Installing Linux Mint on a 2018 Razer Blade 15
Before You Wipe Windows
First, you’ll need to make sure that your BIOS is updated to version 1.05. My unit shipped with BIOS version 1.01 and there was no support for the trackpad in Linux. Fortunately, after the issue was raised, Razer issued a BIOS update within days to fix the issue. The BIOS must be updated from within Windows, as it’s only distributed as a Windows application. This is unfortunate, but at least they fixed the issue.
It should also be noted that before you wipe your Windows partition (if that’s what you intend to do), you set your RGB key lighting to the way you like it. After a reboot and Linux install the lighting will stay where you put it, but there’s no RGB lighting software for Linux at the time of this writing so you likely won’t be able to change it after you install Linux Mint.
Linux Mint Installation
Linux Mint is easily installed from a USB drive. You’ll want to make sure you press F1/Delete during boot to access the BIOS and ensure that Secure Boot is disabled. If you had to update your BIOS, all of your BIOS settings will be reset, so make sure the rest of the BIOS options are set where you want them (if you initially made any changes).
The installation wizard portion of Mint is beyond the scope of this installation, and I’m assuming that if you’re reading this article that you’re looking for “gotchas” and fixes involved with the installation on this specific hardware and know how to perform base system installation.
For my installation, I chose to wipe the entire disk, and chose to encrypt the disk. This means that you’ll have to enter two passwords during boot – one to decrypt the system volume, and a second to log in to your user account. It does take a bit longer, and boot takes roughly 5-7 seconds longer, but if your device is stolen at least your data will be secure.
The rest of the installation is straight-forward and all aspects of the hardware, including all of the secondary functions on the function keys as well as the Wi-Fi works out of the box.
Setting up NVIDIA Drivers
After installation, there is some work involved in getting your nVidia drivers set up. The 2018 Razer Blade 15 uses a GeForce 1060 Max-Q, but also has an Intel video card. It can switch between which card is active, and uses Intel when doing normal desktop tasks, and switches to the nVidia card when playing games or using applications that support GPU acceleration. In Windows, this can be done automatically, but in Linux it’s more of a manual process.
The following command should show you the latest version of the nVidia driver that exists in the Mint/Ubuntu repository:
sudo ubuntu-drivers devices
As you can see, it recommends the package nvidia-390. You should check this yourself and install the latest driver.
Before you install the driver itself, you’ll want to install nvidia-prime. This is a framework that allows us to switch between Intel video and nVidia video.
sudo apt-get install nvidia-prime
You can then install the nVidia display driver
sudo apt-get install nvidia-390
Finally, you’ll want to install the nVidia graphical control panel. This will allow you to change card settings, and switch back and forth between Intel and nVidia devices without using the command line.
sudo apt-get install nvidia-settings
That’s it. At this point you’ll want to reboot the Blade and log back in. When you do, you should have an nVidia icon in the system tray area. You can use that icon to access the nVidia control panel, just like you do in Windows.
You’ll see an option on the left for nVidia Prime, which allows you to switch between nVidia and Intel video. Note that to do this will require a reboot.
Command Line Options
GUI aside, you can use command line commands to check the current display device and to switch between nVidia and Intel video.
This command will show you which adapter is the active adapter. Note that if you change the adapter via the GUI or command line, the output of this command will show you the active adapter as it’s selected in the configuration, but when switching adapters you must still reboot for the change to take effect.
sudo prime-select intel sudo prime-select nvidia
The above two commands will let you change the active adapter. Note again that a reboot is required for the change to take effect.
That’s it! You should now have a fully functional 2018 Blade 15 running Linux Mint and all hardware should work just fine.
It’s worth a note that the function of the way the function keys and FN key is reversed here when compared to how they worked in Windows. Pressing the keys without also pressing the FN key will result in the corresponding F key being pressed. So if you press F1, you’ll get F1. If you press FN + F1, you’ll get the hotkey for Mute.
Other than that, everything else is fairly normal.
I hope this guide helped!