Adam Fosbenner via plug on 31 Dec 2020 11:45:38 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] HP Envy x360 [a success story]

I just wanted to chime in here on the durability of the x360 models.  I
work in a computer repair shop in Berks county, and in the last 6
months or so, we have had a few of these laptops come in with damage
related to the hinges.  Forgive me if this gets a little off topic, but
while I am glad to hear of the success with running Linux on the x360,
I feel that I should contribute my experiences with this model from a
repair perspective.

The damage that we have seen is not so much a problem with the hinges
themselves, but with the standoffs to which the hinges attach.  The
standoffs are molded into the inside of the lid and chassis, and when
they fail, the standoffs (or the threaded inserts within) detach from
the body, leaving the hinge still screwed to something, but essentially
floating inside the computer.  Once this happens, the problem can
easily escalate.  Trying to open or close the lid when the hinge is not
firmly attached will cause stress on other nearby parts, such as the
screen/screen bezel if the damage is on the lid-side of the hinge, or
the chassis/palmrest/bottom panel if the damage is on the chassis-side
of the hinge.

This is not an uncommon issue on older, cheaper, or generally poorly-
built laptops.  Mechanical systems fail, so it should be expected that
with prolonged use, some moving part will probably break on your
computer eventually, even if you are careful with it.  I wouldn't be
surprised if this is what happened with your old Asus, Keith.  What I
find troublesome is that we had multiple customers with similar issues
on these relatively new x360 laptops.  As you said, a problem like this
can render the computer nearly useless if you have to transport it all.
Normally when we see laptops that are damaged in this way, they are
several years old, and probably lower-end at that.  Laptops that are a
few months- to a year old should not break like this unless the user is
particularly rough with it.

The right way to repair a  computer that is damaged in this way is to
replace the part with the broken standoffs, either the lid or the
chassis.  Replacing the lid can be troublesome on some models,
especially those with touchscreens, as the screen can sometimes be
difficult to separate from the lid without damaging the screen. 
Replacing the chassis is usually fairly tedious, as it requires taking
the computer completely apart and putting it back together again.  The
alternative, hacky fix is to use a liberal amount of epoxy to reattach
the hinge/standoffs to the lid or chassis. This is probably not a great
long-term fix, and would also degrade future serviceability of the
laptop.  At the store, we prefer not to do this, unless the replacement
parts are unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Regarding the x360's, we did have some difficulty sourcing parts,
either because it is a newer model or because the parts are in demand. 
One customer was a college student, and the parts we were able to order
had to be shipped from China, which took a while.  Since the girl
needed the computer to do her schoolwork, we gave it back to her with
clamps holding both corners of the chassis in order to sandwich the
hinges in place, and she had to use the computer like that, unable to
close it, for a week or two before the parts came in.  And that
computer was a few months old.

I really hope that your computer holds up, Keith, especially if you
have gotten it running well, but I would urge to to exercise due care
to ensure that your laptop doesn't break like these others that I have
seen.  Maybe keep your eyes open for a parts computer to keep on hand,
just in case.

Adam Fosbenner

On Tue, 2020-12-29 at 18:30 -0500, Keith C. Perry via plug wrote:
> I wanted to share a very positive experience I had with moving my
> current ultrabook system from an ASUS model to a current HP Envy
> x360.  It is my hope that this information helps others that might be
> looking for a current higher end laptop that will run Linux well. 
> This determination is subjective so I'm going to give as much
> information as possible to explain what that means to me as well as
> my motivations for purchasing this model.  This is not meant to serve
> as a comprehensive review since after only a week using this new
> hardware, I'm going to call it a win.  This has been the best Linux
> laptop experience for a personal device that I have had since my HP
> DV7 17" desktop replacement unit (which I think is close to 10 years
> old and still works!).
> For reference:
> HP
> Let's jump right in... what happened to the ASUS?
> As you can see from the links, ultrabooks are NOT cheap but because
> of my work and lifestyle I have to have higher end performance at the
> ready for portability and redundancy.  I need to be able to do
> everything from emails to financial trading to running virtual
> machines to editing or playing video.  The ASUS was able to do all of
> that but I had a love/hate relationship with it.  Purchased in 2016,
> the first system to go on it was Kubuntu 16.04 (Kubuntu is typically
> what I use on personal systems).  At the time, this unit had
> two major issues; 1) the native Intel video driver did not work well
> (e.g. sleeping caused lockups) and 2) the trackpad is ginormous and
> overly sensitive- typing on the unit was impossible without
> constantly touching the trackpad with my palms.
> We know the drill with putting Linux on laptops- especially newer
> laptops.  Install and hope that it mostly works and then wait for
> later kernel updates to **maybe** fix the remaining issues.  Within a
> year, the video problem was fixed and the trackpad issue was
> addressed by using a bluetooth mouse (which, when enabled disables
> the trackpad).  Despite that making me like the ASUS a lot more, the
> unit does run warm nominally, has a ridiculous AC power brick, poor
> battery life (3 to 4 hours tops and yes that has always been the
> case) and for me, an Intel CPU.  Yes, I'm on of those people who
> strongly prefers AMD but I decided to take a chance this time on
> Intel at the time.  The performance for me has been just "ok" for
> everything except VM work where I knew the performance would not be
> good.  However, at a price of 1189 in 2016 (notice it is MORE now,
> WTF?), I definitely was not impressed so for what it is worth, that
> alone would prevent me from ever recommending this ASUS model.  There
> are much better values out there.
> The remaining issue was the one thing I figured might happen because
> it is the same mechanical risk that exists in every regular laptop...
> the hinge.  After 4 years of being careful as possible, somehow
> one side of the single long hinge separated from the screen side in a
> way that I have not been able to come up with a fix for.  Perhaps
> still a work in progress but I refuse defeat but without being able
> to close it, the reality is that I could no longer carry it.  I
> should also mention, that my Acer Chromebook for Work (also purchased
> in 2016) which can run Linux from its SD card was not going to be a
> long term replacement.  It is also important to mention that I have
> NEVER has this type of mechanical failure in a laptop.
> Enter the HP...
> The link provided is directly to HP and that is because NO ONE had
> stock on the model.  I had been waiting for at least 5 months so when
> it popped up again, I jumped on it.  You can look at the specs for
> yourself but what I will tell you is that what brought me to a
> convertible model was 1) a lower risk of hinge breakage due to the
> 360 degree design.  Even if you never plan to flip the screen around,
> this design removes mechanical stresses on the hinge and 2) I was
> considering a Chromebook Duet to use mostly as a tablet but once I
> had to replace the ASUS, I figured I would get something that could
> work in that role too.  I pleased to report that pretty much
> everything works with Kubuntu 20.10.  Everything means...
> 1) wireless
> 2) bluetooth (only the mouse has been connected so far)
> 3) screen brightness (note, the keyboard brightness is hardware
> controlled so that works fine, as does the camera privacy shutter)
> 4) "nightmode" (really not a big deal- 'just does the red shift by
> allowing you to control the screen backlight "temp" in kelvin just
> like with smart bulbs)
> 5) mic (soft key to mute the mic does not work but is not a big deal
> since that typically is an in app function and you can do it from the
> menubar)
> 6) webcam video (720p 30fps- typical fair)
> 7) touchscreen and multi-point controls
> 8) touchpad and multi-point controls (still the same issue with
> typing so I still use a bluetooth mouse but at least the sensitivity
> did not need to be tweaked)
> 9) screen flipping for tablet modes (left or right) and tent
> (inverted mode)
> Additionally, a proper AC power supply (i.e. one with the "brick" NOT
> on the plug prongs), at least 5 hours of battery life right now and
> it runs surprisingly cool.  The only headache I had was realizing
> that Kubuntu 19.10 (the original OS version on the ASUS) and
> 20.04 was not working.  This caused some issues in moving from the
> legacy boot process to the EFI boot process.  I ended up going back
> to the ASUS and upgraded it from 19.10 to 20.04 and then directly
> imaging that to the HP.  That fixed the EFI boot issues but the
> screen brightness controls (kernel 5.4.x) where not working at all. 
> Once I upgraded to 20.10 (kernel 5.8.x) I was good to go.  I am very
> much understating how important it was to be able to image my system
> as compared to installing from scratch.  I loathe building my
> personal systems from scratch and have not needed to do that since
> 2011 (when I first moved moved Kubuntu).
> Other things of note for better or for worse...
> 1) no external video port- there is a USB-C so I will be getting a
> USB-C to HDMI connector.  Not a big deal to me but if I was going to
> use this as a daily driver permanently, a USB-C universal dock would
> be a necessity
> 2) no right ctrl-key in favor of a fingerprint scanner-  this is
> annoying and epically stupid.  I did not know this was the case and
> it probably would have given me pause.  Ultimately it would not be a
> deal breaker but I admit the adjustment back to the laptop from my
> desktop is initially annoying.  To offset that, I did gain dedicated
> Home, Page Up/Down and End keys which were function-arrow combos on
> the ASUS.  Please, please, pleaseeeeeeeee, HP and others, stop with
> these fingerprint scanners.  Seriously, just stop !
> 3) initial webcam mic audio to me seems low so you might want to add
> some gain on video calls
> 4) those Bang & Olusfsen speakers are still laptop speakers. 
> Marketing b.s. folks- they don't sound any better than anyone else's
> laptop speakers
> I need to explain the screen flipping more since this is a secondary
> win.  First of all, I do this manually... there apparently is way to
> do it automatically but I didn't want that so I don't know if it
> works.  All you need is a script that executes the xrandr and xinput
> commands (for the touchscreen) to rotate right, left, inverter or
> "normal" to restore the default orientation and then also fire up the
> onboard virtual keyboard.  This laptop is not heavy but you will
> experience the weight more in tablet form factors because the thin
> screen bezel leaves very little real estate to get a good purchase on
> the unit.  This HP and the ASUS are both 13" models but the HP is
> noticeably smaller because of the minimal case. I do however
> enjoy being able to read in left or right tablet modes (i.e. long in
> the Y plane).  Mostly holding in my left hand since if I want to hold
> it with my right hand, I tend to cover the exhaust fan more.  The
> fan doesn't seem to come on when I am just reading or browsing a
> website that is not loaded with media so left or right use has not
> been a technical choice.  Reading in bed was also good with the
> inverted mode (i.e. flipped) because it allows me to orient the
> hardware vents at the top which means all that hot air will be
> properly exhausted.
> As I said, on balance, this is the best Linux laptop I've had for the
> money.  I'm sure there will be more quirks that come up but unless
> something goes completely awry, I don't anticipate anything that
> would reverse my opinion.  Additionally, the convertible
> abilities allow it to be used in ways that previously would be better
> served by another device.  If you want an ultrabook that can do more
> than be a high performance computer, this HP Envy x360 is worth
> considering in world where Linux laptops and tablets are still a rare
> breed.
> ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
> Keith C. Perry, MS E.E.
> Managing Member, DAO Technologies LLC
> (O) +1.215.525.4165 x2033
> (M) +1.215.432.5167
> _____________________________________________________________________
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