Linux on Lenovo ThinkPad T460 and Ultra Dock

by moorray

I recently bought a Lenovo T460(20FNCTO1WW)  for work.  I’m not 100% sure if Linux laptop reviews still make sense today given that Linux supports most commodity components but for the sake of the old times here is my experience 🙂

Dock

Let’s start with the Lenovo Ultra Dock.  I have Ethernet cable, DisplayPort monitor and 4 USB devices plugged in.  The dock has a very nice selection of screen connectors, I feel like there could be more USB ports. There is also a head phone socket.  All connectors are in the back.

The Dock does not seem to contain much additional hardware it’s mostly just routing signals to existing devices.

Experience of connecting a ThinkPad into the dock could definitely be better. It’s not clear when plugging the machine in which the correct position is which leads to moving the laptop around until the connector finds the sockets.  Most of the time it’s also necessary to lift the dock for the mechanical clips to snap on – the angle of the docking pad is not wide enough and the front of the laptop is already touching the desk before it’s fully touching the dock.

Sometimes after unplugging and docking back in the external monitor will not come on.  Playing around with screen settings (disabling and enabling the DisplayPort) tends to help but not always.  Note, however, that I’m using Fluxbox so your experience on mainstream WM may be better.

Hardware (outside)

Keyboard is OK. I don’t like the fact that bottom left key is Fn instead of Ctrl by default. I’m definitely not a big fan of the touchpad, the mat surface makes it hard to slide fingers. I find it nearly impossible to make precise mouse movements (e.g. to grab a border of a window) without changing acceleration.

Having three USB ports seems pretty good these days, especially with the dock and Bluetooth I never felt the need for more. I also appreciate the Ethernet port on the machine itself, I found it useful a few times already to be able to just plug in when the office WiFi was busy.

The camera is a bit of a letdown, there is a lot of visible noise and color flicker even in well lit conditions.

I don’t use the built-in screen a lot so I won’t comment on it.

Hardware (inside)

The Intel Core i7-6600U and its HD520 iGPU are pretty satisfactory. The fan comes on quite a bit but it’s not very loud. In fact I’m working in a bit of a noisy environment and I didn’t even notice it before paying special attention for this review. The graphics driver crashed once (not fatally, i.e. I could still safely reboot) after dock reconnect.

WiFi and Bluetooth are provided by Intel Wireless 8260 device, 2×2 streams, dual band, no problems with it so far. Gigabit Ethernet is an integrated Intel I219-LM.

I have 12GB of RAM which may prove to be slightly limiting but is OK so far. According to system info it’s a 4GB Ramaxel module and a 8GB Samsung one.

256GB SSD is a SAMSUNG MZ7LN256.  Not the latest hardware but should be decent enough.

I haven’t tested battery life.

Software

The laptop comes with Windows 10 preinstalled (I may be wrong about the version).  Fedora 25 installation runs smoothly, no problems with UEFI. Boots nice and fast. I didn’t have to perform any special configuration or hacks to get any of the hardware going.

Conclusions

ThinkPad T460 paired with the Ultra Dock seems like a solid Linux laptop for non-compute heavy work. When you take into account that the laptop itself with decent internals costs around $1200 it does come slightly under the expectations, however.  My previous (Acer) laptop was definitely much inferior but certainly better value for money at a third of the price of the ThinkPad. Comparing the docking experience to an HP EliteBook I used a few years back I’m also a little bit disappointed. Lenovo dock feels cheaper and not particularly well designed.

I bought the ThinkPad to be able to easily switch between office and home environment.  If I was to only work at a single desk I would certainly be happier with a custom desktop PC and a cheap laptop for travel/meetings.

Let me know what your opinions about the recent ThinkPads are and what setups do you use to strike a balance between speed and mobility!

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