Linux Mint on a Nerpa laptop with a working RGB keyboard backlight

Linux Mint on a Nerpa laptop with a working RGB keyboard backlight

The publication will be about installing Linux Mint and testing on this OS a branded laptop of the Nerpa company (“daughter” of the Russian IT integrator OCS), namely the Caspica I752-15 model, including solving the problem with starting the standard RGB keyboard backlight. Initially, the laptop came with Windows 11 OS and drivers for all components.

Nerpa Caspica I752-15 and BIOS setup

Nerpa Caspica I752-15 is a fairly well assembled and average (among other 15″ laptops) mobile device in terms of weight. The weight of the gadget is 1.75 kg. , PPI 142, brightness 250 cd/m2). The laptop is assembled with an Intel processor in mind Core i7-1255U ((2P+8E)C/12T, 1.7/4.7 GHz, 12 MB). The current build has 16 GB of RAM (2 x 8 GB DDR4 modules) and a 512 GB SSD (M.2 PCIe 4.0) Foxline FLSSD512M80E13TCX5 The manufacturer does not initially position the device as a gaming device.

An Intel AX201 adapter is installed inside the laptop, which supports Wi-Fi 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless data transmission systems. The device has two speakers (2 W each) and the following interfaces: USB 3.2 Type A (2 pcs.), USB Type-C (1 pcs.) with support for Display Port and Power Delivery options, HDMI, RJ-45 LAN, 3.5 mm audio jack, microSD reader. The laptop has hardware TPM 2.0.

The hinges of the laptop allow you to open the cover to an angle of up to 180 degrees.

The laptop also has a web camera (1 MP, 1280×720, maximum frequency — 30 fps) with a built-in microphone and an air cooling system, which, as it turned out, is correctly adjusted automatically when working in Linux.

The manufacturer promises up to 6 hours of autonomy from the standard battery (3175 mAh, 15.3, 49 Wh), depending on the system load.

Dimensions of the laptop (LxWxH): 361x240x20 mm. The kit includes a separate power supply unit (19, 2.37 A) with a round plug and a long cable.

Charging the laptop through the USB-C port is provided, but for this you need to order a branded 65 W power supply unit (a 1.5 m 100 W USB-C cable is included with it) or use third-party USB-C power supply units with a power of 45 W or more.

By experience, it turned out that entering the BIOS (UEFI BIOS from the Insyde company) is pressing the F2 button.

Installing Linux Mint

Initially, the idea was to deliver Linux Mint Cinnamon EDGE Edition 21.2 (a version of Mint with support for new chipsets and the newer Linux 6.5 kernel). This distribution turned out to be the most suitable for the laptop, because even in Live mode, all components of the laptop worked as they should at once (screen, touchpad, WiFi, except for the keyboard backlight). It took 20 minutes to install the OS and then another 10 minutes for all the updates via sudo apt update/upgrade. It is noteworthy that the OS was installed and updated on the laptop while it was running on battery. In this case, the battery charge dropped from 60 to 40%, and the laptop completed the installation normally and without errors.

Hardware Info Nerpa Caspica I752-15:

Keyboard and RGB lighting Nerpa Caspica I752-15

At first, it turned out that when the laptop was turned on, the backlight was available only in blue at an average level of brightness, and it was impossible to adjust and turn off this element. The default backlight activation buttons in the OS also did not work. Installing third-party components such as OpenRGB and changing keyboard settings did not help.

In the case of Windows 11, the manufacturer provides a set of drivers for the laptop, including an archive with RGB keyboard drivers.

The Nerpa Caspica laptop keyboard is equipped with 96 scissor-type buttons. The key stroke is about 2 mm, and the pressing force is 58 g, which is not much for such keyboards. Typing on such a keyboard is convenient. Instead of the usual ANSI layout, this keyboard uses ISO, characterized by a narrow double-row Enter key and a short left Shift key. The arrows are full-sized and placed in two rows.

Keyboard caps are made in the popular “pudding” style – the upper part of the cap is black, and the ends are transparent. Thanks to this, the backlight of the keyboard is clearly visible, despite the small height of the caps.

There are four special key combinations on the keyboard to control the backlight, but they do not work. However, the Nerpa service support page did not show drivers and software for the Linux laptop.

As a result, I had to contact Nerpa technical support by e-mail (support[@]nerpa-it[.]ru) with the request: “Nerpa Caspica I752-15 keyboard led driver question for Linux Mint 21.2 (kernel 6.5). In Linux Mint 21.2, the backlight of the laptop keyboard works only in one mode: it is on, it is blue at medium brightness, and it is not possible to adjust and disable the backlight. Do you have a solution to get the keyboard backlight working on Linux?

A reply with the necessary instructions for configuring the keyboard backlight for Linux arrived after 1 hour. I specifically sent a request in the morning to understand the speed of response of technical support during business hours.

Good afternoon, try these drivers: https://github.com/wessel-novacustom/clevo-keyboard/

Instruction:

  1. We start the installation: “wget ​​https://github.com/wessel-novacustom/clevo-keyboard/raw/master/kb.sh && chmod +x kb.sh && sudo ./kb.sh”

  2. Rebooting. Everything works. Multi-function buttons should also be earned.

  3. We start cleaning files after installation: sudo rm -rf ~/tuxedo-keyboard/ && rm ~/kb.sh

Tried it, everything worked. I signed up for technical support, closed the ticket.

Testing Nerpa Caspica I752-15

System monitor and top/atop utilities.

CPU-X utility.

MBW (Memory Bandwidth Benchmark) utility.

KDiskMark benchmark.

GPU-Viewer.

Basemark GPU.

Testing the autonomous operation mode.

The laptop was running a browser, two games, a full-screen video file (mkv format in the VLC player) was playing, GPU tests were also running randomly. In the energy-saving mode of the device, the maximum brightness of the screen and the operation of the keyboard backlight were set (at 95% brightness).

As a result, in almost an hour and a half of operation, the battery charge of the laptop decreased by 75% at an average level of system load of 20-40% of the maximum level of CPU performance.

When watching videos in VLC and surfing the Internet, the laptop battery lost 50% charge in almost 4 hours. You can fully charge a laptop with 16% charge in 2 hours.

Conclusions on the Nerpa laptop after installing Linux

Certain positive aspects:

  • the screen is bright enough and convenient for many hours of work;

  • almost completely metal body (except for the lower part of the cover frame);

  • average weight, fast loading of the OS;

  • a large touchpad, in which pressing works on the entire surface (anywhere);

  • comfortable keyboard after some getting used to it;

  • the battery charge is enough for two hours of work in Linux at maximum screen brightness and medium loading;

  • there is an RJ-45 port, two speakers;

  • the power button is moved beyond the keyboard.

It should be noted that this is not a gaming device, as the Intel Iris XE Graphic graphics card is not suitable for many modern games, but most simple and not very new 3D games work even on Linux at maximum settings.

I also liked the quick response of technical support to the request. The manufacturer clarified that the laptop is guaranteed for up to three years and has SCs throughout the Russian Federation.

Inconvenient or negative moments:

  • 1 MP web camera;

  • it is not possible to add an additional drive;

  • it is difficult to disassemble and remove the bottom cover for ordinary users;

  • the charging cable is connected to the right (this is not always convenient and must be taken into account when placing the laptop stationary).

Also, on the manufacturer’s website, an archive of drivers for the laptop is available without restrictions, which takes 2.6 GB to unpack.

In the instructions for the laptop, there is no explanation about the BIOS, the installation of other OS and there is no diagram for removing the back cover, there is no description of the internal parts of the device that can be changed (RAM strips or M.2 PCIe SSD).

There are no separate compartments for accessing the removable elements of the laptop in the device case. To remove the back cover, you need to unscrew 13 screws, and there are also latches that you need to carefully find and unfasten. In the photo below, the Nerpa Caspica variants without a back cover on an Intel and AMD processor.

The manufacturer explained to Habra that Nerpa is constantly improving customer service and support, and quality components are used for branded laptops and other devices. The company assured that all mobile devices are assembled at a high-tech production facility based in Moscow (Vnukovo).

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