Librem 15v3 reveiw (1year)


#1

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

Negative first:

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.

The Positives:

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.


#2

Thanks for taking the time to write constructive feedback. If I may touch on a few points (because going to bed is for suckers).

Note this from our FAQ regarding the price of our laptops:

Through business negotiations we license reference designs and prepay for all the tooling, so that we can do small quantity fabrication, albeit at a higher per-unit price. It is not inexpensive, but it is possible! Purism’s founder, Todd Weaver, has built up these relationships for over a decade.

So because of our requirements, its not as clean cut as one would hope with our suppliers. Thankfully with a few more years under our belt, more doors have opened up to us.

Regarding the thermals, yes I would hope you using liquid metal would make it a lot cooler and thus quieter :stuck_out_tongue: Also want to remind folks that the fans don’t run over PWM, so that is why one is not able to change fan curves.

Unfortunately our hands are tied when it comes to WiFi. No WiFi 5 (802.11ac) or WiFi 6 (802.11ax) cards have been freed when it comes to both drivers and firmware. But we did design our laptops (and phone!) to have user replaceable WiFi cards. Some folks have made the decision for themselves to use a newer card that requires proprietary firmware. Not a choice I am willing to make but we are all free to choice what’s more important to us.

We’ve just recently been able to lower our prices on the replacement batteries themselves but the shipping price has stayed the same. This is unfortunately due to couriers considering batteries a “dangerous good” so they charge us more to ship them. We’ve had them reject batteries when trying to ship them without labeling them as such (before we knew of such requirements).

Noted regarding the rest of the critiques towards the hardware.

PureOS will only ever include Free Software. It is something we are not willing to (also can not) change our stance on. The upside is that people’s freedoms are looked after and folks know they can trust us and what we allow in the PureOS Store (coming soon).

Noted about the need for MOAR cores and channels. No arguments here.

The keyboard thing is a sticking point, figuratively as well as literally, for not only repairability but also offering other languages/keyboard layouts. It is a lot more difficult, and expensive, than you would think.

Noted on brightness.

Ending on the positives, I like this guy

MrChromebox continues to do great work with regards to coreboot (and PureBoot) and working to free the Intel ME.

Yes, we are also big fans of our keyboard.

Not enough cores but lots of I/O, got it!

Yes, am also big fan of shutting off my webcam and WiFi with trust and ease.

Again, MrChromebox is amazing (as are the other coreboot contributors).

Drivers working on all distros is the upside of being mainline to the max! And also upstreaming all our work (once applicable).

And yes we desire many things as well but I do want to say that 2020 is honestly going to be an amazing year everyone! Year of the Linux phone and year of great new free/libre Linux laptops! Good things come in time, something about fine wine, you get the picture :smile:


#3

Or won’t ship them at all!

It’s a bit ridiculous. I can buy a mobile phone with a battery in it or a laptop with a battery in it and they will ship either (and I have done both so I know this). However they won’t ship either battery by itself. Makes perfect sense. Not.


#4

decided to break this one out of context so that it’s more visible to everyone … could be lost in that TL;DR … hope you don’t mind … it’s a very important FACT … good job !:sunglasses:


#5

Thank you for the feedback, and for listening to the concerns, however parabola is an FSF endorsed distro and has virtualization software that is better. That really needs to be improved on, and i understand that pure os needs to be free, and I myself am not willing to compromise either for my purism device. However pure os should have larger software support, especially with the amount of software that is fully free with parabola. However I understand it’s hard to support everything, it will come with time, and thank you for responding it’s well appreciated.

Also, if the device does get a redesign the please make the wedge go away in favor of a macbook like design (but thicker) I would love to see a battery with 70-90 Wh would be really nice.