I have never used a Linux distribution as my primary operating system. After using OS X, eventually renamed to macOS, for 13 years and then ChromeOS for 2 years as my primary operating systems, I decided it was time to try something new. So, I purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 6 and installed Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.
Contrary to many blog posts I have read, my Ubuntu 18.04 installation experience was painless. I believe a large part of that is due to Lenovo providing more Linux compatibility starting in BIOS 1.30. So, I wanted to document all of the steps I took before and after installing Ubuntu 18.04 on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 6.
Create a Bootable Ubuntu 18.04 USB Drive in Windows 10
Upon receiving the laptop, I booted into the operating system it ships with (Windows 10) to make sure the laptop was functioning properly.
After a quick check, I followed these instructions to create a bootable Ubuntu 18.04 USB drive in Windows 10.
After the bootable USB drive was created, I rebooted into the BIOS to make many configuration changes.
BIOS Configuration Changes
For reference, my X1 Carbon came with BIOS version 1.31.
What follows are the configuration changes I made in the BIOS. Changes 1 and 5 are the most important changes to make when installing a Linux distribution on an X1 Carbon Gen 6.
- BIOS > Config > Thunderbolt (TM) 3 > Thunderbolt BIOS Assist Mode = Enabled
- BIOS > Config > Thunderbolt (TM) 3 > Wake by Thunderbolt (TM) 3 = Disabled
- BIOS > Config > Network > Wake on LAN = Disabled
- BIOS > Config > Network > Wake on LAN from Dock = Disabled
- BIOS > Config > Power > Sleep State = Linux
- BIOS > Security > Fingerprint Reader = Disabled
- BIOS > Security > Computrace > Current Setting = Disabled
- BIOS > Security > I/O Port Access > Ethernet LAN = Disabled
- BIOS > Security > I/O Port Access > Wireless WAN = Disabled
- BIOS > Security > I/O Port Access > Memory Card Slot = Disabled
Contrary to what other blog posts might mention, I did not need to disable Secure Boot. See the next section as to why.
Exit and Save Changes and begin the installation of Ubuntu 18.04.
Begin Ubuntu 18.04 Installation
The Ubuntu 18.04 installation process was exceptionally straightforward. I enabled LUKS disk encryption and configured Secure Boot. I was not aware a Ubuntu installation supported Secure Boot (read more here). With Secure Boot enabled, I have not had any issues during boot time.
During the install process, I selected the following settings when prompted:
- Selected Minimal installation
- Selected Download updates while installing Ubuntu
- Selected Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware and additional media formats
- Selected Configure Secure Boot and set a password
Post Ubuntu 18.04 Installation
For reference, the Linux kernel installed was 4.15.0-43-generic.
I was pleasantly surprised how most hardware components worked out of the box. All ports appear to work, and, contrary to other blog posts I have read, the trackpad and trackpoint work at the same time. The trackpad also supports multi-touch without any issues.
The fingerprint reader does not work, which is why I disabled it in the BIOS, but that has been a known issue for a long time.
Most importantly, as of BIOS 1.30, deep sleep (S3) works upon closing the laptop lid as long as the feature is enabled in the BIOS (change 5 in the BIOS Configuration Changes section). A couple of un-scientific tests showed a 2 - 3% battery discharge while the laptop was in deep sleep (S3) over a time period of 8 hours.
Other than installing powertop and gnome-tweak-tool, I have not installed any other packages to further tweak or configure Ubuntu 18.04.
Closing Thoughts About the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 6
At the time of writing, I have been using the X1 Carbon with Ubuntu 18.04 for just about two weeks, and I have been really enjoying it.
Having used many different laptops from the 12" PowerBook, to several MacBooks, to a couple Chromebooks, there is a lot to like and some things to dislike about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 6.
What I like:
- I have seen reports of X1 Carbon Gen 6 quality issues, but the unit I received has a great build quality and, so far, no defects.
- The X1 Carbon Gen 6 is very light weight and packs a lot of power.
- The keyboard is great. Out of all the laptop keyboards I have ever used, this keyboard has the most key travel, and it is similar to using a mechanical keyboard.
- In today's world of few ports and many dongles, the port layout is very welcoming: 2x USB-C ports, 2x USB-A ports, 1x HDMI port, a Micro SD card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
- I configured my X1 Carbon with the 1440p non-HDR, matte screen, and I'm really glad I did. I have never liked glossy screens, and the extra resolution (I run GNOME 3 at 100% scaling) allows me to have a web browser and terminal/text editor open side-by-side all the time.
What I do not like:
- While I really like the matte black finish, it attracts fingerprints very easily. Many years ago I purchased an iKlear Complete Cleaning Kit, and it cleans up the chassis and trackpad nicely.
- As of Ubuntu 18.04.1, with headphones plugged into the 3.5mm audio jack, there are faint clicking/popping sounds in the left channel. This does not occur when using the same headphones with a 3.5mm to USB-C adapter plugged into the second USB-C port. However, a fix has now been released in linux-4.15.0-44.47.
- The speakers could be better. They are front-bottom firing, and they are not very loud - even with the volume at max. And, depending on the audio, the left channel can sometimes sound distorted with the volume at max.