Smylers at stripey.com
Thu Feb 2 17:51:53 GMT 2012
Mallory van Achterberg writes:
> Hi, Whenever you find what you like, let us know. When looking for a
> 13" laptop last fall things sucked... if you wanted Linux.
The ThinkPad X220 is what I went with.
Here's some notes on the candidates -- all lightweight laptops, about
12" screens, with 128 Gb SSD, 4 Gb ram, and similar processor options:
* Macbook Air: Ruled out early on because maximum ram is 4 Gb.
I'm buying something with 4 Gb now and hoping to use it for 4 years,
so I'd like the possibility of sticking more ram in it later if 4 Gb
turns out not to be enough or software continues to get hungrier.
* Asus something-or-other: Ditto.
* Dell Lattitude E6220:
12.5", 1.44 kg, has good reviews and is available with Ubuntu rather
than Windows (if ordered by e-mail).
I liked the idea of that, not because installing Ubuntu is hard but
because I treat buying things as political activity, so I'd like my
purchase to be counted somewhere in a tally of customers who want
Linux laptops, and to support a supplier that offers them.
Also, from previous laptops I already have a small collection of Dell
power supplies, so everything else being equal I'd buy Dell again then
leave a spare power supply in my bag and have the advantage of less
scrabbling under desks.
However, there's a report from an E6220 owner of full touchpad
functionality not working under Linux:
The E6620 is certified to work with Ubuntu, but the touchpad isn't one
of the components covered by the certification:
When I asked the Dell salesperson about this he said that they don't
support Ubuntu, and he couldn't tell me whether the touchpad would
work on it. He didn't seem to grasp the point that I wasn't interested
in spending £1200 on something without knowing whether it worked.
So I tried again, with a Dell live chat on their website; same answer
(but in worse English, from somebody even less well informed). Neither
of them seemed in the slightest bit bothered that another customer had
publicly posted a claim that their product doesn't work, nor did they
make any attempt to contradict that claim, nor seem bothered they were
losing a sale over it. Overall I don't think their sales staff told me
anything that I hadn't read for myself on their website ... but
discovering that was excruciating.
On another question the salesperson told me a week ago he'd get back
to me with an answer, and hasn't yet done so. Basically this sale was
Dell's for them to lose, and they managed to lose it.
* Lenovo ThinkPad X220:
12.5", 1.3 kg. Was about £130 more than the same spec of Dell E6220.
Not available with Linux in the UK, and obviously won't work with my
Dell power supplies.
But in general ThinkPads have good Linux support. Lenovo UK don't have
any sales staff or any way you can ask questions before purchase; this
turns out to work in their favour, because it avoids the possibility
their staff will be put me off the sale. What they do have is Cory
Doctorow writing about running Ubuntu on his X220, in an article which
is more informative than any salesperson I've encountered:
Last night it was starting to look like this might be the favourite
anyway when I saw Lenovo had just started a sale on X-series laptops,
offering 10% off till February 9th. This brought it down to the same
price as the Dell, which made it an easy choice to buy one.
So I'm grateful to Dell staff for drawing out this process so long
that Lenovo's prices dropped!
Unfortunately the actual sales process wasn't smooth. Taking payment
is outsourced to Digital River, whose website timed out several times
-- including one occasion when I couldn't be completely sure whether
it had made the purchase; I guessed it hadn't because no confirmation
e-mail had arrived.
Trying again this morning I got through, but had to phone my credit
card provider to authorize the transaction; it had initially been
declined because my card provider thought it looked fraudulent.
And then about an hour later Lenovo phoned me to confirm my contact
details before they sent me the confirmation e-mail!
Ordering from a website shouldn't involve 3 attempts and 2 phone
* Samsung 900X3A:
1.31 kg, 13.3". It looks like Samsung have a terrible reputation for
Linux support; a couple of separate people reported they'd bought this
laptop when it was released last year and had found getting Linux to
work so frustrating they'd given up and sold the laptop on. (More
recent blog posts suggest workarounds for the issues have been
discovered, but deploying them seems like effort and I'd rather my
money went to a company that makes effort to support Linux.)
However, in its favour the Samsung does have a bigger screen than the
Dell or the ThinkPad, for no extra weight. It's also a Best Buy in the
current edition of 'Which?' magazine, and is available in-stock for
delivery in 2 days; the Dell and the ThinkPad both take a couple of
weeks to arrive.
So while it isn't suitable for me, a Windows user looking for a
similar spec laptop may be interested in this one. One small downside:
it only has 2 USB ports (compared with 3 on both the Dell and the
I now know far more about laptops than I ever wanted to. I hope that
somebody finds the above useful so that they don't have to repeat my
pain, and that it'll be many years before I have to go through this
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