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Purism Librem 5 Review ⚠️ (July 2024)

The Purism Librem 5 is a bold statement in the world of smartphones. It’s not just another sleek, feature-packed device designed to keep you glued to the screen. Instead, it’s a phone built with privacy and security at its core. This Linux-based device promises an experience free from the intrusive surveillance and data collection that plague most modern smartphones.

But is the Librem 5 a practical choice for everyday use? Does its focus on security come at the cost of functionality and user-friendliness? This review aims to answer these questions and explore whether the Purism Librem 5 is truly a viable alternative to the mainstream smartphone experience.

We’ll delve into the phone’s hardware and software, its performance and battery life, as well as its unique features like the hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, and Wi-Fi. We’ll also examine the Librem 5’s user interface, app ecosystem, and how it stacks up against the competition in terms of price and value.

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Whether you’re a tech enthusiast looking for a more secure and private mobile experience or simply curious about the future of smartphones, this review offers a comprehensive look at the Purism Librem 5 and its potential to disrupt the industry.

Name: **Purism Librem 5**
Image: **Purism Librem 5**
Price:
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Purism Librem 5: A Review

Purism Librem 5: A Review

The Purism Librem 5 is a unique and ambitious smartphone that aims to prioritize privacy and security. It’s a Linux-based device that runs on a custom operating system called PureOS, which is designed to be free from proprietary software and backdoors. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at the Librem 5 and see how it stacks up against other smartphones on the market.

The Librem 5 has a distinctive design that sets it apart from the sleek and minimalist smartphones that are popular today. It has a rugged, industrial look with a thick, plastic body. The phone is also relatively large and heavy, which may be a drawback for some users. However, the Librem 5 is built to be durable, and it features a replaceable battery and a microSD card slot.

The Librem 5’s display is a 5.7-inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels. The display is bright and clear, but it lacks the vibrant colors and high refresh rates that are found on many flagship smartphones. However, it is worth noting that the Librem 5 is not marketed as a premium smartphone and focuses more on practicality and usability.

Under the hood, the Librem 5 is powered by a MediaTek MT6797 (Helio X20) processor. This is a relatively old chip, but it’s still capable of handling most everyday tasks. However, the Librem 5 doesn’t perform as well as other smartphones in its price range, especially when it comes to demanding tasks like gaming. The battery life on the Librem 5 is also a mixed bag. It can last for a full day of light use, but heavier use will drain the battery quickly.

The Librem 5’s software is its defining feature. It runs on PureOS, a custom Linux distribution that is designed to be secure and privacy-focused. PureOS is a free and open-source operating system that is built on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The Librem 5 also includes a number of hardware kill switches, including a microphone kill switch, camera kill switch, and a kill switch for the baseband processor, which is used for cellular communication.

The Librem 5’s privacy features are extensive and make it a compelling choice for users who are concerned about their online privacy. The phone doesn’t come with any pre-installed Google apps or services, and it is designed to be as free from proprietary software as possible. However, some users may find the Librem 5’s software to be less user-friendly than the Android operating system.

The Librem 5’s camera is a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera that is capable of capturing decent photos and videos in good lighting conditions. However, the camera struggles in low light, and the image quality is not as good as other smartphones in its price range. The phone also has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera that is adequate for video calls but not for taking selfies.

The Librem 5 comes with a variety of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a microSD card slot. The phone also supports GSM, 3G, and 4G LTE networks, which is essential for staying connected.

The Librem 5 is priced at a premium compared to other smartphones with similar specifications. However, its focus on privacy and security, coupled with its open-source software, may be worth the extra cost for some users.

Overall, the Purism Librem 5 is a unique and interesting smartphone that is designed for users who value privacy and security. It offers a variety of features that are not found on other smartphones, and it is a good choice for users who are looking for a secure and ethical alternative to the mainstream smartphone market. However, it is important to note that the Librem 5 is not without its drawbacks. The phone is expensive, its performance is not as good as other smartphones in its price range, and its camera is not as good as the cameras on other smartphones. But if privacy and security are your top priorities, then the Librem 5 is definitely worth considering.

Design and Build Quality

The Librem 5 is a solidly built phone, though it’s not the most visually appealing. The phone’s design is functional and utilitarian, with a focus on security and privacy. The Librem 5 is made of high-quality materials, including a durable polycarbonate shell and a metal frame. The phone feels sturdy and well-made in hand, though it’s a little bit chunky and heavy compared to other phones on the market.

The phone’s buttons are located on the right side of the phone, while the volume rocker is on the left side. The buttons are tactile and easy to press, even with the phone in a case.

The Librem 5 features a unique design with a small notch at the top of the display. The notch houses the front camera and the earpiece. The phone also has a dedicated privacy switch that disables the microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi. This switch is located on the left side of the phone, just below the volume rocker.

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The Librem 5 comes with a variety of ports, including a USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot. The phone also has a SIM card tray that can hold two SIM cards. The phone’s ports are all located on the bottom of the device.

The Librem 5 is available in a variety of colors, including black, white, and blue. The phone’s design is not flashy, but it’s functional and durable. The Librem 5 is a phone that’s designed to last. It’s also a phone that’s built to be secure and private.

Display and Audio

The Librem 5 boasts a 5.9-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels. While this resolution might seem low compared to modern flagship smartphones, it’s perfectly adequate for everyday use and provides a decent viewing experience. The display is bright enough for outdoor visibility and offers good color accuracy. However, the lack of a higher refresh rate is noticeable, especially when scrolling through apps or playing games.

The Librem 5’s audio experience is somewhat underwhelming. The single speaker located at the bottom of the phone delivers decent sound quality but lacks volume and bass. While it’s sufficient for phone calls and basic multimedia consumption, it falls short compared to other phones in this price range. The lack of a headphone jack is also a significant drawback, forcing users to rely on Bluetooth connectivity for audio output.

However, it’s important to note that the Librem 5 prioritizes privacy and security over features like high-resolution displays and powerful audio systems. The phone’s focus is on providing a secure and user-friendly experience, making it a unique option for users who value these aspects above all else.

Performance and Battery Life

The Librem 5 is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core ARM processor and 3GB of RAM. While this isn’t the most powerful hardware available, it’s sufficient for everyday tasks like browsing the web, checking email, and light productivity. You can even run some basic games, but don’t expect to play anything graphically demanding.

The phone’s performance is generally smooth, with apps launching quickly and navigation feeling responsive. However, there are occasional stutters and lag, especially when multitasking or running demanding apps. This is likely due to the limited RAM and the relatively underpowered processor.

The Librem 5 boasts a 4,000mAh battery, which is on the larger side for a smartphone. In practice, the battery life is decent, lasting a full day of moderate use. This includes browsing the web, checking social media, and making calls. If you’re a heavy user, you might need to recharge the phone before the end of the day.

One notable feature is the Librem 5’s ability to be charged via USB-C or a micro-USB port. This gives users more charging options, especially if they’re traveling or don’t have access to a USB-C charger.

The battery life and performance of the Librem 5 are decent but not exceptional. If you’re looking for a phone with blazing fast performance and long battery life, this isn’t the phone for you. However, for those who value privacy, security, and the ability to customize their software experience, the Librem 5 offers a unique and compelling alternative.

Software and Security

The Librem 5 runs on PureOS, a Debian-based Linux distribution that prioritizes privacy and security. PureOS includes a hardened kernel, system-wide encryption, and a suite of privacy-focused apps. The Librem 5 also features a hardware kill switch for the microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi, allowing you to physically disconnect these components when not in use. This level of security is unmatched by other smartphones, making the Librem 5 an ideal choice for privacy-conscious users.

While PureOS is a solid operating system, it’s not as user-friendly as Android or iOS. For those accustomed to the intuitive interfaces of mainstream operating systems, there will be a learning curve to using PureOS. The app ecosystem is also significantly smaller than Android or iOS, although you can sideload apps from other sources.

The Librem 5’s security features are its most compelling aspect. The hardware kill switches give you unprecedented control over your privacy, and PureOS provides a secure and privacy-focused environment. However, the less-developed software ecosystem and learning curve might be a barrier for some users.

Privacy Features

The Librem 5 is built with privacy in mind, and it comes with a range of features to protect your data. It features a hardware kill switch that disables the microphone, camera, and Wi-Fi. This means that even if someone has physical access to your phone, they can’t easily spy on you. The phone also has a secure boot process that ensures that only trusted software can be loaded. This helps to prevent malware from being installed on your phone.

Purism also offers a variety of privacy-focused apps and services. For example, the Librem 5 comes pre-loaded with the PureOS operating system, which is based on Debian and includes a number of privacy-enhancing features. These features include a built-in VPN, a privacy-focused web browser, and a secure messaging app.

The Librem 5 also uses a variety of open-source technologies, which means that the code is publicly available and can be audited by anyone. This helps to ensure that the phone is not vulnerable to backdoors or other security vulnerabilities. It also helps to ensure that the phone is not collecting data about your usage without your knowledge.

The phone also runs on an open-source operating system, PureOS, which is based on Debian. This means that the phone doesn’t use proprietary software from Google, Microsoft, or other companies that are known to collect data about your usage.

If you’re looking for a phone with a strong focus on privacy, the Librem 5 is a great option. The phone comes with a number of features that help to protect your data and your privacy. However, the phone is not without its drawbacks. It’s expensive, and the battery life could be better. It is also important to remember that no phone is completely immune from hacking, and the Librem 5 is no exception.

Camera and Connectivity

The Librem 5 boasts a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera, which is pretty standard for a phone in this price range. However, what sets the Librem 5 apart is its focus on privacy and security. The camera has a physical kill switch that allows you to completely disable the camera hardware, preventing any unwanted surveillance. Additionally, the Librem 5 uses a custom camera app that doesn’t collect or share any user data.

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In terms of connectivity, the Librem 5 offers a wide range of options. It supports Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC, which enables contactless payments and data transfer. It also includes a built-in GPS receiver for navigation. The phone utilizes a micro-SIM card for mobile connectivity, supporting 4G LTE bands.

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However, the Librem 5’s connectivity is limited compared to other modern smartphones. It lacks support for newer Wi-Fi standards like Wi-Fi 6, and its cellular connectivity is restricted to 4G, missing out on the faster speeds and wider coverage of 5G networks. The phone also doesn’t support dual SIM cards, which can be a drawback for travelers or individuals who require multiple phone numbers.

Overall, the Librem 5’s camera and connectivity features are functional but lack the advanced capabilities of mainstream smartphones. While the focus on privacy and security is admirable, the phone’s limited connectivity options might hinder its appeal for users who rely heavily on modern communication and data transfer technologies.

Price and Value

The Purism Librem 5 is not a cheap phone, but it’s important to consider what you’re getting for your money. The Librem 5 is more than just a phone; it’s a statement about your values. If you prioritize privacy and security above all else, then the Librem 5 is a worthwhile investment. It’s also a great choice for people who are looking for a phone with a long lifespan and a commitment to open-source software.

However, if you’re looking for the most powerful phone on the market or a device with the latest and greatest features, the Librem 5 is not for you. It’s also worth noting that the Librem 5 is a niche product, and there’s no guarantee that it will be supported by third-party app developers.

Here’s a breakdown of the pricing and what you get:

  • Price: The Librem 5 starts at $699 for the base model, which comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. You can also upgrade to 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for $899.
  • Value: At $699, the Librem 5 is not a cheap phone, but it is not unreasonable for a phone that comes with a focus on security and privacy as well as a durable design. There are no phones on the market that offer the same level of privacy and security as the Librem 5. For those who prioritize security and privacy over everything else, the Librem 5 is a good value.

It’s essential to understand that the Librem 5 isn’t designed to be a mainstream device and has compromises in performance and features when compared to a typical flagship phone. However, it’s designed for people who value privacy and security above all else.

Conclusion

The Purism Librem 5 is a unique and compelling device for those who prioritize privacy and security. Its hardware and software are designed with these values at the forefront, offering a level of control and customization that’s unmatched by other smartphones. While the phone isn’t perfect, particularly in terms of performance and battery life, its strengths lie in its commitment to user freedom and control. If you’re looking for a phone that puts you in the driver’s seat and safeguards your data, the Librem 5 is a strong contender. However, if you’re primarily concerned with top-tier performance and a seamless user experience, there are other options available that might be a better fit. Ultimately, the Librem 5’s value lies in its philosophy – it’s a statement piece for those who value ethical technology and data sovereignty above all else.

Pros and Cons

The Librem 5 is a unique device that offers a compelling mix of privacy, security, and open-source software. However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you decide if it’s the right phone for you:

Pros:

  • Uncompromising Privacy: The Librem 5 is built with privacy in mind. Its hardware kill switches for the camera, microphone, and Wi-Fi, combined with its open-source operating system, give you unparalleled control over your data.
  • Security: The Librem 5 runs PureOS, a hardened Linux distribution with a focus on security. This makes it a more secure option than traditional Android or iOS smartphones.
  • Open Source: The Librem 5 is entirely open source, from its hardware to its software. This allows you to customize and modify the device to your liking, and it fosters a community of developers who contribute to its ongoing development.
  • Durability: With its sturdy build and replaceable components, the Librem 5 is designed to last.
  • Ethics and Sustainability: Purism is a company committed to ethical and sustainable practices, including responsible sourcing and the use of recycled materials.

Cons:

  • Performance: The Librem 5’s processor, while powerful for its intended purpose, can struggle with demanding tasks like gaming or intensive apps.
  • Battery Life: Battery life on the Librem 5 is decent, but it doesn’t quite match the endurance of many modern smartphones.
  • App Availability: Due to its unique operating system, app availability is limited compared to Android or iOS. While you can sideload apps, you may not find every app you need.
  • Price: The Librem 5 is significantly more expensive than most mainstream smartphones, making it a considerable investment.
  • Limited Network Support: The Librem 5 only supports a limited range of mobile networks. Check compatibility before purchasing.
  • Learning Curve: If you’re used to Android or iOS, using PureOS will require some learning. The user interface is different, and some common features may be handled differently.

Alternatives to the Librem 5

Finding a phone with the same level of privacy and security focus as the Librem 5 can be tough. However, there are some alternatives worth exploring, each with their own strengths and weaknesses:

  • PinePhone: This device is another popular choice for privacy-conscious users. It runs on a variety of open-source operating systems, including the popular PureOS, and emphasizes community development. The PinePhone comes with a lower price tag than the Librem 5, but its hardware specs are generally less powerful.

  • Fairphone: This company focuses on ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices, with a strong emphasis on repairability. Their phones prioritize longevity and minimal environmental impact. While not specifically designed for privacy, the Fairphone’s open-source software and security-focused approach make it a solid choice for those who value transparency.

  • The “DIY” Option: If you’re truly committed to privacy and control, consider building your own phone using a Raspberry Pi or a similar platform. This is a more complex and demanding option, requiring technical knowledge and significant effort. However, it provides complete control over the hardware and software.

  • Android Phones with Custom ROMs: While not specifically designed for privacy, Android phones can be heavily customized with custom ROMs like LineageOS. These ROMs offer a more open and customizable Android experience, allowing you to remove bloatware, control permissions, and enhance security. While not as secure as a phone built with privacy in mind, it’s a viable option for those willing to put in the effort.

Remember, the ideal phone for you will depend on your individual priorities and needs. If you’re looking for a truly secure and private phone with a focus on open-source software, the Librem 5 is an excellent option. But if you’re willing to compromise on some features or are looking for a more affordable alternative, the other options listed above might be worth considering.

Final Thoughts

The Purism Librem 5 is a unique and compelling device for those who prioritize privacy and security. Its hardware and software are designed from the ground up to protect your data, and its open-source nature gives you complete control over your experience. While it may not be the best choice for everyone, especially those looking for a high-performance device or a wide range of apps, it’s a compelling option for privacy-conscious individuals willing to embrace a different approach to mobile computing. If you’re looking for a smartphone that truly puts your privacy first, the Librem 5 deserves serious consideration.

In conclusion, the Purism Librem 5 is a compelling choice for users seeking a truly private and secure smartphone experience. While it may not have the cutting-edge hardware and user-friendly interface of mainstream options, it excels in its commitment to privacy and user control. The Librem 5’s hardware kill switches, secure operating system, and open-source nature empower users to regain control over their data and online activities. If you value privacy and security above all else, the Librem 5 is worth considering.

However, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations. The device’s performance can be sluggish, and its battery life is relatively short. The lack of app availability can also be a significant drawback for many users. Ultimately, the Librem 5 is not for everyone. It’s a niche product that caters to a specific audience.

If you’re willing to sacrifice some convenience and performance for the sake of privacy, the Librem 5 might be the perfect device for you. However, if you prioritize a seamless and feature-rich smartphone experience, you may be better off with a more mainstream option.

The Purism Librem 5 is a testament to the growing demand for privacy-focused technology. It serves as a reminder that users have a choice when it comes to their data and online interactions. While it may not be the most user-friendly or powerful smartphone on the market, it offers a valuable alternative for those who value privacy and security above all else.

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