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I Ordered a ThinkPad T420s

First published Sep 5, 2021 at 01:45 PM

ThinkPad T420s keyboard

Update on September 30, 2021: I broke the motherboard trying to solder wires to the BIOS chip with a bad soldering tip. I will have to get a new motherboard and I will use an SPI clip so I don't risk breaking it again.

Update on May 1, 2022: After tons of wrestling around with the T420s trying to get it working, I gave up and now I'm using an X200 Tablet.

Yesterday, I ordered a ThinkPad T420s to use as my new daily driver instead of my current ThinkPad Yoga 260. But why did I get a 10 year old laptop that is older and less powerful than my Yoga 260?

I have had the Yoga 260 since August 2017. It was my first laptop which I got as an excess laptop from a college. In 2019 and mostly 2020, it got me into Linux and open-source software. But now I would like a laptop with a better design and libre hardware.

The T420s is quite serviceable. I can get straight to the hard drive and RAM, and easily swap out the battery. It has a nice keyboard and the power button is in a more obvious place than the Yoga 260. I like that it has status LED's for WiFi, disk activity, and sleep mode so I can quickly tell when it is asleep and when the system is accessing the disk.

The hardware in the T420s has wider support by free software operating systems. I have been wanting to use something like FreeBSD or OpenBSD which seem like more sane systems than Linux, but they don't work properly on Yoga-series ThinkPads. The T420s has more widely supported hardware, so I could take FreeBSD for a spin.

I will be able to flash the T420s with something like Coreboot and SeaBIOS, which is FOSS firmware that can result in faster boot times and allow me to cripple the Intel Management Engine firmware. The Intel Management Engine is a hardware backdoor built into modern laptops, and with free firmware, the Intel Management Engine can be disabled, removing the backdoor and taking back lost freedoms with my technology.

The T420s has less powerful specs than my Yoga 260, but I don't mind. I won't be AAA gaming and I hardly use more than 2-3 GB of RAM. However, I'll want to get a 1920x1080 screen and install an SSD because spinning hard disks don't belong in laptops. I don't have the right power adapter for the T420s, so I will have to get one. Then, slap on a bunch of FOSS stickers and run neofetch.