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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen / 2018) review – Sad story of a potentially great ultrabook

TL;DR – Don’t buy it

Don’t buy it. If you cherish your time and money and you think about a laptop as a work tool, go with something else.  There are many hardware problems with this computer and, if by any chance, you decide to open a warranty claim, Lenovo will make it really hard for you.

They will force you to send your laptop back (despite an on-site extended warranty), they will ship it back in an even worse state and will make you wait one more month to get a replacement.

Lenovo does not seem to have quality control in place. Here’s a list of problems you will likely encounter:

  • Not properly closing lid (a lot of space on one of the sides);
  • Overheating when connected to a docking station;
  • Overheating without a docking station;
  • High pitch noise when using USB headphones and a docking station;
  • Poor speakers quality and speaker cracking noise;
  • Non existing on-site warranty;
  • Really bad certified repair partners (at least in Poland);
  • A lot of configuration and tuning to make it work with Linux;
  • Screen scaling problems on Linux;
  • Backspace key missing stroke;
  • Keys / track point leaving permanent marks on the screen;
  • Weird sound distortions;
  • Low coating quality;
  • 256GB hard-drive performance problems.

If you don’t have any of those problems, consider yourself lucky. It turns out, it is a lottery. And I don’t want to test my luck against a hardware that should help me with my work. I would rather prefer to be able to rely on it.

Note: Just to be clear. This is the list of all the things reported by many users. I’ve encountered some of them, but it was way more than enough for me to lose my patience and consider this promising ultrabook a failure.

A great beginning with a poor ending

Around 3 months ago, I decided that it is about time to buy a new laptop. I’m a programmer and for me it is a long-time relationship.

I spent nearly a month researching and I was hesitating between Dell Latitude 7390 and the brand new Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th Gen / 2018. I’ve always been a big fan of the Latitude brand and have been using them for over 8 years now. But the truly lightweight Lenovo Thinkpad caught my eye with its amazing design and long battery life. The specs were also really good and the overall performance seemed nice. I thought to myself: “You can’t get that wrong with Lenovo, right?”.

Initial impression

My initial impression of this laptop was really good. Despite not being fully “Ubuntu ready” and forcing me to spend a fair amount of time tuning it, I would say I was surprised with the overall performance and robustness of this piece of hardware. You can read about the tuning and my initial impressions in this article: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen / 2018) Ubuntu 18.04 Tweaks. Unfortunately what happened next, makes me question my decision to get this laptop in the first place.

Problems, problems everywhere

After a couple of days, I understood, that I will have to invest a bit of time to personalize this laptop and make it suitable for my needs. I was able to eliminate most of the software problems, but then after a while, I noticed a couple of things that could be acceptable in a laptop worth $500 max.

Note: All of the problems mentioned above are not rare or unique. There’s an alarmingly huge number of Reddit posts and posts on the Lenovo forum from many other people experiencing the same problems. There’s even an unofficial list of all the defects you can get with this laptop and it’s getting longer each week.

Low coating quality

The picture is not mine (taken from this Reddit post)  but after I got it, I also noticed, that the coating is somehow delicate and easily scratchable. It is definitely worse than my current Latitude E7440.

High pitch noise using USB headphones and a docking station

If you’re planning to use a Thunderbolt docking station and USB headphones, you can pretty much forget about it. You will constantly hear an irritating noise that will make you go crazy. It disappears when using the built-in USB, but hey, isn’t it why I bought a docking station not to have to plug anything directly?

I was able to eliminate it partially by tuning some sound settings but it would anyhow randomly occur again. Absolutely horrible.

Overheating when attached to a docking station

Next downside of having a business-grade laptop with a docking station support that I’ve never encountered with a Dell computer: overheating.

I’m not talking about a heavy-workload overheating when fans would go on. No, no. I’m talking about laptop getting seriously warm near the Thunderbolt connection, making it almost too hot to touch when in the idle mode.

Of course, I was able to make it better a bit by under-volting and changing some of the CPU throttling settings but it really was getting really warm in the idle mode indeed. If you buy it, 60-70 (°C) will be the norm.

This would not happen when connected to a USB-C charger only. The laptop would then maintain stable 35-45  (°C).

Not aligned lid / lid not closing properly

The worst issue of them all. If it wasn’t for my docking station, I might have not noticed that at all. But I did. And I compared it with MBP. And it looks really bad. The lid is not closing properly, having a huge gap on the right side of the laptop.

Here’s how it looks:

And MBP for comparision:

For me, it’s unacceptable. End of story. It’s not a unitary case. There are many more people reporting that manufacturing defect. Even the replacement laptop that I was supposed to get had this issue. I was also able to see the same problem in one that I saw in a shopping center (less visible but still there).

Extended on-site warranty does not exist

Ok. So the lid is not closing. Maybe it was due to bad hinges position or something like that. Who knows. I have an on-site warranty so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? It never was during my adventure with Dell.

21 June 2018 I opened a warranty claim (Incident: 180621-001473 / COMP 8000440787). After a day or so a technician from a Lenovo-certified company called me and after a brief talk, I sent him some photos. He then told me, that it seems to be my fault and I have to ship it to Warsaw.

I explained it to him, that the laptop spent 95% of its time on a docking station and that it was opened maximum 15 times. He didn’t believe nor care about that. “We won’t be able to fix it on-site, you need to send it over”. And that’s the end of my extended on-site warranty.

Regular warranty does not work as well

Let’s say he was right and it did require a more extensive amount of work to fix it. So it got shipped. It got to Warsaw on the 26th of June and it was there until it got back to me in an even worse state.

During that time, the Lenovo-certified repair company would not give me any details. I was unable to reach them via phone and they wouldn’t reply to my emails. I was able to get some information (general things like “it will be tested for 2 more days”, etc.) only by calling the repair company’s line dedicated to… Toshiba. The Lenovo line did not care to answer.

Making a complaint

While the “repair process” was ongoing, I decided to make a complaint, using the Lenovo phone line. They opened a case and Complaints Coordinator for Lenovo Poland contacted me, saying that the laptop will be fixed and delivered back to me in 2 days. It was. But as I said, in the worse state than it was before…

Trying to get a new laptop (replacement)

After I got my Thinkpad X1 back (after 12 days), I contacted the Complaints Coordinator once again. He was the first person that would not treat me like someone that wanted to fraud Lenovo. He asked me to ship the laptop back to them and said I would get a replacement. I was really tired at that point. I just wanted to have a working laptop, free of any defects…

Other laptops have same defects

Lenovo reseller from which I bought the laptop (Notebooki.pl ) contacted me and said that Lenovo approved the replacement and that they’re ordering me a brand new one, but… it didn’t work.

After a few more days, they called me again and said, that the one they got had the same defects as the old one and that it’s pretty much pointless to ship it to me. The whole batch seems to be defective.

Want a replacement one? Wait a month

If you buy a Lenovo laptop, it may turn out, that they aren’t able to replace it within a decent timeframe. If it wasn’t for the fact, that I had my old Dell Latitude, I would be left without an essential work tool. Notebooki.pl (Lenovo reseller) informed me, that there isn’t a laptop that would be a replacement for me and that I have to wait a month. This basically means, that despite me paying a lot of money for this piece of hardware plus extra for the extended on-site warranty, I would be left without anything for over 2 months. To be honest I don’t blame them, but rather Lenovo. When I got some dead pixels in my Latitude, Dell shipped a new one to me in 24 hours. Shouldn’t we expect the same kind of treatment here? Well, I do!

We didn’t solve your problem but we will send you multiple emails with Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Despite my still not having a new laptop, I was able to get 3 emails from Lenovo in which they would ask me about my impressions on their way of handling things. It made me laugh a bitter laugh.

Summary – Don’t buy this laptop unless you’re super patient

I don’t have a laptop. I was able to get a permission from Lenovo to get my money back for the laptop and I’m buying a Dell Latitude 7390. Notebooki.pl was kind enough to accept the docking station back and take care of all the paperwork.

It’s been a stressful month and I still run on my old hardware. Lenovo has proven to be a complete failure and looking at how they operate and how their certified repair partners operate, I’m 100% sure that I won’t buy anything of this company never again. If you’re a programmer and you want to have hardware that you can rely on and you want to be sure that in case of any troubles you won’t be treated as enemy, don’t pick Lenovo.

References

RubyKaigi 2018 Review – conference in a nutshell

RubyKaigi 2018 has ended, but the excitement is still fresh. After 25 hours in planes, trains, buses, and cabs we’re finally home. I guess it’s a good time to summarize and review 4 days on the best Ruby conference in the world.

Castle.io support

First of all, I would like to express special thanks to Castle.io for backing me up, providing me possibility to go to RubyKaigi and for their ongoing Karafka support. Wouldn’t happen without them.

What is RubyKaigi?

I’ll let RubyKaigi speak for itself:

RubyKaigi is the authoritative international conference on the Ruby programming language, attracting Ruby committers and Ruby programmers from around the world to Japan, the birthplace of Ruby. Held nearly every year since 2006, RubyKaigi is a truly international event.

RubyKaigi is the most prestigious Ruby conference in the world. It is probably the only conference where you can meet all the core Ruby team members at the same time. It’s also one of few conferences, if not the only one, that is in both Japanese and English simultaneously.

What is amazing about this conference is the fact that despite being hosted in Japan, English is not a second-class citizen. In fact, a majority of talks had slides in English, and during Japanese presentations, there was always a real-time translation available.

RubyKaigi gathers people from all around the world, creating a great place for exchanging experience and spreading new ideas. It’s also an amazing place if you want to meet some (really a lot!) new people and recharge your Ruby batteries for at least a year.

This year’s RubyKaigi was hosted in Sendai.

Traveling to Japan

Traveling to Japan from Poland is not that hard. There’s a direct flight from Warsaw to Tokyo Narita  Airport. It takes roughly 10 hours and 30 minutes. Sounds great as long as you’re from Warsaw. Unfortunately, I live and work in Cracow. This and the fact, that Narita airport is located far away from the Tokyo city center, makes the whole journey a bit longer. It took us almost 24 hours to get from our apartment in Cracow to our hotel in Tokyo. Still not that bad for a 8658-kilometer distance.

Visiting Asakusa.rb

We’ve arrived in Japan a couple days before the conference. That was a great opportunity to visit Asakusa.rb, one of the most active and probably the most important Japanese local Ruby group. It’s named after Asakusa – the district in Taitō that is famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon.

Asakusa.rb about themself:

Asakusa.rb is probably the most active regional Rubyist group in Japan. We’re having weekly meetup on every ”’Ruby Tuesday”’ somewhere in Tokyo.
If you have a chance to spend a day on Tuesday in Tokyo, come and join our meetup (or drink up)! We’re always welcoming foreign guests :)

And to be honest, it’s hard not to agree with that. They meet quite frequently, so if by any chance you end up in Tokyo, don’t forget to visit them for a little hackathon.

Arriving in Sendai

Sendai is the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture, the largest city in the Tōhoku region, and the second-largest city north of Tokyo. Getting there from the Tokyo Station is straightforward and easy. All you have to do is take an Akita or Tohoku Shinkansen (bullet train). It takes less than two hours.

The city of Sendai is clean, big and friendly :) The only downside is the fact that the exchange rates for buying JPY with USD are much lower than in Tokyo (between 10 and 15 percent).

About the conference

Looking at how the conference was organized, hosted and managed by Akira Matsuda and the rest of the organizers, I can only say one thing: amazing job! It’s really hard to point any flaws in the organization and the way everything happened.

I feel that I should also praise the Japanese-English translators. They did amazing job, especially since it was a very technical conference. The only moment one of them got confused was during the TRICK, but it  was understandable. Almost everyone got confused in a way during this part of the conference.

I can really complain only on one thing: inaccurate location descriptions in English. Every party was hosted somewhere else, and the English descriptions and/or addresses of the places were either incomplete or incorrect. It could be a problem for anyone who does not know Japanese and has to rely on Google Maps. Surprisingly, there were even differences in the English and Japanese addresses for some of the locations.

However, in the end, I was able to get to each of the parties (sometimes with a bit of delay), so let’s say it was just an eliminating challenge ;).

Day 1 Speeches

Matz’s keynote

The conference was opened by no one else than Matz himself. To be honest, no one knew what he is going to talk about, as his topic was “TBD” till the last moment.

He talked about one of the hardest problems in programming, naming. He admitted that the yield_self name was not exactly as it should be, and that instead of saying what it does, it described how it does it. He also announced that he accepted the then alias name for this method.

He also touched a couple of other “future Ruby” topics like Guilds and JIT but without any technical details.

His talk was the least technical one that I attended during the whole conference, but overall it was interesting. He even admitted that his talk is not going to be technical, because when he starts talking technical stuff people either get bored or they don’t understand what he’s talking about. I guess many of us are still not there ;).

Karafka – Ruby Framework for Event Driven Architecture

Since it was my talk, it’s not for me to judge. All I can say is that I had a lot of fun preparing and presenting this subject to the Ruby community. 40 minutes is definitely not enough to cover the complexity of Karafka, but I hope that the other attendees got at least a general overview of what this piece of software can do for them and how can it help them process a lot of data.

You can get the slides from my talk by clicking on the image below.

All about RuboCop

If you do Ruby for a living, there’s a high probability that you know RuboCop. But what you may not be aware of is how it all began, how it evolved and where it will go in the future. BBatsov covered pretty much everything non-technical that you could be interested in reference to this awesome tool, as well as some technical details like deciding on a cross-platform parser and solving many problems in RuboCop development.

Day 2 Speeches

Guild prototype

If this were the only talk at this conference, I would still have come to Sendai. At least this is how I felt before the talk. I had high hopes about this topic and I (still) see guilds as one of the most important (if not the most important) components that will move the Ruby language and its community forward. I expected to get a lot of technical details on managing guilds from Koichi Sasada, plus some implementation details. Did I get what I expected? Well, not exactly…

After the talk I had mixed feelings, mostly because Koichi-san repeated many things that we already knew from his previous presentations. Although this is understandable as not everyone is into guilds as I am, I still was not satisfied. We’ve received only a glimpse of the whole API, some code examples and (really promising) benchmarks. That was good, but I feel that the earlier the API (an imperfect one, without full implementation) betcomes public, the faster the Ruby core team will get a feedback on it.

One thing that saved all of this was the Guilds initial source code release, right after the conference. I hope, that thanks to this initial code release, things get faster now.

You can download Koichi-san’s presentation by clicking on the image below:

Firmware programming with mruby/c

In my humble opinion, this was the best talk during the whole RubyKaigi 2018.

Hasumi’s talk included everything I love about Ruby and more:

  • Ruby and more Ruby;
  • mRuby/c that is not well known and not often used in Europe;
  • Non-standard business use case that was super interesting (sake brewery);
  • Hardware and how to interact from within mRuby with it;
  • IoT;
  • Sake.

All of it was wrapped in a really acceptable form with a newbie introduction to the subject. It was really easy to keep track with all the things he was talking about, even despite the fact, that it was in Japanese and some things could be distorted during the translation. He was also able to prove, that the ventilation at the venue was really good due to CO2 sensors running with Ruby!

You can download Hasumi Hitoshi’s great presentation by clicking on the image below:

RubyData Workshop (1) Data Science in Ruby

It’s always really interesting to see how Ruby is being used in this area. The workshop focused on introducing the audience to some of the data science libraries available for Ruby and going through example sets of data and trying to get some valuable information out of them.

Too bad that the second part was in Japanese. :)

Day 3 Speeches

Parallel and Thread-Safe Ruby at High-Speed with TruffleRuby

TruffleRuby is one of the most interesting projects in the Ruby world at the moment. It’s not just a new version of JRuby, it’s a high performance implementation of the Ruby programming language built on GraalVM with Oracle support. TruffleRuby aims to run not only the Ruby code fast, but also do that with support for all the native C libraries. This means that once finished, it should be interchangeable with cRuby.

Benoit Daloze’s keynote was about bringing more concurrency into Ruby world. Really good, technical talk with a lot of low-level details you won’t find anywhere else.

The Method JIT Compiler for Ruby 2.

K0kubun-san’s work is always exceptional. His talk was about the second most important (in my opinion) thing that is being currently developed by Ruby core team: YARV-MJIT. The talk included a short introduction and not-so-short technical part during which we all went together through how things are being constructed during the JITing process. It’s really hard to summarize this type of talk, without having to write a whole separate article on that matter, so hopefully the presentation and the video recording will be soon available.

The most interesting part for me, was the part about getting rid of C and being able to achieve better performance with Ruby than with C. Remarkable magic it is!

High Performance GPU computing with Ruby

GPU computing with Ruby? Well yes! The talk was about the ArrayFire-rb. It’s a library that can be used for high-performance computing in Ruby like statistical analysis of big data, image processing, linear algebra, machine learning, and more.

Good introduction to the subject with a bit of algebra and statistics here and there.

TRICK 2018 (FINAL)

TRICK (Transcendental Ruby Imbroglio Contest for RubyKaigi) is just something else. It’s really hard to describe what it really is, but as a big simplification you can say that TRICK is the abstract painting using Ruby language as a brush. The goal of this contest is to create a small and eloquent Ruby program that will illustrate in an abstract way abilities of Ruby language.

This year’s TRICK was the biggest, and by looking at the previous editions, I can clearly say that the most crazy. Many were following the patterns that you could see in the previous years. That is creating some obfuscated libraries that would build animations or render 3D models but the winning code really stood out! Being able to create a working Ruby code just from the reserved keywords is not only mind-blowing, is just… something else.

Before parties, parties, after parties and after-after parties – Omotenashi

Ruby is not just a language. It is also a community of super friendly, open-minded people that share the same passion. The same can be said about this conference. It’s not only a conference, but it is also a place for exchanging ideas and concepts. And is there a better way to do that than over a bit of sake? I think not.

Every single conference day had a party. There was a party for some of us before the conference and an after party after the after party as well ;)

This part of each conference is, for me, as important as the talks. Being able to ask speakers about their work and hobbies and  to discuss various Ruby-related matters with the best Ruby programmers in the world is always a pleasure. So many great conversations happened during these days…

Here, I must send a shout out to Hiroshi Shibata, Akira Matsuda, Joker007, Satoshi “moris” Tagomori and the rest of the Asakusa.rb members for taking such a good care of me and making me feel like one of them :-) It was amazing experience, and as I mentioned already, you are always welcome in Cracow!

Summary

RubyKaigi is really special: A purely technical conference with an extreme Ruby focus.

Technical stuff and technical discussions is what drives me, and the only problem that I had is that the conference was multi-track. I was unable to attend all of the talks and making a choice was almost impossible :(.

I can recommend this conference to any Ruby and Japan fan. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you will definitely find something for yourself during presentations, workshops and the parties.

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