Purchasing a new (or second hand) laptop

Hi,

I would like to ask for your help with purchasing a new (or second hand) laptop.

My ideal choice is a 14’’ business laptop which is strong enough to constantly and smoothly run a windows VM with high load and several other VMs (usually two Whonix VMs, sys-net, sys-firewall, and some other). It has to be durable and portable. It would be nice to have coreboot or open-source firmware and IME disabled.

I am currently using a Lenovo X230 which is a very good laptop, but it has two serious limitations:

  1. slow
  2. the display is small

Based on the above my choice is Dell Latitude (7490 or 5490) or Lenovo Thinkpad (T480s, T490s or T495s). However there is no coreboot or other similar opensource firmware for these.

The T495s has AMD CPU with a dedicated GPU which (as far as I understand) is not very useful with Qubes.

The T480s (and probably T490s) has some kind of throttling issues (CPU Frequency Scaling Broken · Issue #4604 · QubesOS/qubes-issues · GitHub). I am not sure if Dell Latitude 7490 has the same issue (it uses the same CPU)

I was also looking at Purism and System76 but those are not business laptops and I am afraid those aren’t durable enough for day-to-day use (and do not have keyboard with the language i prefer).

Do you have any experience with any of the above?
Do you think that there will be coreboot for any of those business laptops?
Can you advise me any other laptop with the above specification?

Thank you!

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Hi.

If you require coreboot, then you are out of luck.
There is a more recent generation of processor with coreboot support - the thinkpad T440p, but that’s it. After that there is a minefield of intel technologies that are in the way of coreboot development for newer laptops.
I think the T440p (not T440s) has socketed CPU, so it can be changed. There are versions with discrete GPU but that is not usefull with Qubes (and it can be worse, i do not know)

Regarding throttling issues, it probably affects the Dell as well as lenovo, as the issue seems to be related to the processor an (lack of) kernel support for it. It should be fine in the near future with kerne update, not sure when.

I can say that thinkpad x250 i5 5300 works without flaws, but I do not notice huge improvements compared with a x230 i7 regarding speed. But screen resolution can be much better (1920x1080), and power efficiency is better.

regards

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My Purism Librem 15 has been working for a few years without issues (except rubber foots which I had to glue back). It has Coreboot and it’s chassis is made of aluminum btw. One can also buy keyboard letter stickers.

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Hi, thank you for your answers.

I think, I don’t require it, but would be nice to have it. Do you have any idea what does it take to port coreboot to any of these laptops? Is it even possible?

I had T440s, T450s, T460s and now have an X250 as well but I think those do not have any performance edge over the i7-X230 (and max memory is limited at 12GB). That is why I am looking at laptops with at least 8th gen intel processors and 16 (but preferably 32) GB of RAM.

That is good to hear. I wish I could test Qubes for a couple of weeks on those laptops before I buy any of them.

Yes, but keyboard stickers on USD2000 laptop?!
Jokes aside, my biggest problem with Purism is the keyboard;

  1. it does not have separate PageUp, PageDown, Home and End buttons
  2. does not have a trackpoint and does not have buttons above the touchpad
  3. and yes I don’t want to use stickers

If they make a Librem business series I will be the first buyer, but I think there is practically non-existent demand for privacy oriented business laptops.

I also read very good thoughts in this thread, especially that second hand corporate laptops are not necessarily the best choice.

No decision was made yet.

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These Linux laptops appear to be quite powerful:

  • Star LabTop (uses CoreBoot),
  • SlimBook (to my limited knowledge, does not use CoreBoot; the manufactures seems very committed to Open Source software; so maybe they are open for suggestion).

Can’t say much about Qubes compatibility.

The Star LabTop looks quite sturdy to me.
I heard good things about daily-driving the SlimBook Pro X, even though it it has just an Aluminium case (and not the beloved torsionally stiff Thinkpad-like fiber-based stuff).

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The reason for that is

They were making various keyboards before, but the demand was not big enough to support that.

  1. It does have those keys. They are on the numpad and can be used without modifiers whenever NumLock is off.
  2. Why do you need buttons above the touchpad? My laptop supports multitouch in Qubes, and I can have right click with two fingers and middle click with three fingers. Works flawlessly. Lack of trackpoint is an issue though.
  3. Learn touch typing. I did and cannot recommend it enough.

The actual problem is that Librem 15 production has been discontinued. But people are demanding more.

Thanks, I’ve never heard of these manufacturers. I sent both an inquiry on Qubes compatibility and open source firmware. If I get an answer I will share it.

Yes, you are right, I was looking at Librem 14.

They are used in combination with the trackpad, so I don’t have to move my palms.

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Definitely keep us posted. If the Slimbook Pro X is corebooted, it will be an instant buy for me. Thanks!

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Unfortunately still no answer.

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