Tuesday, 22 February 2022

New Thinkpad P15

This post continues a long running tradition and series of posts when I'm issued a new laptop at work.  I generally get quite a powerful and interesting machine as I'm a member of the IBM Hursley development laboratory and thus am issued a fairly beefy specification for a majority of desktop use rather than being a more mobile laptop.  I'm issued a new machine approximately every four years so my previous posts are about my:

It's interesting to see how the specification of machine has changed over time.  With the slowing (or disappearance) of Moore's Law, the speed advantage of more recent machines has come from other innovations (such as an SSD and an increased number of cores) rather than raw clock speed.  The highlight specifications for the P15 Gen 1 I have are...

  • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-10750H CPU @ 2.60GHz (5199.98 bogomips in Linux)
  • 32GB DDR4 2933MHz
  • Toshiba 512GB SSD XG6 M.2 2280
  • 15.6" 3840 x 2160 IPS (non touch)
  • Integrated Li-Po 94Wh battery
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • NVidia Quadro T1000M 4GB
  • Front Facing Web Cam, HDMI Out, Headphone, 2x USB3.2, 2x USB-C3.2 Gen 2, GBit Ethernet, Fingerprint Reader, SD card reader

There we have it, the top level specs aren't all that different to the 4 year old P50 machine I had previously.  In fact the CPU speeds have dropped slightly although the P15 does have 12 cores to the P50's 8. RAM and GPU memory have both stayed the same and I still have a 512GB SSD.  Interestingly, the battery is now integrated which has moved away from the long standing removable battery on these top line Thinkpad machines.  There's a huge increase in the screen resolution and I dare say the screen would also have been improved in areas such as peak brightness (600 nits for the P15) and support for Dolby Vision HDR (there's also support for Dolby Atmos sound which will be a bit lost on me for a business machine).  While sounding good, if you put a 4k resolution onto a 15" laptop screen you pretty much need a magnifying glass to see anything so it's more or less useless unless you're consuming 4k video content.  No wonder then that the Gnome desktop defaulted to running in 4k mode but at 200% scale (which I think takes it back down to HD size unless I'm mistaken).

The day-to-day running of the new machine has been pretty good.  Not noticeably different to that of the old machine. This goes to show the lack of improvement in specifications of these new machines in general.  It's something I've noticed with my ageing home machine as well (which is nearly 10 years old) where the processor benchmarks are very similar to today's processors on a core-for-core comparison and I still have things like a decent PCI 3 bus.  It's always nice to have a bit of a refresh though and the thing I'm liking most about the new machine is the addition of the built-in fingerprint reader.  This particular piece of hardware is now fully supported on Linux and very easy to configure using the Gnome settings tool.  It makes logging in with a massive password much less painful.  I hope more apps (such as 1password) will eventually find ways of integrating biometric security on Linux as well.  It's worth noting that this functionality hasn't come at all by accident and has been a lot of hard work and a long road between both Red Hat and Lenovo to ensure that all new Lenovo laptop machines are fully certified to have a hardware configuration that contains drivers and firmware compatible with Linux.

There are, of course, teething troubles with the new machine.  These are mostly related to graphical issues and NVidia.  More recently, I'd taken for granted my old machine just working in these respects.  My old machine had similar teething issues when it was new of course and these were gradually ironed out with driver updates as time progressed.  So right now it's weird to be back in the dark days of having to use the NVidia settings panel to configure the screen resolutions I want as for some reason the binary driver is only showing up the full 4k resolution to xrandr under Linux (yes I'm still using Xorg, not Wayland, yet).  It's also a bit fragile in terms of going into sleep mode and resuming from sleep, it all works but there can be graphical glitches (sometimes and sometimes not) which I may need to restart the gnome shell to cure (Alt+F2 then type r and hit Enter).  While this is frustrating for now, I'm fully expecting driver updates to catch up and this machine will gradually settle down into the same level of graphical performance I was used to on my old machine i.e. no problems at all and no need to open up NVidia settings.  Perhaps the thing that surprises me most about all this though is the very fact that all of this has regressed.  I'm no expert in the graphical stack on Linux but it's rather unfortunate that I seem to experience the same pains and teething problems upon the issue of every new laptop.  It'll all get there.  One day!

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