HP EliteBook 840 G7 with openSUSE Continued

Some months back, I received an incredible gift from my former employer as part of a severance package. I initially wasn’t real impressed with it but that changed when I really started to understand what I could do with it. I also did some upgrades to it and ironed out my one issue with it.

Bottom Line Up Front: Adding about $200 worth of hardware to this machine turned it from a light duty performer to a machine that will take whatever I throw at it. This machine does seem suffer from thermal throttling if you push it for an extended period of time but that is to be expected for a machine in this rather thin chassis with limited venting for thermal management.

BIOS Update

One of the issues I have had with EliteBook was the screen backlight brightness buttons. Pressing them would toggle the microphone mute. That just happened to be how the computer was registering the key presses. The good news is, it was fixed, quite easily with this update. It does seem, from time to time that the brightness controls don’t work properly after a suspend/resume cycle from time to time but this bug is not repeatable.

Media keys

I do want to note, since this computer does NOT have an Ethernet port, you will have to use some sort of USB to Ethernet adapter. They are pretty inexpensive and are seemingly plug-and-play. I have used a Dell branded USB-C and a generic Ethernet with USB-3 hub module that worked without any issue.

Hardware Upgrades

To extend the usefulness of this laptop, I invested in two areas, RAM and storage. This computer uses the M.2 2280 for storage and has two slots for memory modules. This made upgrade on this computer straight forward and really quite easy to accomplish.

HP EltieBook 840 G7 inside
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Storage

I swapped out the 250 GB NVME with a 1 TB NVME so I could have it be a mirror copy of my Dell Latitude E6440 data on this machine. Using Syncthing, I am keeping this and a few other machines synchronized which has been absolutely fantastic. Redundancy between computers has been incredibly valuable for productivity.

RAM

There are to SODIMM slots in this laptop with only one slot occupied. 8 GiB of RAM is not enough for how I like to use (abuse) my computer. I chose a 32 GiB SODIM to accompany the existing unit and I now enjoy having the 38.5 GiB of available memory to do, basically whatever I want and as irresponsibly as I would like. Interestingly, it is my oldest child that informs me I have far too many tabs in Firefox, he is only 10 and wiser than his father.

Since this computer does not have a discrete GPU, the Intel UHD Graphics share the available memory in RAM which is why I only have 38.5 GiB available. This is adjustable in the BIOS, if you wish to reduce the amount available to the GPU.

openSUSE Tumbleweed

System Information

Tumbleweed is a great choice to run on this HP EliteBook. With the latest in kernel and Mesa drivers, the experience is quite enjoyable. There haven’t been any sour updates and enjoying the latest Plasma Desktop Environment has been great. I am currently using Wayland as the display protocol on it. From what I can tell, everything works. The only issue I have, currently, is some loss of functionality in OBS Studio. It is being worked on, I’m sure. The one holdout I have with going to Wayland is the computer I am now using for doing Live Streaming with OBS Studio. That will have to stay on X11 for the time being.

This computer is also using Pipewire for the audio server for sound. Pipewire seems to provide better quality audio than PulseAudio, specifically when Bluetooth is involved. There is also a perceived reduction in latency with audio as well.

I do a bit of light gaming with this computer, Steam games, retro games with emulators from the Commodore 64, Amiga, and various Nintendo systems. I can’t say whether or not this computer has the horsepower to run any AAA titles as I don’t play any of those. As far as activities that do push this machine, video and audio editing do push this machine when rendering or processing audio.

Since there is a lot of memory in this system, it has been great for running multiple virtual machines at once. This can be handy for testing things or perhaps there is a specific application that needs a specific operating system. Regardless of the needs, this machine can push it nicely. I have started to play with Docker after I read this article on Front Page Linux and this machine is handling this task quite nicely.

What I Like

Having 40 GiB of RAM is absolutely awesome. I haven’t yet pushed the machine to its memory limits. At this point, it feels like the limiting factor is the CPU and not the memory. I can safely say that this machine meets my computing needs in the laptop form. I wonder if I will need to increase RAM in the lifecycle of this machine.

Having 1 TB of storage on the computer is great. I do happen to find that this is starting to become a limiting factor and I have to take time to clear things out and archive much of my data but that is absolutely due to the amount of data I create doing the things I do. Read: I should finish projects in a more timely fashion and archive the files out more often.

The overall use of the computer has been great. I have taken it on several trips, it packs nice and lasts a long time on battery. If I am in one of those more modern vehicles with built in USB, I can quite literally plug the USB-C to USB-C cable into the vehicle socket and right to my computer. The computer sips on power gentle enough to allow me to charge as I use it.

They keyboard is backlit and may be the perfect amount of resistance to allow me to set my fingers on the keyboard without inadvertently pressing a key. I have, historically, been quite unhappy with HP’s laptop keyboards but this one is almost perfect.

What I Don’t Like

I am having a difficult time adapting to the Function key and media key mixing. I seem to be prone to slipping and turning my wifi off from time to time. This is a “me problem” that I am slowly improving control on where my finger goes.

Although the screen brightness controls seem to work since the BIOS update, I do have occasional issues where it returns to its previous buggy state of muting and unmuting the microphone. I can’t reliably repeat this issue but it does happen.

On a very rare occasion, I have had issue with return from suspend where the computer is unresponsive. It will not even start to wake up and I have to force power-off the machine. I am not sure that this is an issue with the usage of Linux since I don’t believe it is even waking up and starting the process.

I still wish this machine had an SD Card reader. I would have even gone for a micro SD Card reader. It does make for use on the go a bit annoying but since I do use a dock station, the card reader on that module makes up for the lack of reader on the laptop itself. This is by no means a deal breaker or would sway me away from recommending purchasing it, just be aware.

Final Thoughts

The HP EliteBook 840 G7 is a fantastic, 14″ chassis computer to take on the go that gives you long battery life, good performance and a fantastic keyboard for long sessions of writing or whatever tasks you might need that keyboard. As far as design goes, this really is a great machine, it looks nice, feels great, works fantastically well and has all the right features. I highly recommend this particular model for anyone that needs a capable, battery efficient, light weight computer that just looks good.

This computer can, quite easily, be upgraded and therefor extending the life of this machine for many years. The only thing of which you may need to be very aware is the life of the battery. Outside of that, the build of this computer suggests that it should continue to be useful for many years.

Great job HP! Now I’d like to see some kind of deal with the openSUSE folks about some sort of OEM offering. If HP provided some kind of openSUSE out-of-the-box experience would be absolutely fantastic. So, hopefully, some talks between the two organizations about this can happen.

References

Get openSUSE Tumbleweed
HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed
PipeWire Audio Server on openSUSE Tumbleweed
Front Page Linux.com Getting Started with Docker Containers Beginners Guide

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