Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve installed Ubuntu 20.04 on quite a number on new notebooks. This week’s challenge was to find a notebook that meets the following requirements: A 14″ display, a sturdy casing because it’s mostly used mobile, and ultra reliable operation, including Suspend to RAM. Suspend to Idle would not do, as one of the use cases is keep the notebook in the backpack overnight. Especially Suspend to RAM requires good BIOS and ACPI support, so I kept my eyes firmly in the Lenovo notebook camp, as they have a reputation for good Linux support. Also, the price should be below 1000 euros. In the end, I chose a Lenovo E14 for 689 euros with a 10th generation Intel i5-10210U, 16 GB of RAM and a small 256 GB SSD that will be replaced anyway. I’d say that’s a very good price for an E14 model.
Price and Production Date
The main reason the price was quite good was probably that this particular model (Lenovo E14, 20RA001DGE) with a 10th generation i5 processor is already on the market for almost one and a half years and hence, this might have been a clearance sale price. Notebookcheck reviewed this particular model already back in March 2020. So despite being a new notebook, the hardware is already a bit dated. But that was actually one of the reasons I bought this model, as by now, Linux kernel support should be rock solid. Interestingly enough, the production date indicated on a sticker at the bottom was June 2021. The same date is printed on a label on the RAM, and the sticker on the NVMe SSD says that this part was produced in February 2021.
And indeed, my Ubuntu 20.04 with Linux Kernel 5.11 that I booted from an SSD attached to a USB port properly detected and configured all hardware out of the box. Also, Suspend to RAM and resume worked without a flaw. Even though the price was rather low for an E14, it was equipped with an Intel AX201 802.11ax Wifi card, which I would say is the gold standard when it comes to Wifi and also when it comes to Linux support. E14 models with slightly newer hardware come with a different, and from my point of view, much inferior Wifi card.
Suspend to RAM
Since proper support of Suspend to RAM was a particular requirement, I checked the power consumption in this state. After 6h on standby, the battery level was still at 93%. I also checked power consumption with a charger attached and again saw a power consumption of under one watt. Excellent!
So, what is missing compared to a T14 model? For one thing, it ‘only’ supports USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB speed is limited to 5 GBit/s while the T14 supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, i.e. 10 GBit/s. No problem for most people. Also, there’s no chip card slot, which is used in many companies for authentication. Also not an issue for most people. And then, there’s no support for automatic firmware updates. Lenovo only seems to support that on higher-end models such as the T, X and L series. A bit of a shame, but again, not a problem. The biggest disadvantage of this model for me is that there’s only a single memory slot. In other words, there’s no dual-channel RAM operation, which impacts performance to a certain degree. More on that a bit later. But that’s it from my point of view.
Like much more expensive models, charging over USB-C (PD) is supported. These days, that’s a must have to cut down on the number of chargers to carry. An external screen can be connected over the HDMI port or via USB-C. And a special goodie: This E14 model comes with an M.2 slot for an NVMe and a traditional SATA connector for older SSDs. There’s even a dummy HDD/SDD and a caddy installed. This is invaluable, as this allowed me to migrate a Samsung 960 Evo 2 TB SATA SSD. Sure, it’s not as fast as a recent NVMEe SSD for the M.2 slot, but that’s not an issue in this case. Also, this E14 model still has an Ethernet port built-in, so no need to carry an adapter. I see this as a nice bonus as well!
One more thing: This E14 model has the cooling fan outlet at the bottom. I find this much better than blowing out hot air on the right, like most Lenovo models do. The downside of blowing out the hot air at the bottom is perhaps when the notebook is used in the lap or put on a blanket. And while we are talking about the fan, I noticed that it’s very quiet and doesn’t run very often. It even remains off when watching a Full-HD video on Youtube.
To see how things are performance wise, I compared CPU load when watching a full HD Youtube video. On my X13, overall CPU load on the 8 cores and 16 threads is around 15% while on this E14 model with 4 cores and 8 threads, CPU load is around 25-30%. Also, video calls work just fine with a similar CPU load, so there is enough headroom for doing other things simultaneously without a noticeable delay. My ffmpeg transcoding test resulted in an execution time of 9 minutes 21 seconds and a speedup of 5,11x. Compared to the 6 minutes 19 and a speedup of 7,56x on my AMD Ryzen 7 4750U powered X13, that’s 30% slower. Compared to the HP 17″ notebook with an 11th generation i5 processor I reviewed earlier, which took 7 minutes 54 seconds for the tasks and thus has a speedup of 6,05x, the difference is 15%. Apart from an 11th vs. 10th generation Intel i5 processor, which might give the HP notebook an edge over this E14 model, the HP has 2 RAM sockets that are both equipped, which allows for dual-channel RAM operation. As mentioned above, the E14 only has a single RAM socket which causes a 20% performance hit for my ffmpeg task on its own.
All in all, this E14 model meets the requirements perfectly and I’m glad I went for it, especially at this clearance sale type price.