The Quest for a Good AMD Ryzen Notebook With Linux Support - Winner: Lenovo Thinkpad L15
On my quest for a well-working computer that is affordable, runs Linux smoothly, and works with two external monitors, I am sharing my experiences in researching about, and testing AMD laptops here. I hope to save the readers some time, and also want to link to the individual online debates for the nerdier topics. Also, see my previous write-up titled Lenovo ThinkPad L14 (L15) AMD Ryzen — maxing out hardware and other options.
The quest for a good AMD Ryzen Notebook with Linux support — why Lenovo?
My personal quest was to find a solid notebook that I could use as a daily driver, but which essentially should not replace my desktop PC. My job requires me to travel frequently (yes, also in lock-down times), but only between 3 places where I don’t want to have the same desktop setups installed. Since Lenovo has been announcing that they “are bringing Linux certification to ThinkPads and ThinkStations” and further that they will be “launching Linux-ready ThinkPad and ThinkStation PCs” — for me that meant that I want a Lenovo system. The recent benchmarks of AMD 4000 and 5000 series CPUs have been fantastic — and more so the Linux Kernel, which has a substantial amount of AMD Radeon code (more than 10% of the Linux Kernel is from AMD) made me look for an AMD Ryzen Lenovo notebook. Waiting for quite some time, I finally received the Lenovo L15 AMD Ryzen.
Alternative notebooks I had been taken into account
- Lenovo L14 AMD (I went with the L15 mainly because of the larger monitor, and because of the extended keyboard, which I need for data entry)
- MSI Bravo 15 AMD — this was a close one, and especially since it features a dedicated GPU (AMD Radeon RX 5500M Mobile) as well as a 120hz screen and an AMD Ryzen 4800H, still is a favorable option. Linux support of the MSI Bravo is heavily discussed on a dedicated Reddit thread, so you can jump in there for more info. I ended up not getting it because of the nicer keyboard of the Lenovo L15 AMD.
- Dell G5 15 SE 5505 Eclipse Black, Ryzen 7 4800H. This was also a very close one, as it even features a faster dedicated GPU — a RX 5600M. In the end it just did not have a reasonable design, and the keyboard of the L15 is much better. Linux support is not as good as on Lenovo notebooks, as discussed in this Reddit thread. While the maximum RAM you can order this with Dell is 32GB, Ryzen SoCs should be able to handle 64GB max.
Lenovo L15 — additional hardware and extensions
- RAM: there is a great read on Reddit, about which RAM you should get for your Lenovo notebook. I can recommend the Kingston Technology HyperX Impact 32GB 3200MHz DDR4 CL20 SODIMM (Kit of 2) Memory HX432S20IBK2/32 for a total of 64GB Ram.
- Mechanical keyboard: PFU HHKB Professional Hybrid Type-S White PD-KB800WS — The Lenovo L15 already features a quite nice keyboard, but a mechanical keyboard definitely is a must. HHKB ist the most relevant brand to look out for. I am suggesting to get the doubleshot “Cyberpunk” keycap set.
- Mouse. Razer is the suggested brand for mice, as they are well supported on Linux with OpenRazer. Personally I got myself a Razer Basilisk v2 Wired, but I am also recommending the Razer DeathAdder v2 Pro.
- ThinkPad USB-C Dock Gen 2. As AMD notebooks are not supporting Thunderbolt, there are only a few compatible docking stations, as outlined on this reddit thread.
Crazy hacks and extensions
- Replacing the display (screen) with a UHD 4K panel: User Pascal_Belgium on Reddit reported on how he replaced the panel of his Lenovo L14 Gen1 with a 4K UHD panel. The BOE NV140QUM-N53 V3.0 is a 4K, 500 nits, 14", 40 pins eDP. Unfortunately screen replacement does not work with AMD Thinkpads (yet), as reported by user ojolulu.
- Using eGPUs with the Lenovo AMD laptops - M.2 extensions for notebooks: it is generally possible to run an eGPU even with an AMD setup. Not with Thunderbolt 3 of course, but with M.2 and long extension cables, as outlined in this post on the eGPu.io forum. You can read this particular thread on Reddit, if you want to know more.
- Lenovo Hacks: How to add a Trackpoint to a mechanical keyboard as well as other nice Lenovo hacks can be found on hackaday. Other interesting sources can be found here at this Reddit thread titled “Thinkpad software/hardware hacks?”.
In an upcoming text I will describe my quest on a good Linux workstation, which I recently finished selecting.
Please follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/audiores and let me know in the comments if you have any other pointers for the best mobile Linux experience. Also do let me know if you disagree with any of my suggestions.