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Ask HN: What are some good laptops for Linux right now?
43 points by captain_vyom 783 days ago | 67 comments
I got an Asus few months back, only too find out Nvidia Drivers support is very bad for the graphic chip I have. Bumblebee project used to work for sometime, but its currently not working. Its been a pain since then, I'm running Ubuntu in 2D mode for more than a 2 months, will re-install 13.04 once its out to test my luck.

If the attempt fails, then I may be looking for a new laptop. So, which laptops in market has good overall Linux support, especially graphics.




Most computers with an Intel GPU are fine. The ThinkPad series is very popular and thus well-supported — note that I am only talking about the “original” series, i.e. ThinkPad X and T, e.g. the X230 or T430.

Personally, I am running a ThinkPad X200 since 2008 with nearly no software problems.

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Agree! Thinkpad T-series for me have had good graphics support, good power management, and all the 'special' keys work as intended with major distros. They seem to recondition well and there are loads of 410 and 420 models on ebay.

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Agreed. Recycled ThinkPad X200s with Intel on board graphics, everything works, I'm running Kubuntu 12.10 at present. This hardware has worked with CentOS 6.x as well.

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My Edge 13 version with AMD had issues with fan control and overheating. Also, graphic card drivers were bad compared to Windows :/

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Second this, graphics-driver is an issue under Mint. Apart from this the E335 is wonderful.

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Agree. ThinkPad series is really good for Linux.

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Speaking of Thinkpad http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/ThinkWiki

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I have a thinkpad T430, everything on it works even the function keys!

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another +1. I'm on a x230 with SSD and everything is flawless.

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Most people I know who use Linux on a notebook have a MacBook Air or a 13" MacBook Pro. Same for the tech conferences I attend.

All Mac notebook models have Intel HD Graphics 4000, which performs well and has good support on Ubuntu. The other hardware in those notebooks plays nice with Ubuntu as well, like WiFi and sound – no hacks necessary.

http://www.maketecheasier.com/install-ubuntu-12-10-in-macboo...

http://www.apple.com/macbookair/

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Be aware that the multi-GPU models are not as great though, since BIOS emulation mode does not allow for graphics card switching and the bigger GPU uses a lot of battery.

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True, having a second, dedicated GPU isn't as useful as it once was, given how good integrated GPUs have gotten. OP, take note: only the 15" MacBook Pros have dual GPUs.

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Good as integrated GPUs maybe (as they can now accomplish more tasks), they are still an order of magnitude away from mid-range dedicated GPUs.

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Sure, but we're talking about notebooks. Putting a mid-range dedicated GPU in a notebook would make it a mobile workstation (read: useless when not connected to a power source). The second, dedicated GPU in a 15" MacBook Pro isn't even mid-range while it does use a lot more power than the integrated GPU.

For most tasks, integrated graphics work fine. On my MacBook Air, I use Final Cut Pro, AfterEffects and Blender. For many people, the most graphics intensive thing they use their computer for is HD video playback.

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I agree, though I consider the dedicated GPU in the 15" Macbook Pro to be at the bottom end of "mid-range". :)

Nvidia's GPU model numbers go from, at low end, X10, to, at the high end X90. X50 is right in the middle.

Sorry, I just had to leave a comment here, because I found my Nvidia integrated GPU in my 2009 13" Macbook Pro woefully inadequate for CUDA computation.

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I have often wondered why, when you have a MacBook Air or Pro that the Linux user doesn't run OS X as the host and Linux in a virtual machine?

Can anyone explain why this setup isn't more mainstream among those that prefer Linux?

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I can't really speak for anyone else, but I run Ubuntu on a MacPro as my desktop machine at work. I prefer Linux to OS X primarily because of the user interface. I know it's heresy, but I hate OS X's (and Windows, to be fair) UI. I've run XMonad for years and Ion for years before that and now any time I have to use a machine that doesn't have a tiling WM and sloppy focus, I kind of want to throw it out the window. (I'm running on Apple hardware because for various bureaucratic reasons, we have a very limited selection of vendors that we're allowed to purchase from)

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What distro are you running and how is wifi and sleeping when you close the lid. That is one thing I love about osx

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My MacPro desktop doesn't have a lid (or wifi).

I run Ubuntu on a Thinkpad T500 though and power management and wifi are flawless. Never have any issues there.

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Agreed: once you are used to a tiling WM (I use dwm), OSX and similar windowing systems seem slow and clumsy - and OSX is hard to customize. In answer to the GP, running OSX as a host means you are using closed-source software, which some people prefer not to do.

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I did find: https://github.com/xmonad/osxmonad

Xmonad for tiling OS X windows.

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System76 is a company that is dedicated to making Linux hardware. You will have the least driver trouble with their stuff.

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They ship with Ubuntu; you can easily put another Linux on. You can get more power than a Dell XPS13 for less money, albeit at a substantial weight penalty. Support is very good but hardware turn-around is not fast.

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The bodies are tweakable so you can install some upgrades yourself. I'd wait for their Haswell lineup personally, since it is right around the corner and promises a lot of power consumption improvements.

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I have a System76 laptop. I agree with DSR on all points. Turnaround is not as fast as, say, HP.

They have a range of 4 basic laptops, each of which is configurable. I was more concerned with power than weight so I got the second most powerful one.

I almost always have it plugged in when using it. I have used it on battery two or three times, and it seemed the battery was used up rather quickly. I have not spent any time looking into that yet, you might want to check what people say about the battery. I might just need to enable power saving mode or something.

I have been happy with it, it works well for me.

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It's interesting to consider a Chromebook with the Crouton chroot package. Crouton can get you a side-by-side system with ChromeOS for the specialized kernel and power management, and a plain-jane Debian or Ubuntu system at the same time. Worth a look.

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I've been on the hunt myself. I've decided upon the Dell XPS 13, because of Dell's Project Sputnik.

I'm picking up the older generation, can be found brand-new in-box for around $800AUD here in Australia.

Gorgeous laptop to be honest, perfect ultra-portable for my needs.

It's main con is that the LCD panel is a bit average. The new generation has a better 1080p panel, that is apparently brilliant, but I don't do enough graphics work or watch enough video for it to matter for me.

Hope it helps!

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I picked up this XPS 13 last month and have been quite happy with it (the differences between the 1080p screen and this are amazing, clarity-wise, but also more expensive than I could afford).

I loaded Ubuntu 13 on it, and it's running quite well. I was going to choose 12.04 LTS, but after reading that Dell's Sputnik changes were also rolled into 13 (prior, they were separate), it just made more sense to go that route. Has been great ever since.

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Personally I've found that HP and Dell laptops have good support for Linux, almost all the PC's I have tested have run just fine without any major pains

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I agree. I have a Dell Latitude E6420. With its all-metal case it feels even more sturdy than the Thinkpad T-series. Like most Thinkpads, the E6420 has is easy to disassemble and upgrade. Except for the fingerprint reader, everything works out of the box on Debian. The laptop also ships with a pre-installed Ubuntu. Acceptable keyboard and display, touchpad+trackpoint, optional built-in Smartcard/RFID reader, VGA and HDMI port. It is also very silent and cool most of the time.

At first I was sad that I couldn't get a Thinkpad at work. However, after having spent one year with the E6420, I definitely prefer it over any Thinkpad and Macbook Pro I previously had.

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I have a Dell Inspiron n5110 laptop and although bumblebee works fine for me, I have a video tearing problem on Ubuntu no matter which graphic chip I use. When I play a video file, it becomes like this[1]. So I wouldn't recommend buying an arbitrary Dell laptop without enough research.

[1] https://bitly.com/YZebSi

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I'm using HP Pavilion m6 running linux mint 14 for last 5-6 months. Very happy with the performance. I use it only for development and browsing etc i.e. no games. I've turned off the dedicated graphics card to get better battery life. I get about 6 hours on full charge. Not bad for 15.6 inch screen.

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I have an Asus as well, I'm on 13.04 and my card is a NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 635M with 2GB DDR3 VRAM. Bumblebee seems to work well with the latest nouveau drivers, I normally use the intel chipset for everything but playing Counter Strike. I spent a lot of time trying to fix this as well but nowadays it's pretty easy, for me it was just installing the xserver-xorg-video-nouveau driver from xorg-edgers then bumblebee and boom: optimus works.

If I had to recommend a laptop, I'd recommend this one, an Asus K56CM:

https://www.asus.com/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/K56CM/

Probably like 3 or 4 months ago I would not recommend it, but these days optimus support is decent at least for a typical setup.

PS: get an SSD for that computer and you'll have the ultimate linux dev. laptop right there.

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If only it wasn't limited to 768 vertical pixels.

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As far as my experience is concerned, the graphics card drivers tend to give problems, irrespective of nVidia or AMD. The Intel solutions are stable, heat up a lot less and get the job done, in case you are not into some serious graphics processing. The wireless card may be another issue, Broadcom support has recently been built in into the kernel, but out of box support is still not there(you need to download the firmware, which is proprietary). Rather, go for an Atheros card, which has much better support. The rest of the hardware should not be an issue. Had experience with a lot of machines, including Dell, Acer, HP, Asus, MacBooks as well. Have found the systems with Intel graphics to be most stable and usable. One particular system you may want to look into is Dell Vostro, though am not sure of the Wireless Card in it.

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My experience with laptops is moderately recent. I've mostly had Toshiba, and apart from the need to download drivers for wifi, ethernet and sometimes video, they've been fine. I had a Lenovo Thinkpad L512, and it was fine too and quite robust, but I wasn't thrilled with its speed. Had an Acer for a week; returned it because it had half a dozen things wrong with it and my too-late google research revealed very little chance of them being fixed.

In general, I've been happiest with Toshiba, but I know they're pricier than some others. I hear from computer salesmammals that HP, Compaq and MSI all have huge problems with returns, and of course Acer are horrendous for tech support. Asus, Toshiba, Lenovo and Dell all have good names for Linux support, but bleeding edge is always less well supported.

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Macs, the old Thinkpads and Samsung series 9 have very good hardware. I would stay away from the rest.

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I used to have some driver annoyances with Nvidia GPU based desktops I built. I switched to an ATI GPU based laptop, and had somewhat bigger driver annoyances.

My latest laptop has an Intel CPU, chipset/GPU, wifi, etc. It works perfectly. It's a business model; it has no bells and whistles that could potentially give me driver issues. The only problem I ever had was when I visited Europe, and the power adapter broke down (wire fatigue), the country's (HP) support center plainly refused to have anything to do with my specific model.

I used to have overheating issues with AMD CPU based desktops. I have friends whose AMD CPU based laptops get far too hot to touch -- over 100°C, as reported by the sensors.

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I'm using the Asus UX32VD with extra 8 GB of RAM and a Samsung SSD. Everything except the Nvidia Optimus works perfectly. I'm running Ubuntu 13.04 and with downgraded xserver-xorg-core (1.13.3-0ubuntu2b1) the Bumblebee works just fine and I can play my daily dose of Minecraft.

Everything else works like I said: perfectly. I love the gorgeous display (1080p IPS), as good as Macbook's keyboard and a pretty nice touchpad. The only problems I've had was the upgrade of xserver-xorg-core, which broke the Bumblebee support once. I hope that there will be a bit more stable solution for running the second GPU.

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I am using Debian 6.x on Dell M6500 since 2010. No software problem. I just updated ram to 32GB and installed Samsung 512GB ssd. Both Dell M6700 and M4700 are certified on RHEL 6.x and Ubuntu. Also check out:

* http://www.lenovo.com/linux * http://www.ubuntu.com/partners/dell * https://www.system76.com/ * http://emperorlinux.com/

HTH.

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Thinkpad T530 with Mint here. I believe everything works, though a few things don't work out of the box (the discrete nivida optimius gpu needs Bumblebee, which Isn't that hard to set up, and I haven't ever tried to use my fingerprint scanner).

my screen is huge, and my battery lasts for hours. I believe smaller screens do get better battery life.

If Bumblebee used to work, it's probably a config problem. I'd purge bumblebee and reinstall both it and the driver.

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I bought a ASUS X201E-DH01 11.6-Inch Laptop 3 months back and I am truly happy with it. Ubuntu is preinstalled on it, all hardware is working out of the box. The performance of the Celeron dual core CPU is more then adequate for my job as a JS-developer using Sublime. I've changed the built in HDD against a SSD to speed up the whole system. For this price and if you don't need 3d acceleration, it's a really good deal.

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My Lenovo Thinkpad W530's GPU set-up stinks at Optimus, because all external monitor connectors are hard wired to the NVidia GPU. I need to switch xorg.conf files and restart X to switch between internal and external monitors. Be careful and read the manual before buying and search for the parts about "dos mode" and the GPU.

My now left over Asus PL30JT played pretty nice with bumblebee and Gentoo set-up though!

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Dell XPS 17 bought on sale.

Originally got it for MS SQL Server development work, soon switched to Ubuntu and running the MS OSes under VMWare after a zero day exploit jacked the Windows 7 install. (Fix your f*king fonts Redmond!)

It's not light, but it's really a semi-portable desktop for on-site data crunching and development. Doing more with Python and on Linux now.

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I have a Lenovo W520 and its horrible for Linux....the dual card setup is crazy, I'm running Fedora 18 on that thing right now with the nVidia proprietary drivers, and has many issues but is the most stable setup I have gotten from Linux on this laptop..I also have a Lenovo T420 and no issues at all with any distro...please stay away from nvidia crap.

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I have a T520 with the Nvidia graphic chips on it, and I have had an even worse time of trying to get the thing to work up to its supposed potential. The proprietary driver won't even work on the thing. Fedora/OpenSUSE is about the best I can do for it, with Bumblebee working. I can't even get PC-BSD to run on the thing, even with the Nvidia chips turned off in BIOS.

I'll make my next Thinkpad Nvidia free.

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Do you use external monitors with your setup? As far as I know, you can't run external monitors ( HDMI, VGA, etc ) with Bumblebee...I use discrete mode on my laptop for my HDMI external monitor.

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I use HP Pavilion for 2 years and X220, which works on Ubuntu 12.04. On HP, the hardware support for some key aspects keeps dwindling and that is a concern. I suspect the same with X220 (while updates, the Bluetooth driver site was not responding. I don't know if Bluetooth would continue to work.

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Thinkpads have worked extremely well for me. I hear a lot of great things about Dell XPS 13 Developer laptop which was recently launched.

My Thinkpad T510 has an nVidia chip but it is quite nicely supported by the Free nouveau driver.

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I run a Toshiba Portege Z930 with Linux Mint 14. The graphics card is not very powerfull (Intel HD Graphics 4000) but everything just works out of the box, including suspending and hibernation.

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Hi dawnkins,

I have the same laptop then you and the same OS.

Unfortunately, I have two major problems: suspending/hibernation and 3G.

May I perhaps contact you directly by email? It would be nice if you could give me some hints.

Thank you in advance!

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How about a Samsung series 9?

Has anybody on HN tested one of those? Searching around the net shows that there were small hw issues but they have been fixed in latest kernels.

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I am typing this on a Samsung Series 9 (900X3C) with Ubuntu and it is pretty good. All drivers were preinstalled and it is a fantastic looking device. I had to fiddle to get a few of the fn keys working however other than that, it is fine. There is an issue with the battery status which is a bug with acpi (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/acpi/+bug/971061). However I would highly recommend this combo and the Ubuntu wiki really helped (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SamsungSeries9).

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I have a 15" Series 9 which I use Unity on and it works great. I self upgraded to 16G and 256G. Complaints are minor - the keys are a little "rattly", and after about a year the CPU fan has a loud click when it starts up, which goes away after 30 seconds or so - something I only notice because it's an otherwise completely silent system (I'm guessing there's some dust in the fan). If they'd ever release the higher-res 2560x1440 version they showed off last year I'd buy it.

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Used one with arch Linux then Ubuntu in the last 12 months. Minus some basic configuring to get the trackpad working well under arch it's been wonderful. No hardware issues for me.

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I asked the same question to a hardware enthusiast and Linux user. He suggested me one of the machines with AMD APUs. It seems they're supported well via fglrx drivers.

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My HP dv7 works great with Linux Mint 13 out of the box, 8GB of RAM and running just a 1TB hard drive, with another slot I want to add an SSD to.

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Dell XPS 13

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If you can handle the bulk: Thinkpad T series with Intel HD4000 graphics + a dock at your desk. Don't buy the E/edge series..

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Chromebook Pixel

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I use a Lenovo w520

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Look at project sputnik from Dell

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I would like to second this. It's imperfect, but a lot of the fiddly bits -- hot plugging monitors, web cams, et al -- work, and the bug reporting and fixing is tracked:

https://bugs.launchpad.net/dell-sputnik

That's also a reasonably good overview of what bugs are on the system. I recommend sorting by 'bug heat', which is probably the best idea in all Launchpad.

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Dell Inspiron 15R SE comes with pre-installed Ubuntu and works fine! :)

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I would say I current Intel based Thinkpads are great.

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I'm quite happy with Ubuntu on my Lenovo X1 Carbon.

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Thinkpad T430 with intel chip and drivers (aka, RandR works fine), accept no substitute.

Use it with my Crossover 27Q (2560x1440) and Xmonad.

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