The Lenovo Thinkpad 11e is a fantastic little linux machine!

I am somewhat obsessed with small, cheap, disposable notebooks which run Linux reasonably well. I’ve attempted to run Linux (using crouton or gallium OS) on several Chromebooks with mixed success. I own the Asus C200, Acer 14, and Acer R11 Chromebooks. While perfectly nice machines, getting them to behave well with Linux usually involves opening them up to remove a write-protect screw and installing some non-standard BIOS firmware. Even with that done they often have issues.

About a month ago I purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad 11e for about $300 and I’m happy to report it’s the best Linux laptop I’ve ever owned. This should not be terribly surprising since Thinkpads have long been known for their amazing Linux support. In fact, the only surprising thing is that they decided to bring that Thinkpad heritage to an inexpensive laptop intended for educational use.

The 11e is a bit heavier at 3.5 lbs that most similarly sized Chromebooks and Ultrabooks (infact, it’s nearly a pound heaver than the Thinkpad Carbon X1 I use at work). However, if you don’t mind the extra weight what you get in return in a delightfully sturdy feeling laptop that will likely survive the sorts of drops and spills that often seem to befall electronics of mine.

Upon first boot into a fresh install of Manjaro Linux I found that everything worked right out of the box. This includes

The only issues I’ve run into so far have involved the fan behavior after resuming from suspend. It seems that after waking up one of the laptop’s temperature sensors remains pegged at a non-realistic value that causes the fan to come on and stay on until the laptop is rebooted. To get around this I installed thinkfan using these simple instructions. The thinkfan.conf file below causes different (better behaved) temperature sensors to be used for feedback control of the fan. Reader beware, if you use the config below and it makes your laptop explode not only am I not liable, I’ll probably find it hilarious.

hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp2_input
hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp3_input
hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp4_input
hwmon /sys/devices/platform/coretemp.0/hwmon/hwmon2/temp5_input

(0,	0,	55)
(1,	48,	60)
(2,	50,	61)
(3,	52,	63)
(4,	56,	65)
(5,	59,	66)
(7,	63,	32767)

Battery life could be better and the performance is exactly what you expect from a $300 laptop. That is, you won’t be playing games that were released within the past decade. Still, the Lenovo Thinkpad 11e is a perfect little machine for anyone looking for a portable Linux dev machine that won’t require you to spend two weeks building patched kernel drivers to get things working.

Written by David Friedman on 21 May 2017