Want a new PC, but don’t want to run the latest Windows software? There are plenty of free and open source alternatives including popular GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, and Linux Mint.

Want to run nothing but free and open source software? That’s a bit trickier, since most recent laptops, desktops, and tablets ship with chips and other hardware that rely on closed-source, proprietary bootloaders and other components.

For most folks, it probably makes sense to go with a do-the-best-you-can approach and use a proprietary UEFI or BIOS with some proprietary bits in order to load Ubuntu or another Linux distro. But for folks that are really serious about running “free software,” there’s an alternative called Libreboot which is 100% free software.

There’s just one catch: it currently only runs on a handful of computers, most of which were released more than 10 years ago. But if you want to buy a sorta/kinda new machine that runs Libreboot, a company called Minifree sells a handful of models that are basically repurposed old Lenovo ThinkPads that ship with Libreboot and the Trisquel GNU/Linux-based operating system (which is also 100% free software).

Now Minifree has launched a “new” model called the Libreboot X200 Tablet.

As the name suggests, this computer is based on the 2008 Lenovo ThinkPad X200, which was a 3 pound notebook with a 12.1 inch, 1280 x 800 display.

Minifree has upgraded the display with an IPS panel and the company has added a built-in Wacom tablet with pen support, allowing the computer to be used for drawing and graphic design.

There’s also a Libreboot X200 notebook for folks that don’t need the Wacom tablet functionality, and a Libreboot T400 for those who want a larger, 14 inch display. But the tablet model is the newest.

The system features an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 processor based on the company’s Penryn architecture. It won’t offer the same level of performance you can expect from more recent chips, but it is a 64-bit processor that should be able to run a wide range of software. This is still a laptop/tablet only a free software enthusiast could love.

In fact, Minifree is one of the only companies to sell PCs that are endorsed by the Free Software Foundation, and while certification for the new X200 Tablet is still pending, it’s very similar to the already-certified X200 laptop, so there’s a good chance this system will make the list.

If the old hardware is still giving you pause, I should point out there are a few other nice things about this device:

  • Some folks still prefer old-school Lenovo laptops so much that they retrofit new hardware into old chassis, so you’re getting a pretty well-loved keyboard, touchpad, and other components.
  • Remember when computers used to have easily replaceable batteries? This is one of those. In fact Minifree includes 2 batteries with every laptop it sells, allowing you to swap out batteries as needed.
  • There are two drive bays, with room for dual hard drives, dual SSDs, or one of each.
  • The prices aren’t all that high.

Minifree charges 228 Euros (about $275) for an entry-level model with 4GB of RAM and 160GB of storage.

But you can configure the system with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage (there are options for up to 2 x 1TB hard drives or a 1TB HDD + a 480GB solid state).

If you’re clearly outside the target market for this device, but you’re curious to know what folks who value free software think, this reddit/r/linux thread is a good place to start.



Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign

or...

Contribute via PayPal

9 replies on “Minifree’s Libreboot X200 tablet runs nothing but free software (on decade-old hardware)”

  1. This sounds like great machine to own. I already own a Dell with a similar dual-core (which runs everything well, btw). Considering swapping my Dell for the x200 tablet as an upgrade – the pricing on this machine (as well as the others listed) are extremely budget-friendly for what they accomplish.

  2. I recently purchased one of their X200 laptops (base configuration: 4GB ram, 160GB hard drive), mostly to support the libreboot open-source bios effort (same folks run both projects). I love old Thinkpads in general (particularly the keyboards), but what amazed me is how fast the machine feels.
    Boot times are so fast I’m no longer tempted to pop in an SSD.

  3. This is actually very cool. If I didn’t already have an X200s laptop running Ubuntu (perfectly), I would consider this, especially with the great prices. Maybe I’ll take on a project installing Libreboot on my laptop.

  4. Brad….

    Point Blank. This article is the type of material I absolutely enjoy reading on your site. Mini pc’s, fanless products, and DIY projects come in a very close second place…smile.

    I’m absolutely interested in one of these machines, although…I’m waiting until libreboot can get one of the Sandy/Ivy bridge era laptops setup with libreboot to do it. I think those two generations are a win(even today) and there are literally a ton of them selling for dirt cheap on ebay.

    Thank you for this article, it made my day.

    1. It’s doubtful Libreboot will ever run on newer hardware. They’re not b even actively pursuing it, due to invitation of Intel’s Management Engine, among other things:

      https://libreboot.org/faq.html#will-the-purism-laptops-be-supported

      While there have been recent advances in disabling/neutralizing that software, it doesn’t seem like Libreboot is taking any chances, and is instead looking at other platforms. So don’t expect support for any Intel chips from the last decade (or AMD chips from the last five years, for that matter).

  5. I can’t believe crap like this exists in this world. Bunch of freeloaders using dumbed-down software. Pathetic.

    GREAT ARTICLE THOUGH. Love this site. I am glad you cover this stuff even though this particular article is for the small subset of a subset of a subset who like inconveniencing themselves for reasons unknown.

    1. Freeloaders? I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a clever pun or just blind ignorance. There is a use and a market (however small) for people who want to run free (as in speech/ libre) software. Some people are of the mindset that even small binary blobs they can’t look at the code for are not a good thing to have in their computer. Linux isn’t “dumbed-down” software either.

  6. Ok, just an update as for October 2019 minifree has got my money one month and half ago and never replied back to my emails nor provided the product I purchased. To my refund request either there was no replay . I had to report them to the Trading Standards and I’ll try to bring them to court to get my money back. Maybe in 2018 was good but now is a fraud.

Comments are closed.