Purism Librem 14 review: The king of privacy-oriented laptops!

Since I switched to Linux, I have become more aware of the importance of privacy and data protection in the dangerous world of the Internet. Today, companies are voracious to user's data, and hackers will not hesitate to provoke you if they gain access to your device and data. I will be frank with you, there is no one hundred percent protection as long as you use the Internet, but you can raise the level of security by using a device that respects your privacy and works to protect it. In this article, we will review the Librem 14 laptop from Purism.

Librem 14 (The Road Warrior) {alertInfo}

Model
Librem 14
Fabric (Chassis)
High quality anodized black aluminum
Dimension/Weight
HxWxD: 1.70cm (0.67 inches)x 32.2 cm (12.68 inches)x 22 cm (8.66 inches), Weight: 1.4 kg (3.08 pounds)
Operating system
Pre-installed: PureOS, QubesOS.
Supported OSes: Any other GNU/Linux, Windows.
Display
14-inch matte display with IPS technology, Resolution: 1920x1080 (FHD)
CPU
1.10GHz six-core (12 threads) 10th-generation (Comet Lake) Intel Core i7 processor (i7-10710U), Turbo Boost up to 4.7GHz (12MB Smart Cache).
GPU (Graphics)
Intel UHD Graphics 620 (4K support at 60Hz), DirectX Support: 12, OpenGl Support: 4.5.
Memory (RAM)
2x SO-DIMM slots, up to 64GB, DDR4
Firmware
PureBoot (Learn more), Coreboot (Learn more)
Storage
2 x NVMe-capable M.2 slots (80mm): 250GB/500GB/1TB (Sata SSD), 500GB/1TB/2TB (NVMe), 512/1TB (NVMe pro)
Battery & Power
66.8-watt-hour lithium-polymer, Up to 9 hours battery life, DC-IN Jack (90w charger) & USB-C Power Delivery Port
Wireless & Bluetooth
Atheros "AR9462" 802.11n with Two Antennas (M.2 2230 key-E slot), Bluetooth 4.0
 Keyboard and Trackpad
Backlit keyboard, Adequately wide trackpad (no glass trackpad) , Keyboard language: English (US)
Camera
720p HD (0.9MP, 10FPS)
Audio
Stereo Speakers
Port & Connectivity
Right side: 1xUSB Type C with Power Delivery & Video output up to 4K@60Hz, , 1xUSB 3.1 Type A, 1xGigabit Ethernet adapter (RJ45), DC Charging Jack (19V), 1x3.5mm Combination Jack, Left side: 1xUSB Type C (data transfer only), 1xHDMI 2.0, Micro SD Memory Card Reader, 1xUSB 3.1 Type A, 1xKensington slot. 
Price
{getButton} $text={From 1370 USD (Official store)} $icon={info} $color={#e47911}
Save 100$ with the code "PRIVACYFIRST".

Special Features{alertWarning}

  • Designed to protect your digital life: Librem 14 has been carefully designed from hardware to software to be the most secure computer you can buy today.
"Librem 14 was designed chip-by-chip, line-by-line, to respect your rights to privacy, security, and freedom." states Purism.
  • Physical kill switches: With this unique feature, you will completely close the door to intruders (governments, companies, hackers, etc.), as you can cut off the power to the camera, microphone (built-in and headphone mic), wireless and Bluetooth.
  • Disabled manufacturers backdoors: Purism is taking the issue of backdoors very seriously, as it disables all possible manufacturers' backdoors by using Less binary blob firmware;
  • IME Neutralized by default: In addition to the above feature, this warrior comes with a disabled Intel Management Engine by Default. Purism has taken a correct decision to disable it, as the latter, according to many specialists, represents a real threat to the privacy and security of the user. Indeed, Damien Zammit, a security expert, stated that "ME" is highly possible to be a backdoor.
  • Open source firmware (BIOS): Coreboot is a fast, light-weight, energy efficient open-source firmware.
"It is designed to perform only the minimum number of tasks necessary to initialize the hardware, and pairs with a payload (such as SeaBIOS) to boot a modern operating system (such as PureOS) as quickly as possible." explains Purism.
  • Auditable software: All the source code is public, so anyone can check that there are no hidden secrets (backdoors, malwares, etc.);
  • Bios & EC chip are write protected: Cyber-attacks are constantly evolving, and many of these attacks target BIOS and EC chips intending to gain complete control of the device for spying, sabotage, or profit. As a result, protecting Bios and EC chips from writing is critical at the moment, which Purism is doing on Librem 14 with hardware switches.
  • Hardware tampering detection: This feature allows your device to detect any active attempt to damage your device or data, which enables the device to start the necessary defense actions. You can take advantage of this ability on Librem 14 using PureBoot and Librem Key.
  • Anti-Interdiction: You can say that the company is thinking like a paranoid, as in addition to the abovementioned security features, the company provides services that help to detect any Interdiction attempt by providing the following options:
    • Customized tamper-evident tape on the bag surrounding the laptop and on the branded inner box.
    • Screws on the bottom of the laptop covered with glitter nail polish.
    • Photos of all the above plus photos of the laptop interior (laptop inside), signed by Purism and sent to the customer via a GPG-encrypted email.
    • All communications take place via GPG-protected email.
  • Cryptocurrencies payment option: You can buy this laptop using Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. There is no need to explain why purism adopts this option and its relationship with privacy, as it will require a separate article. In short, your purchase will mostly be anonymous. However, cryptocurrencies suffer from unexpected and severe fluctuations and involve many risks, so you should be careful.
Yes, it is all about security and privacy.
 

Pros{alertSuccess}

  • Designed and built with Linux/Opensource in mind: Starbook is fully compatible with Linux so no more incompatibility headaches;
  • Modular board:  Unlike most laptops with non-removable parts, the Librem 14 has a modular design that allows you to replace and upgrade parts painlessly. In addition to the ability to upgrade the RAM and the SSD, you can swap out the four-cell battery to a three-cell one if you want to free an extra SATA M2 slot for a second SSD. Also, you can even easily remove the wireless card from its M2 slot and replace it;
  • Reliable build quality: The chassis of this warrior is made of high-quality aluminum. Also, the laptop parts are carefully selected and installed;
Image credit: Purism

  • Ultra portable: The laptop weighs no more than 1.4kg, making it ideal for outdoor work and also reduces the burden of carrying when traveling;
  • Matte screen with narrow bezels: You may not be a fan of matte screens, but they help maintain your eye's health. They reduce eyestrain as you don't have to focus "through" intense reflections or glare to see the image;
  • Good battery life: With a 67Wh battery, you can get more than nine hours of light to medium usage;
"The Librem 14 gets around 9 hours and 48 minutes with the screen on max brightness and all sensors enabled. This is the uptime you can expect with light use, like reading a text document or other simple low CPU programs." explains Purism.
  • Rich in ports: All kinds of ports are there. Even the memory card slot is there. Do you think it is missing a port?
  • Fast performance: With a 6-core processor, 12 threads, and a turbo boost up to 4.7 GHz, the device provides smooth performance in most scenarios, except for those that rely on graphic processing due to the absence of a dedicated graphics card;
  • LED backlit keyboard with with plenty of key travel & function lock;
  • Image credit: Purism
  • Wide trackpad with good precision: The touchpad is solid (solidly placed), spacious enough, and offers good accuracy;
  • Power adapter plug for UK, Europe, and the USA;
  • 1-year warranty with disassembly allowed: This is a fundamental point in any device that adopts open source principles. Purism permits customers to disassemble their Librem 14 and replace/repair various parts such as rams, SSD, etc., without compromising the warranty, all with an official guide on the company's website. You can get a three-year extended warranty for an additional $169, which we do not recommend at all, as it is considered a kind of gambling in which the loser is the consumer (you) in most cases. For more details, read our Ethics policy.
"Purism warrant its devices or hardware products against defects in materials and workmanship when used normally in accordance to its designed operational conditions, for 1 year." declares Purism.


Cons {alertError}

  • A bit expensive: Yes, you can get a better performance laptop for this price, but it certainly will not provide you with the privacy and security that the Librem 14 can provide;
  • Display panel could be better: This warrior's 1080p screen offers a good enough experience, an experience that would have been excellent if the screen had been brighter and with at least 2k resolution;
  • No Thunderbolt interface: I searched the official site about the lack of support for Thunderbolt in Librem 14, but I did not find a clear answer. However, after analyzing various documents, I can say that the reason is that Thunderbolt is a closed-source technology;
  • Lack of descrite GPU option: We understand the company's avoidance of Nvidia cards due to its monopolistic nature, but AMD. Its firmware is fully open source, which makes its adoption in a focused-privacy laptop very possible. In addition, unfortunately, you cannot add an external GPU due to the absence of a Thunderbolt port;
  • Webcam needs improvement: Hold on, Purism, there is a kill switch for the webcam that we can use, so there is no need to decrease the webcam quality. Even my $300 laptop shoots video at 30fps. Just improve it;
  • Limited Keyboard layouts: I'm sure not all those interested in protecting their digital lives live in the USA, so having one keyboard layout option (US) would be frustrating for many people looking to buy this laptop;
  • Poor speakers experience: Although the good manufacturing quality of speakers, they offer a poor sound experience due to the small sound hole (acoustic chamber) on the cover and the inaccurate default configuration. As for the first, it is difficult to fix, but not impossible. As for the second, you can fix it by adjusting the equalizer. By the way, there are ready-made profiles on the net for Librem 14, which improve the sound experience significantly to get an acceptable sound quality;
  • Bluetooth needs a proprietary firmware to work: The Bluetooth firmware is available, and you can install it easily. However, it is proprietary (closed-source), and this should make you think twice before installing it on your device because I believe you have bought this laptop to get far from monopolistic companies;
  • Black only: I like black, but Linux users are not the same, so providing color options would be great.

My impression {alertImpression}

Librem 14 represents a great addition to the Linux world. It is a unique laptop as it is the most secure laptop you can buy. This "Road Warrior" is devoted to a specific group of users who do not mind making "some sacrifices" and paying additional amounts to protect their digital life in this brutal cyber world. If you are one of those, this is currently your best choice.

Shopping time{alertShopping}

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  • Librem 14
Image credit: Purism

  
👉 Get 100$ off by using the "PRIVACYFIRST" coupon code.
  • Accessories
Privacy screen (Image credit: Purism)
📣 If given a chance, would you buy one?

If you find Linux-Tech&More helpful, consider supporting it on Patreon or Liberapay. For supporting it via Paypal & Crypto currencies contact me.{alertIdea}
Djalel Oukid

Science teacher, PhD student, Master degree in Microbial biotechnology , Microbiologist, designer, video editor, podcaster & blogger. linkedin portfolio github

2 Comments

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  1. Purism is definetely going the extra mile for privacy. I've been looking to get the librem 14 for a while but yes the price point for me personally still a bit high.
    I do use the Apollos GW for extra privacy and security for the whole home. As smart TVs and other internet connected devices are always trying to send data out that they learned.
    The Apollos allows me to control all connection in and out of my home network in an easy way, with a lot of extra features builtin like NAS and VMs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for sharing your own experience with us. This sounds interesting and exciting. I might try it out in the coming days.

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