailed QuickSpec PDF for the HP 820 G2, haven’t found similar detailed information for the other models. It mentions support for Ubuntu, which is nice.

Comparing these laptops is really just academic until I have decided what to think about the Broadwell GPU issues. It may be that I’ll go back to a fourth-gen i7 laptop, and then I’ll probably pick a cheap reliable machine such as the X240.

26 thoughts on “Laptop indecision

    • Thanks — I’ve updated my last post with the accurate weight. Not sure where I got that from. I’m still excluding the X1 for me since it lacks a proper RJ45 port.

      It seems that laptop weight is a bit fuzzy and depends on configuration — and it is often difficult to know exactly how much a particular configuration will weight. Generally, I think touch screens add some weight, but the QuickSpec for the HP 820 G2 suggests the situation is even more complex (270g for a non-touch 1366×768 screen and 230g for a 1920×1080 touch screen).

      /Simon

    • Fixed, thanks. The reason for ruling it out was in my last post. I’m sure it is a fine laptop, so I’m not saying everyone else should not consider it. 🙂

      /Simon

  1. I have an s7 – it comes with a USB Ethernet dongle if that helps. I also ran wheezy on it just fine and now Jessie with no modifications.

    • Do you have a Broadwell-based S7-393? I’m not yet sure how serious the graphic issue is. Ubuntu 14.10 on a Yoga 3 Pro does not behave properly, for example, but I haven’t tried installing Jessie on that laptop yet — will do. The Yoga 3 Pro has a Core M 5Y71 CPU but I believe the GPU is similar.

      /Simon

  2. Hi Simon,
    I bough my two years ago from:
    http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/laptop-computers/
    My Debian Jessie runs smooth as can be, the only thing that doesn’t work properlyl yet is Nvidia 650M Optimus graphics (I’m using nouveau driver), but everybody knows optimus problems and nouveau limitations.
    All laptops are highly customized, these are from Clevo, the same used by System76. Just go to the option Operating System and choose the option ‘No Operating System Required’ to save 79 pounds (if you buy from British side, although they have options for many European countries).
    One downside is that battery doesn’t keep charge any more, it doesn’t bother me much, but it is well known problem from some series of Clevo laptops.
    Cheers,
    Wojciech

  3. Go with the X230 as a reliable, safe fall-back; the X240 touchpad and nipple are quite bad, and there are some weirdities about the keyboard too.

    • A new X240 is relatively cheap now, but I actually started looking at used X220 and X230’s too. They are reliable, known to work, and will probably satisfy my in-office needs. However, I still really want a Broadwell CPU to be able to test software on. So we’ll see.

      /Simon

  4. Hi Simon,

    The x250 supports 16 GB using after market DIMMs (see: https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/X-Series-ThinkPad-Laptops/16GB-SO-DIMMs-work-in-X250/td-p/2035319 and http://www.ok2.de/16GB-SO-DIMM-Speichermodul–1027.html)

    The x250 also has a 400 nit IPS 1920×1080 display.

    Finally, I’m using the stock kernel from Jessie (3.16) and the things that I do (emacs, web browsing, occassional video, but not 3D) work fine. I also haven’t experienced any crashes yet.

    Neal

    • Hi Neal. Very interesting! It would still only use one memory channel (which is different from the other laptops here which have two memory slots), so I assume it would be slower than 2*8GB with one on each memory channel. But I suspect performance will be “good enough” anyway.

      Do you have a Broadwell-based GPU and use GNOME with jessie? I believe it requires 3D these days, and I’m seeing graphics issues with Ubuntu 14.10 on a Yoga 3 Pro which has a similar GPU.

      Thanks,
      /Simon

      • Hi Simon,

        Yes, it is still single channel, which is a bit disappointing, but I’m not sure it makes such a huge difference in practice.

        I have the i7-5600U.

        I use Xfce 4 and not GNOME.

        Also: a 100 grams? Not a real reason to worry :).

        Neal

  5. Personally I’d rule out the HP EliteBook 820 G2, 1920×1090 on a 12.5″ display? What are you going to do, stick a big fresnel lens in front of it like in Brazil?

    Also for the Dell Latitude E7250 and Lenovo X250 –1366×768 is just too small.

    • 1080p on a 12.5″ display works just fine, and if you want display elements to appear larger, you can easily increase sizes in modern desktop environments.

  6. Hi,

    FYI, the X250 can actually take 16GiB RAM:
    http://www.notebookcheck.net/Intelligent-Memory-16-GB-RAM-modules-for-Broadwell-notebooks.137492.0.html
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2894509/want-32gb-of-ram-in-your-laptop-or-nuc-you-can-finally-do-it.html

    The same should apply to other Broadwell machines with one RAM slot too. Two slot machines should be able to do 32GiB just fine. But the RAM modules are pretty expensive at this time.

    Greets
    Evgeni

    • Very interesting. I doubt that two-channel machines would be able to do 32GB since the i7 info from Intel says the CPU cannot do more than 16GB:

      http://ark.intel.com/products/85215

      But maybe it is wrong as well…

      Edit: Yes, probably incorrect, since I see the article you linked says they tested 2x16GB setups in Broadwell CPUs and it was working. Strange.

      /Simon

  7. Until now, my main requirement on a laptop computer was, that it can run Debian without proprietary drivers. In the future, I will add a new requirement: It must be able to run Coreboot, too.

  8. While a bit bigger, and only just over your 1.5kg limit the E7450 might be worth considering. I just got one of the new intel versions (fully loaded with touch screen etc.), pre-installed with ubuntu 14.04, so far it’s worked very well. It needed upgrading to 14.10 for everything to work smoothly.

  9. With Intelligent Memory 16GB modules (model IMM2G64D3LSOD8AG-B15E) you can upgrade all new notebooks/ultrabooks that utilize the 5th Generation Broadwell-U CPUs (i3/i5/i7-5xxxU) to TWICE the amount of memory compared to the official manufacturer-spec.
    This means:
    Toshiba Z30-B 2 memory slots -> max 32GB RAM possible
    Fujitsu Lifebook S935 1 memory slot -> max 16GB RAM possible
    HP EliteBook 820 G2 2 memory slots -> max 32GB RAM possible
    Dell Latitude E7250 1 memory slot -> max 16GB RAM possible
    Lenovo X250 1 memory slot -> max 16GB RAM possible

  10. Hello, the Portege Z30-B is worth considering in my opinion. 1.2 Kg, 13.3″ FHD, vga, hdmi, 3 usb3, ethernet port, Wi-Fi access, i7 5600, up to 16 GB (2 slot), 10 to 12 hours battery, customizable on the US site Web or after the purchase.
    The new travelmate P645-S from Acer offer the same configuration except for this points :
    – 12 GB max memory (4 GB soldered to the motherboard, one slot free)
    – 1.5 Kg
    – 14″ screen
    But you can add a second disk.
    A version with a graphic card is also available P645-SG.

  11. Pingback: Laptop decision fatigue | Simon Josefsson's blog

  12. Note that the X250 now officially supports 16G memory (since latest BIOS update). Also, I do own one and setup a page on it (see website), but I’m running sid with Xfce so not sure it’ll help you a lot.

    • Thank you — that’s a great page and resource for X250 owners. It also reinforces my impression that the X250, and Broadwell-based laptops in general, aren’t a good choice if you want to run Debian Jessie and want a stable system that just works without any tinkering.

      /Simon

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