Nicholas A. Danes, PhD

Switching from a gaming desktop to a Thinkpad X390 for my primary computer

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An updated overview of my full desk setup (Large Photo). Wallpaper by Mohammad Alizade

This past week has resulted in a lot of computing changes for me, enough to justify a blog post and my thought process of why I made the change. In summary:

Why I sold my desktop in favor for a laptop

I bought my gaming desktop back in September 2020, after my primary desktop was stolen right when I moved back to Denver, Colorado. Even with renter’s insurance payout, I wasn’t able to buy the same equivalent specced computer without having to pay for other things. Hence, I ended up buying used and finding a decent deal on the desktop I was using for the past few months. It had a Intel i5-8400, 16 GB RAM and Radeon RX 580. In comparison, my stolen computer had an AMD Ryzen 3700X, 16 GB RAM, and a Radeon 5700, a much more capable video card that I played games paired with a 1440p 144hz monitor (also stolen). Paired with 1200p monitor, I thought the RX 580 card would be perfect pairing for my monitor resolution.

Owning a gaming desktop, but not gaming

After getting the computer setup, initially running PopOS 20.04 at the time, I setup everything for Steam and found Proton worked fairly well for most games I wanted to play. Of course, it wasn’ve perfect. Some noteable issues:

Despite all this and having a playable gaming machine, I just never really ended up really playing.

For context, I used to be quite an avid gamer. I have thousands of hours logged in Dota 2, my primary game of choice due to its social nature as well as a plethora of other Steam titles. However, over the past couple years, every time I’ve tried to get back into gaming by buying a video card or building a gaming PC, the video card ends up collecting dust, leading to the computer becoming a glorified internet browser. The same held true with this lastest used gaming computer. I had given myself about 5 months, including a holiday break, to play games; it never happened! Hence, it was time to re-evaluate my computing needs.

Switching to a Laptop

After some thought, I decided I wanted a laptop again due to its portability once it is safe enough again to travel. I’ve also never been one to like managing more computing devices than I need. I had also bought a used 2018 Mac Mini the prior week and found it fit my needs for a desktop better than the gaming PC. In particular, using the Mac Mini for music via Garage Band, and running a AirMessage + Syncthing server.

Just days after finding a buyer of my desktop, I stumbled upon a Thinkpad X390 on OfferUp. I won’ve go into specifics about price, but the machine was well specced with an i7-8665U, 16 GB RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. In addition, the seller was also pairing it with a Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 dock, which ended up also being compatible with my work Macbook Pro. Win win! I ended up picking up the machine Friday night and have been very happy so far! I’ve owned thinkpads in the past and have always loved their keyboards and excellent build quality. This X390 is no different in that regard.

I initially wanted to try MX Linux but had touchpad responsiveness issues as well as issues with secure boot. Ultimately, I decided to try Fedora 33 due to missing the Gnome desktop enivronment, as well as the upcoming option of using Gnome 40 in Fedora 34. Overall, I’ve been pleased so far!

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