Lenovo ThinkPad T460 – A Good Linux Laptop For Development

After several years with my Dell Latitude E6400 I was searching for a new, more powerful Linux machine for my coding and performance tweaking tasks. And although the Dell XPS line sounded interesting due to the “native” Linux support, it was also expensive with 16GB RAM and 3 year warranty (>2200€) and several users reported problems with CPU whining. I didn’t want to risc this and also reviews of the Lenovo T460 suggested a more silent and longer lasting experience. So I finally bought the T460 and was just hoping to get a good Linux support. Here are my experiences after a usage for a few months. Keep in mind that everyone has different requirements so maybe the title should be “a good Linux laptop for a certain subset of development tasks”. E.g. I’ve not yet tested 3D suff / hardware acceleration.

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My configuration is a T460, Intel i5-6200U CPU, 16GB RAM (PC3-12800 DDR3L, 2 DIMM) and 256GB SSD disc (Serial ATA3, opal 2.0). 14” IPS display, no touch screen, no finger print reader. The price was ~1300€ with 3 year guarantee, plus VAT. I’ve installed Xubuntu 16.04.1 on it.

From the Linux side everything I need is working now. And much of it worked out of the box with (X)Ubuntu 16.04.1, which I find really nice.

I had a few problems initially though:

  1. when playing a video the video didn’t scale and once I fixed this there was a delay. Finally I set the output to “X11 video output (XCB)” under preferences->Video of VLC.
  2. the WLAN worked fine but somehow the LAN disconnected frequently and reconnected automatically afterwards. Very strange. I didn’t find anything on the Internet how to fix this. But my brother mentioned that the software might have a problem with a slow 100Mbit connection and suggested to configure this. I switched to a 1Gbit port (same router) and it solved the problem! Now the LAN did not wake up after suspend (known bug) but I was able to start it via:
     sudo /bin/systemctl --no-block restart NetworkManager.service

Note that sleep via RAM works (“suspend”), ie. you can close the lid as usual. But sleep via disc (“hibernate”) does not work, but I find the boot time compelling enough that I do not need hibernation: ~2sec BIOS boot, plus ~13sec until login, plus 2sec to open a browser. BTW: hibernation didn’t work properly with the Dell too in recent Ubuntu versions. BTW: before the BIOS boot took 10 seconds, to fix this disable UEFI Network Stack (IPv4+IPv6 in the BIOS)

The case:

  1. The case is robust, not really beautiful, but also not ugly. An inconspicuous Thinkpad.
  2. the case feels robust but plastic, where the top cover feels of higher quality and not so plastic.
  3. It weights 1540g without the rear battery and 1870g with it. The height is 2cm without the rear battery and 3.5cm at the back with it.
  4. there is no internal DVD player, use any external
  5. some edges of the case are too sharp for my taste and feel unfinished
  6. The keyboard is ok, some love the ones of Lenovo, I find it ‘just’ okay, I really like the keys itself but I do not like the track point and you cannot disable it, without disabling also the extra mouse keys which I want.
  7. The keyboard also has the function key at the bottom left corner and not the CTRL key. I didn’t like this and switched them in the BIOS. The same for the Fn keys which I preferred over the other keys and need to switch this in the BIOS too. It still has a ESC key (!) and a big enter key which is nice to have these days.
  8. The page down/up are too close to the arrow keys for my taste but you can get use to it
  9. Sadly there is no hardware switch to turn/on of WLAN or bluethooth
  10. There is no LED indicating a power connection which is ugly when the device is turned off and has an empty battery. So you cannot be sure if it really charges.

Connectivity:

  1. 3 USB ports (USB 3.0) which are always on (nice!)
  2. HDMI
  3. LAN port
  4. the usual line for the microphone (mono) & headphone (stereo)
  5. some other stuff like a Display Port I think, look it up

Some import and partially subjective comments on the laptop:

  1. The performance is good and everything works smoothly and fast, but this is probably the case for every ordinary laptop with SSD and a normal CPU.
  2. it is super quiet. Under Idle it is indeed silent, under load only “hissing” very minimal (my old monitor is louder). And it does not get hot
  3. The IPS 14” matte display is ok and has a resolution of 1.920 x 1.080.
  4. The RAM is upgradable up to 32GB
  5. My external monitor worked out of the box with the Xubuntu inbuilt switch software (plugging in the device opens this and offers the different choices)
  6. The AC adapter is small but I like the DELL more where the cables could be bundled easier and faster than with this short and wrongly placed ‘rope’.
  7. The touch pad is good, supports also two finger gestures on Linux, but when writing you often hit it at the beginning and this sometimes garbles your text. You can learn avoid hitting it though. This is probably a software problem which should disable it when writing, it is called ‘palm detection‘ but it seems this is improvable under Linux e.g. with this post. I do not care much about it as I learned to avoid this (nearly 100%) and most of the time I use an external keyboard.
  8. The battery is really nice. On the Dell I got only 5 hours even in its early days, going down to something like 3h. Now the T460 lets you do normal work for >13 hours with the internal 23Wh and the additional big (72Wh) rear battery. We’ll have to see how this behaves with the time.
  9. The extra 72Wh rear battery is so thick that the laptop stands inclined (see picture above), which I thought is ugly at the beginning. But turns out that this is not bad, only makes minor problems if you have only a small table like in Deutsche Bahn
  10. The microphone and the chat camera is good
  11. Bluetooth works, some devices need special pulse audio setup
  12. I do not like the sound output, it is not clear but also not worse than e.g. the Dell.
  13. My printer and scanner (canon pixma mx 725) works flawlessly, even printing photos
  14. The order via the web shop took roughly 10 days, they say this is so long due to customization. I didn’t care much. Also I got a bit (sales) support and this was done via telephone and good. We’ll see how tech support looks like though. BTW: When you buy the cheapest option you can select the cheapest Windows license and upgrade the other stuff saving a bit money, also I was using a minor discount I think.

Similar products of Lenovo are the T460p (>1100€, more power, less mobile I guess) and the more expensive T460s (>1500€) and the X1 Carbon (>1800€). In all cases the 16GB RAM requirement turned out to be not that simple or expensive. I decided on the T460 because of the battery time, low/lack of noise and price.

TODOs:

  • 3D stuff, so please have a look into other reviews if you develop graphics etc
  • multiple external monitors

Conclusion

So far I like the ThinkPad T460 and can recommend it. It is powerful, has a very long lasting battery, it is silent under normal work and you can get your stuff done quickly and get solid Linux support. The Linux support is so good that I’m wondering why they do not ship it commercially to attract people like me.

The price performance ratio is good in my opinion – I can judge better in the next years when I need support and/or stuff breaks.

On the down side there is the cheap feeling of the case (plastic keyboard side&too sharp-edged) and the “track pad interferences” when you type.

See further discussion also on hacker news.

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28 thoughts on “Lenovo ThinkPad T460 – A Good Linux Laptop For Development

    • I had the impression due to the starter cost but you are right I think.The difference is probably that the 460p is more a workstation with more power but less battery time?

    • Yes, the 460p ist their performance line of the 460 series, it comes with a quad core cpu with Hyper-threading, so you will see 8 cores in the CPU view. It is a little heavier than the normal 460 but I don’t know about the batterie life. If you use all cpu cores a lot when on batterie it definitely will have less runtime. It can also take 32GB of RAM, so when you do a lot of compiling (because of quad core) or want to run some VMs on your laptop this model will come in handy.

  1. Hi! A quick note: suspension to disk does not work if your swap partition is encrypted. This is due to how Ubuntu encrypts your home (ecryptfs) but not due to Linux itself.

    Nice article though!

  2. ThinkPads are amazing machines for software development, especially if you get an used one. I bought a T440s (i7, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD and 14″ Full HD display) for US$500 in 2015, in my opinion a bargain and the computer seemed like a new one, it’s also perfect for Linux, I’ve installed Debian and Ubuntu with no issues with drivers or things like that. The battery is also amazing, I easily get 8+ hours of use and I have an extra battery that can get me more 5-6 hours of use.

    My only complains are about the trackpad, which is truly horrible, and the missing of a HDMI out (apparently yours has one) but usually I can live with that.

  3. I recommend trying out Fedora. Since IBM still works with RedHat for their Server OSes and Red Hatters mostly use Thinkpads, the native support is much better. I actually switched from Ubuntu to Fedora and much more stuff worked out of the box. I did not have to tweak a single thing for now.

    • IBM hasn’t owned the Thinkpad line for over a decade. Not sure IBM’s work with red hat is relevant to a Lenovo laptop.

    • O, IBM still works with red hat. Actually, when you work at IBM you can choose between Windows por Linux(RH). And the hardware that is build con the Txxx laptops is optimized for Linux.

  4. It’s really happt to see the sharing or your experience about Linux configuration on Skylake-based laptops.

    Late in 2015, I bought a TF laptop with i7-6700HQ and dual graphic cards(GTX970 and Intel 530). By the time I found it’s really hard to make the graphic card working well until Kernel 4.4 released(April, 2015). After that I still have some problems with multiple monitors.
    So, may I ask which graphic card do you have on your T460, Nvidia or Intel ?

    BTW, you may search the kernel module for your LAN problem.

  5. i have the exact model with 6300u and touchscreen for work. The Linux support isn’t that great. Touchpad (clicks and other gestures) and Xorg Xserver (X11) do not work well (can’t click the buttons of the programs’ interfaces). Wait until you connect it to the docking station, and then you’ll see the glitches. Video Card support is shitty, chrome flickers like crazy with hardware acceleration (removed it for a decent browsing experience). Screen is pretty small for development, in my opinion. Battery is decent. Plastic-Rubberish material is ok. Keyboard key’s are ok, some of them started squeaking after only two weeks. I wouldn’t buy it for my own. No quad core processor options. No real development can be done on this laptop (with parallel processing). Have you been paid to do this review or you didn’t have any decent laptop for software development?

  6. > Have you been paid to do this review or you didn’t have any decent laptop for software development?

    Maybe you did the same mistake then I implicitly made: concluding from own good/bad experience to others, but from the comments I think others have similar good experience (see the linked hn article). So yes, all is fine for me and I earn money with software development not with kidding developers and faking my blog posts. I had no problems with video that I couldn’t fix (see the mentioned one) or with flickering etc, also no problems with the touch pad. Regarding the display: if you buy a 14” you get a 14” or what do you mean?

    > with hardware acceleration

    I do not need it for my dev tasks and so I didn’t test this yet, see the TODOs.

    > No real development can be done on this laptop

    Everyone has different needs.

    > No quad core processor options

    Sure, but it has 4 threads. If you just buy 4 cores without looking you get often just 4 threads and you do not win (much)

  7. Thanks for the review on this. Always looking for honest reviews re: Linux compatibility on laptops. I’m currently on a Dell Latitude D620 with great general compatibility (I test lots of Live ISOs on pure metal, including non-linux projects like Haiku, ReactOS, Android x86, eComStation, etc). So it’s a good machine to keep around. Still, I would love a performance boost though the performance on this duo core (3gb RAM) is still very good (Mint/Cinnamon/17.x).

    It would have been a little more helpful to mention the distro you’re using (I imagine Ubuntu 16.04 LTS but could be way off). Most people who recommend Lenovo just mention the brand name and occasionally a model without any of the “gotchas”.

    The only thing holding me back from upgrading are the 16:9 aspect ratios. I find them confining[1]. I may have to wait a bit longer to get great “out of box” compatibility on the few machines with 16:10 and/or 3:2 aspect ratios. It’s the main deal-breaker for me and really limits my choices:

    [1] http://www.displaywars.com/14-inch-16×9-vs-14-inch-3×2

  8. Comparing my T450 (work) to my Dell XPS 13 I prefer the Dell. Lenovo has a slightly better keyboard, but the trackpad of the Dell is much superior. The display is about the same size, but the form factor of the Dell is much smaller and it is lighter. Moreover, with only light load the 52 Wh battery of the Dell lasts for almost 20 hours whereas the Lenovo is only good for 8 hours (with two 23 Wh batteries). Be sure to install tlp for maximum time.

  9. You mention: “There is no LED indicating a power connection”.

    I’m not sure if it’s just the T460s, but don’t you have a tiny LED just next to where you plug in the power connector (on the side of the laptop) ?
    When power is connected, mine is either green or red depending on whether it’s charging or not.

  10. I have two Asus laptops (a business model and an office model). I loved them at the beginning but now I hate them because both have the left side ports arranged at the front. When I plug in the printer, the USB stick or mouse I always disconnect them by accident … with the hand.
    I want to buy a T460 model because the ports are in the back like this https://reviewone.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Lenovo-ThinkPad-T460-Ports.jpg
    You’ve done a great purchase.

    • All in all I’m satisfied even after months, yes. The battery life time is crazy long and now everything works under Linux. Still the case is too raw for this price class and also the sound is VERY ugly

  11. I don’t think that they will ever change the case design+materials. I think this model if for those who want things done fast with a robust laptop.
    For consumers interested in a laptop that looks good there is the Ideapad series with models like 700, 500… or what the code is.
    I use at my laptop a 2.1 PC sound system from Philips. Other use headphones, but not to loud so that the hearing is not affected.

    These days there is a laptop for each consumer type, but for coding this is the one… in my opinion.

  12. Setting up my T460 with Ubuntu 16.04. Is there anyway to view the status of both the internal and rear batteries as they charge and discharge? In Windows I could actually see the status of both batteries when I first used it out of box.

  13. Pingback: Best Linux Laptop 2017 - Laptop Study

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