First of all, I want to say that this is a wonderful laptop. And the idea behind what Purism is doing is quite solid and aligns with my beliefs as well. It has most of what I need. The keyboard is pretty great, black aluminum frame looks sleek (at least without fingerprints) and has a majority of shortcuts that you would need on a 13-inch machine. Runs cool, and runs the games and programs that I would like to use really great! I haven’t tried a VM on it yet, but I assume it would also run well. Best of all, it’s as freedom respecting as you can get with this level of hardware.
The layout of the buttons and I/O stuff is real great too, except for the fact that they now placed the kill switches on the side of the laptop instead of on the top above the keyboard, which is concerning because I would like to plop this laptop into a bag, and not have those fragile little switches break off by rubbing on to something. But I guess that means I’ll just have to invest in a 13-inch “throw case” to put my laptop in before I carry it in a bag. Otherwise, not too shabby of an issue.
Also the webcam is much lower quality than I expected. I at least tried it with a Firefox WebRTC Webpage, and it looked pretty awful. If I’m paying $1,400+ for a laptop, I would expect at least a 720p webcam. Just a real shame… Also you can’t take the back of the screen off, only the bottom portion for the laptop, so you can’t replace the webcam or screen. What’s the point of that? I thought this was supposed to be a fully open laptop?
But I am drifting on. I’m here to talk about the real issue I’m having… That’s with the trackpad.
So this laptop, and I assume the previous version, is using this Elantech trackpad with multi-touch and a feature called “click anywhere”, which sounds great in theory, but the engineering seems very poor and not tested very well.
For example, my family owns a MacBook, which is several years old, and the “click anywhere” trackpad is also defective and not working correctly, but they’ve had it for a few years. So are you telling me that this kind of hardware component, which I now find trashy and not quality tested correctly, only has a life of about 5 years maximum?
That really makes me worried when I want a laptop that lasts a long time, like about 10+ years. Why should I have to worry about this? Why can’t I just replace this trackpad with one that has physical buttons, like a good old fashioned Thinkpad? Why is the industry using these inferior products that are prone to be defective? I don’t understand it…
Also, why doesn’t Purism offer FRU components for sale? I think this laptop is great in almost every way, but I just really want to replace the freaking trackpad (and webcam). It’s so annoying. Now I have to ship it back as defective and have them fix it. Or disable it and use a mouse, which is just awful… Please do not buy this laptop if you really care about quality trackpads, because it seems like Purism doesn’t.
To finalize, I will describe the few issues I have with the trackpad. This may not necessarily apply to a Librem 15v4, because I do not have that. If you do, please let everyone know.
The big issue is that sometimes when I click on the trackpad, it will physically stick down and become stuck in the LMB “press” position, and so when moving the cursor around, it just selects stuff, and I can’t LMB “release” it anymore. This is clearly a defective hardware issue.
I’ve also seen problems where the mouse cursor stops moving around at random during normal usage. This is probably due to the fact that the connection was loose when I received the unit. Taking the back off, removing the battery, and re-seating the ribbon cable for the trackpad seemed to resolve it so far. Yet again, I’m not sure. For some strange reason, using
libinput debug-eventsas root shows that libinput is detecting the mouse movements, but is not moving around on the screen for some reason. It could be a software or hardware issue, or mixed.
Lastly, I don’t see any way to apparently configure the lower right and lower-middle to all be left mouse button. Apparently, they are hard-coded to be right mouse button and middle mouse button, respectively. So having the hardware manufacturer decide how my “superior” trackpad should work out of the box without a way to configure it is a big no-no.
I’ll contact Purism after this when I have some time to get it fixed, but I’m not looking hopeful. I might ask for a refund.
Having a fully-functioning, reliable trackpad 100% of the time is super important to me on a laptop, and it’s a shame they didn’t deliver it to me with a good first impression.