Thinkbook 13s (20V9A05FIH), review and Linux compatibility

Jan. 20, 2022

It was time for a new laptop, the screen had started to glitch, possibily too shook up from being used while travelling on Delhi roads. I got this machine at around 60% of MRP on Amazon.

It is tested to military standards, so I’m hoping that it’ll last longer.

[I know, I know, militaries are huge machines, and the standards tested against may be closer to those for toothpaste than those for tanks, but please don’t take away my hope.]

Last time I’d got a new machine I’d done a longish review, but this time the semester is busier, so putting off running most benchmarks for later.

The Amazon page does not have details of many components. So here is the hardware profile.

As you can see, all the hardware except the fingerprint reader are supported out of the box on Linux (Debian Bullseye).

Compared to my four-year old machine, the main differences are:

  • The display is much better. Fonts are noticeably sharper with 2560×1600 than 1920×1080. Colours are also much more vibrant. Some colours I’m seeing on a monitor for the first time after my CRT days.

  • Power consumption during sleep is tiny. The earlier machine had DDR4 which drew significant power in sleep (around 10% overnight). This one has LPDDR4x.

    Update [2022-01-22] There has been one occassion when the machine failed to sleep and the battery ended up fully drained. Replacing ‘s2idle’ with ‘deep’ sleep caused the machine to fail to resume and screen remained blank on reboot until the BIOS did some self-rectification thing. Scary! Investigating the cause.

  • Geekbench 5 performance improved by 1.5x to 2x or more depending on benchmark.

    Apart from the switch from an i5 to a newer generation i7, a major contributor is the higher memory bandwidth. The Stream benchmark shows a bandwidth of around 61 GB/s for copy. On the older machine this was around 12 GB/s out of the box and 16 GB/s even after adding a second RAM module.

  • The SSD is very fast for small sequential read and write operations, around 5 GB/s. But write speed drops drastically for larger operations to around 600 MB/s. This is much worse than what you would get from something like a Samsung 970 Evo with which I had updated my older laptop. You can see the difference on large software updates for example.

  • The keboard is poorer, with shallower travel. Accuracy is not affected, but joy is.