The Librem 15 laptop, from a remoteness and freedom-oriented Linux PC builder Purism, aims to be a answer for those who wish ultimate information protection. After holding this laptop for a prolonged spin, we can safely contend it delivers entirely on confidence and privacy—though not surprisingly, during a responsibility of other features.
One of a initial things we beheld after opening adult a box is that there are really few specifying facilities on a Librem 15’s exterior. There are no logos on a laptop’s lid, shade bezel, or keyboard, save for a Purism trademark on a Super (Windows) key. Keep looking and you’ll finally find Purism’s trademark printed on a bottom of a PC, out of steer and out of mind.
The well-spoken aluminum framework and trackpad give a Librem 15 a reward feel same to a Macbook Pro or Razer Blade Pro. While it’s good to see and touch, a aluminum also loves to attract fingerprints. If we wish to keep a laptop looking spotless, keep a microfiber cloth and a amiable cleaner handy.
The 1080p shade of a Librem 15 has a matte finish and rather slight observation angles. While we tend to extol laptops with wider observation angles, a Librem 15’s reduction feels like a confidence underline instead of a bug, creation it harder for meddling eyes to peek during your desktop. Installing a remoteness filter over a shade would work better, yet this is a good start.
The hardware in a exam section is impressive, yet there are a integrate of important details. First, a Core i7-6500U CPU is a small old, a Skylake chip, charity 200MHz reduction bottom magnitude (2.5GHz contra 2.7GHz) and 400MHz reduction turbo magnitude (3.1GHz contra 3.5GHz) than a Kaby Lake iteration of a chip, a Core i7-7500U. Both chips work with a TDP of 15W, have a same instruction set, and offer 4 threads. The Librem 15 will perform good with many tasks we chuck during it, customarily a tad slower than a newer Kaby Lake chronicle of a chip.
The other large disproportion is Purism ‘s preference to go with a Qualcomm Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio instead of an Intel chip. The Atheros AR9462 is an 802.11n (Wireless-N) chip, and does not support 802.11ac wireless speeds. Note that we wouldn’t see 802.11ac speeds for internet browsing or downloading unless we paid for 50Mbps (or higher) use from your ISP anyway. But if we are regulating an 802.11ac router, this laptop can’t take advantage of a additional speed.
While going with a comparison 802.11n customary seems ban on a face, there are some engaging reasons to do so. The chip Purism chose uses a Ath9k driver, that is utterly mature on Linux, definition Wi-Fi connectors sojourn stable. On tip of that stability, a Ath9k label has an open firmware, while a newer Atheros (Ath10k) and Intel (iwlwifi) cards do not. For those looking for additional privacy, carrying an open firmware helps encourage we that your network trade isn’t being sniffed by a third party.
Connectivity includes a span of USB 3.0 Type A ports on a right side, assimilated by an HDMI pier and a USB 3.0 Type C port. The left side of a laptop facilities dual USB 2.0 Type A ports, a headphone jack, and an SD label reader. The laptop lacks a Kensington lock, yet a customarily times I’ve ever seen one in use were in a open library, a school, or on arrangement units in an wiring store.
Our examination section came with a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO M.2 SSD, that is an aged favorite of cave in PC builds. The complement also came with 8GB of RAM, that is copiousness for many needs. If we wish some-more RAM after on, a laptop is easy to upgrade.
About those upgrades
If some of a hardware specs have we a small put-off, don’t worry; we have options. The innards of a PC are designed to be upgradeable. we tested Purism’s explain by opening adult a PC.
Flip over a Librem 15, and you’ll notice that all 14 of a screws are blessedly Phillips-head, distinct a star, hex, or Torx heads you’ll find on many other laptops. It was a string to unscrew these fasteners and lift off a bottom plate. we didn’t even have to run a fingernail—or sky forbid, a flat-head driver—along a join of a PC to recover any cosmetic tabs, a routine that customarily involves a lot of unnerving enormous and popping sounds.
With a image removed, all 3 of a vital upgradeable parts—the SSD, RAM, and Wi-Fi module—were unrestricted and simply workable with a same Phillips-head screwdriver. For people used to building desktops or modifying laptops, this is a godsend and a monument in laptop design.
Security and remoteness features
Pursim’s categorical representation to consumers is confidence and privacy. In this respect, a Librem 15 does utterly well.
Even in a simple configuration, Linux distributions are, for a many part, some-more secure than Windows. During initial setup, it’s easy to implement an encrypted complement to a laptop. However, it’s good to see that Purism ships a Librem 15 pre-encrypted regulating LVM on LUKS, a lucid default for many encrypted Linux systems.
In box we mislaid we there, LVM is a bit like a practical assign list that exists on a singular partition, while LUKS is an encryption apparatus that secures partitions. By regulating LVM on LUKS, we can have mixed partitions cumulative with a singular decryption passphrase. While LVM on LUKS isn’t good adequate for a ultra-paranoid (it leaves your foot assign unencrypted), it’s good adequate for many of us who don’t have immorality maids.
Just as System76 shipped the Galago Pro with Pop! OS, Purism ships a possess Debian flavor, PureOS. (If you’ve ever used Ubuntu, we already know how to use Debian for a many part.)
It’s engaging to see PC makers try into a margin of building their possess distributions. By doing so, Purism can control a possess confidence and safeguard drivers aim a famous subset of accessible hardware. Of course, this also requires a association to say a possess repositories to discharge program updates and confidence patches.
The OS comes pre-configured with OpenVPN, so we can set adult your VPN connectors right away. For encryption, a GNOME-standard Seahorse focus straightforwardly combined SSH and GnuPG keys yet issue.
PureOS doesn’t boat with Firefox or Chromium like other distributions might. Instead, it comes with a Firefox flare called PureBrowser. (Purism’s website says a OS ships with Tor, yet we didn’t see it installed. The Tor browser is accessible in a PureOS central repositories.)
PureBrowser comes pre-configured with a HTTPS Anywhere and uBlock Origin plugins. Though it performs a identical duty as uBlock, we would have favourite to see Privacy Badger in that plugin lineup. (Again, it’s flattering easy to implement Privacy Badger on your own.)
While a program remoteness collection are nice, a dual remoteness facilities we like many are indeed hardware features. The Librem 15 facilities dual hardware kill switches: one for a mic and webcam, a other for a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The keyboard hardware switches work as expected, so we can feel assured holding this laptop to DEFCON meaningful that your hardware isn’t promulgation or receiving any network traffic. (This is called being “air-gapped.”) For a extra-paranoid, it’s easy to open adult a laptop and mislay a label with a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios completely.
The mic and webcam kill switch came intent by default. This kill switch underline is good since it means we don’t have to use a plaque or square of fasten to cover adult a camera—and still have to worry about a mic. The kill switch covers both. That additional assent of mind is good for people like me who have a nasty robe of withdrawal laptops open.
Benchmarks and performance
The Librem 15 has some considerable hardware, even if some of it is a small old. The Core i7-6500U should perform likewise to other Core i7s with normal use. Still, it has a 400MHz waste compared to a newer Kaby Lake line.
The Samsung 850 EVO, while a good M.2 SSD, is a bit slower than a newer NVMe counterparts. As such, a Librem 15’s reads and writes are slower than we competence see on high-end laptops like Dell’s Precision 5520, yet a disproportion is frequency noticeable in many situations. For many people, a volume of RAM will produce softened speed earnings than a softened SSD. Both a SSD and RAM are simply upgradeable, giving this PC copiousness of room for improvement.
Our zero-point, a 2015 Dell XPS 13, has a Skylake Core i7 like a Librem 15. The Librem 15’s Core i7-6500U was jubilant in some tests, while a XPS 13’s Core i7-6560U outpaced it in others. That might be since of a opening overlie of a dual CPUs. The Core i7-6560U’s bottom time speed is 300MHz reduce than a Core i7-6500U’s, yet a Core i7-6560U’s turbo time is 100MHz higher. Additionally, Phoronix Test Suite complained that a Librem 15 had a CPU administrator enabled. While that’s not good for tender performance, it means softened battery life or softened thermals.
In CPU tests, a administrator hold behind a Librem 15 in some places. In a Gzip application benchmark, a Librem 15 was somewhat (0.93 seconds) slower than a XPS 13 during compressing a 2GB file. On a other hand, converting a WAV record to FLAC was somewhat (0.9 seconds) faster. The Librem 15 also pushed out frames small faster than a XPS 13, handling 6.84 fps compared to a XPS 13’s 6.48 fps.
The storage throughput was also most slower on a Librem 15. The IOZone review exam of a 4GB record (with a 1MB record size) showed a Librem 15 to be 56.5 percent slower than a XPS 13. Writing a 4GB record was as gloomy 78.6 percent slower.
There is one some-more thing to consider: full-disk encryption. When we exam laptops, we routinely safeguard that a OS is commissioned on unencrypted partitions. The Librem 15 came with full hoop encryption enabled, formulating a slight opening strike as files conduct into and out of storage.
In my battery run test, we play an H.264 encoded film on loop in VLC with a shade liughtness set to about half. Running this test, a laptop lasted about 5 hours, 14 mins on battery power. That’s adequate. By branch off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios with a hardware switch, we could feasibly get even some-more life out of a battery.
The Librem 15 tender me for what it does. While a opening and hardware are a step behind a times, this laptop’s initial priorities distortion elsewhere, in a remoteness features, upgrade-friendly design, and neat looks. That’s where your priorities should lie, too, if this laptop is meant for you.