Librem 14: Review and Comparison to Librem 13

Until recently, I had been using the Librem 13. Here are some of the differences that I have noticed between the two laptops:

  • Librem 14 Wifi is significantly better than Librem 13 Wifi. With the Librem 13, I could only connect within a limited range and within line-of-signt of my Wifi router, but with my Librem 14 I can connect anywhere in my home and have no connectivity/speed issues at all. This is a big deal, as this makes the Librem 14 a real portable computer, comparable to Mac and Windows laptops I have used.

  • Librem 14 killswitches look and feel premium quality and really designed for the laptop, while Librem 13 killswitches look and feel more like work-in-progress features without much focus on design and usability. Also, the Wifi killswitch on Librem 14 actually cuts power to the device, compared to the Librem 13 killswitch with sends signal to the device telling it to disable itself.

  • Librem 14 feels much more solid/sturdy/durable than Librem 13, which feels more delicate. Librem 13 is similar in shape and feel to the original MacBook Air design from the early 2010’s while the Librem 14 is more similar to the original MacBook Pro Retina from around the same time, but with a more unique shape. Librem 14 can be opened and closed with one hand, due to a thicker and heavier base, while the Librem 13 requires two hands to open. Also, Librem 14 has oblong rubber feet, with the back feet extending out from the base of the laptop more than the front feet in order to provide better airflow to the larger air vent on the bottom, while the Librem 13 has small circular feet that can lose their stickiness and fall off (two have fallen off of mine). The Librem 14 also has a smaller plastic foot centered in the back of the base.

  • Librem 14 hinge opens much more smoothly than the Librem 13 and can open about 180 degrees.

  • Librem 14 has super strong magnets for holding the lid closed.

  • Librem 14 has bigger and brighter display than Librem 13.

  • Librem 14 has better cooling than Librem 13, and the two fans on the Librem 14 sound different than the single fan on the Librem 13.

  • Librem 14 power, HDMI, and USB-A ports are all properly recessed into the body of the laptop, unlike the Librem 13 which has devices plugged into these ports not fully “in” the laptop. Unfortunately, the USB-C ports on the Librem 14 are the same as the Librem 13 in this regard.

  • Librem 14 microSD card slot is spring loaded and a pleasure to use. You push the card all the way into the computer and it clicks into place so that only the tiny rim of the card is sticking out, and you push it in again to have it spring back out to be removed. Librem 13 has a full-sized SD card slot that has half of the SD card sticking out of the computer when plugged in, similar to the other ports on the Librem 13.

  • Librem 14 trackpad is bigger than the trackpad of the Librem 13. I initially did not like the feel of the trackpad compared to Mac glass trackpads, but now that I have gotten used to it, I like it a lot, and the difference is less noticeable.

  • Librem 14 has LED on the inside and the outside of the laptop showing when powered on or charging, while the Librem 13 only has LED indicator on the inside of the laptop viewable when opened.

  • Librem 14 Caps Lock key has an LED, while the Librem 13 does not.

  • Librem 14 keyboard font is more pronounced/defined, and I love it.

  • Librem 14 has a more pleasant curved slope from the frame down to the keyboard keys, similar to Mac laptops, compared to the steeper slope of the Librem 13. Most people would probably not even notice this, but it can be a minor annoyance to get a speck of dust resting in between a keyboard key and the outer edge of the keyboard where you cannot get your finger in that space. That is no longer an issue.

  • Librem 14 has built-in gigabit ethernet port and supports dual-channel RAM up to 64GB, while the Librem 13 has no built-in ethernet port and only supports single RAM up to 32GB.

  • Librem 14 has 10th generation Intel processor with the Intel Management Engine backdoor disabled, while the Librem 13 has 7th generation Intel processor with the Intel Management Engine backdoor disabled and 95% of the backdoor code deleted. Purism is still working on being able to delete the majority of the backdoor code from the 10th generation Intel processors like they have done with the 6th and 7th generation Intel processors.

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  1. it’s not accurate in any way to label the ME/ME firmware “backdoor” code

  2. the L13 does not have 95% of the ME Firmware deleted. I’m guessing that number came from ME cleaner with older generation boards, but it’s not anywhere close to accurate for 6th/7th-gen SoCs.

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I appologize for my incorrect statements. I must have misremembered or misunderstood.

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Thanks for the comparison!

Are you running Qubes OS on L14? If you do, could you do me favor, run Firefox as an AppVM and play any 1080 video on YouTube, run “Sensor Viewer” and check the CPU temperature “Package id 0”. What does the reading say?

At the moment L14 is using really agressive fan curve, thus under such conditions I haven’t seen temps above 70°C

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On Qubes? Could you let me know how many RPM the fans work at while watching 1080p video?

While watching 1080 video, CPU temperature goes up to 70° occationally but stays around 65° most of the time.

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I do not know how to check the RPM of the fans, but I found that the Librem 14 cooling system is even better than I originally thought. While watching 1080 video fullscreen on Librem 14, the fans spin, but not at full speed and not very loud. On the Librem 13, watching 1080 video fullscreen makes the fan spins at or around max speed, and it is loud.

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On Qubes OS, at the moment there is no way to control fan speed (or view it to my knowlage) from user space. EC is controlling fan curve and due to ~20°C higher CPU readings by EC (unknown reasons for now) fans are blasting even though temps are within reason. I think fans are at 65% while under medium load on Qubes OS.
Here is the current fan curve (first is number is temp and second is fan speed)

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Remember the days you did not want any magnets at all near your hard drive?
I guess that went away when hard drives stopped spinning.

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You can view CPU fan RPM in “Qubes Logo >> System Tools >> Sensor Viewer” then look for fan option:

Screenshot_2021-06-19_16-55-15

FYI @zenyatta

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For some reason it’s not showing up to me

Do you have lm-sensors installed? What does the ‘sensors‘ command show you? (I’m not sure if that is what it’s called in Qubes, but that is what it is in the Debian world.)

Unless you personally work for, or have worked for, Intel, I don’t know how you would know this.

The Intel ME firmware is blackbox.

The firmware machine code is intentionally obfuscated e.g. to make it difficult or impossible for security researchers to reverse engineer it or analyse it.

The Intel ME has extreme access to many parts of the computer, including the ethernet, bypassing whatever controls an operating system might seek to impose.

You can’t boot the computer without a working Intel ME.

It may be a backdoor. It may not be a backdoor. If it isn’t a backdoor, it must surely be a good place to put one.

Intel doesn’t have anything to hide, does it? :wink:

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By your rationale, it could also be nuclear orbit launch codes, or the recipe to the Colonel’s finger lickin’ chicken, in which case it certainly isn’t “backdoor” code either.

If you don’t know what it is, then you can’t label it. Therefore attempting to is absolutely not accurate. I don’t see how I’d need to work at Intel to know this.

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Hasn’t it been revealed to be running Minix? So we would have parts of the source. Maybe that helps during reverse engineering.

Maybe it is a garage door with a remote control?

Or a chute to a garbage bin? (You’d have to crawl up to get in.)

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Yes and no.

Unless @dom0 works for Intel, he can’t say with certainty that it is a backdoor. By the same token @MrChromebox can’t say that it is not a backdoor.

What I actually wrote in respect of my own opinion: It may be a backdoor. It may not be a backdoor. If it isn’t a backdoor, it must surely be a good place to put one.

The OP and I are by no means the only people in the world with an interest in having secure computers who have expressed concern about the Intel ME backdoor (in quotes).

We shouldn’t have to put up with Intel’s crap, which goes against everything open source, auditable, verifiable. I am more than happy for people to write “Intel ME backdoor”.

I have never seen anything remotely approaching a credible explanation for why an Intel CPU even needs the Intel ME. Intel has provided only weasel words on the general subjects of the Intel ME backdoor or the purpose of the Intel ME. Intel appears to be making it more and more difficult to tame the Intel ME.

Intel doesn’t have anything to hide, does it?

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Is the bluetooth driver opensource? I’m still trying to fix this up under my non-pure os distro.

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nice! I face similar issue on my Librem 15v3.

Is this due to hardware update on the Librem 14? If so, anyone knows if it is possible to upgrade the wifi card on the librem15/13 to that used on the librem14?

Woohoo, this is something I had requested in my review of the Librem15v3. thank you @nicole.faerber.

that’s a great addition, gives more flexibility to upgrade.

Question:
One of the requests I had for future librem was to add a protruding edge on the left/right arrow keys to find them without looking at the keyboard, are these available on the librem14?

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