Finding a decent machine to replace 15" Macbook Pro (MBP) is challenging; it stopped me from making the switch (back) from Apple's ecosystem to Linux around two years ago.
Early September 2019 marked the day I finally made the switch. If you're about to start the same journey, hopefully this post will be useful for you.
When searching for a replacement machine, these are the deciding factor for me, in order of importance.
- Display, GPU
- Customer Replaceable Unit (CRU)
- (Many) Ports
It has to be at least 14", FHD (1920x1080), and matte finished. I prefer non 4K display, as the battery trade-off isn't worth it for me. And yes, no external GPU, I don't need it at all.
Released to market at most 2 years ago.
This is the most important feature of the machine after display and processor. It should be designed to allow you as owner, to take the machine apart, and replace parts on your own.
Around 6 hours of battery life.
To eliminate the needs to purchase and carry another adapter with you all the time.
After some research by reading customer and professional reviews on various sites and forums, I chose ThinkPad T480 to replace 15" MBP.
I bought 14" FHD T480 that comes with i5-8250U as opposed to i7, because the price difference doesn't justify the additional performance. I saved a lot of money by giving up extra performance I will get on i7 when doing things I rarely do.
If you wonder why CRU is the next most important feature after display and processor, you'll understand why. I chose a version of T480 that comes with as little and slowest storage disk, and as little RAM as it is available in the market. As both parts are CRU, you can replace them on your own. Doing so saves me a lot of money: hundreds of dollars!
As for battery, ThinkPad T480 has two battery slots, internal and external, both designed as CRU. The external battery has 6-cells variant, which when combined with its 3-cells internal battery, will last over 15+ hours on a single charge (as reviewed by some reviewers).
I rely on many amazing apps in Apple's ecosystem. These are some essential apps I use in macOS, which (I think) will make my life less comfortable, if I couldn't find their replacement in Linux ecosystem.
- Password manager
As 1Password customer, I was quite happy to find out that they have 1Password X browser extension that works very well. They don't have a stand-alone 1Password app, but this is much better than a few years ago.
I have been using Apple's Notes and Google's Keep app to take note for a few years. In May 2019, I made the switch to Standard Notes, a free, open-source, and completely encrypted notes app.
There's an unofficial Spotify client for Linux.
My ThinkPad T480 comes with Windows 10 Pro 64bit. Upon arrival, I created a recovery USB disk, and then create an image out of it. Soon afterwards, I replace the installed spinning disk with 500 GB SSD, and replace 8 GB RAM stick with 2 sticks of 16 GB RAM.
I decided to use Ubuntu, after spending quite a while on setting up Gentoo. As much as I enjoy tinkering with Gentoo, I realized it's not something I need at that moment (even now). Installing Ubuntu and provisioning the machine according to my development needs took around 45-60 minutes; I can even automate the provisioning process. Everything works out of the box!
The build is sturdy, and quite light considering its size. The keyboard is a pleasure to type on, I vouch for it! The only thing I'm missing is the superior touchpad experience on MBP/macOS. I'm not sure how far touchegg can improve the touchpad experience on ThinkPad/Linux.