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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptop With Decent Linux Graphics Support? 260

Posted by timothy
from the holy-grail-for-the-holidays dept.
jcreus writes "After struggling for some years with Nvidia cards (the laptop from which I am writing this has two graphic cards, an Intel one and Nvidia one, and is a holy mess [I still haven't been able to use the Nvidia card]) and, encouraged by Torvalds' middle finger speech, I've decided to ditch Nvidia for something better. I am expecting to buy another laptop and, this time, I'd like to get it right from the start. It would be interesting if it had decent graphics support and, in general, were Linux friendly. While I know Dell has released a Ubuntu laptop, it's way off-budget. My plan is to install Ubuntu, Kubuntu (or even Debian), with dual boot unfortunately required." So: what's the state of the art for out-of-the-box support?
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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptop With Decent Linux Graphics Support?

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  • by Hsien-Ko (1090623) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:35PM (#42222781)
    Intel.
  • System76 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:37PM (#42222803)

    Have you looked at System76? They make laptops preloaded with Ubuntu. www.system76.com

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:41PM (#42222823) Journal

    System76 gives good support. They aren't the cheapest option out there though.

    If your goal is not to play 3D games, then Intel HD graphics have by far the best open-source support and HD 4000 graphics are actually pretty good overall. If your goal is to play games, then Nvidia or AMD with proprietary drivers will be your best bet, with the edge in driver quality going to Nvidia.

    AMD does have some open source support *BUT* the 7000 series cards (meaning everything released in the last year) are extremely poorly supported with AMD only having released part of the necessary documentation so far (and it took them 10 months to release the part that is out there....).

  • by wangmaster (760932) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:57PM (#42222915)

    Yes, Linus gave Nvidia the middle finger, and from a certain perspective it was for a good reason, but from another perspective, it's just "ranting".

    Nvidia has insisted on closed source proprietary drivers. Does this mean the drivers are crap? Nope, it just makes it very difficult for the open source community to troubleshoot/support them.

    ATI/AMD is in the same boat. They have proprietary drivers. Arguably, Nvidia drivers are better. In my experience the ATI/AMD drivers tend to have more bugs. They also have a tendency to release support for a new xorg-server well after the server has been released, thus forcing those of us on the bleeding edge to wait. On the otherhand, they help support the open source drivers, which is great. But, the open source drivers lag behind, so if you're a gamer and dual boot to Windows and have a great ATI/AMD card, it may not work properly under the Linux open source drivers or with a bleeding edge distro with the latest and greatest xorg-server.

    Otherwise, if you want "gamer-grade" graphics, you basically have a choice between Nvidia and ATI/AMD. Both have their tradeoffs.

    If you don't care about gamer-grade graphics cards, Intel drivers are open source, well maintained, and the new sandy bridge and ivy bridge graphics are more than good enough for almost anything but gaming (they're okay for low to mid-low end gaming but that's about it).

    My solution is a thinkpad w520 with optimus graphics. I use optimus graphics under windows when I want to game (quadro 2000m) and use the integrated intel graphics for linux with bbswitch to disable the nvidia gpu so my battery life doesn't suck. But it really does boil down to, do you want to game? If so, you have no choice but a proprietary driver or not-up-to-snuff open source driver. If not, stick with onboard Intel. Decent graphics performance and much better battery life than most discrete solutions.

  • Wait for Haswell (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wyzard (110714) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:23AM (#42223025) Homepage

    If you can wait awhile longer before buying, Intel's upcoming Haswell processor is reported to have significantly improvied graphics performance [myce.com], and Intel GPUs are well-supported with free drivers in Linux and Xorg. They're less-powerful than NVIDIA and AMD GPUs, but should be fine unless you need to play high-end games on high quality settings.

  • by chmod a+x mojo (965286) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:39AM (#42223075)

    Don't forget, NVidia are great for supporting older hardware... at least a LOT better than ATI/AMD.
    ATI/AMD has dropped the HD4200 series cards as of something like 6+ months ago from the newer drivers. NVidia on the other hand still supports a huge range of older cards, and supports VDPAU on pretty much anything from the last few years at the very least.

    For non-gaming needs the radeon driver works out well for most cards though, so it's a trade off. And the X.org boys are ( or at least have been, I haven't been following too close lately ) working on getting VDPAU working on the HD4XXX+ hardware with the radeon driver.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @12:57AM (#42223159)

    nvidia, ... 80% is in closed, crash-inducing binary lumps.

    What universe is this where the nvidia blobs induces crashes on even a semi-regular basis? I can't remember the last time video caused my system to hang/crash and I've been using the nvidia blob for at least 6 years.

  • Re:System76 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tough Love (215404) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:26AM (#42223457)

    Nothing says professional like slow load times and a blurred out stock photo in the banner... I mean, it literally took me 3 minutes to load the page. And now it's down.

    Slashdotted I'd say. And that's a good thing. I wish these guys the best.

  • Re:To my surprise... (Score:4, Informative)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @02:34AM (#42223497)

    my MacBook Pro does an outstanding job of running Linux. You can dual boot it or run Linux in VMware or Virtual Box. No graphics card issues at all. Everything worked right out of the gate - sound, graphics, wireless, everything. If you can, try and find one a few years old. The new ones have those soldered on chips that make it impossible to upgrade. Get an SSD, take out the DVD, put in a second HD and you're off to the races.

    Actually, all you need are the ones that lack the "Retina" display. Apple still makes regular plain old Macbook Pros (13" and 15") with fully upgradable everything. Just avoid the MacBook Pro with Retina display and you're fine. You don't want it anyhow - running at native resolution is a good way to strain your eyes. And running non-native looks ugly on any OS other than OS X (Try running 1920x1200 on it - it'll look practically native on OS X, and ugly as heck on any other OS).

    So stick with the traditional line and you'll be fine. Easiest way to tell is because they still come with optical drives.

    No reason to not get the latest tech, especially as Apple is still manufacturing them.

  • by mallan (37663) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @03:06AM (#42223591) Homepage

    No, not true - you can certainly use Optimus cards on Linux, you just have to choose between the integrated chipset or the dedicated chipset at boot time. What you don't get is the power savings from being able to dynamically switch between the low-power integrated Intel gfx and the high performance NVidia gfx. It's really not that big of a deal - the battery life on my thinkpad is just fine using the NVidia gfx 100% of the time.

  • Re:System76 (Score:4, Informative)

    by ittybad (896498) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:05AM (#42223751) Homepage
    I've been developing on a System 76 for about a year and a half now (the then Serval model). I absolutely love it. I've become hooked on the finger print scanner for sudo commands. The only problem that I recall having was trying to upgrade from 10.04 to 12.04 for Ubuntu. A bunch-o-things got all fubar. Reinstalling 12.04 worked like a charm and my overall experience got even better than before. I ended up having to put a windows dual boot on it for some windows/mac only video conferencing software for work, and System 76 provided all the drivers to make the windows installation work as expected. The bizarre "windows experience index" gave me a seven point something which is apparently good. I highly recommend System 76, but I have yet to try the other vendors.
  • by rhavenn (97211) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:21AM (#42223795)

    They sell 3 laptops. All three have only a 1366x768 rez. For a "high-end" boutique dealer that's a joke. 1600x1050 minimum and 1920x1080 preferred or no deal. I don't care if everything else is perfect.

    Personally, got a 17" HP 1920x1080 with i3 SandyBridge about 1 year ago and everything works. ArchLinux is rock solid and the Intel drivers have been stable. LAN / Wifi worked out of the box as well as the webcam which suprised me. It was about $600 give or take. My $.02

    If you don't need a gaming rig or 3d video editing, stear away from anything with a nvidia optimus setup as it's not supported and personally, the ATI stuff isn't all that much better then Intel and the Intel drivers are top notch from a open source perspective.

  • by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:37AM (#42223845)

    Another happy x220 laptop user here. So far my experience after 6 months is that the thing is amazing.

    • Screen resolution is only 1366x768 (bummer, but few non-huge laptops are any better)
    • With the 9-cell battery (default is 6) and pcie_aspm=force, I got 11 hour battery new, and 9.5 hours when 6 months old
    • Mic-mute button does nothing, but I've never needed it (output mute works perfectly)
    • Touchpad enable/disable does nothing, but I've yet to hit the touchpad by accident in over 6 months (and I used to do that regularly on my other laptops)
    • With the SSD the only noise is the fan which occasionaly turns itself OFF because the CPU (i3) stays below 50 under normal load and isn't needed 100%!!!
    • For non-AAA gaming, the intel chipset does just fine. 60fps in UrbanTerror at full resolution.I can even output full 1080p via ext display (haven't tried with gaming yet).
  • Re:Not sad at all (Score:4, Informative)

    by fnj (64210) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @06:18AM (#42224101)

    Intel drivers by far and away have been the best for as long as I can remember. Not the slightest hint of a problem on an RHEL6 clone. I can't even begin to imagine how you can have "tearing" on a static image. Sounds like hardware problems to me.

  • Re:Not sad at all (Score:4, Informative)

    by dmt0 (1295725) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @07:27AM (#42224277)
    Who's talking about static image? When you minimize/maximize you get tearing around the title bar - in my case that is. Here's a description of the issue from Phoronix: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTIxMTM [phoronix.com] Hasn't been fixed still.
  • Re:Chromebook (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andy Prough (2730467) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @11:38AM (#42225295)
    Chromebook already runs a specialized version of Gentoo, which you can unlock in Dev mode and run (http://georgemcbay.blogspot.com/2012/10/go-on-samsung-arm-chromebook_25.html). For dual boot, you can just run a version of Linux on a USB stick (http://www.chromebook-linux.com/2011/11/booting-gnulinux-distribution-from-usb.html).

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