2021 Linux Review of the Lenovo ThinkBook 15 Gen 2 AMD

2021 Linux Review of the Lenovo ThinkBook 15 Gen 2 AMD

This 2021 review is about the Lenovo Thinkbook 15 G2 ARE Laptop (Type 20VG) I recently bought. This laptop is using AMD components.

Here are the configuration details

  • Processor: AMD® Ryzen™ 7 4700U Processor (2.00 GHz, up to 4.10 GHz Max Boost, 8 Cores, 8 Threads, 8 MB Cache)
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64
  • Display Type: 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti glare, 250 nits
  • Memory: 8 GB DDR4 3200MHz (Soldered)
  • Hard Drive: 512 GB PCIe SSD
  • Warranty: 1 year Depot or Carry-in
  • Battery: 3 Cell Li-Polymer 45Wh
  • Camera: 720p HD
  • Fingerprint Reader: Fingerprint Reader
  • Keyboard: Backlit – US English
  • Wireless: 802.11AX (2 x 2) & Bluetooth® 5.1

Harware wise, the laptop looks nice. If you apply pressure the chassis will flex above the trackpad (from the FN key to the right arrow). The screen is average and the colors are off. You will notice in two screenshots that I have backlight bleeding in a few spots. It’s not very disturbing unless you have a pure black background. I added a 32GB sodimm to boost the laptop RAM to 40GB total. This is somewhat deceptive since the built-in GPU will use some of that memory. By default it was setup to use 4GB of RAM. You can tweak this setting in the BIOS, you have have 1,2,4 GB options. If you leave it at 4GB, your OS will see 36GB with the same configuration or 4GB with the default config.

This also affect the overall speed of the machine. The GPU will use 4gb from the soldered dimm leaving you 4GB of memory working in dual channel with whatever you put in the sodimm slot.

In my case it leaves me 8GB working in dual channel (4gb from each bank) and 28gb in single channel. Modern OS opens applications with random address space, so there is a good possibility that your apps will be opened in a single channel memory area.

Initial setup

Before installing linux it’s very important to do all Lenovo’s update. There is a very important update for the Bios (v1.08)

Linux issues

There’s plenty of issues when using this laptop with Linux, I will go straight to the point and list them.

  • Unlike some other Lenovo laptops, there is no mode in the bios to make it Linux friendly.
  • Lenovo only provides links to Windows download, you can’t download anything that will update the machine if you run Linux.
  • You were probably thinking you didn’t need Linux specific download links for firmwares when you can update your machine directly with Linux with the firmware updater. That would be easy but Lenovo didn’t upload any so you can forget this.
  • If you use any kernel below and including 5.10, your touchpad won’t work, you need to use a beta 5.11.
  • If you run a 5.11 kernel, only basic gestures will be supported, forget the zooming gestures and many more. Only scrolling up and down is supported.

Some random issues:

  • Sometime you will boot and the keyboard backlight will be on by default.
  • Sometime the display brightness will be at maximum upon boot, if you use the brightness buttons it will go back to normal.

Keyboard / Touchpad

The keyboard seems to be on par with my Lenovo T580. The backlit is weird, instead of being low and high, it seems to be two HIGH modes which feel the same. The touchpas is average, on my machine, the left click is harder sometime harder to invoke than the right click. I prefer the T580 layout of this one. They put the page up and page down as a double functions of the arrow keys instead of having seperate buttons.

Screen

I seem to have the default screen, I was supposed to get the better one but I messed up my order. I have moderate backlight bleeding. Not really noticeable when displaying colored images. Screen colors are not accurate out of the box. If you go down 2 steps from maximum brightness via the keyboard, I measure 120ccd. Color calibration scores gave me :

60.3% sRGC 42% AdobeRGB 43% DCI P3

The dimming function keys will let turn off the display complety or turn it up to 250 nits which was appreciated. My T580’s lowest level is not pure black, unlike this model.

Camera

The camera is mediocre at best! There is button that let you physically block the camera which is a good thing. I’m giving it a 0/10.

Biometrics

If you intend to use it for Windows, this camera is not Hello compatible. The alternate biometric option is the fingerprint scanner. I didn’t bother testing the fingerprint scanner with Linux knowing the touchpad barely works.

Performance

This machine’s performance is great, it’s very fast. Unlike my T580 I don’t hear the fans. If you manage to push the machine enough, you’ll notice they are very quiet. Under Manjaro XFCE, with normal use, It looked like I was getting 8-10 hours of autonomy.

Upgradability

The first 8GB of ram is soldering but you can add anything from 4GB to 32GB. At minimum add 8GB, the built-in video card will already consume 4GB of your base memory. You can also change the NVME ssd and have an area where you can add a sata drive also.

Conclusion

For Linux, I would totally not recommend this. Lenovo have no plans to provide any kind of Linux support for the Thinkbooks line (Intel and AMD).

Alternatives options?

The X1 seems to be the best solution but I didn’t test them myself. The T14 and P14 are not recommended either. They do have some Linux support built in the Bios but they are plagues with issues (camera, usb-c dock, and sleep mode). I recommend searching their forums, there are plenty of problems with these two models.

1 Comment

  1. Paul

    Thanks for your detailed review! You really took time to give great insights.

    How’s it going with this machine + Linux now you’ve had it a few months?
    Maybe Kernel 5.12 will have added support now?

    This seems like a nice laptop but I worry about the Linux hardware functions, I absolutely do NOT want to run Windows 10, it makes life miserable for me.
    I’m worried about things like wifi/BT cutting out or no sleep wake, big problems! Are those OK? Advance gestures are not essential, scroll & left click/right click drag is good enough for me.

    Btw the intel model of this machine is officially listed by Lenovo as Ubuntu certified, it’s just the AMD one that hasn’t made the list. (yet?)
    https://ubuntu.com/certified?category=Laptop&vendor=Lenovo

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