A white room containing a ladder, a chair and a plant.

Last year, I lost my MNT Reform on a train. It's a tragic story and it still hurts me to think about it, but that's not the focus of this post.

I needed a new laptop. My lesson from using the Reform is this: I don't need a recent model. I don't need the latest processor, I don't need 32 GB of RAM on my machine. What I want is a servicable laptop.

The hardware

I started looking around and, of course, quickly turned my attention towards ThinkPads. It's an iconic series and it is often described as the perfect programmer laptop [citation needed]. When I looked through the models to find out what would fit my needs and my budget, I started reading comments about how the T480 was the last model in the series which was truly a upgradable laptop.

This video by MobileTechReview shows the differences between the T480, the T480s and a recent X1 Carbon and it convinced me that the T480 was the model for me.

This type of laptop is used a lot as leasing models in companies, so there is quite the market for selling refurbished models coming from leasing contracts. If you live in Germany, you might be interested in the site GreenPanda, which sells refurbished Laptops, PCs, Phones and more.

After some thinking I bought a T480 from them with the following configuration:

  • Core i5 8350U @ 4x 1.70GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD

The device has a fingerprint reader, a below average camera and a lot of ports for a laptop. It's also quite bulky (at least compared to the recent Mac Books, for example, which seem to break just from looking at them) and it has a fully-sized ethernet port.

The software

Once it arrived, the first thing I did was to delete Windows. Naturally. Then began the hunt for a decent linux distro. In this case, decent means:

  • It should run sway as the "Desktop Environment"
  • It should work out of the box

There are not a lot of distros that use a tiling window manager by default, so a tried a few:

  • Regolith Linux, while gorgeous and feature packed, had errors with the waybar config right after installation
  • SwayOS looked promising, but lost the ability to connect to Wifis after a few hours
  • Manjaro Sway Editon worked perfectly and is oh so full of delightful features

So I'm sticking with Manjaro for now. I set it up with btrfs instead of ext4 and the integration with Timeshift has been looking very promising. I used debian for as long as I used the Reform and I was happy with it but a little Arch here and there cannot hurt, right?

One thing I was excited about when I ordered this laptop was the fingerprint reader. Being able to skip entering a password when using sudo sounded good. Unfortunately the fprint package does not support the T480's fingerprint reader yet. However, there is a fork which adds support for it.

Laptop Linux