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Thinkpad Edge AMD impressions

Discussion in 'ThinkPad Edge, X1, X100e/X120e, & SL/L' started by pnutzh4x0r, Feb 3, 2010.

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  1. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    I bought the AMD version of the Thinkpad Edge a week ago, and I guess I thought I would share my impressions of it since most of the reviews online are for the Intel version.

    First, some specs:

    • AMD Athlon Neo X2 Dual-Core L325 1.50GHz Processor
    • 3GB PC2-5300 676MHz DDR2 RAM
    • 250GB (5400RPM) SATA Hard Drive
    • ATI Radeon HD 3200 Graphics
    • 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
    • 6 cell battery
    • Matte black cover
    • SKU: 0197-27U

    I've had the laptop for over a week now and I've been relatively pleased with it so far and so here are some thoughts I have about it:

    Good

    1. Unlike most of the people here, I actually like the look of it, especially with the matte black top rather than the glossy one. The black on the edge is actually black. On some other machines, such as my old x22 or 570 the rubbery black was kinda purplish. The silver lining makes it look pretty sharp and attractive. Of course, this is pretty subjective, but I do like it over the more classic look.

    2. It was thinner and lighter than I expected. My previous laptop was a Dell D420 and without the battery, the edge was the same size as the D420. Of course, with the battery, the back is raised up a bit, but I like that for typing. The edge is heavier than my D420 by about 1lb, but it is still lighter than my wife's Macbook and my housemates Dell XPS 1330. It also appears to be well constructed and seems more solid than my D420.

    3. The AMD processor performs pretty well. I run Linux, so I don't have any of the typical benchmarks most NBR readers are familiar with, but I did get good times ripping DVDs and the machine seemed to be pretty responsive.

    4. The hard drive is surprisingly good. I guess I'm a bad judge since my D420 had a 4200 rpm drive, but the 5400 rpm drive that came with the Edge seemed to be world's better than my previous one. I was contemplating getting a SSD, but I get really good boot times (< 30 seconds) with Linux and the system overall is quite responsive (more so than my D420), and so I'm willing to wait it out for SSD prices to fall even further.


    Okay

    1. I too was concerned about the chiclet keyboard, but after using it for a week, I think it's okay. The keys are pretty responsive and I can touch type just fine. As to the flipped function keys and media keys, there is an option to make the function keys default in the BIOS and I enabled that. Since my previous laptop was a Dell D420, I was used to having to use FN + some key to do things like mute, or adjust the volume and brightness, and so not having dedicated buttons for these functions doesn't bother me. The back that delete is not at the end of the row does bother me sometimes though.

    2. The glossy screen was also a concern for me since I've always had computers with matte screens. After a week of use, though, I think I've adjusted. That is not to say that reflections don't exist (they do), but it's not enough of a deterrent for me to want to return the machine. In fact, I think the display is quite wonderful. The screen is much brighter than my D420 and some of the LCDs I have, which is a nice surprise. The reflections are quite noticeable when the screen is dark (black), but if you use a light color background or view things w/ a white background, you'll be fine.

    3. After getting some power management to work in Linux (see below), I was able to squeeze out about 4.5 hours of battery life out of machine, which all things considered is pretty good (especially since it's AMD and Linux). This is much more than the current battery life I get with my D420 (2.5 - 3.0 hours).

    4. No indicator lights. Yeah, this kind of sucks. I haven't been to bothered by it since I have meters on my panel, but it would nice to have some hardware ones as well.

    Bad

    1. Out of the box Linux supports sucks. I was pretty disappointed when I first installed Linux and saw so many things not working. Normally, Thinkpads are pretty good with Linux, but the Edge is pretty terrible without some hacking. First, there is no power management because the Lenovo did not provide a complete ACPI table. I was able to overcome this however, by dumping the DSDT, fixing it (ie. add some P-States) and recompiling the kernel. Once I did this, I was able to get voltage and frequency scaling to work. Second, wireless did not work out of the box. The Edge comes with a Realtek 8192 which is not officially supported by Linux yet. New Thinkpads such as the T400 also use this chipset and have the same problem. I did find some drivers from the Realtek website and managed to make a kernel driver package for ArchLinux and so now I have mostly working wifi, but I still get some disconnects. Third, there is currently no power management for the GPU. The open source ATI drivers actually work great with the 3200 (I can do compositing, etc.) but there is no power management. This should be coming in the future, probably a year or so. Fourth, to get jack sensing to work I had to add some configuration flags to /etc/modprobe.d/modprobe.conf, but I eventually got it to work.

      That said, I was able to get most of these issues resolved and get Linux running smoothly on the Edge. The remaining problems are: flaky wireless at school, and the no power management for the GPU.

      I think the reason for the poor ACPI table is that this is Lenovo's first AMD Thinkpad, and so they don't have much experience with it.

    2. Ethernet port location also is poor. The ethernet is on the left and near the front. I would have preferred that it was towards the back or even in the back, as having a long cable on the side is is annoying.

    3. Left side gets warm. As noted in the NBR review, the left side of the laptop, particularly the palmrest does get noticeably warm; not burning, but definitely noticeable. At first it bothered me, but it's actually not that bad, especially once I got CPU power management working on Linux. Additionally, the fans are pretty quiet and are only really audible on boot where they go crazy. Other than that, I never notice them (but I am usually in rooms with other computers, so I have lots of noise pollution).

    Like I said at the top, overall, I am relatively happy with my purchase. I've loved Thinkpads for a long time and used to own a 570 and a X22 (all from ebay). Three years ago, when I wanted to buy a new machine, I decided to go for a refurbished Dell D420 since I couldn't afford a Thinkpad and I wanted a small portable machine with a trackpoint. I think that the Edge, especially the AMD version, is a great laptop for people like me who want a small and lightweight Thinkpad and can't quite afford the X series. I hope this helps anyone interested in the Edge and those considering running Linux on it (or any other AMD Neo machine, since I think they will have most of the same problems).
     
  2. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    Thanks for posting. It's funny I'm just the opposite of you. Though I am a long time ThinkPad user, I'm not really fond of the trackpoint. I suppose it make me a bit of an oddball around these parts. I'd like a smaller notebook too. I'd love to get the X200 and swap in the AFFS screen, but I won't because it has no trackpad. Thanks again and welcome to NBR.
     
  3. MidnightSun

    MidnightSun Emodicon Super Moderator

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    You may get lucky if Lenovo adds a trackpad in the new X210 series Thinkpads - as the mockup at CES seems to forecast ;)

    I am actually not as bothered by the Edge as many other Thinkpaders are, actually, the biggest problem for me is the AMD processor and the small price gap between the X200 and the Edge - why not just get the X200?

    Other than that, it seems like a pretty fine machine. Thanks a lot for posting your feedback!
     
  4. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    In terms of the AMD processor, I think it's pretty good. Performance wise I think it would be about on par w/ the Intel processor (I've seen benchmarks from other sites bear this out). Obviously it's worse for battery life. This was one of my concerns along with heat. Fortunately battery life turned out okay and heat isn't that big of an issue on my Edge. I think the left side of the Edge gets warm regardless of each processor you use.

    Additionally, I liked the AMD choice because I got the ATI video card. Since the laptop is my main computer, I sometimes use it to play games and I'd rather have the ATI 3200 than the Intel X4500 for those situations.

    I do agree though, if you are specing out the Intel version of the Edge... then jumping to the X200 isn't that big of a leap. Unless you want a bigger screen, there really isn't a reason to get an Intel Edge over a X200. That said, I was able to get my Edge for $570 (no taxes and free shipping), so that sort of describes my budget.

    Also, I've been a lurker of NBR for quite some time (about the time I got my Dell D420)... just finally found the courage to start posting ;).
     
  5. 00940

    00940 Notebook Consultant

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    Thanks a lot for the review. I'm really interested by this laptop and it's the first review of it with the L325 I've seen.

    The battery life is better than I thought it would be. What about the noise level ?

    In Belgium, the cheapest X200 I found is 1550&#8364;. The AMD Edge is at 560&#8364;. :eek:
     
  6. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    The problem with the X201 is I would guess is they're going to make them all LED screens, which makes putting the CFFL AFFS screen in there more difficult. I don't know maybe they'll be an easy solution, but that remains to be seen. Plus they'll probably be expensive and the X200 is pretty cheap right now. I can afford to wait as I don't really need another notebook anyway. The notebook I'd like to see is the S12, they seemed pretty well built to me, but with a something other than a single core CPU. Even something like the SU2300 Celeron, but maybe they're afraid of cannibalizing the X200 sales as most mobile users don't need a lot of oomph.
     
  7. roblen

    roblen Notebook Geek

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    Good to hear you like it. The HD3200 surely beats the current integrated intel GPU and the AMD CPU is decent enough. However, IMO, I don't think the Edge is deserving of the 'Thinkpad' name for many other obvious reasons I won't go into now.
    However if you want a "real" thinkpad, the X200 isn't that much more right now and it's worth the extra money in the long-run IMO.
    Also the X100 is also milking the thinkpad name.
     
  8. BimoZX

    BimoZX Newbie

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    Could you elaborate more on the fix you apply on the kernel, DSDT, wireless, etc.. Since I'm planning to buy the same set up n install it with arch linux.
     
  9. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    For the ACPI fix, you have to use iasl to disassemble your DSDT table. Then you have to edit it and add appropriate _PSS entries so the computer will know how to do voltage and frequency scaling. Once you have done this, you will have to recompile the kernel so that it uses your custom DSDT file. I can provide the PKGBUILD and my DSDT file if you wish. The overall process is described here:

    http://www.lesswatts.org/projects/acpi/overridingDSDT.php

    For the wireless driver, I made a PKGBUILD and put it in AUR:

    http://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=34281

    It mostly works... but is still flaky for me at school; this means I can connect, but it is not stable and will often disconnected every few minutes. At home, wireless works fine.

    To get jack sensing to work (headphone output), I have this in /etc/modprobe.d/modprobe.conf:

    Code:
    options snd-hda-intel model="olpc-xo-1_5"
    
    For the video card, I just used xf86-video-ati. I got the Catalyst drivers working... but you have to downgrade xorg and a bunch of other things, and it just wasn't worth it. The open source drivers work fine, but lack power management.

    Everything else seems to work fine including the card reader (only tested SD cards) and suspend/resume (though YMMV depending on the software you use).
     
  10. Nostoi

    Nostoi Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for your review, which was interesting. I have the same laptop and am generally enjoying it. As a writer, the keyboard is especially pleasing. I do have a few questions, though, and wonder if you could help:

    1. How do you activate the webcam - do I need external software?
    2. Do you find that there is a high-pitched grainy sound when headphones are plugged into the socket?
    3. Out of interest, what games can you play with the AMD/ATI specs?

    Thanks.
     
  11. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    1. I don't know. I haven't actually tried the webcam out yet. I don't think Windows has built-in software for it, so you have to use something like Skype or GChat video. You may want to check the Lenovo website and see if they have any drivers/software for download.

    2. I've only used external speakers so far and haven't noticed anything. Perhaps you have to check if you are also capturing microphone input, which usually causes some noise.

    3. I was thinking along the lines of Guild Wars, Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Age of Empires II... nothing that graphically intensive. I haven't tried anything else out, but you can use this website for reference:

    http://www.notebookcheck.net/ATI-Radeon-HD-3200.9591.0.html


    Hope that helps.
     
  12. Nostoi

    Nostoi Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks, very helpful, indeed.
     
  13. BimoZX

    BimoZX Newbie

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    If it's not much trouble please do provide the DSDT file and the pkgbuild.
     
  14. lenardg

    lenardg Notebook Evangelist NBR Reviewer

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    This mini-review highlights so well what the problem of Linux is IMHO. Even if I consider myself to be quite a geek who likes to play around with "toys", when it comes to using an operating system/computer I prefer something that just works. I have other things to do than trying to have the basics (wireless, power management, etc) working.

    I am not saying it is something that rests purely on the shoulders of the Linux community, but also on the manufacturers, who do not give proper support for their products to be usable under Linux.

    It was nice reading how well pnutzh4x0r managed to make the notebook working under Linux. Hopefully you can give help to others who are interested - because the process doesn't sound too easy :)
     
  15. roblen

    roblen Notebook Geek

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    Alot of the linux distro's (eg ubuntu, fedora, sabayon) work out-of-the-box now. You might have problems with some "unusual" hardware but for alot of people who enjoy linux it's fun trying to get things to work with the helpful forums, google, etc.
    You can check HCL (hardware compatibility lists) to make it easier on yourself. Also, certain rules of thumb such as choosing nvidia over ati for GPU for example. The Nvidia proprietary driver works great in all the distro's I've tried and it allows for 3D acceleration, while the nv opensource driver doesn't.
    Better power management (battery life) is the only thing I'm missing from Vista.
     
  16. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    I think if I had gotten the Intel box, everything, except for the jack sensing would have worked out of the box (driver supports it, but you have to specify some configuration, as noted above). However, ATI on Linux has generally been a problem, though improving, with Intel and NVIDIA providing much better support.

    In terms of the CPU power management thing... that goes to the manufacturer. Lenovo shipped with a broken ACPI table. This is probably because this is Lenovo's first AMD Thinkpad and so they don't have much experience with it, and hopefully a future BIOS update will remove the need for me to run a custom DSDT table. Had I gotten an Intel version, I would guess that this wouldn't be a problem.

    In general, I'd shy away from new hardware (< year old) with Linux. After the hardware has been available for more than a year, drivers should be appear and be ready. In this case, however, I wanted a new machine, so I bit the bullet and got the Edge and was fortunate enough to work out most of the problems.

    Overall, though, I agree with lenardg. Linux isn't very everyone. It is, however, for me. Just like how some people use Chrome or Firefox or Opera or Internet Explorer. Whatever floats your boat.
     
  17. BimoZX

    BimoZX Newbie

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    DSDT and PKGBUILD please
     
  18. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    I basically took the kernel26 PKGBUILD in core and added some lines to make sure we include the custom dsdt. Everything is in the zip, I'm attaching. Hope that helps.
     

    Attached Files:

  19. tbpringle

    tbpringle Newbie

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    Hi, i'm also trying to get linux running on this laptop and have the same problems you describe solutions for. Thank you

    I'm curious how you were able to deduce the correct values for the "pstates"?

    I diffed your dsdt.dsl with one extracted from my system and noticed a number of differences that didn't seem related to this fix so I'm thinking you might have had a different system configuration. If it isn't too much trouble would you mind posting the baseline dsdt from your system.

    BTW, did you notice the microphone doesn't seem to work under linux? Since you had some success with the sound config I wondered if you had any idea on how to config the mic.

    Thanks,
     
  20. pnutzh4x0r

    pnutzh4x0r Notebook Enthusiast

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    Some parts of my DSDT are to fix warnings and errors in the stock DSDT. Things like AFN[0-5] not returning a value or something. If you compile your stock DSDT, you'll probably see a bunch of warnings... I cleaned that up.

    I also added some additional stuff like making sure the brightness button works (_BQN I think).

    I was able to deduce the values for pstates through googling and some magical guessing ;). I read up pstates and modifying dsdts and then used the AMD technical reference specs to find the correct values and put them together. They seem to work, but my numbers may not be perfect or absolutely correct. They work though. The document I used is:

    http://support.amd.com/us/Processor_TechDocs/32559.pdf

    One neat thing is you can modify the pstate table to undervolt the CPU. I think I picked conservative values here, so it should be fine.

    I haven't tried the microphone yet, so I can't help you there.
     
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