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Ask HN: The best Linux laptop
74 points by Nib on Nov 29, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments
I've been thinking since quite a while to replace my current laptop. It's a 2011 VAIO which I modified to run Ubuntu 14.04 . But, it seems to be giving up on me since a few days, and with the thanksgiving discounts going, I might actually get myself one :P

So, what is the best laptop that runs Linux natively, or after modifying. Plus, try to make it a little more affordable($200 - $850).

P.S. Nobody mention the Mac, it's a beauty in itself, and I won't be able to replace OS X by Linux emotionally.

Stick with thinkpads and checkout ThinkWiki[1] to make sure that there are no oddities you are not willing to work through on the model you want to buy.

The Dell XPS Developer Edition[2] comes with Linux installed, and has supported binary drivers from Dell. Just a little outside your price range.

[1]: http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/ThinkWiki [2]: http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/xps-13-linux/pd

The previous XPS 13 can be had in this price range on eBay, at least refurb, and there is very little difference between the current and previous CPU:


I have the early '13 model with the i7-3537U processor and run Ubuntu 14.04 on it without a problem (the wireless was somewhat flaky on 13.04, but it seems better since the upgrade - unscientifically).

I had a very bad experience with a Thinkpad W series laptop (and the Lenovo RMA process). That said, I still pine for an X1 Carbon every time I see one, and the new Yoga looks reasonably well-built (the previous one was flimsy garbage).

I've got a current-gen i7 XPS 13 as my work laptop, so I haven't put Linux on it (gov't clients need Office docs grumble grumble), but I can vouch for the quality of the hardware and battery life. My linux book is an Asus with ATI graphics that gives me repeated problems, and the build quality isn't as good as the Dell. I actually find myself working in Windows more often just to use the Dell hardware. I get 6 or 7 hours of battery life with the Dell, it's lightweight, and it's quite thin. I had no trouble running Ubuntu on my previous Dell laptop, either.

Oooo, the Dell XPS Dev Edition sounds really fantastic, maybe I'll rush to the market today and get it before the thanksgiving discounts leave :P . But, I just have one little problem with Dell, I've used their hardware years ago, and to me, their customer support seemed utterly foolish(and useless), is this still true ?

While I love my X230 running Fedora, I hear really bad things about the newer X line-up, mainly about the touchpad which is apparently unusable (even under Windows), but also that they've reduced the max RAM from 16GB (X230) to 8GB. Maybe the lesson in that is to buy a second hand X230 ...

This is a good summary of the problems with the x240.


I'm not sure why you're ruling out Mac laptops, perhaps you think they're too expensive? I was a long time Thinkpad user but converted to a MacBook Air a few years ago and haven't looked back at all since. You can run Linux in a VM perfectly, and OSX itself has some nice Unix features.

Right now you can get a 13" MacBook Air with good specs for $800: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/apple-macbook-air-latest-model-1... IMHO this is the way to go. No $800 Windows laptop is going to come close to the build quality of the MacBook Air.

I also have a MacBook Air and I run my Linux (XUbuntu) desktop in a VM. I guess it depends on what you're doing but for me personally it works just fine. The Air has a compact size and a great screen. I don't think I could have gotten myself a better work laptop. I just wish they came with more memory (32 gig would be really nice).

Well, I haven't been including a Mac here because most of us already know how cool they are. I mean, my dad has one, and I know a VMWARE machine running Ubuntu is great, but then it feels kinda like a dis-respect to OS X(and sj). Moreover, most of the good Mac's start from over my price range(atleast they do in India, they do).

Are you running Linux on a mac using uefi? I heard that was difficult

I've always gone thinkpad for Linux and never really been let down.

I got an M$ Surface Pro 3 last month (don't laugh) but its actually first rate, hardware wise.

Fedora doesn't quite work perfectly yet but its pretty close.

High DPI touch screens rock!

I was also considering SP3 -- how does it fare with Linux? Have you encountered any particular difficulties?

you need to rebuild kernel to make the touch cover keyboard work.

no camera driver.

no os hibernation.

no bluetooth.

details here:


Can't take seriously anyone that types "M$". I know this kind of juvenile potshots are rampant in the Linux community, but it is time to grow up.

GP was complimenting M$. As for "growing up", it seems that the younger fanbois are more sensitive to a fairly innocuous shorthand than those of us who remember computing in the '90s.

I think this is probably because hackers in younger generations never experienced the beast that was Microsoft in the 90s and have seen the progression of MS as one from "company that makes boring and/or bad OS" to the embrace of FOSS that's been happening recently.

I'm personally super interested in tech and hacking history, so I've read all the war stories, the pleas on FOSS homepages, the rants on sites like jwz's, books like Microserfs, etc. But even the most talented hackers who are 16-24 right now probably see Microsoft as "the Xbox company."

Not true - 21 here, was only born in 1993. I'm aware of the disputes that have happened over time, especially arguments with Netscape / Jobs / etc. Microsoft has a pretty interesting and rich history, and I was extremely surprised about the recent open source announcements. I read somewhere they actually have an open source branch, it's just not widely talked about, mainly because Windows overshadows it.

I'm not trying to make an ultimatum - there will definitely be exceptions, as I pointed out myself. But if you ask around, most people in that demographic won't know about the story of MS, won't have seen stuff like the Gates deposition video, etc. The most you'll get is a vague notion of Microsoft being called evil by greybeards.

He was using a good product, yet had to lament the fact it was a Microsoft product.

And I am by no means fanboy or young. Just don't like silly potshots like that on any side.

>I know this kind of juvenile potshots are rampant in the Linux community, but it is time to grow up.

Maybe it's time to not get offended at someone's shorthand. No need to derail conversation in this way.

EDIT: oops. I just noticed your price range. The X1 Carbon doesn't fit with that.

I would strongly recommend the last generation Lenovo X1 Carbon, but I would strongly recommend against the current X1 Carbon for a few reasons:

- They merged the trackpoint's buttons into the trackpad's and now it's very difficult find the middle chord or to select text using the trackpoint.

- They merged the function keys with the utility keys (e.g. volume control) into a single, dynamic row, so closing a window (Alt-F4) often requires you to toggle from utility to function key. If this sounds confusing and useless, it is.

- Worst, because of the doubled-up row (fn, utility), Esc and ~ wound up overlaid. So they moved the ~ next to the LOWER RIGHT Alt key. I hit Esc every time I try to reference my home directory...

Other than that, it's a lovely laptop.

Oh and don't get a HighDPI display unless you want to deal with funky application layout issues...

agreed, i have a last-gen carbon as my work laptop, and it's wonderful. fairly crappy battery life, but the rest works beautifully and is very pleasant both to carry around and to use.

Lenovo Thinkpads have always made for good Linux machines, and even now nothing seems like it will ever beat old Thinkpad keyboards. New Thinkpads are still good but I've never been a big fan of the chiclet keyboards and the resolutions sometimes seem to be worse than in the past.

Of course, there is always: https://system76.com

but I've yet to give any of their gear a spin.

I bought my SO a Gazelle Pro from System76 two years ago. We've been pleased enough with it that I just bought one myself (with updated specs, of course) instead of a new desktop.

Ubuntu out of the box, all hardware is supported, good performance and battery life, a matte-screen option, etc.

In another couple of years, they will likely be my first choice again.

Dell Latitude's work well. I'm currently on an E6320 with Xubuntu 14.04. I've removed the DVD drive and replaced it with a 2nd SSD so I have dual SSD's in a 13" laptop. Everything works perfectly including the docking bay which allows me to plug in a 27" monitor at 2560x1440 via Display Port. Multi monitor switching works better than Windows 8.1 for me since it's hot swap and the windows retain sensible sizes for when the larger display is plugged back in (they all instantly resize in Windows).

The new E7440 is very nice and can be had for great prices on eBay. I tried one of these with the Full HD IPS screen. Unfortunately I couldn't get HiDPI to work to my satisfaction (even with latest Gnome and KDE). Having said that, I couldn't get Windows 8.1 to work to my satisfaction either.

A lot of people haven't heard of them, but Clevo is a major laptop OEM that makes both rock-solid business platforms and gaming platforms. Sager, System76, FalconNW, and most other boutique laptop builders use rebadged/modified Clevo systems. Clevo doesn't sell direct to customers, but there are plenty of sites where you can buy customized or barebones systems for very reasonable prices.

This summer I bought a W670SZQ from AVADirect, with an i5 and SSD it was just under $900. For a full size 17" laptop the weight is very reasonable, and it's a great system that Xubuntu and Mint worked fine on with zero tweaking.

HP EliteBook Folio 1040, 14" 1920x1080 screen:

Pros: Thinner (1.59 cm vs 2.06 cm) and lighter (1.49 kg vs 1.58 kg) than ThinkPad T440s. Everything in Ubuntu works.

Cons: The keys are flat (like in Macs), I'd prefer some contour like in ThinkPads. Touchpad has no mouse buttons: 2-finger tap on the touchpad (for right-click) is quite easy, but 3-finger taps (for middle-click) is a little tricky. Also selecting text by pressing on the pressure-sensitive touchpad while moving the cursor is a little tricky. Personally, I always use external mouse, so I don't care.

I bought an X230 Thinkpad a year ago, and I'm quite pleased with it.

I wanted an SSD, but I found it was cheaper to select the cheapest hard drive they had and then buy an SSD from Newegg than to get the SSD from Lenovo. Replacing the drive was quite easy, not like a tablet or cell phone. It goes without saying, but you should do the same for RAM.

A month or so after I bought it, the fan stopped working. Their customer service was quite good. They sent me a box so I could return my laptop, and they fixed the fan and shipped it back at no cost to me.

The X230 takes an mSATA drive (that's in addition to the regular hard drive). I fitted one in mine. It's somewhat fiddly to install because you have to completely remove the keyboard, but possible with basic tools and a bit of patience. Now I have:

    NAME                                       MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE
    sda                                          8:0    0 298.1G  0 disk
    ├─sda1                                       8:1    0   500M  0 part
    └─sda2                                       8:2    0 297.6G  0 part
    sdb                                          8:16   0 119.2G  0 disk
    └─sdb1                                       8:17   0 119.2G  0 part

So you don't say what you consider best. Do you need a discrete GPU and a huge screen? Do you want a lightweight ultraportable with great battery life?

Also after christmas sales are often good for tech, if you can wait. You can often get refurbs from returns for great prices.

I'm on a thinkpad T530. added an aftermarket SSD and 16 gb of ram (You need a W system to get 32GB, but it's possible). Note, get an intel wifi card that supports 2.5 and 5.0 channels. a T540 is a substantially better machine, both with haswell getting better power managment, and the ability to hotswap batteries because of a smaller internal battery.

I also have an hp chromebook 14 running crouton lubuntu 14.04 I got for $236 on woot. It's fine as a secondary laptop, and seems to have good battery life. I do occasionally miss having a meta key. I run xfce, not unity, and I'd recommend a light-weight DE. It is notably slower compiling (things like YouCompleteMe's C++ code for vim).

The other thing to consider is a cheap foreign made computer, like Sager or Clevo. They are bare bones systems, but that's often better for linux support. I'd also look at resources from reddit's r/SuggestALaptop like http://www.reddit.com/r/SuggestALaptop/comments/2448oy/guide...

I'm a fan of really cheap chromebooks.

The Toshiba CB35 that recently came out is my current laptop. Don't buy that right now, though. We don't have the coreboot situation worked out, although we're close. Currently hating myself by using crouton every day... But its still a great machine for the price.

For me, and probably you too, nothing matters more than display quality, keyboard quality, and battery life (in that order.) I do most everything remotely, so power isn't even a part of the question.

I would suggest the 2014 Holiday Giving Guide by FSF [0].


Lenovo Thinkpad T410S here. The only thing I've done to it in the 4 years I've had it is to upgrade the 500gig hard drive to 2 TB. And when I bought it I specified the larger battery rather than the standard one. It has an included DVD drive which is surprisingly often used.

I have kept it as a Linux-Win7 dual-boot, but Windows is restricted to 50 gig and I'd boot this maybe 4-5 times a year, while the other 1950 gig is in use with Linux.

I have a Lenovo Yoga 2 and really like it. nice form factor, 3200x1800 screen (great DPI on a 12" screen), pretty good battery life, and the folding screen lets me use a nice usb mechanical keyboard while on the go.

The wifi drivers are the only area that doesn't have perfect linux support, but the 3.18 kernel is a drastic improvement, and more are coming.

Also, the price is right, mine was only $1000.

I own a Lenovo Thinkpad S540 and I just bought my second yesterday in the black Friday deals. For me it's been the perfect Linux Laptop, practically everything works straight out of the box, good performance and I use it for home and professional programming. It's slim and light, I've used it for travelling between Europe and the US and it's been fine on the move (definitely not as petite as other ultrabooks though).

The specs are below:

- Intel Core i7-4510U Processor - 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) Anti-glare Display Black - AMD Radeon HD 8670M Graphics 2GB - 16GB RAM - Keyboard Backlit - UK English - 256GB Solid State Drive Serial ATA3 OPAL2.0

I managed to get it for just over $1000 dollars yesterday so I know it's a little out of your price range but I find the keyboard solid, screen is pretty good and I don't notice any performance issues. (I mainly do Java development and that can be resource intensive).

Perhaps you could pick one up on ebay even cheaper, happy to answer any other questions you've got about it!

I just ordered a Thinkpad T540p for $649 (plus tax, no s/h) from the Lenovo site. "Web list price" is $1,413.00. I don't know how long the deal will last. Obviously, I have not tried to run linux on it, but I don't expect problems.

Downsides: It is a heavier machine at 5.5lbs. Battery life is good but not great. The display is decent resolution but not great.


Make sure you pick the best deal. :-)

Processor: 4th Generation Intel Core i5-4300M Processor( 2.60GHz 1600MHz 3MB)

Operating system: Windows 7 Professional 64

Display: 15.6" FHD AntiGlare 1920x1080

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600

Memory: 8.0GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM 1600 MHz

Hard Drive: 500GB 7200 rpm

Optical Drive: Multi Recorder

Network Card: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260

Bluetooth: Bluetooth Version 4.0

Warranty: Three year

Pointing device: Clickpad

Battery: 6 Cell Lithium-Cylindrical

> I don't know how long the deal will last.

Forever, really. Lenovo site always has "deals" like that.

Agreed on Thinkpads.

I just picked up two oldies (core2 duo) for less than $100 apiece on ebay. No hard drives, but I had some laying about. Although the tech is old, the machines are in amazing shape (they are so well built). They do everything I need with full Linux installs for less than the price of a chromebook.

Intel-powered Chromebooks are great for running Linux and you can get them for $150-$300

The best part is you don't have to run it inside ChromeOS, you can simply remove ChromeOS, enable the legacy boot loader, and use a regular old Ubuntu USB installer.

Of course, the models with more RAM are ideal, as well as being able to upgrade the M.2 SSD, but even a 2GB RAM/16GB SSD model will run pretty good, especially if most of your work is remote or on the cloud. Ubuntu 14.04 takes up about 7GB of storage.

I love older Thinkpads but these are cheaper, slimmer, and have more battery life.

After going through several Linux laptops over the past decade, including a couple of Thinkpads, I agree. My current Chromebook running Ubuntu is by far my favorite.

The whole setup comes in under $300: buy a certified refurbished Acer C720 from Acer with 4GB RAM and 16GB SSD (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L87JC80) and, separately, a 128GB MyDigitalSSD (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZ2E8NO). Replace the SSD and install this custom-made Ubuntu distro that includes all of the fixes for the C720: https://www.distroshare.com/distros/get/12/. And that's it!

Do you really feel like 4GB of RAM is enough? And do you happen to know if there are any Chromebooks that have upgradeable RAM? What kind of development do you primarily do on your Chromebook? I've been thinking about switching to a Chromebook, but I don't know if it's right for me just yet.

>> Do you really feel like 4GB of RAM is enough?

It depends on what you're doing. But there's a whole world out there of people being very productive on 4GB MacBook Airs, and Ubuntu uses far less memory than OS X.

Yeah, it's enough for me. It's my primary development machine by choice, and it's enough to do anything I need at a terminal (running emacs, developing and testing rails servers, docker builds, etc.) while keeping Chrome open with a few dozen apps including a few gmail and chat windows open.

I have a friend running stock Debian wheezy on a C720 who's very happy with it, although he does most of his serious work on desktop machines.

My friend forwarded me the "recipe" he followed to make this work with Debian wheezy: http://blogs.fsfe.org/the_unconventional/2014/04/20/c720-deb...

He hasn't been able to adjust the screen backlighting, says he's got to try that again, with that issue it gives him 4-5 hours between recharges vs. the reported ~8 in the above linked item.

PSA: not all chromebooks have seabios in their coreboot... The Toshiba CB35, for example, does not. Meaning: you cannot easily replace chromeos for the time being.

Is the Toshiba CB35 the same as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 with the highish resolution 13" display and 4GB of RAM? I went Googling, and found some ambiguity as to whether this model number refers to their first gen or their second gen chromebook.

Sorry it took 12 days for me to see this reply.

In case you hadn't figured it out, yeah. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 with the IPS 1080p screen is what I was referring to.

The ThinkPad series (T400s, X1 Carbon) has the best Linux support; kernel developers often use them. But they're out of your price range. Maybe you can find a deal on a T400, though?

I bought a used T430s earlier this year for GBP £350 (~USD 550).

I've kept the SSD as the boot drive and replaced the optical drive with a 1TB 'SSHD' (Seagate's SSD/HD hybrid).

I've also upgraded the RAM to 16GB.

Disk/RAM upgrades are possible to do 'free' if you already have parts. I 'downgraded' from an X1 Carbon just so I could do this, in fact!

Keyboard: Great for most dev work, though I preferred the layout on the X300 I had before.

Pointing device: I get on well with the Trackpoint and turn off the touchpad.

Screen: Okay. 1600x900 is acceptable as a resolution (though I'd like a high DPI screen next time I buy a laptop). It's readable enough but isn't beautiful.

Battery life: Awful. Probably not helped by the slightly used battery or the 16GB RAM. The second drive tends to be spun down (it's for occasionally-used / bulk storage only) and I tend not to be working the CPU hard. I just plug in.

Linux support: About as good as you'll get, which means that it almost works flawlessly, but will still annoy you.

I've tried Linux in a VM too. Still some problems there. I seem to remember I couldn't just suspend/resume Windows, because Linux would lose its network connection and not get it back without a reboot.

To be honest, I can run everything I want to in Windows, so it's actually easier to do dev work in an OS where everything on the laptop works, and just ssh to Linux elsewhere when necessary.

EDIT: Removed mentions of OS X and Macs!

I just got this model as well. It works perfectly with Debian Wheezy, as far as I can tell, so I don't see how Linux "will still annoy you".

Anyway, there is one thing that bugs me: If I press the bottom edge of the space bar (especially on the left side) it doesn't always register. Is this just my machine that's defective, or is it a problem with the design? Does it happen with yours as well?

(Usually when I'm typing I hit the spacebar more or less in its vertical center and it works fine, but if I lean back and rest the hand below the keyboard, this problem tends to occur.)

When it comes to the screen, the resolution is OK (holding off on high-DPI is probably better until software support improves!) but viewing angles, colors and black levels are pretty bad. That's apparently one of the things they fixed on the T440s (with an IPS display).

Yep the screen is awful for photos or having more than one person look at it. Or for watching video. Well, anything but staring directly at it in low light while reading text!

No problem with my spacebar. I suspect you have a dodgy keyboard. I haven't looked to see how the spacebar is held together in this model, but it might just be dirt so you may get away with pulling it off (don't say I told you to do that!) and putting it back, but, well, at least a replacement keyboard is cheap and easy to fit.

The 'will still annoy you' comment comes from my memory of stuff not quite working 100%, but I really can't remember what was up now - perhaps it was just when it was in a VM that there were problems. If there was something broken, though, it was probably wifi. That seems the most common problem I have with Linux on laptops these days.

Will give Debian Wheezy a try and see how it goes, thanks!

Just some more info:

Speakers: Awful. I don't care too much. Fingerprint reader: Really handy when you're often closing/opening the laptop, but haven't tried it in Linux.

Windows 8.1 runs perfectly and seems really fast and smooth, but if you run Linux (I've used a couple of dists, both with KDE), you see how much snappier the Linux desktop feels. Apps seem to open before you've clicked their icon!

Just really sad it misses that "menu" button, which has been replaced by other button.

Just use shift+F10 instead. It works in OS/2, Windows, GNOME, KDE... and worked before the redundant menu button existed.

I am going to break OPs rule: anybody here has linux running on a macbook air? I really wanted to get a light laptop with a long battery and found no alternative as good as MBA

I do, running Ubuntu 14.04 on a 2013 model. It mostly works.

There was an issue with it waking up when the lid was closed that I fixed with a simple service that just runs "echo XHC1 > /proc/acpi/wakeup" at startup.

Also, the webcam isn't a USB webcam: it's a PCI device made by Broadcom that doesn't have any drivers. And the 128GB SSD is a bit small and 4GB RAM isn't enough, as I use VMs sometimes.

On the plus side, the hardware is really nice and the trackpad is great. Still, I might have to get something a little more high-powered for myself and give this to my wife :)

It's not an Air experience, but in the OP's rule-breaking department I can report happily that I've been running Linux on a MBPR15"/2014, and its a very nice setup indeed .. only issue so far has been the trackpad button-taps not quite working right for my hands, but okay .. external mouse works, but .. to be honest, I'm actually also able to mount my Linux partition in VMWare, and use OSX as the host environment; in such a configuration its also a very viable Linux development rig. If I ever need to do kernel work though, I praise the holy reFind lords, if I need to .. don't quite know where I'd be without that:


I'd love for a Linux-lovin' hardware vendor to pry my Macbook away from my Apple-ate'd brain and give me a hardware platform that is 100% open source, and yet .. sexy as all hell. Alas, the sexy part is Apple's plaything, it seems. I literally do not understand why nobody else is making hardware in the same league, design-wise (I know there are technologically far superior systems; its all about the haptic experience here, ok?) ..

Depending on what you intend to use Linux for, a fairly recent Chromebook (I use the Acer C720) plus Crouton may be ideal. That won't be the case if your main activity is Gimp/Inkscape/etc., but it definitely could be if you spend most of your time coding in vim. While I do like Inkscape, I've personally never fallen in love with the office-type Linux desktop apps, so using google equivalents is fine.

Are you asking about the best laptop or the best laptop for Linux or what. Seems like any Intel laptop will work with Linux (if wrong state which don't would be useful from someone). Using Ubuntu 14.10 seems fine if you don't like their wanna be for touch screens etc style, Google 'classic menu' and '14 things I did after installing Ubuntu 14 etc.' There is also Linux Mate which you can install over Ubuntu 14.10 for traditional desktop. Also you can install Linux in a Virtual Box Machine if you are running windows something or other. Separate Video card would be nice but not necessary. Linux will recognize your multiple processors in you Multi-Processor CPU unlike Windows which in many cases comes from the store set to default of ONE! <--outrageous.

I've been running Ubuntu 14.04 on an ASUS i3-- a real bargain, and no headaches (other than a weird thing where the hardware switch for wireless is automatically disabled on reboot).

The Gazelle from System 76 is $799. It comes with Ubuntu.

What about the best laptop that's not tied to any particular OS? Also, is there something that's fanless and doesn't break the bank?

Unfortunately driver support for some proprietary hardware is not very well in Linux so asking for advice is senseful. The most common problem is WiFi problems. I do not have a problem with last 2 of my laptops but an older Dell laptop needed manual care for its WiFi.

Yes, and the same is true with other OSen. So it'd be nice to know some generally well supported laptops that aren't picky about the OS you want to run. I might want to run more than one OS...

Someone in class and I both have an Asus N56-series. He runs Fedora, I use Linux Mint. No problems.

Also check out system76.com offerings. (I am not affiliated, just a happy customer.)

Asus ZenBooks are good.

Not sure if this has changed with more recent models, but I've had rather bad experiences with UX31.

Although the model number was the same, most of the European variants had a different, extraordinarily bad SSD, which slowed down to <1 MB/s if the file system was something like >70% full.

Other indicators of bad quality:

- keycap texts disappeared for the most used keyboard buttons after just a month's use

- crashed once every three days on average (hardware issues?)

- The fan makes a buzzing sound as it scrapes the bottom of the laptop casing

- The screen died after about a year of use (booting up makes the screen gradually turn completely white within 5 or 10 seconds)

same here. I've bought this year i7 1.8GhZ four-core machine, 12GB RAM, 128GB SSD and installed ElementaryOS on it. It works like a charm - especially for someone who switched back from MacBook with OSX to Linux machine. The author mentioned that he won't be able to replace OSX by linux emotionally - You should check elementaryOS - some people think that it just a OSX rip-off (but it's not)

I'm very happy with Ubuntu 14.04 on my Asus UX31 laptop

I have a Zenbook Infinity and yes, it is good, but the battery life is too bad. On linux it lasts 3 hours or less with the OnDemand governor, whilst on windows it last 4 o 5 hours.

I don't know what to do to improve battery life :(. I regret not buying a Macbook Air for the same money instead.

one more nice to have is a backlit keyboard on the laptop. I find that it makes a world of difference as I try to hack away in the dark...

Agreed - the only thing I have had issues with in the dark is my screen will not go dark enough when I'm in a pitch black room. I use programs like dimscreen, but they often take a lot away from the image when the laptop screen is at its lowest darkness

totally - that's one of the reasons of choosing ZenBook

I recently went through a bit of a comparison exercise myself, after my Sony Vaio Z series packed in. I had a slightly higher budget than OP because I wanted something reasonably high-end, able to run several VMs for example, but nice and portable. So, in case anyone else finds it useful:

- probably the most sensible choice would have been a fully specced-up Galago from System 76: 16GB ram, core i7, space for two (!) SSDs, etc etc. On the pure specs, it's the clear winner -- it's practically impossible to find an i7 in 13 inches with 16 gigs of RAM. And it's great to support a Linux-friendly company. One minor problem was that I do occasionally need Windows (for Powerpoint), but I guess I could have installed it. The real reason I didn't go for it (and I'm about to betray a character weakness here) is that I saw it in real life and... I thought it was too ugly. Didn't suit my vanity. And I couldn't get on with that weird screen hinge. Still, my mate Hansel wrote an excellent review of the Galago, check it out here: http://aychedee.com/2014/01/04/galago-ultrapro-review/

- the other sane choice would have been a thinkpad. As this thread overwhelmingly proves, they have an excellent reputation, and should work well under Linux. My dad has one, and I can confirm that they feel really well built, and are nice and light. Only real tech problem is the X240 is limited to 8GB. That and the seriously weird touchpads, which depress down about 5mm with a big ker-chunk, they feel like they were designed for use by children on a button-bashing arcade machine to launch nukes or something. But I can imagine getting used to them. Also briefly considered getting an X230 off ebay, because 16GB, but screen resolution was seriously weak.

- another option would have been a Dell. They have a good rep, and good linux support, but the XPS13 suffers from the same problem of the 8GB limit, and the XPS15 was too big -- a friend of mine tells me it feels a little heavy, and that the lid feels a bit feeble -- so the build quality isn't as good as the thinkpads. The 15 would be a good option for someone prepared to carry something a little heavier tho, 16 gigs and excellent resolution.

- at this point I started casting around for other solutions, and in the end I did something completely irrational. I came across the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, and despite its stupid name I kinda fell for it. So I've impulse-bought one on ebay for about $1000 (new). And this despite the fact that Ubuntu is absolutely not ready for HiDPI screens, and that all the info on getting Linux installed on them sound like it's a nightmare, and that it's just never going to work. But, heck, I feel like Linux on the Desktop is meant to be hard, and not quite work. And it's SO SHINY! http://www.mobiletechreview.com/notebooks/Samsung-ATIV-Book-...

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