The time has come for my 11-year-old Acer eMachines laptop to take a very long break, so I decided to buy the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 laptop and tested a few distros on it to see which is the best overall.
For the first time in many years, I wanted to buy an AMD-powered machine since Intel is plagued with so many vulnerabilities these days. I was initially aiming for a full AMD configuration, with a dedicated AMD Radeon GPU, that’s also great for gaming and future-proof, but hey, you can’t have everything in life.
I wrote this review/report for others interested in buying the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 laptop (released July 2020) and install a GNU/Linux distribution on it, so they won’t have to spend days finding the perfect distro for their new laptop.
Why Lenovo, and why the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3?
Well, I usually buy ASUS and Acer products as they proved to be very reliable and stable over the years, and Linux friendly, but I remembered Lenovo is now Linux friendly too (at least for Fedora/RHEL and Ubuntu), and it turns out they have a few popular gaming laptops on sale with AMD Ryzen CPUs.
A fun fact is that the ideal machine for me was the MSI Bravo 15, which comes with AMD Ryzen 7 4800H and AMD Radeon RX 5500M graphics, but it was out of stock everywhere (sad face). My other choices were the ASUS TUF A15, Acer Nitro 5, and Lenovo Legion 5.
These gaming laptops are available in various configurations with AMD Ryzen 4000 series CPUs, as well as dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX or RTX GPUs. But my budget was limited, so the configuration I wanted was either not in stock or it was too expensive.
And this brings me to the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3, which recently popped up at local online shop, and appears to be a variant of the Lenovo Legion 5 laptop (same model: 15ARH05). As you can imagine, it was an instant buy.
The laptop comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti (4GB) GPU. What I like most about the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 is it’s superb 1080p display, the front-facing camera with privacy shutter (every laptop should have this!), and the gorgeous Chameleon Blue color (I never owned a blue laptop before).
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 with Linux
The laptop didn’t came with an operating system pre-installed, which is usually a good sign that’s not tailored for Windows. Lenovo is well-known as a Window PC maker, but the company’s recent commitment to support Linux distributions made me buy one of their laptops.
The good news is that Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FN keys (volume, brightness and mic control), GPU switching, and other essential functions work well with most distributions that I’ve tested (the ones that worked, of course). Connecting to an external monitor via HDMI works too, following these instructions.
The bad news is that the touchpad won’t work with many popular distros, especially those using a kernel version below Linux 5.10 LTS. Apparently, this is a common issue affecting many GNU/Linux distributions since Lenovo is using the same MSFT touchpad on several of its laptops.
The fix is to use a newer kernel from the Linux 5.10 LTS series, which includes specific patches for the issue, but, apparently, the upcoming Linux 5.11 kernel series comes with a permanent fix.
On Fedora 34 with Linux kernel 5.11, the touchpad is accelerated and works flawlessly!
Distros that work well and the touchpad works out-of-the-box without upgrading the kernel or applying any patches include Solus 4.2, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and PCLinuxOS, as well as Arch Linux-based distros like Manjaro Linux 20.2.1 and EndeavourOS.
Of course, I would recommend Arch Linux from the start, but it’s too hard to install for beginners, and not everyone is willing to spend a few hours installing it, as well as more than a day to fully configure the system. System76’s Pop!_OS Linux works too, but the touchpad is laggy, unusable.
Fedora 33 Workstation also works well, but the ISO image comes with Linux kernel 5.8 by default so the touchpad won’t work. After a system update, you’ll get Linux kernel 5.10 LTS and the touchpad will work, but very poorly. The cursor lags and touch click is too sensitive, so it’s almost unusable.
However, with all these distros the touchpad feels a bit laggy even if you increase the acceleration in settings, so it’s still not reliable for everyday use and you will need a USB or Bluetooth mouse for serious work. Let’s hope Lenovo is reading this and the issue will be fixed in future kernel releases!
Distros that (unfortunately) won’t even start on the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 laptop include Debian GNU/Linux 10.8 “Buster” Live, Linux Mint 20.1, elementary OS 5, KDE neon User Edition, and MX Linux 19.3 (AHS).
If you want me to test other GNU/Linux distributions on the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 laptop, please drop a comment below and I’ll update the article.
Last updated 8 months ago