Review for ThinkPad X280 running Ubuntu 18.04 (bionic)

I’m an everyday Linux (Ubuntu) user moving from X201s to X280. This is my review after installing Ubuntu 18.04 (bionic) on X280.

Issues with workaround available

  • Keyboard event F1~F12 must be triggered while holding down the Fn key. This behaviour could be changed by changing the BIOS configuration under Config -> Keyboard/Mouse -> F1-F12 as Primary Function = Enabled
  • By using Fn+F5 and Fn+F6 to adjust the brightness, the lowest level of brightness controlled by is too dark for me, and the second lowest level is too bright. Workaround available by writing to /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness directly. Refer to Precision brightness control on X280 running Ubuntu 18.04 (bionic) for details.
  • X280 may wake up for no reason while connected to Lenovo USB-C Dock, even there is nothing connected to the dock except the 20V 90W power adaptor. Workaround available, by echoing XHC to /proc/acpi/wakeup to disable XHC wakeup. The downside of this workaround is that it became impossible to wake up by external (USB) keyboard. This workaround does not affect the wake-up button on the dock – it will still work.

Issues that I didn’t find a workaround.

  • The brightness of the built-in display may become unstable occasionally, usually once or twice a day and the brightness fluctuates for ±10% for less than one minute. More likely to happen on a light grey background or low level of brightness.
    Update 2018-08-03: The detail of the issue has been posted on Lenovo forum.
  • The fingerprint reader is not working.
  • 4G modem Fibocom L850-GL does not show up as a USB device under Linux.
  • By slowly plug-in a USB 3.0 flash drive, it will run at USB 2.0 speed. More likely to happen on the left-side USB type A socket as it’s more ‘tight’ than the one on the right.

Hardware design

  • TrackPoint left & right buttons are much harder to click compared to X201s. They miss the click occasionally, thus I need to hit them harder. And these buttons are noisier than X201s.
  • The hinge is completely different with X201s, and more similar with MacBook. While opening the lid or adjusting the screen angle on a desk with a wired mouse or other cables, the cables may get damaged. Furthermore, the bottom edge of the lid will contact the desk if the screen is opened for 150°. I prefer the hinge design on X201s.
  • There are four rubber foot on the bottom of the machine, but it still ‘slippery’. The rubber foot on X201s battery from Better Batt is much better.
  • RJ45 has been replaced with a proprietary connector. Furthermore, it does not come with an RJ45 dongle.
  • It requires a SIM card eject pin to remove SIM/microSD tray, rendering the card reader hard to access. The only use case of microSD card slot is probably
    • Install the bootloader, allow LVM using all the space on NVMe storage device.
    • Put a Live USB image there, for recovery purpose, without the need of external USB flash drive.
    • Update 2018-08-03: Internal microSD card reader cannot be used as a boot device.

Appendix

Tested on the following firmware configuration

BIOS 1.16 (N20ET31W)
EC 1.05 (N20HT18W)
ME 11.8.50.3460 (N20RG10W)

ThinkPad USB-C Dock firmware 3.7
    BillBoard(BB) FW: 0.1.0.23
    USB Hub(HX3) FW: 1.14.7.183
    PD(CCG4 DK) FW: 1.3.40 
    DP Hub FW: 3.12.005

DMI table (SMBIOS) as below

$ sudo dmidecode --type 0
# dmidecode 3.1
Getting SMBIOS data from sysfs.
SMBIOS 3.0.0 present.

Handle 0x000B, DMI type 0, 24 bytes
BIOS Information
	Vendor: LENOVO
	Version: N20ET31W (1.16 )
	Release Date: 05/30/2018
	Address: 0xE0000
	Runtime Size: 128 kB
	ROM Size: 16 MB
	Characteristics:
		PCI is supported
		PNP is supported
		BIOS is upgradeable
		BIOS shadowing is allowed
		Boot from CD is supported
		Selectable boot is supported
		EDD is supported
		3.5"/720 kB floppy services are supported (int 13h)
		Print screen service is supported (int 5h)
		8042 keyboard services are supported (int 9h)
		Serial services are supported (int 14h)
		Printer services are supported (int 17h)
		CGA/mono video services are supported (int 10h)
		ACPI is supported
		USB legacy is supported
		BIOS boot specification is supported
		Targeted content distribution is supported
		UEFI is supported
	BIOS Revision: 1.16
	Firmware Revision: 1.5

$ sudo dmidecode --type 1
# dmidecode 3.1
Getting SMBIOS data from sysfs.
SMBIOS 3.0.0 present.

Handle 0x000C, DMI type 1, 27 bytes
System Information
	Manufacturer: LENOVO
	Product Name: 20KFS05Q00
	Version: ThinkPad X280
	Serial Number: ********
	UUID: ********-****-****-****-************
	Wake-up Type: Power Switch
	SKU Number: LENOVO_MT_20KF_BU_Think_FM_ThinkPad X280
	Family: ThinkPad X280

One Reply to “Review for ThinkPad X280 running Ubuntu 18.04 (bionic)”

  1. Thanks for the review! I guess I will have to wait until Thinkpads are more stable with Ubuntu to acquire one again, and Ubuntu becomes more stable itself.

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