Why do Linux users often prefer Thinkpads?

Why do Linux users often prefer Thinkpads?
My T480s (left) and Z13 (right) running Pop!_OS (but nowadays Fedora)
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If you are looking for a laptop that can run Linux flawlessly, you might want to consider a Thinkpad. Thinkpads are laptops that have been produced by IBM and Lenovo for over 30 years, and have become synonymous with reliability, durability, and performance.

But they are also very popular among Linux users, who appreciate their hardware compatibility, keyboard and trackpoint, and customization and upgradability.

In this blog post, I will explain in more detail why Thinkpads and Linux are a perfect pair.

Hardware Compatibility

One of the main reasons why Linux users love Thinkpads is their hardware compatibility. Linux is an open source operating system that can run on a variety of devices, but not all of them are equally compatible. Some laptops have proprietary drivers or firmware that are not supported by Linux, or require a lot of tweaking to make them work. This can be frustrating and time-consuming for Linux users, who want to enjoy the full potential of their operating system.

Thinkpads, on the other hand, have a long history of being Linux-friendly, thanks to their use of standard components and adherence to industry specifications. Most Thinkpads work out of the box with Linux, or require minimal configuration to get everything running smoothly. Thinkpads also have a large and active community of Linux users, who share tips, tricks, and solutions for any potential issues.

You can find a lot of information and support online for running Linux on Thinkpads, which makes the experience much easier and enjoyable.

Thinkpads are often ridiculously cheap

Many enterprises buy ThinkPads for their employees and when a time comes to upgrade, they are usually sold for quite cheap. The key figure here is that there's a lot of used ThinkPads on the market, which makes them perfect for buying as a powerful Linux laptop.

ThinkPad T480s and ThinkPad Z13

The T480s I bought in 2019 was 600 euros used. At the time, it was the first quad-core low-power CPU (Intel 8th gen U-series) and was, still is, super fast. Nowadays at the start of 2024 you can buy it for 200-250 euros. Even cheaper in the US as far as I'm aware.

Meanwhile the Z13 I bought cost over 1.5k euros, and I bought it new. I can conclude that I don't feel like it's that much faster than my T480s. It can, however, game or edit videos like a beast - depsite its super tiny size (yay for AMD!). It does feel more premium though for sure!

Thinkpad Z13 on Linux - compared to the T480s
ThinkPad is a legendary brand of laptops that has been synonymous with reliability, durability, and performance for decades. In recent years, Lenovo has also been experimenting with new designs, features, and materials to appeal to a wider range of users. One of the latest examples of this is the ThinkPad

Keyboard and Trackpoint

Another reason why Linux users adore Thinkpads is their keyboard and trackpoint. Thinkpads have some of the best keyboards in the laptop market, with a comfortable layout, responsive keys, and excellent feedback. They are perfect for typing long commands, scripts, or code on Linux.

Thinkpads also have a unique feature called the trackpoint, which is a small red nub in the middle of the keyboard that acts as a mouse. The trackpoint is very precise and convenient, and allows you to move the cursor without lifting your hands from the keyboard.

The trackpoint is great if you type a lot (e.g. you're a programmer), but not so much if you use it for casual browsing (e.g. YouTube, Facebook). The idea is you don't need to constantly move your hands from the keyboard to the mouse/trackpad and back.

Finally - you know that it's a Thinkpad when you see the keyboard. It's distinctive.

Customization and Upgradability

You can easily upgrade or replace the RAM, SSD, battery, keyboard, screen, or even the CPU on some models. You can also customize your Thinkpad with various accessories, such as docks, external batteries, or skins. Thinkpads are also known for their compatibility with third-party or aftermarket parts, which gives you more options and flexibility. With a Thinkpad, you can create your own Linux machine that suits your needs and preferences.

Customization and upgradability are not only practical, but also fun. They allow you to express your personality and creativity, and make your Thinkpad truly yours. They also extend the lifespan and value of your Thinkpad, which makes it a smart and sustainable investment.

Community and Culture

Did you know there's a dedicated fanbase that collects and showcases their ThinkPads on Reddit? Thinkpads have a loyal and enthusiastic fan base, who share their experiences, opinions, and advice on various forums, blogs, and social media. They also have a rich and colorful history, with many stories, legends, and myths surrounding them. Thinkpads are laptops that have a personality and a soul, and reflect the values and spirit of Linux. It's said they're built like tanks. It's true.

What about the alternatives? Dell Latitude.. HP EliteBook...

Alright, let's be real - I've realized I might be in a Thinkpad cult that makes me automatically look down on other laptops and share my enthusiasm for Thinkpads despite them going downhill for quite some time now. This definitely does not affect my opinion of other laptops. Nope - definitely.

But really - as mentioned before, Thinkpads are laptops that have a personality and a soul. Lots of stories of people doing the most horrid thing to their Thinkpads, but still survive. Also, black and red just looks cool and evil.

Other competitors have a nearly identical price/performance ratio, customizability, upgradeability etc. If you can't get your hands on a Thinkpad, there are other just as good options!


Thinkpads are a cult.

Ahem.. Thinkpads are not the only laptops that can run Linux, but they are certainly among the best. They offer a combination of hardware compatibility, keyboard and trackpoint, and customization and upgradability that is hard to beat.

Thinkpads and Linux are a perfect pair, and you should give them a try. 😊

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