Lenovo C630 – First Impressions

I recently picked up a gently used Lenovo C630 off of Ebay for a VERY compelling price. I am hoping to use it to bootstrap into the world of ARM, but will this be my new machine of choice?

The laptop specs are as follows:

  • Processor: Snapdragon 850 processer (8 core 2.96 Ghz)
  • RAM: 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  • SSD: 128GB Samsung UFS 2.1 Flash
  • GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 630
  • Screen: 13.3″ 1080p Touch Screen

Some may balk at this being repackaged phone hardware, but how usable is it actually? …

Very Usable! Let’s review the hardware, my use case and some tales of caution.

This laptop packs a punch, it’s not perfect but it has just enough to get through, and the battery life feels endless. Even while writing this article, I saw my battery meter running really low. My x86_64 trained mind panics, on my other laptop this sliver would equal only about 20-30 minutes remaining, which goes in a blink.

Having 29% battery actually mean 4hrs remaining is almost comical. How is this possible?

The SSD is a Samsung ‘Kludg’ UFS 2.1 flash storage chip. Yes, they named it kludge, but it’s no slouch. I’ve felt the sting of the classic EMMC storage before and want no part of that. UFS 2.1 is great. Long term I worry about replacing failed parts on this motherboard but that’s just part of “Apple-y” everything soldered in place design. 🤷‍♂️

Here is a link to the official Samsung page for a few more minor details: KLUDG4U1EA-B0C1(UFS 2.1)

The bottom cover is both screwed in and has plastic clips making it extremely difficult to remove. Lenovo does not want us in there, and frankly there is no reason for me to be in there. There is nothing to replace or tweak, which kills me a little inside but comes with some major advantages. The internals, as you can see, are 90% battery. This explains the ridiculously long battery life. Also notice the golden heat sinks on the top row and lack of any dust, amazing for an old used computer. This computer remains cool to the touch under all workloads, and that lack of dust will probably add to this computer’s longevity. I don’t have the graphs and science to back that up, but heat and dust kill. Ever step into a datacenter?

I have to also mention the keyboard, it’s no Thinkpad but it’s usable. My only wish is that it was backlit. The keyboard IS backlit! Apparently Lenovo doesn’t follow the standard F* keys for brighter and dimmer backlight, it’s instead controlled by Fn + Space bar and cycles through 4 settings. This just increases my love for this laptop. ❤️

Now for my use case, I’m obviously not gaming but for anyone who already has a desktop/server/gaming PC and needs something light and versatile to take with them everywhere. This is your rig.

I check mail, log into a few Linux servers, and I have a good plenty of tabs open in the Edge browser watching Youtube and programming tutorials. This laptop doesn’t miss a beat. The one place I’ve seen it start to falter is when editing images. The ones taken for this article came from a Samsung S22 and were edited in paint.net. I found there are noticeable delays when applying big changes but it’s still not unusable. Note: My paint.net version is a Windows ARM64 specific version which makes the sluggish performance that much more disappointing. When it comes time to do some heavier compilation, or more intense development work we’ll see how this laptop fairs. Hopefully first impressions don’t turn into ‘final thoughts’. 😅

If the Edge browser reference didn’t tip things off, I am running Windows 10. 🙁 Scratch that, I took too long to write this article and I’ve since been punted to an automatic Windows 11 update. 😠 It’s extremely frustrating that I had no say in the matter, but Win11 is entirely usable. I am itching to get Linux running on here because I feel with a lightweight distro this machine can really take off, plus there is a ton of ARM64 native software available. I’ve completed one online guide to get Ubuntu 18.04 installed but without working WiFi drivers it was a no-go. I will continue to fight that good fight until I get things working.

For me that’s really the worst of it, the Qualcomm lockdown of the bootloader and the limiting of what Operating Systems can run on this laptop. That said the software compatibility is simply amazing, you don’t even notice the Windows emulation layer in a lot of cases. You can just install x86 software and run it like normal. You can even get Linux ARM64 software running via WLS2. 😮 These two options give this laptop a huge edge over Windows’ previous efforts in ARM. The biggest blocker here will be 128GB disk space, especially if you think you’re dual booting, fuhgeddaboudit.

In 2023 this little laptop isn’t a powerhouse, but it is a fighter. For us pathfinders, I think this machine may become a cornerstone to advancing the usability and creature comforts of future ARM machines. Your journey to develop and contribute to ARM64 projects may start here.

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