OpenBSD on Laptops

I've been using OpenBSD on a laptop as my primary workstation since the early 2000s. Since many other OpenBSD developers tend to stick to what already works so they can focus on hacking, my OpenBSD hacking is largely focused on making laptops work. To do that, I frequently acquire new laptops to try them out, review the hardware itself, and then try to make OpenBSD work well on them.

huawei matebooks x

Huawei MateBook X (2020)

2021-08-20
My old 2017 Huawei MateBook X has been my most reliable laptop and has continued to be my daily-use workstation despite trying half a dozen others (and a desktop or two) in the past four years. Every time I’d try a new laptop, certain components wouldn’t work properly, or the keyboard would feel strange, or the screen would look bad, or the fan or some coil-whine noise would drive me nuts. And every time, I’d return to my MateBook X and everything would just work silently.

Framework Laptop with expansion cards removed

Framework Laptop

2021-08-06
Framework is a new company offering a laptop that is designed to be repairable and upgradeable, both in terms of internal components like the screen and motherboard, and in pluggable expansion cards.

surface go on desk with keyboard attached

Microsoft Surface Go 2

2020-05-15
I used OpenBSD on the original Surface Go back in 2018 and many things worked with the big exception of the internal Atheros WiFi. This meant I had to keep it tethered to a USB-C dock for Ethernet or use a small USB-A WiFi dongle plugged into a less-than-small USB-A-to-USB-C adapter.

surface go with keyboard on desk

Microsoft Surface Go

2018-08-31
For some reason I like small laptops and the constraints they place on me (as long as they’re still usable). I used a Dell Mini 9 for a long time back in the netbook days and was recently using an 11” MacBook Air as my primary development machine for many years. Recently Microsoft announced a smaller, cheaper version of its Surface tablets called Surface Go which piqued my interest.

thinkpad x1 carbon running openbsd on desk

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen)

2017-09-01
ThinkPads have sort of a cult following among OpenBSD developers and users because the hardware is basic and well supported, and the keyboards are great to type on. While no stranger to ThinkPads myself, most of my OpenBSD laptops in recent years have been from various vendors with brand new hardware components that OpenBSD does not yet support. As satisfying as it is to write new kernel drivers or extend existing ones to make that hardware work, it usually leaves me with a laptop that doesn’t work very well for a period of months.

huawei matebook on desk running openbsd

Huawei MateBook X (2017)

2017-07-14
The Huawei MateBook X is a high-quality 13” ultra-thin laptop with a fanless Core i5 processor. It is obviously biting the design of the Apple 12” MacBook, but it does have some notable improvements such as a slightly larger screen, a more usable keyboard with adequate key travel, and 2 USB-C ports.

xiaomi mi computer on desk

Xiaomi Mi Air 12.5"

2017-05-22
The Xiaomi Mi Air 12.5” is a basic fanless 12.5” Ultrabook with good build quality and decent hardware specs, especially for the money; while it can usually be had for about $600, I purchased mine for $489 shipped to the US during a sale.

chromebook pixel running openbsd showing three terminal windows

Chromebook Pixel (2015)

2016-08-26
The Chromebook Pixel LS (2015) has an Intel Core i7 processor (Broadwell) at 2.4Ghz, 16Gb of RAM, a 2560x1700 400-nit IPS screen (239ppi), and Intel 802.11ac wireless. It has a Kingston 64Gib flash chip, of which about 54Gib can be used by OpenBSD when dual-booting with a 1Gb Chrome OS partition.