My NovaCustom NV41PZ laptop arrived a couple of days ago, and today I had some time to install it. You may want to read about my purchasing decision process first. I expected a rough ride to get it to work, given the number of people claiming that modern laptops can’t run fully free operating systems. I first tried the Trisquel 10 live DVD and it booted fine including network, but the mouse trackpad did not work. Before investigating it, I noticed a forum thread about Trisquel 11 beta3 images, and being based on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and has Linux-libre 5.15 it seemed better to start with more modern software. After installing through the live DVD successfully, I realized I didn’t like MATE but wanted to keep using GNOME. I reverted back to installing a minimal environment through the netinst image, and manually installed GNOME (
apt-get install gnome) since I prefer that over MATE, together with a bunch of other packages. I’ve been running it for a couple of hours now, and here is a brief summary of the hardware components that works.
|Alder Lake Intel i7-1260P
|2x32GB Kingston DDR4 SODIMM 3200MHz
|Samsung 980 Pro 2TB NVME
|Dell 27″ 2560×1440 and Ben-Q PD3220U 3840×1260 works fine
|Via Wavlink USB-C/HDMI port extender: Dell 27″ 2560×1440 and Ben-Q PD3220U 3840×1260
|Builtin 1MP Camera
|Intel Alder Lake
|ISO layout, all function keys working
|Trackpad, tap clicking and gestures
|Realtek RTL8111/8168/8411 with r8169 driver
|O2 Micro comes up as /dev/mmcblk0
|Wavlink 4xUSB, 2xHDMI, DP, RJ45, …
|Intel Alder Lake
So what’s not working? Unfortunately, NovaCustom does not offer any WiFi or Bluetooth module that is compatible with Trisquel, so the AX211 (1675x) Wifi/Bluetooth card in it is just dead weight. I imagine it would be possible to get the card to work if non-free firmware is loaded. I don’t need Bluetooth right now, and use the Technoetic N-150 USB WiFi dongle when I’m not connected to wired network.
Compared against my X201, the following factors have improved.
- Faster – CPU benchmark suggests it is 8 times faster than my old i7-620M. While it feels snappier it is not a huge difference. While NVMe should improve SSD performance, benchmark wise the NVMe 980Pro only seems around 2-3 faster than the SATA-based 860 Evo. Going from 6GB to 64GB is 10 times more memory, which is useful for disk caching.
- BIOS is free software.
- EC firmware is free.
- Operating system follows the FSDG.
I’m still unhappy about the following properties with both the NV41PZ and the X201.
- CPU microcode is not available under free license.
- Intel Mangement Engine is still present in the CPU.
- No builtin WiFi/Bluetooth that works with free software.
- Some other secondary processors (e.g., disk or screen) may be running non-free software but at least none requires non-free firmware.
Hopefully my next laptop will have improved on this further. I hope to be able to resolve the WiFi part by replacing the WiFi module, there appears to be options available but I have not tested them on this laptop yet. Does anyone know of a combined WiFi and Bluetooth M.2 module that would work on Trisquel?
While I haven’t put the laptop to heavy testing yet, everything that I would expect a laptop to be able to do seems to work fine. Including writing this blog post!