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Best ultrabook for linux? [April 2013 edition]
63 points by loxs on Apr 7, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments
What would you recommend? What do you use? Do you know of something interesting about to be released?

Please, do not recommend me to use Windows or Mac OS, we are not discussing this right now. I am specifically interested to find a nice ultrabook to use for programming on linux.

Yes, I am aware of the most popular things like the Dell Linux Ultrabook and the Chromebook Pixel (and I might choose one of them). But yet, someone might know of something better.

So here are the rules:

1. It's OK if it comes with another OS, as long as it's not very hard to install linux. The hardware must work well with linux. Some minor exceptions are acceptable (eg - not working fingerprint reader)

2. Full HD or better.

3. SSD

4. Keyboard of great quality.

5. Good battery life.

I currently run Ubuntu on a 2008 MacBook (runs near flawlessly) and a 2012 top of the line Dell Latitude (buggy as hell).

A lot of the responses here are along the lines of "I think you should look at this laptop", not "I have personally run this laptop and it works great."

I bring this up because my experience with the Dell which is otherwise the best laptop I have ever used and technically meets all the right specs has been dreadful.

My advice is to seek out answers from people who have actually done what you are trying to do and get some real world feedback. Also, if all else fails, I believe the shear volume of technically inclined people who own an Apple laptop compared to products from other companies should be taken into consideration.

Good luck and make sure whatever you get has a solid return policy!

Yes, good points. Of course I value most answers from people with actual experience. But I'm also happy with answers of the kind like "see, manufacturer X is going to release model Y in 2 months"...

Same observations about Dell, except for the cheap class (which I don't want) which is extremely good for its price.

Would totally recommend the X1 Carbon - though it's a while since it was released so maybe there is something recent that trumps it. Build quality is top notch - AFAIK it has the only trackpad and keyboard that can compete with the MBA (Asus Zenbook - I've heard - falls down on the track pad front, despite more pixels). SSD is fast. And it charges in 30 mins to full charge, which I didn't care for when I bought it but is really really useful. I would recommend the i5/8GB RAM version. And Linux works great on it. I'm running Ubuntu.

The X1 is insanely portable. The extra bit of real estate the 14 inch screen provides is great for everyday work. Ya, I loves it!

Downsides: doesn't have full HD, and you can't upgrade the RAM from 4GB to 8GB without paying for many other additions that you don't need.

Agree with you on the full HD front.

As I said, I'd go for the 8GB out of the box. This means you can only get an i5 processor (there isn't enough space for an i7 + 8GB in the machine). But all these processors are type U anyway so they're wayyy slower than i5/i7 series - so i5U vs i7U prob isn't a factor.

But ya, moar pixels is always good :)

I have an X1 carbon with both i7 and 8gb ram. Perhaps this restriction only applies to older models? Mine is the newer model with 1600x900 display.

Interesting to know. My i5/8GB RAM X1 also has the 1600x900 display. Perhaps as you say there's newer internals. But cool!

Dell just released their native-linux-running XPS:


1080p screen and you can assume the hardware works with linux.

My problem with Dell is that their keyboards usually suck. They are not that bad, but certainly worse than ThinkPads and MacBooks. Also, this actual model is more expensive than the Chromebook Pixel, and is arguably worse at every detail (except for the bigger SSD).

Portability goes a long way, and iirc it's a smaller form factor.

That said, I'm not sure that I'd choose it over the pixel either.

No NVIDIA or ATI card? How is the graphics performance?

After my current experiences running linux on a laptop with an optimus enabled graphics card I can safely say that I am never again going to buy a laptop with discrete graphics to run linux. It's been a pain getting Bumblebee to work (optimus drivers), and even with it working certain parts of the hardware are still closed off, thanks to limited driver support.

Not sure. I haven't seen one in the flesh, but I've heard good things about it. Nothing first, or even second hand though.

Personally, I wouldn't buy an ultrabook for the graphics performance, cooling is just too problematic to do anything overly shiny in my view, but I can't imagine you'd have issues running a shiny window manager or decoding 1080p video, which is the two most graphics intensive tasks I do.

Have a look at the Zenbook UX32VD, http://zenbook.asus.com/zenbook/?c=prime_ux32

It's full HD 1080p IPS screen, switchable intel HD/ nvidia graphics, expandable RAM and HD. I've had one since November and find the keyboard and build quality to be excellent.

Since I bought it I've upgraded the HD to a SSD and add a additional 8gb for ram to bring it up to 10gb total.

Linux compatibility seems good http://www.linlap.com/asus_ux32vd

I've got the Zenbook UX32VD as well. I've replaced the HDD with an SDD (a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB). I love it.

You have to run a bit of cutting-edge software, but there's lots of good documentation on the Ubuntu wiki about how to support this laptop. The discrete video chipset does work, and it does work well. I enjoy playing games like X-Plane 10 and Kerbal Space Program on it, as well as having access to a growing selection of additional Linux games via Steam.

I replaced a MacBook Air with this machine, and I am very happy with the selection. It is the best laptop I've ever owned.

EDIT: One additional required upgrade: a combo Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 hub (http://ca.startech.com/Networking-IO/Adapter-Cards/USB-3-to-...). The included 100 Mbit USB Ethernet adapter did not satisfy me. :-)

Also consider the UX32A [edit: I meant UX31A], which doesn't have switchable graphics (which don't work well under Linux anyway), has an SSD instead of an HDD (good), doesn't have upgradable RAM (bad), and is cheaper. Same screen on both.

Hmm, I can't seem to find a machine with these specs. Especially I can't find one with Full HD screen. Maybe because I am searching in European stores... (where I live)

On the other hand, I found a UX32VD with 2x256 GB SSDs. This is a little too much. Also I don't need the nVidia graphics card.

But in general, the Zenbook is probably my current favourite.

My mistake -- that should be UX31A.

Macbook Airs (or 13" MBP Retina) is (in my experience) the nicest choice for an ultrabook.

- Installing Linux is really easy

- Macbook Air isnt' full hd, but the retina is obviously better than full hd

- they've all got SSDs

- Macbook keyboards are amazing

- my air will last for about 8-9 hours of light use (vim etc) between charges

You say "Installing Linux is really easy", but in my experience installing Linux on a Mac is really involved. It could be the case that it has become easier. Would you say it has become significantly easier with newer models?

There are some instructions for installing Ubuntu on a Mac here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MactelSupportTeam/AppleInt...

It involves installing a bootloader (rEFIt, which starts GRUB), partitioning in OSX, partitioning in Linux and variants for different possible desired outcomes. After this, one should consider model-specific instructions for getting more details right (See https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBookPro)

Finally, in my experience, it will be a little off. The trackpad won't act just right, the backlight of the screen will have full brightness when starting X, etc. ("Thunderbolt Support Still Has Problems On Linux", December 2012 http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTI1M...)


Is this what you consider "really easy"? Does it fulfill the requirement "The hardware must work well with linux"?

As far as I can tell it isn't, and it doesn't, but please enlighten me if you disagree :)

Messing around with grub is always going to be painful, but this guide[1] worked decently for me and I've not had any driver problems (the backlit keyboard doesn't work very well, but I don't really care enough to fix it)

[1] - http://lifehacker.com/5531037/how-to-triple+boot-your-mac-wi...

I've been looking at getting a macbook air recently (because shiny), specifically to run linux on it. However, I couldn't find much about driver support for recent airs. How well does linux run on it? Is there much that doesn't work properly, or is there really great support for it?

I'd be interested in an answer to this too. Especially about support for multitouch gestures (that could be mapped to keyboard shortcuts, at least).

At the moment I use a debian VM inside OS X when I need to.

It runs fine (i haven't tried many multitouch gestures).

Most hardware is Intel (except wireless card, which is a b43, also supported).

With a few simple tweaks I can achieve equal or better battery consumption than OS X.

I have MacBook 11 and dual-boot with Linux Mint 14. It runs great, much prefer it over OS X. If there was one thing I could steal from OS X though it would be the trackpad and multitouch implementation. On all the distros I have installed it sucks, it is truly awful. This is the only real deal breaker holding me back from using Linux primarily on the Air at the moment, I am not going to carry a mouse around.

Does it really work that long with Linux? I have the 13" Air(2012 Ivy Bridge model) and while on Mac OS and only using Eclipse/XCode for work I never get it past 6 hours mark.

But in any case, I honestly don't see many reasons why would I install Linux on it in favour of Mac OS. I can see why would I swap Windows for Linux,but I find myself able to do 99% of linux stuff on MacOS just fine. It's got the terminal, it's got mostly the same tools, so why?

It's really a preference thing. I have the opposite feeling, i.e. why keep OS X when you can run Arch?

As for battery life, Linux can very greatly depending on settings and distro. Don't expect to beat Mac OS without any configuration/tweaking, but if you go far enough you can get match it or do better.

Someone that thinks like me! I'm not alone!

Agreed with you, totally off topic, but I spend most of my days doing web development. I opted for OSX over Linux because I wanted to run Photoshop (Gimp sucks), native Word/Excel (LibreOffice sucks), etc. and got tired of constantly rebooting to Windows to export an image in Photoshop.

As I said in the first post, "why not MacOS" is not the question right now. Please, stick to the topic.

Well, it kind of is a question, since I asked it as I would like to know why people do it. Feel free to ignore it though, there's plenty of other comments more on topic for you.

My work (and hobbies) involve lots of linux specific programming. Most of the things (but not all) can be done on MacOS, but almost always linux is the better tool for me, getting my work done. Developing blindly on MacOS, not knowing whether (and how) will it run on linux can't be as good as developing on EXACTLY the same OS that will later run the production version. Using exactly the same (to the exact version) diagnostics tools as on the production server is a thing that I prefer. Especially having seen bugs that only show up on specific versions of the platforms.

Sorry if my previous comment was rude. Didn't mean to.

Thanks a lot for the answer, it makes sense. And don't worry,no offence taken ;-)

Why not use virtualization?

Running native gives increased battery life and makes multiple-monitor support generally easier.

From the sounds of your battery usage, you don't run linux on your macbook air, so recommending it is rather strange.

I run both Linux and OSX, but yes, my battery usage isn't as good under linux, but it still sits at around 5+ hours

Have you tried diagnosing with powertop?

Does hibernation or maybe even some kind of hybryd-sleep works well for you?

I did quite a bit of research for a new ultrabook. I am a software consultant and needed a hardware update. One of the surprising things I found was that most of the ultrabooks do not have dedicated home and end keys which I regularly use for coding. I finally came across the Lenovo Yoga book, it was almost high-def, had all of the keyboard keys including home and end, however as soon as I got the laptop out of the box, the keyboard had different "flex" in different areas of the keyboard. When typing "0" in the upper right the whole keyboard actually moved. This was disappointing as 3 other Yogas I tried had the exact same problem.

I returned the Yoga and found the Acer S7 (It does not have home and end keys, but it has dedicated page up and page down) which I plan to remap to home and end. (The base Acer ultrabook does not have these).

I have been quite impressed with the S7, the screen is incredible, keyboard is nice. Battery life is not excellent, but that is not a show stopper since the longest of my in-person meetings are less than a few hours.

Good luck! Finding just the right "ultrathin" ultrabook for development can be a little tricky right now.

This laptop was not in any of the big-box retailers in my town, so I had to get it on Amazon. Below is the affiliate link. If you care, just copy out the asin... http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AVYPLPY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?...

Hope it works out for you - this is purely anecdotal, but anyone I know who's owned an Acer laptop (n = ~6) has had it break on them within a year and a half or so.

I should have added that to my post, I waited this long because I learned a few years ago never to buy the first-model revision. (I had a bad first-year redesign Honda Accord of all cars and will never make that mistake again) I saw the same thing on the first-gen ultrabooks (pre Asus Ultrabook Prime). (It seems the manufacturers were rushing to play catch-up with Apple).

Now that I think about it even more, I didn't think about my rule for the Yoga Book (it was a first-gen remodel) and I had problems with it.

Whatever you do, DO NOT get an ultrabook with a discrete graphics card to run Linux. As someone else said, it's a pain in the ass, and it actually ruined my Dell XPS 15 that managed to live just long enough to get out of warranty.

I had been running bumblebee for months, and yes, you can install it and make it work and get almost as much battery life out of linux as you get on windows. That said, bumblebee is error prone, sometimes doesn't survive kernel upgrades, etc. Several times I installed basic Ubuntu updates only to find bumblebee was disabled and my battery life gone to hell.

Sounds like an easy fix (just turn bumblebee back on), but in my experience, laptops aren't made to absorb the heat from a discrete graphics card all the time. I'm 90% sure that's why my Dell XPS 15 bit the dust after just a year, due to a shoddy implementation in powering the Nvidia card up on demand.

In my case, I just bought a new system to replace my Dell XPS15, and opted for a 13" Macbook Pro running OSX. If I wasn't running OSX, I'd probably go with an ASUS, again without the discrete card. Get a nice display, with an ultrabook, I think that's extremely important.

I'm considering getting the Pixel and running Linux on it, but am extremely annoyed by the lack of upgradable storage.

The $250 Samsung ARM Chromebook has USB3 (~100MB/s) and a fast (~50MB/s) SD card controller. The $1300 Pixel only has USB2 and a slow (USB2) SD card controller and no real PCIe slots, which means that you can never get more than ~17MB/s when trying to increase the tiny internal storage.

Honestly, the $250 ARM Chromebook is among the very best things you could do for development (in my opinion). I can use ChromeOS for when I'm not doing anything hardcore and then just open a chroot jail (via crouton https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton) with a full xubuntu/xmonad install when I really want to get cracking. Both open so quickly it's almost disorienting, either from start or from sleep. It's the same size and weight as a Macbook Air and the battery life is outstanding (I've come quite close to the 9 hr mark when I'm not listening to music on speakers). The only downside, at least for the purposes of this question, is that it isn't fully HD, or rather isn't 1080p which is what I assume the OP meant. Still, I'd say that this is by far the best computing investment I've ever made, and I'm happier with this than I am with the $1000 laptop I got 6 months ago.

It's 1366x768, which is the worst resolution available on modern laptops. The resolution makes it unusable for development, in my opinion. (I have one too.)

If Samsung makes this model laptop with a high res display, I will happily buy it as my next machine. The wife has the current model and loves it, but the screen is not quite up to scratch. Otherwise, a brilliant little device.

Hmm, probably for that money I should just risk and buy one. It has the potential to save me at least one megabuck...

Been really wanting to try this, but still waiting either for v2, or some form of hybrid tablet-ish thing.

Yeah... if it wasn't for this, I wouldn't be typing here. Instead I would probably be doing something much more productive, using the Pixel, right at the moment :-(

extremely annoyed by the lack of upgradable storage.

Do you happen to know if it is integrated into the motherboard or if they are simply using a mini pci express card internally?

It's soldered down/integrated. There is a mini pci express slot that the WWAN connects to, but it's wired electrically to the USB2 bus, not the PCIe bus, so that doesn't help.

(I wouldn't be annoyed if it were possible to swap it out for larger storage somehow.)

I'm very happy with my Samsung Series 9.

Different marketing people mean different things by "full HD", so I'm not sure if it meets your specs, but 1600×900 is decent enough for me on that size; and it really, really is a gorgeous display.

Battery-wise, when I was travelling and had wifi/bluetooth off, low screen backlight, etc, it was pushing 9 hours.

I'd agree with that. I actually prefer the keyboard on my backup laptop (An x121e Thinkpad), but yeah, love the Samsung's screen. Battery life isn't brilliant at 5-6 hours though. I miss my old Samsung x360 which used to give me closer to 8.

Ubuntu installed just fine on the S9. Everything seemed to work OOTB. But ended up reverting to Win7 for a contract I was working on while travelling.

The new 1080P Series 9 would be okay, but I'd be sorely tempted on a Chromebook Pixel.

They recently released updated versions of the Series 9 with 1080p displays.

1600x900 is my old (current) ThinkPad T410. And it's 3 years old. I don't want to be stuck at this resolution for 3 more years. Especially having seen the Pixel...

I've never heard of anyone talking about 1600x900 as Full HD. Full HD = 1920x1080.

My favorite options are the Air (11 / 13) and Thinkpad x220.

Other options include Thinkpad x230 (newer than the x220) but worse keyboard, x1 Carbon, Dell XPS, Chromebook Pixel, Asus and Samsung.

I ended up buying both an Air 11 (my own money) and a x220 (my employer). Both machines are really well supported under Linux (most hardware is Intel). The only drawback is their low resolution screen, which IMHO is not a dealbreaker given how small they are.

I manage to achieve 5-6W in both, which leads to stunning battery peformance. This requires some powertop monitoring and some simple tweaks.

x220 is great because it is serviceable, has an IPS screen, a full keyboard, a non-ULV processor, better connectivity, and a more sturdy design.

The Air has a much better touchpad, is more silent, and comes with a blazing fast SSD from Toshiba (64 or 128 versions).

I personally would get an Air over a x220 after having used the x220 for the last 6 months. The x220 is my fourth Thinkpad over the years, and it looks just like the X30 I got 10 years ago.

And honestly, the design has not kept up with the times. For its weight class, it's pretty big, thick and clumsy. The trackpad is atrocious (that's not a problem if you like trackpoints, but my fingers end up hurting after an hour of using them). I also found the x220 quite slow, and the fan spends a lot of time running even with just basic browsing. Battery life is decent though, it probably won't break just by you looking at it sideways, and the keyboard is good - its a classic Thinkpad. But next to a modern Ultrabook it looks quite dated.

However, if I were to spend my own money, the Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu edition looks appealing. I haven't had a chance to try it though.

I've had the new XPS for about 2 weeks now. It's nice and light, good screen. Worked with Ubuntu out of the box except hibernate -- which ran into some problems with encrypted swap before it could work (could be my fault for saying Yes to encrypted home dir when setting up the preloaded Ubuntu). I gave up on the trackpad though (maybe it can be tweaked to be usable), and am using a mouse. I never liked the trackpad on my previous laptop (some kind of netbook) nor the trackpad or the red thingy on the solid Thinkpad T42.

With an i7, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD it's nice and fast. Suspend, hibernate are quick. Sound is decent.

I tried an Asus zenbook and the Samsung series 9 in a store, and was not happy about the keyboard. I think the Dell XPS keyboard is nice. Not as nice as on my 2005 Thinkpad, but the XPS is far lighter and thinner.

Here in Denmark it was hard to find a good selection of laptops to try in store. My other alternative was the X1 carbon... but I really wanted something that worked with Ubuntu out of the box with 100% guarantee.

Overall, it feels solid and sleek yet light (1.4 kg or so). It fits into the same tiny Victorinox laptop bag that my 2009 10" netbook fit into, yet it is much more powerful (of course, also 3x the price).

I found one wifi hotspot that the Ubuntu or wifi hardware mysteriously refused to connect to, where I had to connect via my Galaxy S3 phone and share the connection via the USB port (which worked pretty well).

While the screen is nice, I've increased the font size to "Large" in Ubuntu's universal access settings, and have zoomed in on several web pages with Chrome. So I'm not yet sure about the benefit of the high resolution screen (Linus Torvalds however swears to his Pixel and its 2560x1440 or so screen).

Why would you use a touchpad if you have a trackpoint? Get used to the trackpoint: less fatigue, faster and more exact control of the cursor and more ergonomic since your fingers pretty much stay on the homerow = less wrist movement (unless you use your thumb).

I'm not saying I would. I prefer the trackpoint. But they should provide a decent trackpad or get rid of it altogether. I don't need both. This would make more space for palmrest, which is too small in x220.

I have an x220 but I haven't been able to get the power consumption that low. I have tried quite a few things. Could you suggest a link/reference/method please?

Just 3 things:

- Install powertop and enable all suggested tweaks

- Depending on your kernel you should downclock your i915 graphics card and force pcie_aspm

- Later kernels (>3.6?) have a power regression which leads to higher consumption in Sandy Intel architectures

These are my energy tweaks for a 2008 MacBook, I don't have my x220 here, although they are machine independent:

echo 5 > /proc/sys/vm/laptop_mode echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs echo 0 > /proc/sys/kernel/nmi_watchdog

echo 1 > /sys/module/snd_hda_intel/parameters/power_save for i in /sys/bus//devices//power/control; do echo auto > $i; done for i in /sys/class/scsi_host//link_power_management_policy; do echo min_power > $i; done

for i in /sys/class/rfkill//soft; do echo 1 > $i; done

For the kernel parameters, a simple Google search should get you going.

What's the watt consumption you achieve? I must note I run Arch Linux with Xmonad and no desktop environment.

Ahahah. Ok, ok, yes, I'm running Unity on off-the-shelf Ubuntu. I bet you're getting much better battery performance than I am!

Well, running a lightweight desktop helps. I cannot say how much, though. Try monitoring wakeups using powertop while your machine is iddling. Anything above 30 or 40 is bad.

This decision is purely a function of cost, portability, features. And you might have to compromise on something, be prepared.

My choice: Asus Ultrabooks.

In my case, I couldn't afford a Macbook Air, (I badly wanted a MAC, I couldn't buy with my budget, but just somehow managed to get an ASUS Ultrabook with EMI's)

About Asus Ultrabooks--

Compared to MAC's:

- They are much much cheaper, ( almost half the price) not compromising on the build quality, comes with Aluminium Chassis.

- Has 24GB SSD, Hybrid storage with 750GB HDD( you can configure SSD, and install important apps)

- Excellent MAC like Keyboards.

- Suggestion: Get an 8GB extra RAM, everything works smooth.

- Finally excellent battery life, 4hrs guaranteed with 4cells, if you are looking more get 8cells, but pay extra.

Good luck. :)

That was completely unnecessary. There's no reason to think that it's a reference to the former in such a context.

True, but there's also no need to capitalize it. It's a shortened version of Macintosh, not an acronym.

Great observation, appreciate that.

Sorry for that typo. :)

Hmm, interesting. Where I live (Europe), Zenbooks are almost the same price as Macbook Air.

I recommend buying a piece-of-shit Dell and putting an aftermarket SSD + memory in there. Personally, I develop on cheap Dell slammed full of RAM running a Linux VM inside of Windows. I know the 'cool' kids aren't into Dell and Windows and all that but you can get a faster machine for less money if you stay away from Apple.

Unless you are running a server, there is no reason to be running Linux directly on your hardware. You can, of course, but it's not a good idea.

I'm not a Mac fanboy so take that for what you will. I look at these fanboy 'bro' developers running around with overpriced hardware and laugh. You might not have the same reaction.

Same - windows offers reliability, especially when your hardware drivers get forgotten when they no longer work with updated software and updated kernel down the road.

I run CLI Arch Linux in a VM and use samba for shared folders. Usually I just end up coding right in the SSH terminal. You also develop good habits when it comes to deploying to a production environment, plus capable of managing multiple environments and keeping them separate.

Edit: BUT, for Ultra Books, I am looking at buying an Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A with an i5. Top quality build and nice keyboard, has great reviews. The Dell XPS ultrabook looks good too, but doesn't have the same quality as the Asus.

Unless you are running a server, there is no reason to be running Linux directly on your hardware. You can, of course, but it's not a good idea.

What a bizarre statement. It works quite well if you prefer the Linux environment and don't require specific software only available on another OS. Just because some setup works well for you doesn't mean it is appropriate for everyone.

I have both Windows 7 and Linux laptops and prefer Linux from a maintenance standpoint and from a driver standpoint. Usually, if Linux drivers are supported they are supported very well. With Windows things appear to be less uniform.

I work like that when I need to run other stuff on the Windows side. But that's on my monster desktop machine.

Now I want to buy a small ultrabook, and on that, running 2 OSes sounds suboptimal. It might work of course, but I can't try it before buying, so I don't really like the of risking. I want a good machine, that is known to run linux well.

And no, I don't want a cheap 1366x768 screen and crappy keyboard. Yes, I can live with cheap CPU, RAM etc. And in fact the best machine for me would be with good screen/kbd and cheap everything else. But no one manufactures such, at least to my knowledge :(

I've tried developing on a remote dedicated server via PuTTy, VM under Windows (VMWare and VirtualBox), and a native Linux OS. The native Linux OS destroys the other two options by far. I just couldn't handle the slight delay you get in a VM when it comes to the mouse, keyboard, etc. I just really didn't care for it.

I really like the x1 Carbon. Nice and light, touch screen is optional and Lenovo is pretty good with Linux support.

At least in European stores, I can't find one with more than 1600x900 pixels. That's too old nowadays.

Have you actually used a 14" laptop with a 1600x900 screen? When I got the X1 Carbon, I was worried that I was giving up a higher resolution screen in order to get a ThinkPad ultrabook. But I've found that even 1600x900 is actually too high a resolution for me, without scaling. For example, I've got HN scaled right now to 125%. A friend of mine has an ASUS ultrabook (the Zenbook Prime UX31A) with a 1080p screen and it was impossible to read anything on it, the text was so tiny.

You can read about my experiences with the X1 Carbon here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4848375

I'm typing on that same laptop right now and loving it.

At the moment I type this from a T410 with 1600x900 resolution. I want better.

T400@1440x900 here, one word: MORE!

I also went to take a look at the X1c in a local store, and I was ready to purchase it. Looking at it, however, I couldn't get over how poor the display really looked. Everything was washed out with light blue. It drove me crazy even in the store.

After going home and doing some research,[1] it became obvious that the screens were mis-calibrated out of the factory.

If you do go with the X1c, make sure you either get a color calibrator or find the color profile ahead of time.

[1]: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Update-Lenovo-ThinkPad-X... (check the display section)

I got an HP EliteBook Folio 9470m at work (not my personal choice), but I though I should share my impressions.

I was genuinely impressed by the fact that this is the only ultrabook I've seen with a swappable battery. Yes!

The ultrabook in itself is fine, and the build quality is excellent. 8gb of ram, 256gb SSD, HD4000 graphics. I wasn't able to boot the latest ubuntu with EFI, but "hibrid" boot works just fine. Basically there's not a lot of hardware variation in terms of ultrabooks, so everything works more or less correctly. I was personally able to work for 5 hours on the battery (I'm a developer, so you can imagine my workload as slightly higher than average browsing).

I do have some remarks:

- The keyboard is generally good enough, but I've always found HP keyboards to be sloppy compared to ThinkPads, and this is also true for this ultrabook. - The touchpad is ok (synaptics), but the touchpad buttons are crap, like all HP I've ever used. HP doesn't seem to get buttons. When you hear the click it doesn't mean you have clicked. Wake-up HP, I've been using elitebooks since the '90 and this HAS NOT changed! - Not a fan of the "nipple" in the middle of the keyboard, wastes space for the key. - Useless fingerprint scanner, like most HPs.

Both points are moot if you are fine with HPs in general, since this is absolutely equal to any other HP elitebook.

- Some problems with the latest iwlwifi driver (some panics during network scanning in the last weeks), though hardly an HP-only problem.

Comes preloaded with Windows 8, which was easy to zap. Run-time on battery between linux/win8 was equal after for me, contrarily to what other people mention. I used windows 8 for about two weeks (to give it a spin), using Visual Studio, etc. 5 hours of work on battery is the longest I've ever had so far for a laptop. Being able to have a spare battery is a big plus.

I've had an Asus Zenbook Prime (1920x1080, 256GB SSD) for about half a year now and am generally very happy with it. I run Debian testing (with Linux 3.7.1 at the moment) and as far as I know everything works.

Compared to my girlfriend's Mcbook Air I have to charge the battery much more often, but I'm not sure if that's the hardware or the OS. Another minor nitpick is the rather high fan speeds it prefers, even with low temperatures. This makes a noticeable noise in a quiet environment (I don't hear the Air).

Keyboard is not great but ok (better than that of the older Zenbook), I love the screen (this resolution is new for me) and wrt size/weight/form factor/price it's pretty much equivalent to a Macbook Air.

As I said, I'm happy with it, and would probably buy it again. The only other model that made me just a tiny bit jealous is my colleague's Lenovo X1 Carbon, but it's quite expensive and wasn't available half a year ago.


I'll have to add in my vote for the Zenbook Prime UX32VD. I use it as my work laptop and it's awesome. Go for the UX32VD over the UX31A. The UX32VD comes with a 24gb SSD (which I use for my Ubuntu install) and a 500gb HDD (used for a Windows 7 install and the /home directory of my linux install). The benefit is that you can easily swap out the HDD for a SSD and you can also upgrade the RAM to 10gb. The UX31A and Macbook Air both have soldered, non-upgradeable RAM.

I've heard people mention the fan noise but I honestly don't notice it. The one thing I'll say isn't that great is battery life. Due to the discrete GPU, I get about 3 hours of battery life. There are some things you can do to turn off the GPU, such as installing Bumblebee.

Check this out: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AsusZenbookPrime

Based on the good reviews, I got a Zenbook Prime (UX31A).

I really didn't like the keyboard. Shift-insert, normally a right-hand-only operation, became a both-hands operation (I had to hit Fn with my left hand). There were other keyboard layout problems, and I just didn't like the feel. My typos went way up.

I ended up selling it and getting a ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

After being loyal to ASUS for many years, I bought a Lenovo ThinkPad x230 in January. I like it, but there are some things to nitpick: https://plus.google.com/106336989542410513415/posts/PR4efB7D...

I wrote about the decision process that led me to choose that model: https://plus.google.com/106336989542410513415/posts/avV5eL1P...

And earlier, I wrote about why I gave up on getting an ASUS machine. (TLDR: Windows 8 refused to dual-boot. I felt ripped-off but too weary to fight it into working.) https://plus.google.com/106336989542410513415/posts/jfDVKGyx...

I've been really happy with my laptop from System76 (https://www.system76.com/laptops/).

Although I got the Gazelle for more horse power, the Lemur seems like it would fit your needs: https://www.system76.com/laptops/model/lemu4

The ultrabook spec is loose enough to be meaningless, but even so I find it hard to believe that a 3cm+ thick brick would qualify. Also, a 1366x768 screen is probably not what the OP meant by HD...

Thinkpad T430, +1600x900HD screen upgrade +All function keys are compatible with all major distros of linux +Best keyboard on a 14-13 inch I have used +Upgradeable battery lasts 8-9 hours(in text editors/browsing the web)

Avoid System76 if you need battery life, which was the main reason I chose the T430 over the Gazelle

I'll second the T430 series. I've had good luck with the T430u with the base configuration and ubuntu. Ubuntu installation was simple using a bootable USB drive and the latest Ubuntu desktop.

The screen on the T430u is not full HD, but cheaper than the regular T430 though.

I believe an SSD is available as an upgrade, but I suspect doing the upgrade yourself would be easy. I upgraded the RAM to 8 GB, which was an easy upgrade following the manual. The hard drive looks to be similarly easy to upgrade.

The keyboard is acceptable and I have found that I have adapted to it quickly.

I haven't pushed the battery life, but I would estimate 4-5 hours with web browsing and the screen brightness up.

I too upgraded the ram, just have to find one with the same timing on Amazon and pop it in(4gb stick). And as for the SSD I got myne on Newegg for $85 (128gb Samsung 840) also very simple to put in, remove a screw pull out the old and mount the new.

Saw this in an interview with Cory Doctorow. His information regarding Thinkpad warranty is excellent.


Does anyone have a good timeline for the release/availability of the next iteration of Intel CPU's?

"Mobile" as much or more so than "desktop/server".

At this time of year, this factor is a major point for me in making a decision about when and what to purchase.

How about Lenovo IDEAPAD U510 ? I own U310, not the best performance but keyboard is amazing and price is very low compared to competition. ...and it looks nice.

15+ inches is too big. My 14 inch ThinkPad is too big. Now I want something more compact

While I don't have one, I've been researching the NP740U3E.

What about Novatech nFinity http://www.novatech.co.uk/laptop/?s=3 ? They do sell w/out Windows installed.

Chromebook Pixel. It's all about the display.

lenovo x220 for me - I got a new one for £500 from ebay with 16gb memory.

Then installed a 2nd HDD (msata) to run linux.

Only problem is not full HD.

Please, let us know which one you chose

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