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Ask HN: Are there any reasonable alternatives to MacBook Pro for developer?
472 points by robsun 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 496 comments

I'm writing this on my late 2012 MacBook Pro. Time goes by and I know rather sooner than later I'll need to replace it with a new machine. In 2012 I paid around 1000$ for MacBook Pro + Samsung SSD (256GB) + 16GB RAM, I made modifications on my own.

I check notebookcheck from time to time. I read reviews, opinions about new laptops. The point is, I don't know if there is any machine that could be recommended in reasonable price. At work I'm using some new MacBook Pro which (i5/16GB/128GB SSD) which is noticeably slower than my current machine.

Performance of the computer is quite important for me. I'm an Android developer, compilation of a big project I'm working on takes enormous amount of RAM and CPU nowadays (with new Android Studio it's even worse). From time to time I work on web projects, so handling several instances of docker shouldn't be a problem for a new machine. I prefer Linux over MacOs over Windows, so good support for Ubuntu/Fedora would be nice.

I checked some computers in details but most of them fail in one or more aspects: - hinges - MacBook has superior hinges, if I pay more than 1000 - 1500$ I expect to have great hinges - price - performance - Linux support

Price is quite important for me, I'm from Eastern Europe. What computer would you recommend in, let's say, <2000$ ?

I’m on my 4th Thinkpad T-series - T520, T530, T450s, T460s - each one was a a winner. I ditched the T5XX series when they borked the keyboard layout by adding a numpad. Used to run Ubuntu, now I run Debian, stable or testing depending on point in release cycle at install time. I plan to take another look at Ubuntu now that they gave up on Unity. A coworker is happily on the T470s (first USB-C in the series). I always get 1920x1080 since my eyes are accustomed to it, but multiple coworkers are happy with 2560x1440. Used to get the Nvidia cards, now very happy with the integrated Intel graphics. In general, last year’s hardware requires almost zero messing with Linux to make everything work, whereas with the latest hardware, be prepared to solve a couple minor issues. Ubuntu’s font rendering or Infinality are both amazing and better than macOS or Win10 to my eyes.

I’m ridiculously excited to eventually upgrade to a T480s because it’s the first in the series to offer a quad-core CPU. They’re selling the quad-core with Intel graphics which is exactly what I want. I hope Lenovo did a good job with the thermal engineering...

Thanks to all the open source developers that deliver this totally rad experience on Linux, Debian, and Gnome <3

Friendly reminder that Lenovo made a deliberate choice to ship malware payloads to its customers from the factory [0] by preinstalling an SSL MITM proxy configuration from an adware vendor. This is not some suspicious technology with legitimate uses like Intel Management Engine. This is not concerns about the second-order implications of your voluntary uploads to Facebook and Google. It's not even an agency with a real national-security mission overstepping its bounds. It's honest-to-goodness we're-going-to-fuck-you-because-we-can pwnage officially authorized at the highest levels of the company to make a few bucks. When you ask your Lenovo machine to browse the web, you're not seeing the web, you're seeing a version edited by Lenovo's advertising partners. Sure, anyone here can beat it, but where else in the stack have they subverted your machine?

If you're even slightly concerned about data privacy and user freedom, please do not be complicit in Lenovo's continued existence.

[0] https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/6/16261988/lenovo-adware-sup...

Thinkpads weren't affected [source] (https://support.lenovo.com/lu/en/product_security/superfish).

You're welcome to boycott the company, but the corporate models are protected.

One might boycott a restaurant because they don't like its political activism, labor and sourcing practices, etc. This is much simpler than that. Lenovo served poisoned food. Not as a food-safety oversight, but as a matter of policy. The fact that they only did it for some menu items is irrelevant.

A better comparison might be that they stole your credit card number. Lenovo did not kill anyone or endanger their lives

Stolen personal information which is later exposed in a data leak can certainly kill someone. In expectation it is less likely than food poisoning, but it still seems ridiculous to downplay the gravity of all of it.

That has got to be the most fucked up thing about capitalism: Correction signals are painfully slow, delayed and weak. You can mostly only penalize a company by boycotting their products (unless they seriously break a law), but for the individual, there is often more utility in continuing buying their products than in sending a corrective signal, so the overall signal mostly vanishes except for a small, intellectual minority that can afford extremely high moral standards.

No, this isn’t a fucked up thing about capitalism. If the state monopoly on computer production did this, you wouldn’t even be able to personally opt out. You’re not going to swing the votes of an electoral majority over a niche and technocratic issue.

Isn’t it possible the Thinkpad lines are managed by different people with different forms of corruption?

Why would we care who the individuals were/are? Corporate personhood is a two way street. If THE company full-willingly serves poison pills without tellling you, why trust them at all? It’s a damn company, who obviously feels they don’t need your trust, so fuck em.

That's not what corporate personhood means

Because it’s not like the group of people looking to install openBSD on something is really a deciding financial block. But we sure still have a right to look for the best available hardware for us.

They haven't done it as far as anyone knows

IIRC the dev-beloved T- models were not affected though. (Can't find the reference right now though)

Proposed alternatives?


I care greatly and would never buy a Lenovo because of it.

I have a collection of old ThinkPads going back to the R31. I loved ThinkPad -- Linux compatible, nice keyboard, trackpoint, the well thought out work light you could activate in the dark. But Lenovo lost my trust and have done nothing to regain it. I'm not buying another ThinkPad.

They did it twice (once in BIOS) and I care. Never again Lenovo!

Do your co-workers not have issues with HiDPI support on Linux? I've heard it's not the best experience and can require quite some fiddling to get working correctly.

The bad news: There's no unified HiDPI solution on Linux that works well end-to-end.

The good news: You don't really need one.

Bumping the font configuration fixes 80% of the scenarios, and the rest I tweak on a case-by-case basis. The good standards-conforming apps (e.g. modern terminals, browsers, etc) automatically multiply the font sizes by your screen DPI. Most desktop managers have a scale sliders for the GUI size, if you're into that. Some stragglers include Steam which recently added support for a 2x size multiplier (it's something, but not the best).

You kinda get exposed to how the sausage is made, but the sausage still tastes great.

Linux desktop is better than it ever was, but the road to perfection is long and eternal.

my system76 handles 4k perfectly

system76 actually ships a custom daemon that makes mixed LowDPI/HiDPI setups easier to manage, and I hope other distros will follow suit:


HiDPI on Linux is pretty much non existent. I am telling from experience. I have booth a decent 4K external monitor and a HiDPI IPS internal display. The only setup which is ok in the sense of least horrible is Gnome mutter Wayland with experimental per monitor fractional scaling enabled. And this one is only ok if you can restrict yourself to the few ported pure GTK3 Gnome apps. Which means not that much. No Firefox. No Chrome. No Thunderbird.

And the speed of fixing HiDPI on Linux has actually slowed down.

Frnakly, and I am a hard core Linux OSS fan - come back in two years and check again.

The Linux desktop IS dead.

Huh? I've been running a 2x/192dpi Linux/X11 laptop for a couple of years, and the experience has been near perfect. Hands down better than on Windows. Some DEs even detect the panel DPI and configure toolkit scaling automatically. Firefox and Chrome have been two of the most well-behaved apps, especially since they switched to GTK3, but it's not just GTK3 that is well-behaved, Qt5 is as well. Since most apps I use are Qt5 and some are GTK3, they all get crisp HiDPI rendering automatically from the toolkit.

So I'm not sure what you mean by "HiDPI on Linux is pretty much non existent." Maybe it gets worse if you need fractional scaling or displays with different scaling ratios, but these seem to things all platforms are struggling with. Microsoft only made built-in apps like File Explorer per-monitor-DPI aware in Windows 10 1703 (released a year ago), and macOS doesn't attempt fractional scaling (eg. 1.5x, 2.5x, etc.) at all.

So, what exactly is it that you expect as "HiDPI" support which is missing? As far as I can recall, it has been possible to configure the actual physical size/DPI for a monitor for many, many years. Any properly functioning X application should then be able to draw things a correct size on the screen, e.g. fonts sized in points or images and figures scaled to actual widths. I think this infrastructure may even pre-date the switch from XFree86 to Xorg. Is your complaint that there are still some applications which ignore this monitor DPI metadata or which do other pixel-based techniques?

Like the previous poster, I stick to 1920x1080 on my 14-inch class Thinkpad. In my office I have dual 28-inch 4K monitors. These have identical dot pitch to my Thinkpad, so each monitor is like having a 2x2 array of my Thinkpad screens. When I made sure the monitors were set with the correct DPI, everything worked exactly as I would expect. Whatever rendered as one pixel on my laptop would also be one pixel on my workstation, and I just had 8 times more real estate on my dual monitor desktop. But, I sit further from the monitors than I do my laptop screen while also using them for much longer stretches of time. So, I adjusted the workstation to pretend it had higher DPI so that things would render a little bigger.

It's been a few years, but I think I may have had to separately adjust Firefox because it has some of its own weird assumptions about fonts and DPI that I assume come from their renderer straddling several different platforms. I also had to adjust emacs and xterm to change from my decades old fixed font preferences to start using scalable fonts.

Mix HiDPI screens and non HiDPI ones, lots of very real corner cases that you hit daily make the experience terrible in ways that can only be "fixed" through terrible hacks and tweaks, if at all.

OK, so I guess the problem comes from trying to fuse everything into one screen? In the old days, we would run X with separate screen numbers to get multiple outputs via multiple graphics cards. You could slide your mouse between screens, but you couldn't drag a window across or have a window spanning the two screens. Each window remained confined to one screen, and only a few apps knew how to open windows on more than one screen from the same app instance. (A few, like emacs, even understand opening windows on multiple displays!)

Out of curiosity, what is a non-broken behavior supposed to be if the screens are combined? Do people expect the low-dpi screen to be a blurry version of whatever would appear on the high-dpi screen, or do they expect it to act like a magnifier, perhaps with pan/zoom controls?

> In the old days, we would run X with separate screen numbers to get multiple outputs via multiple graphics cards

Those days are gone. No matter how hard you try - either you are simply not runing on current hardware, have very modest expectations or close your eyes to realize that the Linux desktop in this regard is at least two years behind, minimum!

I am not arguing, I am genuinely wondering what you guys want. I have read multiple assertions that Linux is broken but no clear explanation of what it should be doing differently.

For reference, I have been using Linux continuously on all sorts of hardware since 1994. What I lack is any practical experience using modern Windows or Mac OS, so I have no idea what implicit expectations you may be bringing from those. The last time I ran Windows directly on hardware was before Windows 95 was released, and similarly my only real Mac experience was on monochrome classic Macs before OS X existed.

Over the years, I have used just about every sort of display hardware with Linux, ranging from serial terminals, Hercules monochrome graphics, 800x600 through 1600x1200 CRTs, the first wave of DVI-based LCDs, various HDTVs, the first DLP projectors, and my current dual 4K monitors. I was also involved in the early testing and deployment of 2D and 3D accelerators on Linux, as well as things like clusters driving arrays of projectors. We even had one of those IBM "Big Bertha" displays in our lab at one point, which was one of the first 300 DPI LCD monitors available. Just about the only thing I haven't used with Linux is head-mounted displays nor stereo glasses. My last involvement with VR was 20 years ago when SGI Onyx-based CAVE systems were prevalent in academia, combining head-tracking, active shutters, and multiple wall projectors.

But, to be honest, I have no use case to combine different DPI monitors into a single graphical screen or desktop. If I connect a laptop to a projector or display panel for presentations, I tend to just want to duplicate the presentation view on the internal screen. Otherwise, I use the laptop to be mobile and I use workstations with their dedicated displays.

Try KDE on Wayland. Full support for HiDPI, full support for multiple monitors of different DPI even.

I did. I recently switched from KDE after more than 15! years to Gnome because KDE on Waykand is broken beyond usability. It comes for a reason that even Neon, which I used back then, doesn't come with Wayland out of the box.

And frankly, X is a dead end.

> broken beyond usability

Were you using Nvidia? On AMD and Intel it’s been working amazing for me so far, never had any issue. Nvidia is known for disobeying the standards.

It's Intel and its not the pure hraphics but the ecosystem. Wanted to enter diacretics into Emacs? The quick search bar poped up instead an accent egu in Emacs (compose key). It's that sort of things, not directly bad display. The end result was nevertheless unusable though.

HiDPI on Linux is only broken if you need fractional scaling, or different per-monitor scaling factors. If you stick to screens that work well at 200% (e.g. 4K on 24"), then current desktops will work just fine in my experience.

That sounds like a draconian restriction if you are coming from Windows 10, but OP is switching from macOS. Macs have traditionally used either 100% or 200% as well (except for the latest-gen MBP).

Linux desktop is doing fine. But I prefer to avoid GTK when possible. It's years behind Qt. Some thing like Firefox are necessary though, but it's a pity it's stuck with GTK.

linux desktop is isn’t dead.

The biggest problem in linux is not directly HiDPI. HiDPI works (mostly).

However if you can't use wayland you will have a problem when you need the following:

Multiple monitors with different screen resultions. Lets say your laptop has 4k and you use two external monitors with 1080p than it gets tricky with older wayland or x.org. However on later stable/edge channels most things are probably better than when I tested this and I even have a colleague which has a 13" xps with ubuntu which works pretty will with its docking station.

If you have a good GPU you can use the xrandr commandline tool to set up display scaling, so your secondary low-DPI screen is rendered at high DPI and scaled down. Then you only need one DPI setting for your DE.

Well, it‘s good that it „could“ work, however i expect it to work without searching the Internet for xrandr configs. (And as said newer Weston/Wayland work way better)

I agree; I post the fact that its possible more as a condemnation of the UI for not getting it right.

2560x1440 doesn't even require HiDPI support really. Just increasing the font sizes is enough. The Ubuntu Unity desktop has abstracted away that in a single slider for a long time. Apparently the next GNOME version is going to go all the way and do non-integer scaling of controls as well but in my experience that's just a small benefit, just tweaking up the font sizes is more than enough.

Surprisingly, both engineers on the 2560x1440 are happy! They run Ubuntu with a second screen at their desks (27” 2560x1440 external monitors). I’m actually the one that’s unhappy because their font size is too small for me to see when pairing ;)

BTW I think 2560x1440 may not be high enough to technically be considered HiDPI?

As someone with a 2560x1440 (27”) display at work and a 5120x2880 (27”) display at home, the former is very much not HiDPI, not even close :)

DPI is Dots per inch. It's a density. As a matter of fact, 2560×1440 on a 14" notebook display is nearly identical to 5120×2880 on a 27" display.

I'm talking about 2560x1440 on 27", as is GP, and comparing that resolution at 27" to the pixel doubled resolution at 27"?

108 PPI for the former is not HiDPI, which is my point.

I'm quite aware of pixel density, but thanks for the Wikipedia definition.

I wish everything just used wayland and scaled correctly I am sick of having to launch chrome with an environment variable so it can run on one screen and having another instance for another. Also silly things like file dialogs not fitting. It's annoying when you look and the issues are all from years ago and still not fixed.

It's actually quite OK, with just some minor annoyances. Three scenarios for my use case:

1. Use the laptop screen only. This is easy. Just change the DPI value in my ~/.Xprofile and everything is solved.

2. Use external monitors only. Just use the default DPI value.

3. Use laptop screen in combination with external monitors. This doesn't occur hat often. But when I have to do this, there are also some ways to make it work. You can refer to https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/HiDPI for some reference.

- The first way is to increase the DPI in ~/.Xprofile and actually scale up the external monitor instead. I don't like this method since the external monitor just looks blurry for some reason.

- Or you can keep the DPI and downscale your internal monitor.

- Or, and this is what I do currently, use apps that support manually setting DPI in their settings, e.g. Firefox and Thunderbird, on the laptop display. You can also manually change font sizes of apps that you're going to use on the laptop display. This is a bit inconvenient but the display result will look totally natural.

I have no problems on KDE for home use, I think the problems are mixing multiple screens with different pixel densities.

Best i understand, the problem child is Gnome. The devs involved there basically ignore xorg provided DPI information, resulting in all kinds of problems.

Works great with Mate.

Gnome has always worked pretty well with High DPI. But yes Linux display managers are generally pretty bad, as I learned with my 1440p 13 inch laptop as recently as 2015.

I have a Thinkpad P71 and I run NixOS on it. Works great with a 5k monitor, and DPI is perfect.

Most apps are written in GTK or Qt, which do scaling well.

The main issue is that scaling can't really be done on a per-display basis.


I'm on a ThinkPad t470s, amazing little machine, I love it more than my old MacBook Pro 2015.

> I ditched the T5XX series when they borked the keyboard layout by adding a numpad

Let's hope this changes soon.



I'm a huge fan of the X1 Carbon

Using a Lenovo X1 Carbon (running Gentoo Linux) since ~1y and I absolutely love it - excellent battery runtimes (~6h with mixed programming activities, 8-10h if mostly idle, no crashes so far). Keyboard, touchpad and screen are fantastic. Threw it a couple of times (forgot I had it in my bag) onto my car's seat without repercussions (did the same with an XPS 13 but keyboard got skewed).

Same here, out entire dev shop is X1 Carbons on Linux.

What sort of battery life do you get for normal dev activities?

I have the 5th gen x1c and I'd say 6-8ish hours if you use tlp or powertop, although I've never actually run it all the way down to zero battery before.

X1 Carbon 3rd gen has been my personal laptop for 3 years and it's my favorite PC laptop.

I just replaced my T410 with a T480, and have been very pleased so far. Installed Debian on it without a hitch.

I got a model with the dGPU, and it's working fine so far—I only use the dGPU when I'm gaming on Windows. I might be losing some battery from not properly disabling the dGPU when running under Linux, but I haven't bothered to check yet (battery life has been good enough). The machine is very very fast.

One caveat on the T480: only the versions with the dGPU have two heat pipes—the iGPU models have one; therefore, apparently the dGPU model has better cooling, regardless of whether you're using the dGPU or not. The T480s has two heat pipes regardless of whether you have the dGPU or not.

The /r/thinkpad subreddit has a lot of conversations around the thermal engineering of each model—lots of information to consume there.

I greatly prefer my T480 to my work-issued Macbook Pro Retina—more ports (Ethernet!), more flexibility (I can configure it to not automatically go to sleep when I close the lid), and a vastly better keyboard. It's also easier to service and more upgradable. I was able to get seven+ years out of my T410, and I intend to do the same with my T480 (at least that's what I told my wife, to justify the cost... :-D ).

Regarding Infinality: note that it's long deprecated and unmaintained, and it will break freetype2 stuff.

See <https://gist.github.com/cryzed/e002e7057435f02cc7894b9e748c5...

The gist 404s. Is there an alternative that has emerged?

Lisa Gades review of the T480, T480S and X1 Carbon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOsERJzMhLc

If you also get an account at perksatwork.com, you can get 30-45% off a T-series.

I don’t really understand how people overlook the whole Chinese government thing with regard to Lenovo. Can someone shed light on this? I would be very uncomfortable using Lenovo, and I’m not even a huge privacy person. But Lenovos must be bugged by the Chinese. How could they not be?

I'm confused as to why anyone would strongly believe something like this without any tangible evidence. For one thing, there are hundreds of hardware hackers that look for things like this, so it seems like if it were an issue one of them would have found evidence of it. For another, China knows this and wouldn't want to risk their global reputation in trade for something (spying on average citizens) that would have very little payoff compared to the long-term economic damage it would do.

Besides, as another commentator pointed out, if you're going to be worried about a country spying on you, it should at least be your own country.

There is a lot of tangible evidence of Chinese government engaging in mass hacking. It's not a courtroom; I don't have to wait for a smoking gun; maybe there already are some.

> But Lenovos must be bugged by the Chinese. How could they not be?

Instead of that, why don't you say Google must be bugged by the Americans. How could it not be? In fact, the main reason why the Chinese government banned Google is that all the data e.g. Gmails would be stored in a US server, which can be inspected by the American government any time if they want. It would be a nightmare for Chinese national security. Some other governments e.g. South Korea are realizing the same danger and are following suit by requiring their government/military officials to not use American services.

Compared with that, I'd say using Linux and having full control over the software is as private as you can get.

Where would such a bug be?

If you’re installing Linux, that wipes out software bugs (seems the most likely place to me). Lenovo provide details about the components and design, which means you could verify/replace things if you like. ThinkPads are trusted enough by the USG for various uses (though they seem to prefer Dell).

Personally I’m more freaked out by Intel’s Management Engine.

> If you’re installing Linux, that wipes out software bugs

Linux would address OS bugs, and it brings bugs of its own. All your applications also could be exploited.

> Intel’s Management Engine

That and other pre-boot subsystems are exploitable by adversaries.

Nothing you said is specific to Lenovo.

The parent makes no sense to me.

I think the same thing every time I see someone on HN recommend Lenovo. Glad someone is calling it out.

That said, if you're not Chinese/in China, the Chinese govt has little/no power over you, and probably isn't sharing what they collect on you with your govt, which does.

Thinkpads are used in the ISS (International Space Station)

I went through this last year.

I looked at Macbook Pro, Dell XPS15 and Thinkpad T470P.

In the end I went for the T470P (i7-7700HQ (4 core/8 thread) w/ 2560x1440 screen, 16GB of RAM (upgraded myself to 32GB)) and the bigger battery (pretty much no optional with a 35W TDP processor).

I tried the XPS15 but the keyboard was bad and the fit and finish wasn't awesome.

I've had zero issues with linux support or the machine generally, build quality is excellent, I personally like the styling but many don't.

It's so fast that I held off building a new desktop (and packed the old one away) and battery life is very good if you aren't maxing out the CPU, I've had over 8 hours of actual work time, screen is good, sharp and decently bright.

In the UK it came with a three year warranty as standard vs 1yr for the Dell.

It was also 300 quid cheaper than the Dell.

I ruled out the Macbook Pro on price and the fact I couldn't put 32GB of RAM into it.

At work I have a Ryzen 1700 with 32GB RAM and a SATA SSD, Intellij with a bunch of plugins loads faster on my thinkpad than that machine (NVMe SSD vs SATA SSD basically, the Ryzen should demolish any laptop processor with threaded code).

It's a solid little machine.

The new higher core count lower TDP intel processors look interesting, I suspect the T480P (if they do one) will have those, 35W TDP is a lot compared to 15W, I suspect that the 7700HQ will still beat them handily and extreme battery life wasn't an issue for me, anything over 5 hours is fine I'm never away from AC for longer than that.

What version of Linux are you running where you have had zero issues, Thank you...

I'd also be interested in this. I've never once run linux on a laptop flawlessly - and I've been trying for a decade.

This depends more on the hardware these days. Most drives, CPUs, etc work just fine without configuration. Wifi drivers are pretty good these days. Maybe you'll hit a snag with those if you're really unlucky.

The bad part is still GPUs. Even then, they're usually much better than 10 years ago. AMD GPUs have better drivers than Nvidia, in general. Older GPUs are better supported in general.

Personally, I'm happily using Intel integrated for everything I do. But even then, even as much as I think Linux is the best choice of my available options, there are flaws as with any other OS. Regarding the Iris Pro, the mesa driver stack had a bug (related to srgb) introduced in August of last year which was only fixed this month and caused several OpenGL applications to fail to run.

I think the Linux experience is still the best for development, and I've used the other two major OSs both extensively.

As for practical advice, Manjaro is a great match between rolling release and well-tested packages.

Fedora 27.

I also run fedora on a X230 and have full time since 19. Never an issue.

> I ruled out the Macbook Pro on price and the fact I couldn't put 32GB of RAM into it.

Just curious, how has 32 GB ram on it affected battery life?

I think a couple of replies are missing one aspect to your question. If you have more RAM and you use it, you'll probably have more processes to drain the battery. I noticed this when my desktop went from 8GB to 16GB under Unity and extra Google Chrome/Vivaldi/Firefox tabs.

On the other hand, it encouraged me to buy a faster and more energy efficient graphics card, run i3wm, and buy an SSD. That fixed the problem.

So a laptop with 32GB RAM might mean you'll push it harder, but I guess it also opens up the opportunity to run VMs, etc. Regardless, highly-specced device is cheap, Apple or otherwise.

At the moment, I think my favoured approach is an ultrabook + desktop system. Laptops will never be desktop replacements so long as you can pack more punch per dollar into a desktop. As usual, it's horses for courses. I think ultrabooks are best used as devices of focus and for mobility. Putting the kitchen sink into them doesn't make a whole lot of sense, usually.

No appreciable different at all, with a 35W processor RAM power consumption just isn't an issue.

I think power consumption by RAM is more affected by the number of sticks rather than their capacity. As long as they're only 2 slots (most laptops are except ultra-high-end machines), the power difference between 16GB and 32GB should be negligible.


I couldn't agree enough. I went with the T470p, i7700HQ, 32GB RAM, and 1TB SSD. This this is amazing.

I unfortunately must dual boot just in case I need to use software or services that require Windows. I just wiped their default installation with Windows 10 Education edition, gave it 256GB of space, then installed Arch on the other partition.

I mainly use Arch and have only used Windows for the first day or two of having the laptop. I get around 8-10 hours of usage, similar to you, and everything is just awesome. Even while running a VM or two the battery like is still good!

my 2c on T470p I had a change to compare T470P and P50 with same config. Benchmarks are very similar, so no diff. there. I own a P50 and colleague has the T470p and the biggest diff is the size of notebook of course,but what I hate on P50 is the keyboard offset b/c of the numpad keys. It's hard to type with arms straight and screen at center, so there is always a slight angle to that .. 8h+ daily work on that and you start to feel the strain on that. So wouldn't go with p50 if i could choose now. On other hand 470p is 14" and keyboard is symmetric (no numpad) so much better ergonomics, but the fan noise and heat that this notebook creates is more than usual. I guessing because of the smaller form factor they were not able to cram a better colling system. So on idle this thing just blast hot air like crazy. When we do team work and sit next to each other, it blows so much hot air that i need to move further away,b/c it burn my hand from the fan duct. So can't imagine what will it do in full load and in summer...

A warning about Dell XPS (13") screens: if you take the matte display and like coding with dark color schemes it's horrible (but there might be a fix).

It does loose all contrast on dark images. Saving battery they brighten the displayed image and lower the back light. This lowers 100% white to maybe a 80% white and makes for horrible contrast.

For those affected:

- you can test if you have this issue here: http://tylerwatt12.com/dc/

- for a fix you can go through the comments here: https://github.com/advancingu/XPS13Linux/issues/2

But be warned, the leaked firmware someone posted does not always work right (but fixed it for me).

If I read the latest comment right there might be an official patch now (after years of this issue). (at least it doesn't say QHD in the file name) (this is what the last comment links to: http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/19/drivers/driversdet... )

Want another dell display goodie? Their "display manager" for external displays downloads updates via http, through your browser, from a domain other than dell.com, as an exe, signed by their contractor.

There was a similar issue on my Asus laptop. It made me crazy. After lots of searching online, I found that the issue is with Intel HD Graphics settings, not the laptop. I had to disable "Display Power Saving Technology" in Intel HD Graphics Control Panel and it solved the issue.

I manually installed the OS and drivers. I can't find a good reason why Intel enabled this horrible option by default.

well this one is baked in to the FW. I tried that setting too :)

Dunno which era that one is, my XPS15 9560 never dims at all, it's always bright, maybe that's because I'm missing some sort of userland or kernel driver, but frankly I like it this way.

It's an issue across generations (and even across manufacturers, it's the displays firmware after all). I think it's the 13" FHD version affected. My 15" is also fine.

+1 to this, currently typing from a two-weeks new XPS15 9560. Manually installed Windows and graphics drivers, I have tinkered with the Intel HD Graphics settings a fair bit previously, however. Would not be surprised if that were the culprit to some extent.

The adaptive brightness issue is fixed. But Dell messed up with the keyboard on the latest XPS 9370 and made it unusalbe for any fast typists. See the post at https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/XPS-13-9370-Keyboard-Skip.... I'd strongly recommend Thinkpad over XPS. The build quality is much more trustworthy.

I use a 9370 and haven't noticed this. It might be that my typing speed is too slow.

That said, I only use the builtin keyboard when away from my desk. I have a thunderbolt dock with a full-size keyboard; for most devs that have a real office this is what I'd recommend anyway.

If you can't use a dock most of the time and you like the XPS 13 otherwise, the most recent LG gram is also very nice and has a better battery life to boot.

> A warning about Dell XPS (13") screens: if you take the matte display and like coding with dark color schemes it's horrible (but there might be a fix).

i have a kaby lake FHD xps 13, which i love, but this is a valid complaint. that said, i am using the An Old Hope theme with vscode and it works fine. you just need to try out a bunch of dark themes before you find one that pops.

did you try the last link? looks promising. summer is coming after all, time to get some sun screen :)

I had a similar problem with an HP ProBook 650 that I bought a few years ago. The laptop was reasonable in most ways, but the matte screen is so dim that it's barely usable.

it's really not dim, it's just that they f* with dark images to save battery.

No, it's dim, trust me.

I recent got a 15 inch Dell Precision. I’m running a recent Ubuntu. I don’t recommend.

It constantly throttles the CPI. I get lots of PCIe recoverable errors. The USB bus runs out of available throughout. Plugging anything Displaylink is a disaster.

The camera/microphone is below the screen, which sucks more than I expected.

It takes 2 hands to open the laptop.

It is possible to plug in the power supply such that computer thinks it is charging but it actually drains the battery.

I own a dell xps 15. Same, i don't recommand it. Autonomy is abysmal, usbc support very poor, the bios took a year to be stable and the sound died after some months. Not worth the price tag. Mind you, the xps 13 doesn't seem to have the same problems.

I still love my old samsung 9 serie and wish the brand would have worked out the quirks and made a new one.

My next try will be a thinkpad carbon since every owner around me are very happy.

This was also my experience with the XPS15. Took a lot of struggle just for really basic hardware to start working properly on the ubuntu side, also extremely painful to install ubuntu itself and to have it recognize the XPS15's touchpad.

I would not spend 1400$ and 10-20 hours to configure the damn thing again, do not recommend.

I had enough hiccups getting a clean install of Windows 10 Pro to function fully featured on my XPS15 (6 individual drivers to get full support from the Thunderbolt dock), I couldn't imagine getting a Linux environment going.

Had the same experience with Dell XPS and ubuntu 17.02 and earlier versions.

Upgrading 17.10 and everything is working perfectly.

Still would rather use my MacBook though because of software incompatibilities.

Interesting, so everything works on the xps 15 w/ Ubuntu 17.10? I want to pull the trigger on buying one but I am concerned about the Linux support.

Also, do you know if the new XPS 15 support a two hard drive configuration?

technically it does not "work" but after some amount of hours of googling specific issues that pop up you can get it going. it's painful though.

Any pointers on specific issues to look out for? I'm thinking of upgrading from 16.04 on my XPS 15

I use the precision. my biggest issue was with getting encrypted drive setup. the trick was to use the dell recovery image to install with encryption. this works but leaves the machine with an older kernel that doesn't have all the tweeks around usbc and wifi and such. You have to switch to the Hardware Enablement Stack to get it running well.

I have the Dell Precision M5520 developer edition which is the Linux version of the XPS 15 with Intel WiFi and I opted for only integrated graphics to avoid graphics drivers on Linux.

It works flawlessly with Ubuntu 17.10. I have the UHD screen which looks great with 2x scaling. I do a lot of work with Docker and can work much faster on Linux than before when I was on a MBP and had to run a VM.

Do you manage to get the 11h hours of battery they promised when they first marketed the laptop ? Because I get 4h on a good day.

I probably get 5-6 when coding and browsing in Linux. I have the big battery that fills the hard drive bay.

Everything works great for me, no problems.

Also got the xps 15 and don't recommend it.

The PCH overheats very easily causing cpu/gpu tasks to throttle for its life.

The system has a interrupt overload from the WiFi extreme which causes subtle stuttering.

I've lost 47%battery health in just over a year.

The sound pops when playing YouTube videos and sometimes just goes Max volume until the sound card resets.

The graphics card didn't work when I got it and had to be downgraded to a different model and version for it to work.

The thing is a piece of shit. I had the macbook 2015 before that and it worked flawlessly in comparison.

> Mind you, the xps 13 doesn't seem to have the same problems.

Maybe not the same but I've also had bad time with 13. Coil whine, 10 seconds to dell logo after pressing power button (sic!) and u had one firmware update that bricked the laptop. Fortunately it was still under warranty. And don't get me even started on accessories (TB15 was a disaster that should've been recalled).

I have an XPS 13 and also cannot recommend it. Same deal with the coil whine (it's a very annoying buzz sound). After a while, my battery began to swell too, which has broken the touchpad and visibly elevated the keyboard.

I have an XPS 15 (>2 years old) and also had battery swell, which made the trackpad unusable along with other safety concerns. Dell decided to replace the batteries for the 84wh model for free, but not for the 56wh model, which is very disappointing...

Also the throttling in the XPS 15 is real. Even with the 960m I can't even run light games on it because of frequent fps drops... And the BIOS was pretty unstable for the first year (laptop running fans at maximum while in sleep mode, while getting really hot inside my bag), with lots of coil whine. Overall, I am very disappointed in the overall build quality of it (I previously had a 2010 macbook pro and had no problems). Going to try a Lenovo for my next laptop (it seems to have less build quality issues)

:/ wow, I was about to sell my 2015 mbp and get a xps. If not an XPS I don't know what to get. I've tried out a few of the newwer thinkpads and I'm just not impressed. Maybe I'll check out the carbon though.

I have a Dell XPS 15 as well. Mine does the coil whine and the keyboard isn't great. It's kind of sad, but it's probably still the closest thing to a MBP that I've had out of a non-Apple laptop.

I'm also running Elementary OS on it and it's been okay.

The Razer blades are more like MacBooks both in shape and in inability to upgrade the hardware.

Much faster GPUs, though.

Dell Precision 6800 here. Do not recommend.

I too experience constant erroneous thermal throttling (in Windows).

The docking station has extremely poor construction; any connectivity that travels through it flickers with the slightest mechanical provocation.

External displays don't work at all unless you disable switchable graphics and have severe compositing glitches regardless.

The official ubuntu install is so old that neither Firefox nor Chrome can install latest (without offroading dependencies), a modern ubuntu install without special drivers causes the backlight to turn on and off at 30Hz (hadn't seen that before!), and Dell's instructions for packaging drivers (can't just install them, you need to build an image) have broken in enough places to sink my best efforts.

Interesting. I've purchased two batches of Mobile Precisions in the past: one about 8 years ago, and another about 4 years ago. (Sorry, I can't remember the particular models.)

Both of them had really good Ubuntu compatibility.

The Precision 5520 I bought last year was very fragile in that regard. Everything worked out of the box (except I had to fix touchpad sensitivity), but I couldn't even restore Ubuntu from a recovery drive they told me to create - some dell package not found, bam, you don't have an OS anymore. Oh and a simple apt-get upgrade broke mouse clicks on window title bars in Unity, had to revert to Gnome shell.

All of that on a brand new laptop that I've used for less than 20 hours. Completely unacceptable, never again.

Yah, dell seems to be returning to their early 2000's level of quality. I purchased a dell notebook a little over a year ago. Exactly 13 months in the motherboard died, although thanks to the fact that I purchased it from a 3rd party reseller that apparently didn't report the sold date properly dell repaired it for free. I've had a number of associates who told me similar stories about their recently purchased dell's, so its common enough that purchasing a dell as anything other than a throw away machine is probably not a good plan.

What precision have you got? I have a m3800 running Fedora 27 pretty smooth. Trackpad support is better than on Windows to my surprise. Additionally it clogs on Windows but does not on Linux so that's a plus.

Wayland is working fine, hdmi-out, no prop. Have not found time to test the dp however.

Huh... I had a Precision 5510 running Linux and I loved it

I have a Precision 5520, it's pretty flawless aside from the TB16 dock having an issue with offloading CRC checksums... but you can work around it pretty easily: `sudo ethtool --offload eth0 rx off`

I mean, the hardware/batterylife/support/build is great, although it does soak up grease from my fingers super easily.

I switched from a 2014 13" Retina MBP to a 2018 Thinkpad X1 Carbon (6th gen) and I'm extremely happy with it.

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Lenovo-ThinkPad-X1-Carbon-2018... is the most objective/detailed review I've seen.

One of my biggest anxieties was the fear of "upgrading" to an inferior device after a decade of being on Apple devices. Thankfully, that has not been the case.

- The 14" WQHD HDR screen is remarkably more vibrant with similar DPI.

- The battery life is almost double what I had before.

- It runs cooler, faster, and quieter than my rMBP.

- It's more than half a pound lighter than my 13" rMBP and is smaller despite having a larger screen.

- The keyboard is just amaaaazing, I forgot what a good keyboard feels like. It's a joy to type on.

- The build is excellent, still has that "Thinkpad" feel to it--like I could use it as a sledgehammer if I had to, despite looking quite slick.

- Everything works on Linux except the fingerprint reader and S3 suspend required an easy tweak before working properly (add a boot flag).

- I added a 4 year warranty for $140 USD, fair bit cheaper than Apple's. You don't get the Genius Bar experience but the Thinkpad brand is strong world-wide and there are certified local repair centres pretty much everywhere. (Fun fact: IBM still has a repair contract with Lenovo for the Thinkpad brand). In general, the machines are very serviceable with standard screws/components/etc. For every MBP I've owned, I've averaged bringing it in for repairs about 2-4 times per MBP. I've never had to repair the Thinkpad I had before that, and I hope this one holds up as well.

I bought it the week it was released, so only the maximum spec version was available for about $2000 USD. (Lenovo perks sites or discount coupons usually get you 15-20% off the retail price, or buy from Costco.)

My second choice was the 13" Dell XPS with 4K, but the deciding factor was the build quality and 4K is a bit too much (the battery/perf penalty wasn't worth the DPI gain over what the X1 Carbon offered). In general, it seems the Thinkpad build quality is much more consistent than Dell's.

If budget was really tight for me, I'd strongly consider getting an older Thinkpad and replacing the internals. The Thinkpad modding community is very active, it's kind of remarkable.

What's your opinion on the trackpad? The thing I love most about MBPs is the trackpad—the size, responsiveness, gestures, and being clickable everywhere make it feel great to use. My girlfriend has a Lenovo T460, and I've been a little disappointed with the trackpad on that laptop.

I like it. I feel it's about the right size and the texture/precision is good. It's a bit smaller than my 2014 rMBP which I thought was fine too.

On the other hand, the new MBPs have these comically massive trackpads which also scared me away. Less room to rest your palm, lots of accidental clicks, etc.

Overall, I don't think about it which probably means it's good. There's also the optional trackpoint/nub. I use it occasionally for fun, but I'm not a fanatic about it yet. Nice to know it's there, I guess? Might be handy for some kinds of games on the go.

Palm detection on the new MBPs is extremely good. You can rest your palm on the touchpad without any accidental clicks. It's far ahead of any other touchpad I used so far.

I've read posts stating the exact opposite here on HN. So clearly it is subjective.

I use an x230 (amazing little machine). I deactivated the touchpad in favor of the trackpoint. I would go nuts if I had to move my hand back and forth in order to move the cursor. If your profession involves a lot of typing, the trackpoint is the pointing device of choice, IMHO.

If you happen to use the trackpoint, I suggest replacing the default rubber piece with a concave one. Here is an example: [0].


"Better than everybody except Apple, not quite as good as Apple" is roughly my opinion. I usually turn it off on a thinkpad since I vastly prefer the trackpoint but Apple's trackpads are, at least to my mind, noticeably superior, just not enough to make me give up my trackpoint.

2018 X1 Carbon user here. I fully agree with your review. Emphasize on the keyboard thing. I'm about to start a book catalyzed by the mechanical pleasure of pressing.

> the mechanical pleasure of pressing

And there's your title right there

I just got the 16GB/i7/512 with 2 year warranty from Costco for $1599. And I agree totally that it's an amazing machine! I have left it running W10 for now because I don't want to have to modify the DSDT for S3. Modern standby on Windows is magical - instant desktop after lid opening with the fingerprint reader!

I wish it had better speakers though and I still feel like the low power CPU in a thin package might get bogged down when thermally throttled compared to full wattage one in a bigger config. But so far no such problem.

> I don't want to have to modify the DSDT for S3.

While I did end up doing that (it wasn't as scary as I thought), turns out just adding `acpi.ec_no_wakeup=1` is sufficient on many distros (I presume ones with recent kernel/systemd versions, older versions seem to require hitting power to wake up).

> I wish it had better speakers though

I find the speakers fairly comparable to my old MBP, fwiw.

> and I still feel like the low power CPU in a thin package might get bogged down when thermally throttled compared to full wattage one in a bigger config.

Yea, kinda mixed feelings on this. I really like how cool/quiet it runs with the default config, but you're right that the throttling is fairly aggressive. I mostly went with the i7 for the L2 cache size rather than max freq so it doesn't bother me too much.

You can override the throttling thresholds a fair bit. The whole machine is fairly hackable (in the good sense). I plan to play around with underclocking at some point to get a few extra hours.

I find the speakers to be awful, but I just use headphones most of the time anyway, so nbd. I have the last gen, so may be different.

I'm curious how you tuned the thermal throttling, though!

It might be this - https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comments/870u0a/t480s_linu...

TL;DR Booting Linux the throttling triggers at much lower temp than on Windows. Fixed by overwriting some MSRs I think.

Sweet, thanks!

Can we talk about how terrible the config/ordering experience for an X1 is compared to Apple?

Why does Lenovo (and Dell) make it so difficult to actually buy an X1 without being a product expert? The shop page has 6 or 7 base configurations that all can be customized. To me, this is a really good sign they are not consumer focused, but instead catering to the direct enterprise buyer. Someone who is more willing to spend hours deciphering the subtle difference between every configurations and go through multiple customization flows to find some ideal configuration for a large multi-unit order.

Can someone explain why it's so hard for PC companies to move away from this purchasing model when the simplified Apple flow is generating 10x or more sales directly to consumers.

> I added a 4 year warranty for $140 USD, fair bit cheaper than Apple's. You don't get the Genius Bar experience but the Thinkpad brand is strong world-wide and there are certified local repair centres pretty much everywhere.

When I bought a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 years ago, it came with a 3 years on-site warranty included, extendable to 4 years for a small fee. On-site as in "a technician will come on the next business day and do their best to change all components to make it run again in front of your eyes". Has this changed in recent years or just with the X1 Carbon?

I think the included warranty varies by country. Some countries have required minimums for warranties. In Canada, it comes with a 1-year warranty. The 4 year I bought was a depot warranty (aka take it to the nearest certified repair center or mail it in). The premium "we'll come fix it" warranty does exist but it's like 50-80% more expensive I think. I didn't feel the need for it.

In fact, I probably wouldn't have gotten the extended warranty at all if it wasn't so cheap. I feel comfortable with the build quality of the device that I'd risk it and possibly do repairs myself.

Thanks for your detailed recommendations. I also have anxieties about buying something “inferior”, but your comment has convinced me that Apple devices are not the best on the market.

You're very welcome!

What version of Linux ? Thanks...

I'm currently running Arch. Before that I was working on a custom kernel config with Gentoo but my timebox for that has elapsed. :)

Related blog post: https://medium.com/@shazow/my-computer-is-my-home-5a587dcc1d...

What version of Linux would people recommend for this machine ? 2018 Thinkpad X1 Carbon (6th gen)

If you want something practical and productive right out of the box then just go with Ubuntu for any hardware.

Thinkpads are popular in the Arch community (and vice versa), so there's discussion and documentation available if that's your cup of tea.

Do you have link for the Arch community where I can read more about what you are referring to., I am not familiar with that... Thank you !

The Arch wiki has general information and laptop-specific errata for most models:


It appears the X1C 6th generation doesn't have a page yet, but it's likely extremely similar to the 5th generation one.

Start with the Arch wiki, and go through an installation in a VM. Get your feet wet with what Arch is.


What you are really asking is what Linux distro people would recommend. Full stop.

That laptop has Intel graphics, which have great Linux support. It will run practically any distro without any extra effort.

Fedora works well on most hardware I've tried, especially the ThinkPad T & X series. Currently running F26 on a 5th gen X1 Carbon.

+1 for Fedora. I don't have a ThinkPad, but I purchased a Latitude E7470 off Craigslist which already had Windows on it. Sliced the SSD into half and installed F25 on the other partition (Windows comes in handy sometimes). That version had minor issues regarding the headphone jack but haven't had problems since I upgraded to F26.

I read a review about running OpenBSD on them last night. It’s probably wide open to anything.

Yeah, OpenBSD is my litmus test for Linux compatibility. Linux distros like Ubuntu will often figure out how to get questionable hardware working for some value of “working.”

But if OpenBSD runs, it’s a good indicator that the hardware will be extremely well supported and work with the absolute minimum fuss, even if running Linux rather than OpenBSD.

Exactly my case as well. Though I'd say I don't really find the keyboard much better than the MBP keyboard. Maybe it's because I'm used to using a mechanical keyboard in my workspace. But everything else surely is a joy to work with. It feels much lighter than the MBP 13'' even though the screen is larger.

I actually bought the XPS 13 first since it's much cheaper. But Dell messed up by having the keyboard totally unusable for fast typists. See the post at https://www.dell.com/community/XPS/XPS-13-9370-Keyboard-Skip.... Thinkpad's build quality does seems reliable still.

Not a hardware req, but I've recently become quite enamored with Win 10 + WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) after years of using a Mac. WSL lets you run a lightweight Linux shell (Ubuntu, SUSE, Kali are supported atm) without a VM. It's purely for command-line purposes, no X, but that's fine for me. Windows for UI, then I can run all my bash in the Ubuntu shell almost seamlessly. You can run the shell directly from start menu or just type 'bash' from cmd or powershell so it can easily work in the embedded terminal for Android Studio.

My colleagues use WSL for git and a few other linux CLI tools necessary to their work that git bash just wont quite cut it for. I often help them out with CLI stuff and I can say as both a full Linux user and an old x mac user (not exactly a fan these days), it's not comparable to mac... maybe one day, sure it's a real linux userland, but whatever majik layer they built on top of their kernel makes it feel like WINE inverted, some stuff is fine, other just painfully slow or erratic, also the terminal application is just horrid.

Sure mac is a weird mix of old bits of BSD tools and GNU but at least it's running natively, it's terminal application also has some crufty bits but it's still far more usable.

Oh also creating and modifying files in windows causes all kinds of issues with linux, because a) permissions and b) windows arbitrarily locks files... this really fucks with git. Someone goes and git pull some stuff and find out later that windows silently didn't let it's canned linux update the working tree properly... and then at commit time things get messy (where I come in), they aren't that experienced with git so it makes for a pretty shitty learning experience, even as an experienced git user it would piss me off if i had to put up with that all the time.

Anyway, if it was my choice and i _had_ to use windows for some reason, I would still stick linux in a VM or dual boot, you can trust it isn't half working that way.

I tried this at work. IT doesn't use the latest Win10 build (:rolleyes:), so the WSL experience leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Docker for Windows is similarly disappointing. The private network docker uses for containers conflicts with our corporate network. I can set the bip for a Linux daemon, but DfW just hangs and then crashes when doing so.

Yeah, it's still kinda bleeding edge. I only run it at home. At work I can't use it and even Hyper-V is not stable because we're on some in-between build of Win 10. We'll catch up soon.

My work IT runs an old enough and locked down enough Win10 build that WSL isn't even available. Drives me bananas.

Have you tried defining a custom network using Docker Compose?

Indeed, I love WSL, and find win10 to be a better interface than OS X. Updates for OS X just move things around and change the looks, Windows 10 adds great new things - like new options for Linux distros under WSL.

With frequent bad reports regarding windows hardware, what’s the hardware to run wsl? I really did not like my experience with the XPS13

I have a Dell Precision 15", and it works great, as far as I can tell. I do ML stuff in docker Jupyter notebooks without a problem. Docker builds seem fast, definitely as fast as my previous laptop (a macbook pro retina from ...2014?).

And how are the keyboard/trackpad?

Wsl is no virtualization it is more like docker. Therefore, you do not need a extra beefy system to handle wsl.

It's more like Wine

It's a thin compatibility layer like git bash, not a VM. Super lightweight.

I meant which laptops are popular. Ie non-horrible touchpad, screen, other issues.

I'll add a hardware rec to the Win10/WSL stack: the Microsoft Surface Book 2.

The keyboard is great, screen is beautiful, battery life is great. It even has a magnetic power connector similar to the old MBPs. I don't use it as a tablet much, but I do use the touch screen a fair amount.

It wasn't cheap, but neither is a MBP.

It is a pretty nice trick, and I use the same i3 config between my laptop & Windows desktop so everything comes up the same.

The filesystem is slow though, for e.g. Rails work you will feel the difference between WSL & normal Linux.

WSL will be fantastic when software catches up to it or makes an allowance for its existence. It's nothing you can't hack around manually, but it can still be troublesome to treat WSL as a totally transparent layer. For example, you'll probably deal with some frustrating git checkouts if you clone from windows but interchangeably do work from Windows-land and Linux-land. Windows natively supporting LF and allowing Linux binaries to be transparently called would wipe away most of those issues (I think you can still only call windows binaries from Linux and not vice versa), and then you just need some windows installers that can enable WSL instead of packaging Cygwin or MSYS2.

That being said, the existence of WSL at all is fantastic and it's a much nicer experience than booting up a VM or setting your dev environment up in the cloud. I'm still not sure if my next machine will be a MacBook again because of it.

I couldn’t find a terminal I liked on windows. Got any suggestions?

ConEmu works great after some tweaking (there are numerous options).

Same boat, I've tried alternatives but can't find anything I like as much as the plain old gnome terminal on my Linux box. The solution I keep coming back to simply installing an x server like vcxsrv on Windows and gnome terminal on WSL.

A few hoops to jump through, but it allows me to have an experience that's very close to native Linux. One less context switch my mind has to adapt to when switchibg between OSes.

DomTerm (https://domterm.org) works pretty well on WSL. Here is an article specifically about it: https://dzone.com/articles/running-domterm-terminal-emulator...

Hyper is nice too but its electron based if you're against that sorta thing.

wsltty. Accept no substitutes if you use WSL.


Years and years ago I used an X server on Windows named Hummingbird I think, could you use a native x server for Windows and run e.g. xterms under WsL?

Yeah you can - I think xming is still the best F/oss version. But for better or worse, you get ms windows window management.

In their recent announcement, kali Linux showed off running xrdp, allowing log in via rdp to a local Linux desktop.

Yes. I have used vcxsrv and it works fine. There is also xming.

Yes. I use Xming with it.

A win32 X server like mobaxtrem absolutely works.

I think that in the most recent versions X runs just fine. At least a collegue of mine is running the whole Kali linux (you now find it in the window store) inside WSL using the full desktop (and indeed just looking in the store right now it is showed with the full desktop active)

well the biggest problem basically is not X, more like systemd.

Yocto-built crosstool chains crash in spectacular fashion on Win10/WSL. Would not recommend.

I just thought of another question. What's everybody's workflow like on windows with WSL? If I use an editor like vscode then wouldn't I need the packages for linting, etc. on windows when I'm editing code in the WSL filesystem?

I currently am using npm from Windows with VS Code for my Vuejs projects. There is good support for using npm in WSL in VS Code,but we are using Cypress for testing and that doesn't want to work.

On the Rails side, I am using RubyMine from JetBrains and it has WSL support baked in. I am able to use chrome-driver to test.

For me, the weirdest part has been using git from the editor instead of the command line.

You can run VS Code and all the plugins from Windows. The terminal pane will actually let you choose Powershell or Bash from the drop-down.

I have numerous shell scripts which connect to open GUI apps via Apple Script. I feel like having a hard line separation between the two would be prettty limiting in usability.

Powershell > Apple Script

I suggest looking into the Dell XPS line (both 13 or 15 models, depending on your screen size tastes). I own a 2015 Dell XPS 13 and Linux support is amazing (long battery life, the laptop does not overheat and everything works out of the box on Ubuntu). The only weak spot is the webcam location in the lower part of the screen.

Another good alternative could be the Thinkpad Carbon X line, but I don't have any direct experience.

At work I use a mid-2015 Macbook Pro, if you stick to MacOs it's a very good machine. I also have an Ubuntu 17.10 partition on this machine that I use as main daily driver, but there are a few catches with this particular model (slight overheating, battery life is good but not great, I had to manually install drivers for backlight control and webcam).

I have last year's Thinkpad X1 Carbon. Excellent Linux support (great battery life, everything works out of the box except for the fingerprint reader) and a fantastic machine. Screen is good, it's quite a bit lighter than a MacBook Pro 13" and has a good selection of ports (2 x TB-3/USB-C, 2 x USB-A, full-size HDMI). But I can't judge if it meets OP's performance requirements (it is somewhat thermally limited due to the small form factor and thinness), maybe check out the T480 / T480s instead if you need more power.

One of my colleagues has a two-year old XPS13 and is very happy with it, too. I think they're both great choices.

One problem with the 13" XPS is that 16GB configuration without a 4K+touchscreen display is only available in some countries (Europe, Hong Kong, ...?) I've been looking to get one (new macbook pro keyoard keeps breaking), but the buying experience has been pretty bad where I am.

I'll be in Japan later this month, and I'll probably buy an HP Envy. The XPS doesn't come in the aforementioned configuration and the Carbon X is considerably more expensive (and I can't make heads or tail of their Japanese site).

(portability is pretty important to me).

I was able to custom-configure the XPS 13 with a non-touch display and 16GB here: http://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/dell-laptops/xps-13/spd/xps-1... (US link)

I run repair shops for a living, and I'd certainly recommend the XPS 13 over a HP. The build quality of the HP Envy laptops we get in are terrible. The XPS 13 is just a better laptop.

Well, shit. I wish I had known about this approximately one month ago when I bought mine.

The screen is beautiful and the battery life is OK, but I really don't see the point of 4K at this size. I figured they were just forcing an upsell to higher margin configurations...

Thanks for the info. They must have added that more recently. I noticed the same thing in Hong Kong where the 16GB 1080p option only became available after my last trip there. Just checked the Japan website, it still only has 16GB and/or 512GB with 4K touch.

Sucks to hear about the Envy.

I don't believe Envy vs XPS is apples to apples, HP's Spectre laptops probably compare more favorably in terms of build quality. Have you looked into that line at all?

Thanks, that's what I meant. Their product names really don't stick with me. For the last month I've been calling it the "Edge".

I've got a HP ZBook 15 in 2014. I'm happy with it but it's only a data point. Did you service any of them, how do they compare?

Hi, I haven't seen enough of the ZBooks in our stores to form an opinion on them at this time.

I have had an XPS13 for the last three years, running Linux. Absolutely love it. At home, it is hooked up to a 27" 4k monitor. While travelling, it is very light and has reasonable battery life. The only limitation is the fixed 8GB RAM (note: the 2018 XPS13 has a 16GB model).

As the new 2018 XPS15 was announced 5 days ago [1], I'll probably trade up now to get the Nvidia GTX1050 GPU and RAM user-upgradable to 32GB.

[1] https://www.techradar.com/reviews/dell-xps-15-2018

At the moment I think there are a few bugs with Linux support on the XPS 15 but they shouldn't last long. A friend of mine was having quite a lot of trackpad issues that don't appear to affect the 13" model.

I had no issues with Linux support, just follow the guides and you can install stock Ubuntu with no problems with GPU switching and docking station support and everything else.

Did they ever fix the sleep issue? That was a dealbreaker for me last year.

I don't have any issues with Suspend To Ram, if that is what you mean. I'm using a Dell XPS 15 9550 with Void Linux.

Did they fix the coil whine on the Dell machines?

As someone who has had one for a year, it never affected me. It always seemed like FUD to me, but maybe it affected someone.

Most of the developers at my office are using the 9360. Every single one of those machines is subject to coil whine at load.

Maybe your hearing is just shot.

They changed the cooling solution completely this year, so the coil whine is much less of an issue. I'm sure some may still have it, but from my sample size of 1 I haven't had a problem.


Hey! Web dev/writer here that can relate — I've been writing about this after having gone through the same experience.

In the last year, I've written about the Razer Blade, Eve V and about to ship a review of the Dell XPS 15 today or tomorrow (will post in this comment), which I ultimately settled on. It's a killer machine! I use Windows and WSL to do my work, and it's just as good as my MacBook setup ever was — except I have 32 GB of RAM _and_ a bunch of ports.

Happy to answer any questions/offer advice, I've basically tried all of them — I am extremely curious about the new Surface Book 2 15", but it's been hard to get my hands on one.

The post that started it all: https://char.gd/blog/2017/why-i-left-mac-for-windows-apple-h...

Razer Blade: https://char.gd/blog/2017/the-razer-blade-a-killer-macbook-p...

Eve V review: https://char.gd/blog/2017/a-startup-made-a-better-laptop-tha...

Replacement tooling for Windows (given how good Bash on Windows is): https://char.gd/blog/2017/essential-apps-for-switching-from-...

I tried to switch to XPS 13 from MBP a couple months ago.

My main focus was to use WSL but it’s so freaking slow on disk access that sometimes “git status” on a repo would take 10-15 seconds while it’s <1s on macos or linux. How on earth do you manage to work with it? every single thing hitting the disk was noticably slower.

I went to Ubuntu and decided life is too short to use a crippled touchpad.

Went back to MBP.

Apparently I can't edit comments, but here's my review of the XPS 15: https://char.gd/blog/2018/ive-finally-found-a-macbook-replac...

Wrote about this elsewhere, but the eve v is fascinating in how one could theoretically raise the display higher up and still use the bluetooth keyboard.

http://bitcannon.net/post/a-year-away-from-mac-os/ also wrote briefly about it, and supposedly it'll run Fedora according to https://eve.community/t/summary-of-linux-and-the-eve-v-statu... .

Despite being fairly married to the mac platform I'm really curious, and honestly hope they make a larger 14-15 inch version.

Thanks for the write-up, I’ve been curious about that machine amid my Apple frustrations. However, you mention a lack of quad-core i7 cpus in the MBP but that’s not true. My 2013 is a quad core and they have been quad core in the 15” ever since.

If you live near a large mall, Microsoft stores should have Surface Book 2s to play with. I went a few times before buying mine and am happy with my purchase.

Haven't seen these two suggested:

The Razer Blade is a pretty excellent machine. Its gaming focused, which surfaces a little bit in their design language, but all that really means is more beefy specs. The Stealth model in particular might be a great choice, or you can up-market. I've heard nothing but great things about it.

The Surface devices are also an expensive but excellent choice. They do suffer in that I don't believe any of them are shipped with 8th gen Intel chips or Thunderbolt yet, but once they get that updated they'll be worth looking into. They are very pricey though; its basically $2000 minimum for any model with 16gb of memory.

Really, if you want MacBook-like quality, you need to realize that there's a reason why they're so expensive, and you can't really cheat the price by looking at Windows. There are a few manufacturers that are getting the prices down, like Dell's XPS line, but they make sacrifices in build quality, touchpad quality, etc. If you're fine with that, then yeah you can save $500.

I'm on a 2017 Razer Blade running Linux Mint. I would say it's functional if you're looking for a gaming/development machine, but less than ideal for 100% development. My work machine is a 2013 15" MacBook Pro for comparison purposes.

The screen size is 14", which compared to a 15" MBP is no where near enough screen real estate. That and the bezel is too damn big.

The touchpad is just awful. The buttons are way too slim to hit accurately (I think they're about 1/4") and I always inadvertently hit the touchpad with my thumbs moving the mouse to random locations. I could probably fix the later by toning down the sensitivity, but there's nothing I can do about the button sizes.

Finally, the unibody case as a very sharp edge and tends to cause discomfort when typing for an extended period of time.

As for the OS, Mint went on without any driver issues. This is my first experience with desktop Linux in a long time and I'm very impressed with how mature it's become. There's just no way I could go back to developing on Windows. In fact, I've become so accustomed to developing on Linux that it's a pain to go back to macOS.

I have a late-2016 Razer Blade and every time I compile something the fans spin up to aircraft-turbine levels of noise, it's ridiculous. I'm currently thinking of throwing the whole thing out and getting a Macbook Pro instead, because it's basically the loudest thing in our office.

Same here with the fan. I use Goland as my main IDE and man does it kick up a fuss whenever indexing occurs.

You can disable the indexing of the whole GOPATH as of 2018.1 and it will finish indexing a whole lot faster. See Settings | Go | GOPATH | Index entire GOPATH.

I have a late 2016 Razer Blade Stealth and I love. I was able to install Ubuntu without issue and the machine works flawlessly. At the time it was easily the best 13" machine on the market and I wouldn't doubt still is.

I use a Razer Blade, and like the other comments say, it's decent but imperfect. But I've yet to find a comparable model in it's class - a well-built slim laptop with a good GPU. All the other laptops with GPUs are so bulky and gamery. I need something a decent GPU to do game dev. I guess the Surface Book might be a contender? Seems quite expensive though.

I briefly had a Razer Blade for development and returned it for several reasons, the top two being:

1. Enormous screen bezel, which made it silly to lug around a laptop with the screen real estate of one much smaller.

2. Without careful, tedious manual power management in linux the cooling fans routinely spin up to dust buster sound levels under normal use, which is unacceptable if you exist around other human beings.

The Surface Book 2 is an interesting option, but the linux support, while improving through community effort, is still spotty [1]. At the moment it has many power draw, heat, and noise issues. Also, everyone I know who has had a surface device has had to have it serviced or RMA'd at least once, which is not acceptable for something so expensive from such a large vendor.

[1] https://github.com/jakeday/linux-surface

The Stealth has pretty small bezel sizes. It can also be configured with an 8th gen quad core i7. Its got Thunderbolt 3, and because its running Windows you get full external graphics card support whether your needs are professional or gaming. RGB keyboard backlighting :). With a 512gb SSD, that config comes out to $1700, which feels like a very fair price especially when compared to some of the Surface laptops (its impossible to configure any 16gb Surface laptop for less than $2000).

The rest of the Blade lineup is in dire need of a refresh, as you say. The bezels are ridiculous when compared to some of the recent high performance offerings from Dell, Gigabyte, MSI, etc.

As for linux, this is an intensely personal decision, but with W10 + the Windows Subsystem for Linux, its actually pretty darn usable. Its not like Cygwin or a virtual machine; its literally a bash app that almost emulates a linux distro of your choice, and works identically to if you're in that linux distro. These videos explain it pretty well [1] [2].

Of course, you're still working in Windows, so if the UI is the reason why you don't want to use Windows then you'll have to virtualize or dual-boot or whatever. But, in a lot of ways, this is more of an advantage than a con: it gives you access to all of the software that isn't available on Linux, like Office, Adobe, games, etc.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfRo63afjtM

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP_T_m0UV9E

I have a surface pro 4 and I really love it; however, it doesn't support Linux well. Ubuntu will not recognize the type cover or (iirc) the touch screen.

Currently I develop in a VM or with vagrant.

I've been working on Chromebooks since the 2013 Chromebook Pixel, though the laptop itself is almost irrelevant, because I've just moved everything into the cloud and work from a couple of VMs with tmux/vim/mosh. Of course that's not on option if you require a complete IDE, but it seems that support for local GUI apps is coming with a native ChromeOS feature called Crostini.

People runing the Development channel already play around with various apps like VS Code: https://chromeunboxed.com/news/chrome-os-container-crostini-...

They're also working for native support for running VMs via KVM, though it looks as if that'll be primarily targeted to the enterprise world.

It's an interesting time for Chromebooks.

If you need a complete IDE on a chromebook, you might check out Cloud9[0], which seems to have been acquired by Amazon. It gives you a decent editor and a small VM as a workspace, and the nice thing is that you can close the browser window and do something else, and the workspace will be exactly as you left it when you return, including any running terminal commands. I used C9 for a while before discovering Crouton[1] and subsequently GalliumOS[2], and it's still a pretty credible alternative to local development.

[0] https://aws.amazon.com/cloud9/ [1] https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton [2] https://galliumos.org/

(I have no affiliation with any companies or projects mentioned.)

I use my chromebook with crouton all the time. This semester for example, I did embedded development with mbed-cli (uses gcc for arm) and emacs. I also wrote LaTeX both on overleaf and on my chromebook (many gigabytes). I live with few hundred megabytes left and I listen to online radio instead of having gigabytes of songs. I delete stuff that I don't use and everything is fine.

Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster, those are exciting developments! I've been messing around with Crouton to run VS Code / .NET Core / PowerShell Core, but I'm not very comfortable with how that negates many of the security benefits of Chrome OS.

Crostini will be a game-changer.

I hope that stuff isn't limited to Intel -- I just bought an Acer R 13 and quite like it.

Mosh looks amazing! I will set it up on my Chromebook as soon as I get home. Thanks for the tip :) have any other Chromebook tips?

I wrote a bit about this [0] in terms of exploring Dell and Lenovo as options with a focus on Linux. I also quite like using LTE with my development machine, I'm doing so with the T470s and Fi [1]. I feel like for Linux the primary advantage that Lenovo has is the historical RedHat/IBM partnership where many RedHat developers are issued/choose Thinkpad as their primary machines to hack on. This typically leads to the crowd effect in ensuring the hardware has good support.

I think the thing that makes me the most sad about Lenovo and Dell is the two incidents they've had in relation to consumer privacy [2][3].

[0]: https://storrgie.epiphyte.network/linux-on-the-t470s/

[1]: https://storrgie.epiphyte.network/project-fi-archlinux/

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superfish

[3]: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/11/dell-...

This is awesome, thanks! The biggest problem I had with even considering Linux on any of these machines is that the High DPI support is... non-existent, which just kills it for me :(

I think your information about High DPI support with Linux is outdated. I've been using a 4k screen with Ubuntu for more than a year now without any particular issue.

The latest Gnome/Ubuntu does not support dual monitor where only 1 monitor is hidpi.

Under Wayland with fractional scaling enabled you get per monitor DPI scaling. It works, but has issues when you detach the external monitor / undock.

One of the things I feel is important is matching your external displays with the internal one, the 1440p in the T470s matches up with all of my displays at every desk I work at. This makes it pretty easy to move around and feel comfortable.

So 1440p is fine, but once you end up in 4K territory it's nigh unusable. They've barely started on fractional scaling, so your choices are big or even bigger.

From your post it doesn't sound like you need it. What do you need it for?

I'm sticking to the XPS family for years now and a - for me very important - thing that rarely gets mentioned is the stunning support you can book with the machine. It's usually something around EUR 200-250 for 4-5 years and you'll get a worldwide coverage on the next business day, no matter what. I had issues with my current XPS in a beach house in Portugal earlier last year due to the sand being everywhere in the flat. A short call later I had a technician driving 3h from Lisbon to my place to fix the cooling system, no questions asked.

The XPS 1530 I had before that had some issues with the GPU, Nvidia had some problems with the 8xxx series back then. I had to call them twice to replace the GPU without any problems. Also if your charger has an issue they usually send you a new one with UPS over night.

Even though it might be declining a bit compared to what you could ask from them 5 years ago I think the support is still stellar and well woth considering if you're moving around once in a while.

Ok but how is the Linux support?

The XPS'es can be configured to be preinstalled with linux, so pretty much as good as it gets from a major OEM.


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