Group: Hardware/Computers/Laptops/Freeable laptops/Novena

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This page research if it's possible to replace a Libreboot Thinkpad with a Novena laptop or Novena Heilroom laptop and how much freedom issue the Novena laptop have.


Nonfree firwmares:

  • Video decoding offload => Can use CPU decoding instead
  • (S)DMA controller => Can use the in-rom firmware instead


TODO: look if it's supported by an RYF distribution.


The laptop has a Xilinx Spartran 6 FPGA. Nowadays it might be supported by the symbiflow toolchain, but the support is not complete as some FPGA hardware blocks are not supported yet (like internal block RAM and DSPs).

Other differences with a Libreboot Thinkpad

Libreboot Thinkpad Novena laptop Novena Heirloom laptop
  • i686 on some laptops
  • x86_64 on others
  • ARM 32bit

See distribution compatibility for more infos.

Embedded controller firmware Nonfree


  • The keyboard
  • The power up sequence (voltages, power rails)
  • WiFi / bluetooth power on/off
  • Battery charging
  • etc
  • There is a power management CPU that probably has a fully free software firmware.
  • Missing keyboard
  • There is a power management CPU that probably has a fully free software firmware.
  • Bluetooth keyboard and touchpad (Does bluetooth requires nonfree loadable firwares? What about bluetooth security? can we use 100% free software bluetooth somehow?)
RAM 4G, 8G possible with specific RAM DIMMs. 4G possible
  • 2MiB/4MiB/8MiB (or more if changed) BIOS flash chip
  • One intenal SATA
    • 2.5" on most laptops
    • 1.8" on the T400s and on the X301
  • A second Internal SATA through a cdrom<->SATA HDD adapter. Might require a dock on some models.
  • SD card reader on some models
  • One internal SATA (SATA-II, 3Gbps)
  • One microSD port (speed?)
  • 2 Internal USB ports
Ethernet Integrated
  • One integrated Gigabit Ethernet (probably limited around 400Mbit/s due to some limitation of the I.MX6 driver or hardware blocks)
  • One integrated 100 Mbit Ethernet
  • 1 to 3 Internal mPCIe compatible with many ath9k_htc compatible WiFi cards
  • 1 mPCIe connector compatible with many ath9k_htc compatible WiFi cards
Display Mate, good enough for working. ?, more recent / better?
  • UART in the dock on some laptops, or absent on other
  • It might be possible to add an UART through the express card connector
  • USB Debug (not very practical)
  • Reinstalling Libreboot can be time consuming on some laptops (~1day) while it can be really fast on other (minutes)[1].
  • UART connector (where is it?)
  • TODO: What is the SOC/device boot order?
  • TODO: Is it possible to connect some SPI flash?


  1. It of course depends on people's skills, flash programmer speeds and so on but it's not uncommon to spend ~8h to disassemble and reassemble a Thinkpad T400 when doing it the first time, while it probably takes less than 10 minutes for a Thinkpad X200. Doing that is needed to install Libreboot or reinstall it if the computer doesn't boot anymore.