Looking for a light, Linux-friendly laptop with trackpoint
April 3, 2014 3:13 PM   Subscribe

My Lenovo Thinkpad X220 has been falling apart for awhile, but I've resisted replacing it because shopping for laptops is annoying. But now it's definitely time for something new. I'm overwhelmed by the options, but maybe someone else who's done some laptop-shopping recently can help? I'm looking for something small and light (12-14", less than 4 lbs.), Linux-friendly, and (here's the hard part) with a trackpoint-style mouse. I use my laptop mostly for writing and general Internetting, but also for processing photos, so a decent processor and display is nice. Price isn't a huge issue. I could go with one of the newer Lenovos, and I might still, but I'm interested in other options, as well. I'm not interested in any of the Chromebooks. Any suggestions?
posted by rhiannonstone to Technology (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love my Lenovo X240. It's small and light; no optical drive, however. I am posting this from Iceweasel running on top of Debian Testing.

I had to manually update the wifi drivers, but that was about it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:36 PM on April 3, 2014

Here's a review of various manufacturer's nubs/trackpoints/"pointing sticks" that could help with the right terminology if you are looking outside Lenovo.
posted by exogenous at 3:42 PM on April 3, 2014

Response by poster: (Oh yeah, optical drive definitely not required. Lighter is better.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:59 PM on April 3, 2014

If the trackpoint seals the deal, then your gut instinct to stick with Lenovo is correct. Other nubs don't do it.
posted by holgate at 4:12 PM on April 3, 2014

whatever you do don't buy an HP. I'm typing this from the HP version of the X series(2xxx series elitebook). It is the worst hunk of crap i've used since well... a 90s HP i had a long time ago.

The trackpoint is terrible, and yes i have the snazzy synaptics version mentioned in that article. It's falling apart everywhere. The battery life was always terrible. The fan is comically, joke youtube video about old nvidia graphics cards loud. Everything about it is insultingly sucky.

I've also owned a toshiba with a trackstick/point, it was also a comical suckfest.

As a random left field suggestion though, check out fujitsu. The photos on their site are so damn tiny that i can't tell if any of their current models have trackpoints, but the 2009/10 model i had a few years ago had a superb one. It was also fully metal on the exterior and felt as solid as my macbook pro, had actual suede bits on it where you'd grip it on the bottom while carrying, and was just generally built like a brick shithouse. It was also light, small, quiet, and ran linux without complaint or hardware issues(although, i didn't play with stuff like custom shortcut buttons on the chasis or the cheesy thumbprint scanner), and had astonishing battery life in the 8~ hour range.

If you're looking at thinkpads anyways though, and want a nice display... check out the X1. It actually has a 1440p screen now and looks pretty amazing. My friend had the older X1 as a work provided laptop and it was pretty stunning. The regular X series is cool too, but you have to pay over $300 to upgrade to the good 1080p display, and paying a grand for a laptop with a 1366x768 display just feels like a depressing ripoff. It's also note like the regular X series comes with a full voltage laptop CPU anymore either. Which matters less with haswell, but still feels like a cop out for such an expensive machine that was historically full powered but tiny. The X1 with the 1440p screen comes out to about the same price as the 1080p x240, anyways...
posted by emptythought at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2014

I'm typing this on an X1 Carbon right now! I'm also a Linux user and trackpoint addict and love this laptop. It's super light (SSD, no optical drive) and long in battery life.
posted by anotherthink at 5:26 PM on April 3, 2014

Any other nub/track point I've tried is junk compared to lenovo. Stick with them if that's the pointing interface you like.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:40 PM on April 3, 2014

Lenovo have the 12-14" + trackpoint niche of the market totally cornered. I would imagine that trying anything else now is just going to disappoint you (I speak from experience). I'd recommend getting an X230 or X240. That said, the X220 is the last of the X series that supports 3rd party batteries (you're stuck with genuine from X230 onwards). So, if it's an option, replacing like with like might work for you, especially with your modest needs.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:10 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: anotherthink, what flavor/version of Linux are you using? Do you have any issues with the superhighres display of the X1?
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:00 PM on April 4, 2014

Ubuntu, & no issues at all with the display!
posted by anotherthink at 5:44 PM on April 4, 2014

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