Purism Librem 13 v3 Laptop Review
Luxury Linux. The Librem 13 is a privacy-focused Linux laptop from Purism, a boutique Linux OEM. While the device looks beautiful at first glance, software limitations and hardware bugs cripple the laptop and keep us from recommending it.
Most people are not aware that the world at large runs on Linux. From Android handsets to traffic control systems, from supercomputers to the Large Hadron Collider, from the vast majority of web servers to self-driving cars, Linux powers most of the computer systems that make modern life possible. Despite its popularity throughout the industrial, scientific, and commercial world, however, Linux continues to have a microscopic prevalence in the personal computer space (Android notwithstanding).
It's rare, then, to see a company build a retail business off Linux-based consumer laptops. Purism is one such retailer. The company's claim to fame is PureOS, a privacy- and security-focused Linux distro based on Debian. Purism also sells a pair of laptops designed specifically for PureOS, the Librem 13 and Librem 15. We have the former under review today and are eager to put a "pure" Linux laptop through its paces.
The Librem 13 looks outdated on paper. While the design still holds up, the internals were already old upon the device's 2017 release. Our machine uses a 6th generation Skylake Core i7-6500U, 8 GB of RAM, and a 120 GB SSD. The machine starts at US $1399 (6500U, 4 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD), which is a lot to ask for old hardware. Is the Linux experience worth the premium? Let's take a look.
The 13.3-inch Ultrabook space has no shortage of competitors. Since the Librem 13 is built for computing on the go, we will compare it to some popular and compact Windows alternatives. Dell's XPS 13; Lenovo's Yoga 730 and ThinkPad 13; the Huawei MateBook X Pro; and Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 come to mind.
A quick note before we begin: some of our measurement tools and benchmarks are incompatible with PureOS. To that end, this review will largely focus on the Librem 13's hardware and the experience of using PureOS. We will thus not include a rating but will conclude the review with our general thoughts on the viability of the Librem 13 as a daily driver for the average user.