A few disclosures to state my biases up front, Purism as a company can do much better with hardware quality and price. The EX-CTO mentioned in a Phoronix interview that the company hasn’t looked into alternative suppliers, and that hardware cost is artificially high as a result. After inspecting the hardware (mobo, trackpad, keyboard), I agree the hardware could use work at this price point. I also have issue with the price point of replacement parts. I also take issue with the lack of moderation that librem.social has adopted in the name of “free speech”. All that aside enjoy the review, you don’t need to agree with me but here’s my 2 cents.
More disclosure the laptop was purchased second hand, and the only thing wrong with it is the lack of backlight functionality. The things I will be judging this laptop on are build quality, not related to failures from use, and user error.
EDIT KEYBOARD BACKLIGHT NOT THE SCREEN
I’m going to address common issues seen here on the forum. The first thing I see is the thermals, this thing sounds like a jet engine taking off. And I don’t think it has to much with the heat-pipes or fan, it rather has to do with the fact that the thermal paste is garbage. an application of decent thermal paste gets rid of the issues. The case of the laptop isn’t being used as a heat-sink at all and that should be done to reduce fan spin ups. Also there’s a gap in between the heat-sink fins and fan, meaning that air cannot flow efficiently. I used liquid metal on the cooling system and performance was amazing, the fan almost never spun up at all even when compiling packages from the Arch User Repository.
The rubber feet are garbage, the adhesive sucks and the pads should be slightly recessed into the backplate. Too many people complaining about that. Every Laptop should come with an extra set until the issue is solved.
The WiFi is pretty bad, there are 4 wifi/bt modules on the market that have the FSF’s RYF certification, and that needs to be fixed. They could also use the wifi-bt modules from the L5 to make it better because it really needs work.
I purchased a battery replacement for the device and it cost 190USD that is outrageous and unacceptable, 4 pouch li-ion cells, BMS, and plastic to hold them don’t cost more than 20-30USD MAX to manufacture. If it cost 100USD I could understand, the company needs some healthy margins. But almost 200 dollars is price gouging. The new battery felt kinda old because the adhesive was falling apart on the device and it was struggling to take a full charge at first. This is concerning because old li-ion behaves that way. I’m not saying the battery was used but rather that the cells were old and suffered from aging because they weren’t cycled at all. These seem to be supplier issues though because I was told that they didn’t have the battery in stock.
The IO board on the left of the machine could be done better. The headphone jack broke off and was de-soldiered with very little force.
The PCB could be more substantial. It bends very easily. The motherboard has wires soldiered on it, which is a poor solution for bad PCB design. Also the internal connectors are very flimsy.
Audio quality is poor and this laptop would be much nicer if it included a 2-5w sub-woofer, and a little tweeter because the highs on this machine are very distorted, and it doesn’t sound like 1600USD at all.
The plastic which contains the hinge is really flimsy and cracks after exposure to heat, this is a problem similar to the older macbooks. The solution? Delrin for the cost effective one, or metal for luxury. Either way it needs a buff.
PureOS is lacking a lot of software and trying to find a VM that doesn’t use libvirt to achieve native performance is a pain.
Also 2 cores is not a desktop replacement. It needs 4 ASAP. Also no more dual channel? Stop lagging behind Purism.
I was also told the keyboard in the machine was not replaceable, that’s upsetting to see, because repairability is a big selling point for such a thin device.
The screen could use a higher brightness, and a lower minimum brightness for nighttime use.
Coreboot has had lots of work done to it in the past few years. And they seem close to a fully free solution. Issue being that Intel will probably patch the FSP vulnerability Purism disclosed a while ago, they still don’t align with free software and eventually Purism will be scrambling for a new CPU choice. Remember Intel probably wants to patch those vulnerabilities in the ME as well.
The keyboard is actually pretty nice, it feels really good, the keys spring back up pretty well and the presses are consistent across the whole keyboard. The spacing is almost standard and doesn’t try to be compact, which is nice. My muscle memory for typing is all still there and I appreciate not trying to reinvent the wheel. I like the number pad as well it’s a nice addition and gives me the pg up and pg down keys.
The I/O is plenty and that’s a welcome feature compared to the newer devices on the market. I wish that alongside HDMI that DP was also included. The SD card reader would be nicer if it was spring loaded but it works well and it’s a really welcome feature.
The kill switches are very solid and feel brand new, and i get plenty of use from them.
The boot is lighting fast after the new coreboot update.
The drivers just work on almost any distro.
Things to be desired:
USB C charging, Ethernet port, Display Port, better cooling, wifi upgrade. A redesigned chassis, larger trackpad, larger battery. IMO the wedge design is an inefficient use of space and having a thicker battery which would double life is worth the bulk to me
And don’t get me wrong I like the laptop, it serves me well for class and programming, it just leaves a lot to be desired, and i wouldn’t recommend buying the v4 either until the laptop gets a redesign. Buy used if you must. I bought this for $550 totally worth it.