For years, ThinkPads, first from IBM and then from Lenovo, were Linux users' top laptop pick. Then, in 2008 Lenovo turned its back on desktop Linux. Lenovo has seen the error of its ways. Today, for the first time in much too long, Lenovo has released a ThinkPad with a ready-to-run Linux. And, not just any Linux, but Red Hat's community Linux, Fedora.
Red Hat Senior Software Engineering Manager Christian Schaller wrote:
This is a big milestone for us and for Lenovo as it's the first time Fedora ships pre-installed on a laptop from a major vendor and it's the first time the world's largest laptop maker ships premium laptops with Linux directly to consumers. Currently, only the X1 Carbon is available, but more models are on the way and more geographies will get added too soon.
First in this new Linux-friendly lineup is the X1 Carbon Gen 8. It will be followed by forthcoming versions of the ThinkPad P1 Gen2 and ThinkPad P53. While ThinkPads are usually meant for business users, Lenovo will be happy to sell the Fedora-powered X1 Carbon to home users as well.
The new X1 Carbon runs Fedora Workstation 32. This cutting-edge Linux distribution uses the Linux Kernel 5.6.6. It includes WireGuard virtual private network (VPN) support and USB4 support. This Fedora version uses the new GNOME 3.36 for its default desktop.
The system itself comes standard with a 10th Generation Intel Core 1.6Ghz i5-10210U CPU, with up to 4.20 GHz with Turbo Boost. This processor boasts 4 Cores, 8 Threads, and a 6 MB cache.
It also comes with 8GBs of LPDDR3 RAM. Unfortunately, its memory is soldered in. While that reduces the manufacturing costs, Linux users tend to like to optimize their hardware and this restricts their ability to add RAM. You can upgrade it to 16GBs, of course, when you buy it for an additional $149.
For storage, the X1 defaults to a 256GB SSD. You can push it up to a 1TB SSD. That upgrade will cost you $536.
The X1 Carbon Gen 8 has a 14.0" Full High Definition (FHD) (1920 x 1080) screen. For practical purposes, this is as high-a-resolution as you want on a laptop. I've used laptops with Ultra High Definition (UHD), aka 4K, with 3840x2160 resolution, and I've found the text to be painfully small. This display is powered by an integrated Intel HD Graphics chipset.
For networking, the X1 uses an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11AX with vPro (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 5.0 chipset. I've used other laptops with this wireless networking hardware and it tends to work extremely well.
These days desktop Linux supports over 99% of the PC hardware. To close that gap entirely, Lenovo is working with its third-party hardware component vendors to make sure they supply the appropriate Linux drivers. Lenovo also uses the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) to make sure there's current firmware available for both their main system and all its components such as the X1's 720p Webcam and fingerprint sensor.
The entire default package has a base price of $2,145. For now, it's available for $1,287. If you want to order one, be ready for a wait. You can expect to wait three weeks before Lenovo ships it to you.
It may be worth the wait. Schaller loves the new Fedora-powered ThinkPad. Schaller wrote:
I am very happy with the work that has been done here to get to this point both by Lenovo and from the engineers on my team here at Red Hat. For example, Lenovo made sure to get all of their component makers to ramp up their Linux support and we have been working with them to both help get them started writing drivers for Linux or by helping add infrastructure they could plug their hardware into. We also worked hard to get them all set up on the Linux Vendor Firmware Service so that you could be assured to get updated firmware not just for the laptop itself, but also for its components.
We also have a list of improvements that we are working on to ensure you get the full benefit of your new laptops with Fedora and Lenovo, including working on things like improved power management features being able to have power consumption profiles that include a high-performance mode for some laptops that will allow it to run even faster when on AC power and on the other end a low power mode to maximize battery life. As part of that, we are also working on adding lap detection support, so that we can ensure that you don't risk your laptop running too hot in your lap and burning you or that radio antennas are running too strong when that close to your body.
So I hope you decide to take the leap and get one of the great developer laptops we are doing together with Lenovo. This is a unique collaboration between the worlds largest laptop maker and the world's largest Linux company.
This isn't Lenovo's only pro-Linux desktop move. Lenovo is planning to certify its entire workstation portfolio for top Linux distributions from Canonical and Red Hat -- "every model, every configuration." While that's not every Lenovo PC -- the Ideapad family isn't included -- that's still impressive. It will also preload its entire portfolio of ThinkStation and ThinkPad P Series workstations with both Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS).
With these moves, Lenovo is joining Dell, with its support for Ubuntu Linux-powered developer laptops, such as its latest Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition, in supplying programmers with high-end hardware. Dell already offers a wide variety of top-rank Linux-powered laptops and workstations. With Lenovo heading into the same space, we can hope for better and less expensive PCs from both companies.