[talk] FreeBSD laptop advice

Pete Wright pete at nomadlogic.org
Thu Oct 8 15:15:29 EDT 2020

On 10/8/20 11:13 AM, Brian Reynolds wrote:
> As luck would have it my laptop died at the beginning of Stay At Home.
> I'm looking for advice on a laptop to buy that will run FreeBSD
> RELEASE.  I know about the FreeBSD wiki Laptop page, and NYC BUG's
> dmesg site, but I'm hoping to hear additional real world experience
> from folks running FreeBSD as their daily machine.
> This laptop will mostly be used for web browsing, command line email,
> and administrating my home network.  I expect to boot ZFS (hence
> FreeBSD), and tinker with virtualbox, jails, and maybe bhyve, but I
> have a desktop for any heavy lifting.
> I want an IPS display with a resolution of at least 1920x1080.  I'd
> prefer a 15-inch display, but might settle for 13-inch.  I need
> wireless to work.  The whole point is to be able to take the laptop
> around the house, and not be stuck in my computer room.  I also want
> suspend/resume to work.
> I don't care if bluetooth works.  I guess if the trackpad is crappy
> enough I'd use a wireless mouse, but I don't mind using a Logitech
> mouse with one of their non-bluetooth USB dongles.  I really want a
> three button mouse/trackpad, so I could wind up with a wireless mouse
> even if the trackpad is OK.  Integrated graphics are fine.  It would
> be nice if it's user upgradable, but I don't mind soldered RAM and
> storage so long as I know in advance, and can change my configuration
> when purchasing.
> My older daughter has a Dell Latitude 5490 from school that I know
> does not work (at least with FreeBSD 12.1-RELEASE).  Dell also has
> Modern Standby (hibernation) issues with the XPS line.  (At least
> under Windows 10 closing your Dell XPS 9570 and then putting it into a
> bag will void your warranty.
> <https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/FAQ-Modern-Standby/m-p/7514448#M55308>)
> I've heard good things about Lenovo, especially the Thinkpad X1
> Carbon.  However it looks like their current wifi is not supported on
> FreeBSD.  Lenovo recently announced support for Linux on all their
> machines, but their website only lists four models, and of course
> Linux support doesn't mean FreeBSD works.

I have a Lenovo Thinkpad P43s that I run CURRENT on as my daily driver 
for work.  It is an interesting system b/c it has 2 GPU's, and 
integrated Intel this is the primary one and drives the display as well 
as a secondary Nvidia GPU which can be used on a per app basis.  I've 
got this working pretty good with some out of tree patches that I'm 
hoping to get merged at some point.

Now to be honest I wouldn't recommend this as a general purpose laptop 
though due to the Nvidia secondary CPU - *but* I can report that pretty 
much all the hardware in that laptop including the wireless NIC is well 
supported.  So it might be worth seeing if there is a comparable system 
in the "mobile workstation" range from Lenovo without the second Nvidia 
GPU that is in your price range. In terms of hardware durability, the 
screen and battery life it's a Thinkpad and still has the build quality 
you'd expect IMHO.

There is also System76 who has some interesting gear.  Unfortunately 
they are very Linux-centric but they have hardware that is mostly 
compatible with FreeBSD at a good price point.  I'm not sure about their 
Coreboot implementation supporting FreeBSD, but I had a Gazelle with a 
traditional BIOS and it worked well.


Pete Wright
pete at nomadlogic.org

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