Title: Purism Librem 14v1 Review
Purism is a small company in the hardware space aiming to provide software
freedom (via their Debian-based PureOS and coreboot-based Pureboot) while also
protecting your privacy and security. One of the key selling points to their
hardware are killswitches, which allow you to physically disconnect internal
hardware to prevent abuse. The Librem 14 has two such switches: one controlling
the webcam and microphone, and the other controlling the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Due to COVID, supply shortages, and other difficulties of the business, Purism
has had some trouble meeting their shipping obligations; this delay has caused a
number of people to seek refunds or issue chargebacks. Backers for the Librem 5
in particular seem to have rough luck getting their hardware. I was a backer for
the OpenPandora back in 2010, and never received a unit, so I understand their
frustration when it comes to not getting what you pay for.  I must note,
however, that my experience with Purism was better than I anticipated.
I ordered my Librem 14v1 in March 2021, when the website said "Shipping in May".
May came and went, and I sent out an e-mail asking them what happened to my
order. I gave it some time, assuming I wasn't the only one with shipping delays,
and reached out again in August. Eventually, a Purism employee reached out to me
via their personal e-mail address to deduce the issue.
It turns out that shipping confirmation was sent to me in early July. When I
read the e-mail from the employee, I checked my e-mail client configuration.
Lo and behold, it wasn't syncing my Spam folder at all! It had also been more
than 30 days since the e-mail was sent, so Spam was empty. I updated the
configuration, confirmed proper receipt of e-mail from Purism, and my order was
marked Priority to ensure it got out sooner. I received the laptop on
2021-09-15. While I would've preferred it in May or June, as advertised, I'm
just glad to have actually gotten the product. I was worried that I'd funded
another OpenPandora... it was just PEBCAK!  How apropos. :)
So, with that saga over, let's take a look at the thing and see how it holds up!
Note: Purism offers a number of different choices for storage, RAM, and OS. I
opted for the model with 16GB RAM, 512GB NVMe SSD, and PureOS with Librem Key and
Dimensions: 322mm x 17mm x 220mm
Screen: 14" matte, 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
CPU: Intel Core i7 10710U (Comet Lake)
4.70GHz, 6 cores, 12 threads
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (up to 64GB)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, 9th gen (Coffee Lake), device 9BCA
Wi-Fi: Atheros AR9462, 802.11n
Audio: Intel Comet Lake PCH-LP cAVS
Ethernet: Realtek RTL8111 series Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth: Atheros AR3012 (NON-FREE BINARY DRIVER ath3k REQUIRED)
Storage: Samsung NVMe SSD SM981/PM981/PM983
Ports: 1x HDMI 2.0
2x USB 3.1 Type-A
1x USB 3.1 Type-C, data only (left side)
1x USB 3.1 Type-C, with PD (right side)
1x DC-IN jack, barrel style connector
Genesys Logic SD Card Reader
3.5mm audio (mic-in and headphone-out combined)
Keyboard: Full size chiclet, QWERTY, no numpad, backlit with 5 light levels
Chassis: Aluminum, black matte finish; flat, good for stickers
Five grommets on the bottom to improve airflow and add stability
Out of the box, the laptop feels heavy enough to know you're carrying it, but
light enough to where it's not a big deal *to* carry it. The aluminum chassis
feels nice, but due to it being matte black, smudges and fingerprints are an
inevitability. The backlight on the keyboard is clearly uneven in places --
mostly around Caps Lock, backslash, and the Logo key.
Typing on the keyboard isn't quite as satisfying as my TypeMatrix, but I
recognize my choice of input isn't exactly popular. For what it is, the Librem's
chiclet keyboard gets the job done and isn't particularly weird, aside from the
right side Shift key. It lacks a Menu key, so those of us who like Compose keys
get stuck losing right Alt.
The webcam supports up to 1280x720 pictures and video, but frame rate decreases
* 1280*720: 10fps
* 960*720: 15fps
* 640*480: 30fps
You're not using this for OnlyFans or pro streaming. :) Video calls with family
or coworkers will do.
The grommets on the bottom aren't bad, but the one in the back center feels like
one good snag will take it off. It's made out of a harder rubber than the other
four, however, so maybe it's sturdier than it appears. I'd rather be careful
than find out. :)
The default PureOS uses GNOME 3 Wayland on top of systemd. It has a decent
amount of packages pre-installed, like LibreOffice, the GNOME suite,
Thunderbird, Polari, Boxes, TeXinfo, and some other extras.
This is the first time I've 'committed' to learning a GNOME 3 interface, and
while some of its features are handy, the window management workflow seems like
it's on rails. I could maximize-half horizontally, but not vertically (to have
two wide but short windows stacked together). Resizing uses Meta+Middle Click
instead of Meta+Right Click. There's no equivalent to the taskbar, so you lose
the minimize paradigm; the workflow seems to encourage putting each program
in its own workspace and having the user depend on Meta+Tab to swap between
programs. I haven't found a more sane way to navigate with it.
Hitting Meta to get the overview is kinda neat since it doubles as a launcher
and window switcher. If I wanted to improve GNOME, I would add a drop-down style
terminal for drive-by commands, and an info widget like conky. Keyboard toggle
mapping targets for Bluetooth and WiFi would be nice, too.
WHAT I LIKE
Requiring the use of the Librem Key in order to boot is pretty awesome. It adds
risk to losing the key, but I've done pretty good at not losing my car keys.
However, I don't feel comfortable attaching it to my physical keyring. I'll
need to come up with another strategy in the future, but things are working
okay for now.
Most of the system does indeed work out of the box. I had some issues with
Cheese wrt the camera killswitch, but rebooting seemed to fix it and I haven't
had it happen since. Bluetooth also didn't work out of the box due to needing
a non-free binary blob. Everything else I've thrown at this Debian derivative
has worked as I expect it to, including non-free stuff like Minecraft, Discord,
PICO-8, and Steam.
The backlit keyboard is a game changer when you're trying to relax in bed *and*
be creative. It's a full sized keyboard, too, so despite a few key placements
being weird, it's not terrible for a staggered QWERTY board.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE
I had to correct an issue with the power IC initializing to weird values of
charging thresholds in /sys/class/power_supply. On one hand, I learned how
to make a run-on-boot script work with systemd. On the other, why was such a
feature not already baked into the OS? Both the autorun script (like rc.local)
and the battery issue; the latter is said to be getting fixed in an upcoming EC
firmware update. Maybe a better question is: Why doesn't GNOME have adequate
battery charging threshold settings? If I was a 'normie', I'd be stuck with a
laptop at 2% battery until the EC update ships.
There's not an easy way to toggle function of the touchpad from the keyboard.
Prior Librem models seem to have this feature via the Fn key (according to
pictures), but I see no such method on the Librem 14. Sometimes I want to go
keyboard-only, like when writing this review.
The 'A' key feels mushier than the other keys. I've hit it with canned air a few
times and it's somewhat loosened, but maybe it's just a side effect of chiclet
keyboards. My TypeMatrix Dvorak fits across the laptop really well, so if it
gets unbearable, I can always bust it out.
Some programs that I consider essential weren't installed out of the box. Some
were understandable, but you'd expect a free software platform running GNOME
to offer The GIMP for an image editor at the very least. PureOS doesn't appear
to ship with an image editor so this seems like an odd choice, or perhaps an
For the record, the other programs are scdaemon, vim, htop, and tmux. I can
understand their exclusion since the default install is desktop-oriented, but
lacking scdaemon when they support the Librem Key is another odd decision. Not
every Librem owner was interested in such a device, but it makes sense to put it
in the default installation.
The Bluetooth controller requires a non-free binary driver. One of the chief
reasons to buy Purism is software freedom. While the FSF makes exceptions for
microcode, it's inconsistent to claim support for freedom while sporting
hardware that's literally unusable with free software drivers, at present.
While we're at it, let's discuss the Management Engine. It is not fully
disabled, due to the way Intel's architecture is designed. In the interest
of fairness, Purism wrote about their efforts of reverse engineering the ME
, and why certain parts needed to remain.  It's just a shame that it's
this difficult to provide libre x86_64 hardware due to these enterprise-focused
features that enable abuse in the wrong hands.
Due to choosing GNOME 3 on Wayland, livestreaming is a nightmare, especially if,
like me, you ended up using a mix of xorg and Wayland programs. I gave it
nearly 5 months... GNOME (and Wayland) are still unable to meet the same use
cases that xorg has fulfilled for years. As such, I moved to XFCE for now, until
I get back to Fluxbox or i3. For all the fancy features, if it doesn't work with
core use-case software, it's useless.
WHAT I HOPE FOR
Above all else, I want to see continued improvement on Purism's behalf. On
messaging, and pushing for their next devices to be even *more* libre. I can
appreciate purism itself as an ideal rather than an absolute goal, but
completely free hardware *can* be achieved. Perhaps we'll be using RISC-V some
time in the future.
I hope Purism moves their focus away from GNOME, with the upcoming changes for
GTK 4 essentially pushing non-GNOME development out of the circle. Solus and
others have expressed interest in moving to the Enlightenment stack. That will
be an interesting development if done. It's unfortunate, because Purism has
contributed to both GTK and GNOME, but the tide is against them in crafting
their own experience on the GNOME stack. I'd rather see their efforts go where
they'll be appreciated and move the desktop forward.
Lastly, I hope this machine helps me in becoming more creative. I'm trying to
take a hands-off approach so I can focus on programming. I gave GNOME 3 an
honest try, and as I suspected it still isn't up to par.
(Yep, special enough for its own section)
Some things like Alt+Tab have unintuitive function compared to its use in other
environments. Super+Tab is what you *really* want most of the time. Oh, and
selecting sub-windows or tabs of a program is a separate keystroke. I see *why*
it was done, but the usability on a freeform "every window, period" flow is
You also can't launch a program twice from the overview to get a second window,
like gnome-terminal; you have to focus the terminal and bring up a new window
Can we talk about how hard it is to get a custom program to show up under Show
Applications? You have to write an INI-style .desktop file, move it to *just*
the right place, and wait for GNOME to figure it out and display it. The GUI to
make a launcher is not very good, and quite confusing. I had better luck reading
the desktop file spec; it too was bad in its own verbose and abstract
way, like most other FDO documents.
Why oh why is subpixel antialiasing enabled for font rendering? It's ugly and
makes screenshots non-portable between displays. I don't want to see bits of
color on the edge of my text. You need higher display dpi to get the full
'benefit' of it anyway. You can change this via Tweaks, which tells me GNOME
ships with this on by default.
Sometimes, windows like the Nextcloud client or PICO-8 won't show window
decorations, so exiting or manipulating them isn't as easy as it is in a regular
window manager. Part of this may be due to GNOME running in Wayland instead of
OBS Studio cannot seem to record the entire screen, or PICO-8; the window does
not show up in the list of windows to capture. This is due to Wayland being
unable (or rather, unwilling) to share the entire composited screen with a
program, and the micro-protocol approach that Wayland uses in its
design-by-consensus ensures it'll be a few more years before something like
PipeWire and Wayland can deliver a quality broadcasting stack. OBS inside an
xorg server session can see all windows. For being so 'modern' and a 'mature'
project at over 10 years old, Wayland still somehow isn't capable of such a
workload, while the 'old, busted' xorg still chugs along. Maybe in another 10
years, Wayland will support this use case.
GNOME lacks a system tray equivalent, so programs like Steam can be closed, but
in the 'background', which GNOME then produces a notification for. So it knows
it's there, but won't give me a way to interact with it to bring it back to the
foreground? Mumble is the same way, to use a libre example. Come on, guys...
What was wrong with having a tray for arbitrary icons that you don't necessarily
want an open window for all the time but are still *useful*?
Please drag GNOME Files out back and shoot it. SpaceFM gets the job done and
hands control to me.
A quick look under Tweaks gave me a few of the features I was missing before,
like resizing with Right Click, but those are in the form of extensions that
might or might not be there, or might not work on the next GNOME version. Some
of these settings I consider basic and expected in a cutting edge desktop, so
it's difficult to commit too much to the DE. I'm glad that most of my computer
use can be distilled to a browser and terminal window.
I switched away after 5 months of trying to get a workable and pleasant
environment. The single best feature was the overview access via tapping Super,
which I can emulate in any other environment. XFCE will be a good xorg-based
substitute for now, while I build toward my eventual LFS or similar OS with i3
For what you get, you're paying a premium for the hardware killswitches and
security-focused design. I knew these things going into it, and I got what I
purchased, more or less. It's Debian under the hood, so I can use a totally
different OS if I want, as long as the EC firmware is applied and PureBoot
is still in use, it's still the same machine. I want to do some research and
testing to be sure I can do so before messing with the installation, just so
I have another OS to go to if PureOS goes defunct. Virtual machines may be a
better idea for now.
One thing I wasn't 100% on was the RAM. I will probably upgrade both the RAM and
SSD in this machine, since the iGPU uses shared memory. Had I known that, I
would've gone to 32GB. But for now, I'll see how hard I can push it before
needing those things. The SSD alone makes things feel so much snappier, coming
Consider me somewhat satisfied, but I will hesitate before considering another
Purism device. To be fair in this conclusion, I have avoided essentially
everyone else for a laptop, for various reasons. Every brand I've come across
has made some concessions; a single binary blob for Bluetooth is something I can
live with until they source a BT radio with a libre driver. Otherwise, the
machine has been what I expected it to be and it gives me the control and
assurance that I'm looking for in a modern laptop.
Before I go, a photo with my TypeMatrix, bluetooth mouse, and external HDD
hooked up to the Librem 14.  I am taking sticker suggestions for its lid!
Thanks for reading.
: OpenPandora and Purism are not related at all. They're just two companies
trying to provide open hardware. I was a backer through the UK Ltd, which
was not solvent and left some 1100 customers (like me) holding a bag. The
German GmbH (now DragonBox) *was* solvent and offered to get us our units
for the difference in cost to produce, but by that point we had all spent
over $500 and he needed another $200 to make it cost effective for him. VAT
made this worse, and I didn't have cash at the time, so I effectively threw
away money. From what I understand, DragonBox is today offering the Pyra
and units are reaching people.
: PEBCAK: Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard. i.e. user error