For most Eternity, if you wanted to run Linux on your laptop, you bought a Windows laptop, wiped out Windows, and installed Linux. It was called the “Windows tax,” the extra money you paid for an operating system that you didn’t need.
About 15 years ago, pioneering companies like System76 began selling white label hardware with Linux preinstalled, along with all of the drivers needed to ensure hardware compatibility. Linux worked out of the box. They were rarely what you would call svelte laptops, but they were solid machines, and hey, no Windows tax. Today System76 builds its own Linux-based desktop hardware at a factory in Colorado, and even big brands like Dell sell laptops with Linux.
Lenovo is the latest manufacturer to want to have some fun by releasing its first Linux laptop in the form of an eighth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon. There are a few quirks, but this is one of the best laptops for Linux.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad series laptops do not stand out for their cutting edge design. They’re solid, well-built, no-frills machines designed for everyday use, and the X1 Carbon is no exception.
All the usual ThinkPad highlights are here, including an excellent keyboard with the red “nub”, a trackpad with the buttons on top (in their place), a fingerprint reader, and a hardware cover for the webcam. The matte black case is made of a soft plastic material that is wrapped around a very strong frame – there is no flex or bend. I prefer it over aluminum laptops, which tend to have sharp edges.
There are a lot of ports. There are two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI jack, a headset / mic combination, and support for Lenovo docking stations. It even comes with Wi-Fi 6 support. My only real dislike is the way the power button is on the side of the case, which takes some getting used to. The other strange thing? There was a Windows sticker on the underside of the case.
I tested the base configuration, which includes a 10th gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, a 256 gigabyte SSD, and a 1080p display. You can upgrade the processor to an i7, maximize RAM to 16 gigabytes, and go for a 4K display. The base configuration costs $ 2,145, although since its launch last year, Lenovo has released a series of coupons that have meant that the base model is effectively around $ 1,300. At maximum, you’re looking at $ 3,221, but with Lenovo’s seemingly permanent selling price, it’s around $ 1,932.
I find that 8 gigabytes of RAM is sufficient for Linux. The exception is if you are editing a video or compiling software, in which case I would suggest upgrading to 16 gigabytes of RAM. I mention this because the RAM is soldered to the motherboard which means you can’t upgrade it yourself like you can with many Lenovo laptops.