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 an AMD processor.

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)
  • Memory, extra: 32GB (SODIMM)
    Patriot Signature Series DDR4 32GB (1 x 32GB) 3200MHz SODIMM Single
  • 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

Hardware-wise, the laptop looks nice. The outside shell gets dirty from time to time but it’s very easy to clean. Here are son cons. For instance, if you apply pressure the chassis will flex above the trackpad. Secondly, the screen is average at best and the colors are off. In some countries, they offer additional screen options which are all better than this one. Unless your goal is to find the cheapest laptop possible, you should get a screen with a higher NITS value. 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.

Memory

I added a 32GB SODIMM to boost the laptop RAM. As a result, the total was now 40GB. This is somewhat deceptive since the built-in GPU will use some of that memory. By default, it was set up to use 4GB of RAM. You can tweak this setting in the BIOS, you have 1,2,4 GB options. Upon choosing the last option, the OS is now seeing 36GB.

On a negative note, this also impacts the overall speed of the machine. The GPU will use 4GB from the soldered DIMM leaving you 4GB of memory working in a dual channel with whatever you put in the SODIMM slot, which is not that great.

In my case, it leaves me 8GB working in a dual channel (4GB from each bank) and 28Gb in a 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.

Pictures

Initial setup

Before installing Linux it’s very important to do all Lenovo’s updates. There is a very important update for the Bios (the current version is 1.13, make sure you have at least 1.08)

Linux issues

There are 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 downloads, you can’t download anything that will update the machine if you run Linux. You can check my post as a workaround for that: link for how to update bios
  • You were probably thinking you didn’t need Linux-specific download links for firmware 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:

  • Sometimes you will boot and the keyboard backlight will be on by default.
  • Sometimes 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 that feel the same. The touchpad is average, on my machine, the left click is harder sometimes harder to invoke than the right-click. I prefer the T580 layout of this one. They put the page up and page down as double functions of the arrow keys instead of having separate keys.

Screen

I seem to have a very ordinary screen, I was supposed to get the better one but I messed up my order. I have moderate backlight bleeding. Not 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 completely 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 a 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 a minimum add 8GB, and 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 not recommend this. Lenovo has 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 plagued with issues (camera, USB-c dock, and sleep mode). I recommend searching their forums, there are plenty of problems with these two models.

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