A New Laptop

The house network welcomed a new member, a Thinkpad T580 (20LA) laptop. The model has been available for some years. Motivating the purchase is a larger screen with higher resolution display and a numeric keypad. The laptop arrived in a thick sealed plastic bag, inside bubble wrap, inside a form-fitted box, inside paper wrapping, inside a shipping box. A good job packing. The laptop is refurbished but there is no sign of abuse, scratches, or dents. Quite nice for a refurb and looks new. The laptop had a vague “new” odor that dissipated overnight. The system came with a one full year parts and labor warranty.

The basic specs:

  • 1.7 GHz Intel Core Quad Core i5-8350U with 8 threads
  • 16 GB RAM (a single SODIMM)
  • 15.9 inch full high-definition (FHD) 1920x1080 display
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620 (i915 driver)
  • 256 GB Western Digital CL SN520 NVMe SSD
  • Intel Ethernet I219-LM (e1000e driver)
  • Intel Wireless 8265 / 8275 (iwlwifi driver)
  • Trackpad
  • Number keypad
  • Bluetooth
  • Thunderbolt
  • HDMI
  • Internal and removable external batteries
  • Windows 10 22H2

There are several differences from the venerable T400 that has been in the house network for more than 10 years.

Despite a larger physical footprint the T580 is much lighter than the T400. The T580 seems a tad flexible when lifting the screen lid by the corners, but that is somewhat an illusion. The laptop seems sturdy enough. As long as the device is not abused this concern probably will not matter much.

This is the first system in the house network with an NVMe SSD. The office desktop supports NVMe but never used. Dealing with NVMe storage devices throws some curves at the house network shell script collection because the long standing presumption of /dev/[hs]dX no longer applies. Time to tweak some scripts.

The T580 is the first in the house network to be configured with an EFI partition. EFI is not new territory but never was needed in the house network because MBR and GPT schemes are sufficient.

The T580 is the first to come with secure boot, TPM, and Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) enabled. Those features have little to no use in the house network.

The T580 booted very, very fast. The NVMe partly explained the fast boot, but a quick check found the Windows “fast startup” mode enabled.

Booting with a Slackware live USB revealed no surprises, but that was expected because the model was researched before ordering.

A few items were in order after initial testing. One was disabling the Lenovo boot splash. This is not intuitively obvious in the BIOS. The cure is enabling “diagnostic mode.” The second item was disabling the (in)famous red pointing stick nub. That might sound blasphemous to some people, but the nub was disabled in the T400 and later physically removed because of typing disruptions. The third item was preparing the system for Linux by configuring the BIOS clock and Windows to use UTC rather than local time. This requires editing the registry.

Curiously, despite the number keypad, Windows has no pointy-clicky way to configure Num Lock. This too requires editing the registry.

Online reviewers claim the 1920x1080 display is average yet seems crisp, clear, and large here. Important is the T580 was chosen because of Intel graphics, which almost always “just work” with Linux systems. The larger screen size and resolution should reduce eye strain compared to the T400. The T400 resolution is 1280x800. Big difference.

The display “lid” needs to be almost fully closed before triggering sleep mode. The keyboard shortcut to trigger sleep is Fn+NumPad Backspace.

The T580 keyboard is arranged differently from the T400 and will require time to acclimate, especially with the different location of the navigation keys. Compared to the T400 the keyboard seems bland and the keys have a nominal chiclet look. Unlike the T400, the T580 lacks a colored Enter key. The T400 had helpful blue color coordination of keys with the Fn key and the T580 does not. Notable is the absence of Scroll Lock and Pause keys, although the user manual lists some Fn keyboard shortcuts as replacements. The PrtSc (Print Screen) key is oddly placed between the right side Alt and Ctrl keys. That key still can be used for kernel SysRq magic keys. The keyboard has a back light. Although not a mechanical keyboard the keys are curved and more or less comfortable to use. The keys do feel different than the T400.

Unlike the T400 there is no row of LED indicators. LEDs exist with the unlabeled power button,Esc key, and NumLock key.

There is a fingerprint sensor but online research indicates Linux support is poor.

The T580 should see faster wireless speeds because of an 802.11ac controller. The T400 is 802.11n. The T580 Ethernet port is on the right side but on the left with the T400.

Finding related PDF manuals was straightforward from the Lenovo web site.

Watching the Windows taskbar applet estimate remaining battery life is somewhat reminiscent of the old Windows Copy dialog joke. To be fair the estimate likely is based on active usage, which is difficult to do. A better gauge is just monitor the percentage of remaining life.

The battery charger is different from the T400. The cable connects to the laptop with a USB-C connector.

There are two batteries installed. With Windows, battery “1” is the internal and “2” is the removable external. With Windows only one battery charged at a time. The external battery charged first. Similarly with the Slackware live USB, BAT0 is the internal battery and BAT1 is the external.

The external battery is 93.3% of original full capacity. The internal is 91.5% of original. The external is the lowest capacity 24 watt-hours and the internal is the standard 32 watt-hours. Fair game for a refurb.

Unknown yet is what a typical battery session will be. The laptop has not yet been used in any productive manner, mostly idling, but the first full charge with Windows 10 lasted more than 8 hours before automatically powering down. No complaints because that is pushing 6 hours longer than the T400.

The laptop has a webcam with a sliding “ThinkShutter” cover. No black tape needed. The camera can be disabled in the BIOS.

The system seems to run cool but nothing demanding has been tested.

Windows 10 came loaded with bloatware and crapware. During the first boot, Windows nagged to select a backup option with the first option being OneDrive — somebody else’s computer. Launching Edge prompts the user to create an online account. The taskbar was configured with a weather applet that complained about being unable to update the feed. Another nag was to update the Defender anti-virus software. Browsing the taskbar menu finds many software tools that function only when online or with online accounts. Launching Office resulted in a dialog about not being online.

The system has not been allowed to connect to the web. At least WordPad launched.

The Windows version of solitaire is eye-candy impressive. Not impressive is the game is partly crippled unless allowed to connect online. A cynical observation is Windows now is little more than spyware, data mining, and tracking.

How long Windows remains installed remains to be seen. Much of the nonsense should be disabled, but that is an intellectual exercise only. The sole value of keeping Windows installed for a while is being able to compare hardware support after installing Slackware. Eventually Windows will be wiped. I really hate that chicken, er, those spinning balls.

In all a reasonable deal for $280.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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