Fedora 20 Beta on Thinkpad T440s Report

by havoc

Before buying a T440s I kept asking people on Twitter to tell me how it works with Linux, so I figure I should write down the answer.

Note: this is a beta distribution on a brand-new laptop model.

Punchline: Lenovo’s new clickpad is worse than the old physical buttons for me with the trackpoint, but I find it usable. YMMV. If you’re a touchpad user then the clickpad is probably an upgrade from older Thinkpads. The rest of the laptop is mostly solid, but has a couple of bugs, not suprising for brand-new hardware and a Fedora beta. I like the hardware a lot, other than wanting my trackpoint buttons back.

Details:

Clickpad

  • The clickpad is not configured to have middle/right click out of the box, fortunately the installer only needs left click. Bug report
  • To configure the middle/right button areas with synclient you need to use undocumented options. Bug report
  • Disabling touchpad in the BIOS seems to be useless (also turns off clicking so trackpoint has no buttons).
  • I also set PalmDetect, HorizHysteresis, VertHysteresis to prevent accidental mouse motion.
  • With the trackpoint, the issue is that you will occasionally click the wrong mouse button.
  • It may be my imagination, but I think the line between the soft buttons may move depending on whether you last touched the pad on the right or left side of the line, or something. I am mostly used to it now but I think it could be a showstopper for people who are picky. It makes it very hard to configure the soft buttons to match the physical affordances on the touchpad. Whatever is going on, there could be something the synaptics driver could do to reduce clicking on the wrong button, because I can’t seem to configure the soft buttons to always be where I expect them to be. (Update: maybe the confusing thing when trying to experimentally configure the button areas is that it tries to ignore motion once the click begins so looks at where your finger first touched down? But this would also make it hard to feel around for the middle button bumps and then click. Anyway, with a ruler, the middle button affordance is from 40% to 60% on the physical touchpad, so I’m going to try Option "SoftButtonAreas" "60% 0 0 0 40% 60% 0 0".)
  • I want a mode where the touchpad has clickpad-clicking and two-finger scroll (or other gestures) but NO pointer motion and NO tap to click. Synaptics doesn’t seem to have a way to have scrolling without pointer motion.
  • At one point my touchpad got into a mode where it had one-finger scrolling and no pointer motion, but it went away on reboot and I don’t know how to reproduce it.
  • Despite the issues it’s still better than having to use a touchpad. Trackpoint forever!

Network

  • I ordered with the Intel wifi card (strongly recommended for Linux) and it works great. I installed over wifi in fact.
  • The ethernet card picks 10 mb/s instead of 1000 on my network. Since my wifi is fast this isn’t bothering me much but if I needed ethernet it would be pretty bad. Bug report
  • Not sure if it’s the card or something more general, but wired autoconnect was disabled by default. Bug report

Docking

  • All screens blank when you dock with a monitor connected to the dock. This would be a showstopper if I needed to use an external monitor. Bug report (anyone know which module the logic to adjust xrandr on monitor plug/unplug lives in?)
  • Dock ethernet works the same as non-dock ethernet (i.e. broken, but in the same way).
  • Dock power seems to work fine.

Physical

  • Nice size and weight. Power brick is smaller than pre-Haswell Thinkpads too.
  • Screen is pretty (I got the 1080p one). Pixels are small, text is tiny without tweaking.
  • I think the new keyboard is fine or even better than the old Thinkpad style. Probably less prone to getting gooped up too.
  • Home/End/PgUp/PgDn moved again but I think they’ve moved every time I bought a new Thinkpad so I’m used to it.
  • I don’t care about lack of dedicated volume buttons and lack of status LEDs but some people don’t like that in the new Thinkpads.
  • Battery life (with the internal 3-cell and a removable 3-cell) seems to be 4–6 hours depending on what you are doing, and how many powertop tunables you toggle. I haven’t rigorously tested.
  • I opened the laptop to swap out the hard drive. This was pretty difficult (it requires a spudger or thin blade, I used a plastic scraper). Maybe the price of a thin laptop that feels solid.
  • The factory drive had a protective sheet wrapped around it to separate it from the case, so a little worried my replacement drive might short out against the case or something. But seems to be working so far.

Other

  • Minor cosmetic artifact in gnome-shell, not something you’ll care about. Bug report
  • It comes with a 16G SSD designed to be a cache for the main HD. This shows up in Linux but I’m not using it. I was thinking of using it as a boot disk but just didn’t bother yet. Linux only has experimental support for the caching trick. I might rather put a larger SSD in the slot and use it as a non-cache, but SSDs in this form factor aren’t widely available yet.
  • Default fonts are too small on the high-DPI screen and GNOME has the configuration for this only in tweak tool. OS X puts this config in their tweak tool too, but my guess is that they have better defaults on all of their hardware.
  • Adjusting fonts upward doesn’t affect web sites. Firefox has no “just automatically zoom all pages by N steps” setting that I can figure out. Text is too small on most sites.
  • Powertop doesn’t have the obvious “make all these tunings persistent” button (or more importantly, the tunables are not properly tuned by default).
  • Switching wifi networks involves 3 more clicks than it used to. I have an upstairs and a downstairs one so I do this a lot.
  • GNOME 3.10 feels extremely solid and smooth. Fedora install was seamless with no troubles. Overall it was an easy upgrade and I was back to productivity after a day; most of the time was spent copying over my data.

Thanks to all the developers involved! Great hardware and software upgrade from my T510/F17, overall.