UPERFECT X Mini lapdock works with Librem 5

I just wanted to share my current findings with other folks who are looking for the ideal convergence set up for their Librem 5. I have long been a fan of tiny laptops and when I talk about convergence with the Librem 5 and Nexdock 360 for travel some folks come back with the observation that the Nexdock 360 is the same size as a laptop.

Without getting into the counterarguments there, and the benefits of traveling with an inexpensive lapdock instead of a full computer, I also realized it would be nice to have a tinier lapdock myself. The UPERFECT X Mini is an 11.6" lapdock that just came out and mine just arrived yesterday so here’s a quick sneak peek while I put it through its paces.

Here you can see the lapdock on top of a Nexdock 360 for scale:

Some first impressions:

  • Barrel charger is an annoying regression. I ordered a USB-C -> Barrel adapter so I can use my existing USB chargers and battery bricks.
  • Screen needed adjustment. By default the brightness was set to high and contrast too low, but you can change these with function keys. Once adjusted it looked pretty nice.
  • The hinge is very nice and sturdy and even with the phone hanging from it, it holds its position firmly.
  • Keyboard tactile feedback is nice, not exactly clicky but I think I like the feel more than the 360. The keys themselves are smaller than standard and for some people you may have to take some time to adjust but I took to them pretty quickly. The big gotcha is the Del and | key locations (this is a US Intl (alt) layout). Time will tell whether I get used to that.
  • Phosh “just worked” out of the box. I was able to connect the Librem 5 and it detected the phone and extended the desktop just like on my nexdock 360.
  • “Tablet mode” works. This has a 360 hinge like the nexdock but you need to tell phosh to use it as a touchscreen. I had to manually figure out a gsettings command to make phosh detect it as a touchscreen, but I also added a patch that just got merged to phosh-mobile-settings to make it aware of this lapdock so you can enable the touchscreen through that tool. I used it in tablet mode to read a book last night and it worked pretty well. More comfortable on my lap in that mode than the larger 360.
  • Low power charging. It does provide power to the Librem 5 while docked, but it looks like it maxes out at 500mA, which is not much (the Nexdock 360 provides 1A). Depending on what I’m doing I imagine the phone will slowly drain over time, instead of maintaining or increasing its charge.
  • Lots of nice USB ports. I haven’t used them yet but it’s nice to see them there.

All in all I like the X mini lapdock so far and I’m going to use it instead of my Nexdock 360 for the next week or so to see which I prefer. I think the big question marks will likely be the max charging current and whether that limits long-term use, and whether I can get used to the Del,| key placements.

But the neat thing about convergence is I can try out a “new laptop” form factor for a few hundred bucks and easily swap between devices.

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But then some folks (i.e. me) have the observation that the Nexdock 360 screen is too small. I am more concerned about the weight of a laptop than being too big, and these lapdocks tend to be lighter than a corresponding laptop of the same screen diagonal.

If we’re going “big screen” via a lapdock then I am looking for 15". That would be sweet for me with the Librem 5.

If we’re getting down to an 11" lapdock screen then I’m waiting for the Librem 11 tablet. :slight_smile:

We all have different requirements of course.

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I am of the opinion that smaller is better when it comes to portability. Thanks for writing about this. I’d be interested in hearing your thought after a week of use. My L5 is at the post office just waiting to be picked up today.

Some thoughts on some of your points:

I’m not sure this is all that bad. It sounds like the battery is not getting any charge at all, and that the incoming power is going straight to the SoC. In this case you aren’t wasting a charge cycle every time you plug the phone in, but you ARE extending run time. I’d consider this a good thing.

Something like this finding its way into quick settings, for example, would be a good thing. If the market for these kind of docks blow up, it could make it a real pain to cater to each and every one (if standards aren’t used), but it sure would improve the user experience.

Completely agree. I’m not sure I really understand any company going to the effort to produce such a product and saying let’s use a barrel connector. I don’t get it. Hopefully the adapter works for you. Would be interested to know this as well.

Particularly if they intend to sell in the EU.

On the other hand, it does allow you to charge the lapdock independently of whether it has a device docked to it and what the capabilities of the device are (for example both the lapdock and the device may be flat as).

Should they have given the user two USB-C ports, one purely for power input and one full-featured port? Probably. (It can’t be too hard to do this because my $20 dock has that. In fact it has three USB-C ports because it also has a generic USB-C data port.)

Barrel connector is better security. Noone ever got hacked charging via a barrel connector. :wink:

Edit: Weirdly, the three larger models all seem to have USB-C for power input.

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I was looking at buying this a couple of months ago, but decided not to due to

  1. Like you mentioned, only barrel connector for charging
  2. Only US keyboard layout. I need a UK layout (specifically Nordic but as long as the keys have the right placement I don’t really care, I try to avoid looking at my keyboard anyways).

Point 2 seems pretty much impossible right now though :frowning:

So you specifically and only want the 11" model?

Thanks for sharing! Is the dock already added to one of the lists for known setups?

Is this so? When I read @Kyle_Rankin post this has been my first thought, also :wink: .

Second thought: How’s the situation on the Nexdock360? Never had it running long enought to find out which battery empties first. I’ll try…

In the end what counts for me is how long the system will work on battery as a notebook until I have to recharge or change battery.

One clear advantage of the Nexdock360 solution is that it can be used plugged to external power nearly indefinitely if - and really only IF - the load is not to high and the Librem5 had been fully or near fully charged at the beginning.

I’d prefer the 11" model, it’s not a hard requirement for me (both due to it being more compact, as well as having the same size battery as the 13", but with a screen that draws less energy due to its smaller size).

Regardless, none of uperfects lapdocks has any other keyboard layouts than ANSI US, while I need ISO layout.

Yes, my comment was directed specifically to your comment about the barrel connector, which appears to be unique to the 11" model.

Kyle, how long can you do some real work with the L5 in that mode (or also without convergence, just with the L5 only). The background of my question is that my L5 always gets hot (the red LED starts also flashing) when I do something real in the L5, for example listen with firefox to an audio live stream, or searching with Google and going into the hits, etc. after some minutes (15-30 minutes).

@guru For the convergent case: You can do that all day if the dock / hub supplies enough power. @evangelos.tzaras used it as his only device at e.g. MiniDebconf Hamburg with a NexDock 360. I used it to give talks and used internal displays for notes and external projector with the zendure hubs (which also provides enough power on a long chord).

It’s always good to turn off unneeded hw via HKS but don’t worry about the blinking led, it triggers way too early atm.

Also FIrefox is a CPU hog, I can easily make intel laptops drain battery quickly too and heat up with it. The browser side needs work but don’t let that spoil convergence in general for you.

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I can sympathize with only with only carrying one charger that can be used with the dock or phone while on the go, because I do that now. Even if I have been criticized for charging my phone with a laptop charger.

That being said, USB-C is overkill for power delivery. If the plug’s only purpose is to deliver power, the barrel is just better at the job. It solved the problem of keyed insertion ages ago and is more reliable, and serviceable. I have helped a number of friends replace the barrel receptacle on their laptops over the years. I’d be far less inclined to do so for a USB-C receptacle.

I have been shopping for a desktop dock that uses a barrel connector for power and like this. I may buy one to replace my nexdock. I have already replaced the power supply for my nextdock because I could feel the cable becoming brittle and put it into retirement service as a stationary office power supply instead of using it to fail.

Can this dock be used as a power bank when not connected to AC?

UPERFECT seems to offer one, but I haven’t tested it: https://www.uperfectmonitor.com/products/uperfect-x-15-6-lapdock

With the Nexdock 360 unplugged, the Nexdock battery definitely empties first, leaving you with the Librem 5 either fully charged or close to it (depending on what you are doing). It provides enough power to at least maintain the charge of the Librem 5 and usually to charge it as well (depending on what you are doing, convergence mode does require more power from the Librem 5 than when it running standalone).

So far (this is only two days of trial) the X Mini seems to have quite a substantial battery. While it doesn’t increase the charge of the Librem 5 while the Librem 5 is plugged in, the Librem 5’s battery goes down very slowly. Plugging into a X Mini definitely will extend the run time from what I’ve seen so far.

Yes it provides power to the Librem 5 using its internal 10800mAh battery whether or not the dock itself is plugged in. However it won’t charge the Librem 5 if the lapdock itself is turned off, so given the 500mA current limit, you would more likely use this to extend run time when docked, instead of using it to charge the Librem 5. If you do things to reduce power consumption when docked lower than 500mA (blank the screen, use HKS to disable unused hardware), I imagine it could trickle charge. As I said above, the Nexdock 360 generally supplies enough power to charge the Librem 5 while docked, or at least maintain the current charge.

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I did a bit of a battery test today. I rebooted a fully-charged Librem 5 and then connected it to the fully-charged X Mini. After 2 hours 13 minutes, the Librem 5 is at 93% charge and the X Mini is at 47%. The Librem 5 screen was left on with the modem and wifi cards enabled, but otherwise mostly sat idle. The X Mini had full backlight brightness so this was a worst case scenario for it in terms of its own battery life.

I assume at full backlight brightness I could get about 4 hours of use out of my lapdock, after which my Librem 5 would be somewhere in the 80% range of charge (depending on what I did with it). With reduced backlight on the X Mini and being more conservative with power consumption on the Librem 5 I’m sure we could extend it quite a bit more, and if I told the X Mini not to charge the Librem 5 it would, of course, last longer as well at the expense of the Librem 5 draining faster.

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It would be really nice to have an algorithm that tells when to cut the power supply from lapdock to the Librem5 to have the batteries of both deplete at the same time …

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I figure there would be two main camps: people who want maximum Librem 5 run time (so it would have the maximum possible charge once the lapdock battery was depleted so you could keep using it undocked), and those like yourself who would like to maximize the Librem 5 + lapdock runtime.

Whether the lapdock charges the device connected to it, is controlled by a function key on the keyboard so you can toggle it on and off. I figure in your case you would likely want to use the lapdock with it toggled off, to have a better chance of both running out around the same time. Even then I think the Librem 5 might outlast it.

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I thought I read some comment on the UPERFECT web site about the ‘optimum’ brightness setting, taking into account run time and usability. So full backlight brightness is definitely a lower bound for run time. If you were to discover what you consider to be the optimum brightness setting, that might then change the equation for getting the maximum joint run time. (I expect you’ve got more pressing things to do though. :wink: I’ve pulled the trigger on an order myself, so can post my own thoughts, some weeks hence.)

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I’m thinking about the same. Not decided yet. I do think a dock like this is required to take full advantage of the L5.

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Does the hdmi do output or input?

I use a hp-elite dock currently (even though it is finicky [maybe just mine] and only works with the cable that came with the librem 5) because it goes from laptop to desktop mode fairly easily via HDMI

Yeah I think for me this is the ideal situation, because I really don’t want the docking solution I have to ALWAYS charge the Librem 5. That is just wasting battery cycles. But getting 4 hours of docked use out of the phone and then being left with 80% battery on the L5 is actually really great. I’m finding that I can get through a full work day using and suspending the phone. This is in a 9 hour period. With the X Mini here I think I would very easily be able to go far beyond this as well.

One question I have for you @Kyle_Rankin is do you always just keep using Phosh when docked, or do you ever switch to another DE?