Ubuntu and ThinkPad X390

Jun 9, 2019 · 592 words · 3 minutes read

Recently I’ve bought Lenovo ThinkPad X390 and while on Windows 10 everything as far as I’ve tested works nicely, it’s not the case with Ubuntu 18.04.

Some of the listed problems here are related to my setup(i3wm, X11), other strictly to X390 <-> Ubuntu.

ThinkPad X390 Inside

Power management

TLP – Linux Advanced Power Management

Battery life

Graph via battop

Media keys don’t work

Verify they’re working: sudo showkey -k, if they do, proceed:

It’s GNOME’s fault. ?!

Source and solution

> sudo apt install dconf-editor
> dconf-editor

Navigate to:


Toggle XF86AudioPlay and other media keys there.

Broken brightness control

Brightness didn’t work at all. Slider in Ubuntu for this was completely broken so I had to:

sudo touch /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf
sudoedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-intel.conf

and paste:

Section "Device"
        Identifier  "card0"
        Driver      "intel"
        Option      "Backlight"  "intel_backlight"
        BusID       "PCI:0:2:0"

Now I could control brightness but my keys still didn’t do anything.

xbacklight is throwing “No outputs have backlight property” no matter what I try so I’ve finally switched to light.

cd /tmp && \
curl -L -J -o light.deb "https://github.com/haikarainen/light/releases/download/v${LIGHT_VERSION}/light_${LIGHT_VERSION}_amd64.deb" && \
sudo apt install -y ./light.deb && \
rm -rf ./light.deb && \
sudo usermod -a -G video REPLACE_WITH_USERNAME && \
sudo touch "${UDEV_RULES}" && \
sudo tee "${UDEV_RULES}" <<HERE
ACTION=="add", SUBSYSTEM=="backlight", RUN+="/bin/chgrp video /sys/class/backlight/%k/brightness"
ACTION=="add", SUBSYSTEM=="backlight", RUN+="/bin/chmod g+w /sys/class/backlight/%k/brightness"
ACTION=="add", SUBSYSTEM=="leds", RUN+="/bin/chgrp video /sys/class/leds/%k/brightness"
ACTION=="add", SUBSYSTEM=="leds", RUN+="/bin/chmod g+w /sys/class/leds/%k/brightness"

Logout and login or restart

Bluetooth setup

That’s my first laptop with Bluetooth, and I wanted to use my wireless headset. No major problems, works as expected with a small caveat…

When I close the lid, the system suspends for a sec and wakes up.

I had to add a script:

> cat /lib/systemd/system-sleep/bluetooth-suspend
# Makes sure bluetooth service is not running while suspended.

if [ "${1}" == "pre" ]; then
    service bluetooth stop
elif [ "${1}" == "post" ]; then
    service bluetooth start

TIL I also learned about blueman.

sudo apt install blueman

Blueman provides GUI to setup Bluetooth devices.


> sudo apt install bluez-tools
> sudo bluetoothctrl
> agent on
> scan on
# wait for device and copy its MAC address
> pair {{ MAC }}
> trust {{ MAC }}

Fingerprint reader

Unfortunately, it’s Synaptics and I still haven’t managed to make it work.

> lsusb | grep Synaptics
Bus 001 Device 005: ID 06cb:00bd Synaptics, Inc.


X390 has 13.3" screen and in my case, it’s 1920x1080. By default, everything was a bit too small for my taste.

I’m using i3wm, so it means I’m stuck on X11 for the foreseeable future. I also cannot switch to Sway and Wayland because I want to have the same setup on all of my computers from which one of them has NVIDIA GPU and it’s not supported by Sway.

I’ve tried adjusting scaling via GNOME settings, but everything looked a bit blurry, so I’ve opted for just modifying font sizes in GNOME, i3wm, Firefox, and Alacritty.

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor 1.2

I cannot wait to see how this works with external display… /s

Screen flicker / tears / poor performance

I don’t know why but I had xserver-xorg-video-intel installed.

It’s not recommended for newer hardware.

sudo apt purge xserver-xorg-video-intel

After removing and that and setting kernel options:

> /etc/modprobe.d/i915.conf
options i915 enable_fbc=1 modeset=1

Works as before and without screen problems.

In case I find something new, I’ll update the post.