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Portables Hardware Linux

Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For a Reliable Linux Laptop? 237

An anonymous reader writes: I will be looking for a new laptop soon and I'm mostly interested in high reliability and Linux friendliness. I have been using an MSI laptop (with Windows 7) for the last five years as my main workhorse and did not have a single, even minor problem with the hardware nor the OS. It turned out to be a slam-dunk, although I didn't do any particular research before buying it, so I was just lucky. I would like to be more careful this time around, so this is a hardware question: What laptop do you recommend for high reliability with Linux? I will also appreciate any advice on what to avoid and any unfortunate horror stories; I guess we can all learn from those. Anti-recommendations are probably just as valuable, a lesson I learned when an HP laptop I bought (low-end, I admit) turned out to be notoriously fickle when it comes to Linux support. Since our anonymous submitter doesn't specify his budget, it would be good if you specify the price for any specific laptops you recommend.
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Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For a Reliable Linux Laptop?

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  • Dell's work OK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @04:55PM (#50569477)

    Dell Precision and Latitude machines have mostly worked for me over the years. Thinkpads also.

    • I'll second the recommendation for Dell Precision Mobile Workstations. I run Linux daily on my now-ancient M6400. I've been wanting to upgrade but the current screens are major downgrades (my M6400 is 1920x1200 with RGB-LED backlight array... the new model maxes out at 1080P and is lit with white LEDs). The RGB-LED screen was one of the major selling points of the M6400, as it exceeded the Adobe color gamut performing better for color purity than CRTs.

      I've kept this notebook serviced and upgraded... upgrade

      • I did some looking, and I am coming up dry on Xeon Laptops, are they on the way and don't exist yet? There was something about a Thinkpad P series, but it is unavailable from Lenovo. Who sells Xeon Laptops?

    • I have a Dell Latitude E7240 that works fine with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS - use it for work, even.

    • Jumping on the Dell bandwagon - I have a Precision M4500 laptop I bought off-lease from dellrefurbished.com.

      I run Debian Unstable on this machine and everything works except for the fingerprint reader, for which there is no Linux driver.

    • Dell Precision and Latitude machines have mostly worked for me over the years. Thinkpads also.

      My Lenovo G560 and Dell Latitude before it both worked beautifully with Ubuntu Linux. Multi-monitor support, webcams, wifi, bluetooth, suspend, everything just worked. In fact, the only real problems that I've had in the past decade vis a vis hardware support is with desktop motherboards:
      http://linux.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]

    • Another vote for Dell Latitudes here. I run Mint KDE on E6400 and E6410 laptops and it works perfectly. They're a little old now, admittedly, but for most tasks they're perfectly adequate. They also look great (unlike most modern laptops, including newer Latitudes), have excellent keyboards for laptops, and are rugged with magnesium chasses. Just make sure to get the higher-res screens (1440x900) instead of the crappier low-res ones. You can get them on Ebay for a song.

    • +1 Dell. XPS12 i7 flipbook/touch has been the best linux laptop I've used to date. Built quality is Apple level too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    linux mint runs really well on it! everything works out of the box except the wifi, but you can just use ethernet to download the driver for the wifi adapter in the mint driver manager app. plus the screen is beautiful

    • +1 to this. You can dual boot or not, as you please. Any of the recent macbook air's or pro's should work great, with the possible exception of the very latest Macbook (the one with nothing but a USB-C connector) -- and the only reason I except that one is that I don't know for certain that it won't have some weird issue. It would probably work.

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        How great is "great"?

        My new employer has given me a new Macbook Pro, and Kubuntu mostly works, but it will require some manual fiddling.

        Booting, thunderbolt ethernet, thunderbolt display, wifi, external mouse/keyboard, external HDD, and all essential things do work. Disconnecting and reconnecting the display works 90% of the time, which I'm pleased with -- KDE now remembers where my toolbars and windows should go.

        I don't have power management working, the touchpad is half-working (no scrolling), and I gave

  • Samsung Series 9 (Score:4, Informative)

    by moon_unit2 ( 2573409 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:03PM (#50569539)
    I bought a Samsung series 9 a couple of years ago and Ubuntu works perfectly on it.
    • by bulled ( 956533 )
      My wife tried the same, if you ever need to update the firmware on it you have the have the Windows partition around. We had to reinstall with Windows to update the bios after we discovered the USB firmware was hosed from the factory and did not work. I would steer clear of Samsung until they allow bios updates without Windows.
  • System76 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:05PM (#50569549)

    Just buy a System76 laptop. Everything will work, including suspend.

    • Just buy a System76 laptop.

      Agreed, so long as System76 makes a laptop in the size you want. Right now I see nothing smaller than 14 inches.

  • System76 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:08PM (#50569567)

    System76 [system76.com] has been selling Linux laptops for years now. I've never bought one, but they certainly have expertise in getting it to work.

  • by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:08PM (#50569579)
    The Dell M3800 (15") and M6800 (17") look well-built and officially support linux. I have no experience with either, but I researched them after I saw someone here on /. recommend the M3800 for linux, and I plan to buy a M6800. As a bonus, they're old enough models to also support Windows 7 (which is why I'm getting one).
    • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      I have a precision M3800 and love it! Lightweight, decent battery life, gorgeous 4K screen, wickedly fast i7 processor, dual HD ports, (one mSATA) HDMI support...

      All of which makes it a beautiful laptop, but add to that native Linux support... I'm a Fedora fan so I bought with windows and dual boot. It "just works" with a Fedora install.

  • I've been running Fedora on mine for a few months. I had some early problems with wireless, but on my most recent trip (a few kernel updates later) it was fine. The touchpad seems to be working better too. My only real gripe at this point is that the battery doesn't quite last all day like my 13" MBA can, but then the Zenbook's considerably cheaper than most in the under-three-pound category so I guess sacrifices had to be made somewhere.

  • by sagneta ( 539541 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:12PM (#50569615)
    I have Dell Precision M3800 for my work and it has been fantastic. It comes pre-configured with Ubuntu and thus saves you a hundred dollars vis-a-vis the Windows LIcense cost. I am very happy with the machine and use it has a workstation replacement. I push it hard and it has been fine. I would suggest that if you use it as a development machine to purchase a stand to allow it to cool properly. The graphic device drivers are great and it is an actual working touch-screen which I honestly don't use (emacs users) but does make the Unity interface actually usable. Link is here; http://www.dell.com/us/busines... [dell.com] Lenovo's have been good in the past but Lenovo is reducing quality fast and thus I would not suggest such a machine. HP also would not be a good choice. (Thanks Fiorina!)
  • Thinkpad T-series (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SlashdotOgre ( 739181 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @05:16PM (#50569659) Journal

    I still highly recommend the Thinkpad T-series line, now owned by Lenovo, for running Linux on a laptop. I've been running Linux on various generations of the T-series since when IBM introduced the line (T21 running Fedora Core 1-4, then Gentoo), and I've never had any significant or insurmountable problems. They use mostly Intel parts and Intel tends to be fairly open source friendly which leads to them being easy to support. My current laptop is a T430s running Gentoo, and my prior laptop was a T400 also running Gentoo. Sleep/hibernate both work as does all the other features (video camera, ultrabay, etc.). The build quality is quite solid too (I only replaced my T400 because I wanted more than 8GB of RAM).

    I have less experience with the other Thinkpad lines, but I would imagine both the X-series & W-series would also work well. If you go with a different brand, I generally recommend going straight to the business line (i.e. Dell Latitues, etc.) of the laptops for better build quality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by agoodm ( 856768 )
      Can confirm Thinkpad X series laptops work really well too, perhaps even better than with Windows 7. I have a Thinkpad X220 which has been used almost exclusively with Ubuntu LTS since Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. I use this with a Lenovo Minidock Series 3 Plus, 2 large 1200p monitors and full sized peripherals. Everything works mosty OK. Interestingly in Windows 7 moving windows around on the desktop caused the sound to drop out... I've recently installed Ubuntu 14.04 on a Thinkpad X240, and everything seemed to
      • I have a Thinkpad X121e (pick them up on ebay pretty cheaply these days) - it's run various Fedoras over the years very successfully. I've used the Windows pre-install a diminishingly small number of times, but have had more fundamental problems with it than with Linux (recently I had Windows 7 just refuse to boot at all - it said "fixing" for about 20 minutes and just gave up with no further options to proceed). These days windows is in a VM and so it's 100% linux - its been kicked about a fair bit over th

    • by steveha ( 103154 )

      Seconded. I'm using a Thinkpad T440s for work, and when I installed Linux Mint on it, everything Just Worked out of the box. Audio, video, network, WiFi, multitouch... everything.

      (Well, the fingerprint reader doesn't do anything right out of the box, but I have read that it can be enabled without too much difficulty. I'm going to look into that before the next time I travel with the laptop. It would be great to unlock the screen with a fingerprint.)

      Now that the T450s is out, you might be able to find a

      • Thirded, another T440s user here and very happy with it. I did faff about with it a bit to get some gestures working with the synaptics touch pad, two fingers scrolling etc.

        OpenBSD also works on it, FreeBSD not yet as the wifi driver isn't working but it's nearly there.

    • A T-series . . . !?!?!?! That is what managers and sales folks get around my parts. When it was time for me to get a new SchtinkPad, I wrote, ad nauseam, in the request form that I was a developer, and needed the "Big Iron", to coin a new phrase. So I have a SchtinkPad W520 now . . . with 32GB RAM, 500GB SSD.

      It's butt ugly, compared to a shiny Apple. But I like it that way. No thief in the world would try to steal this thing. Oh, and the power supply is a whopping 170 watts. It's basically a brick t

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Best to stick to larger laptops and avoid ultrabooks etc. Anything super thin will have marginal cooling, and be reliant on power management to handle it. If Linux support for the power management isn't perfect, it's going to run hot and die fast.

        Thinkpad, or maybe a Let's Note (Toughbook in the US).

    • I have a (now very old) W510 and it runs Debian without a hitch (sleep, wifi, webcam, etc. all great). It has an nVidia quadro card, which works without issue as well. Extremely happy with it, despite its age.
    • Yeah, my T430s has been great with Linux and Qubes OS. Its also really tough, IMO. Thinkpads (not the consumer Ideapads) have remained near the very top in the Linux compatibility column.

      OTOH, if you want something that is built to be SO compatible with Linux that all the hardware will run using open-source drivers, take a look at the Purism Librem. They have sexy 13" and 15" models.

      Last but not least, you should know about Hardware Compatibility Lists (HCLs): All of the Linux ones I know about have become

  • Look at the laptops from System76, I am using their old lowest end right netbook now and it has worked flawlessly for years. It was $250 with Ubuntu pre-installed. I have no connection with that company (or any other for that matter).
  • I have the Thinkpad X1 Carbon. Mine was the first-gen model, and I still use it. I can't speak to following generations. Works great with Fedora Linux (GNOME desktop).

    And before anyone asks: Yes, I completely wiped the hard drive and re-installed with Linux. It's a total "start from scratch" so I didn't inherit any spyware (that I know of).

    That said, I'm thinking that my next Linux laptop will be a Purism Librem [puri.sm]. I've read very good reviews, and I kind of want to support someone who built a Linux-only lapto

    • I just started at a new startup and asked for the 2015 Thnkpad X1 Carbon. I installed Fedora 22 on it and everything works perfectly. Highly recommended.

  • I currently run Ubuntu on an HP EliteBook and previously on an old slow Acer Aspire one and works very well on both. Easy to install, just boot with usb key and installs itself. Automatically installed the correct drivers for everything (actually, you can already test this with the usb boot key, since that will just boot you into Ubuntu). A lot of people don't like the Unity desktop, but I think it's fine. If you don't like the "bloated" Ubuntu distribution and Unity, you could give Xubuntu or Kubuntu a try
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @06:07PM (#50570089)

    Check out the FSF's recommendations for hardware at https://www.gnu.org/links/companies.html. It's hard to see how these wouldn't work out with GNU/Linux. In particular Minifree Ltd (http://minifree.org/) has some laptops that might interest you. They're modified ThinkPads so the hardware is pretty reasonable.

  • I find that if the chipset is made by the same guys that made the CPU (pretty hard to find anything else these days) and the WiFi is made by Atheros, you will probably be able to get it to work. I used to always say intel WiFi but I've had some problems where APs got upset at intel NICs for no reason I could discern. I also like either nVidia or Intel graphics, but not AMD. Sometimes it will work great, sometimes it will blargh. Of course, last I heard that nVidia Optimus stuff still didn't work right... al

  • If you tend to buy a new one every 2-3 years, System76 is a good option.

    If you hang onto them for a long time, you might appreciate the better structural strength and build quality of the Thinkpads.

    I had a couple of System76's and they were great but around the 3-3.5 years the components and case parts (eg palm rest, display hinges) began to fail. I do have big gorilla hands and slap my keyboard like a pimp slapping a ho, though, so it could just be me.

    In any event, I went with a T440s last time around. O

  • System: Host: localhost Kernel: 4.1.7-pclos3 x86_64 (64 bit gcc: 4.9.2) Desktop: N/A dm: gdm Distro: PCLinuxOS Machine: System: Hewlett-Packard product: HP EliteBook 6930p v: F.20 Mobo: Hewlett-Packard model: 30DC v: KBC Version 87.2B Bios: Hewlett-Packard v: 68PCD Ver. F.20 date: 12/08/2011 Chassis: type: 10 CPU: Dual core Intel Core2 Duo T9550 (-MCP-) cache: 6144 KB flags: (lm nx sse sse2 sse3 sse4_1 ssse3 vmx) bmips: 10641 clock
  • Just avoid ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 21, 2015 @07:23PM (#50570613)

    Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Apple, Lenovo, Toshiba, Samsung, Sony, Foxcomm, Panasonic, Itronix, Sharp and you will be fine.

    Every maker has issues. All of them. Some are purely design. Some are HW failures and some are driver related.

    Only a specific model, for a specific version of Linux can be commented about.

    For example, I have an Acer C720 chromebook - wiped chromeOS in the first 5 minutes and loaded Ubuntu. That was almost 2 yrs ago. Touchpad driver issues were the beginning and the lack of a delete key (common to all chromebooks). About 3 weeks ago, the 'n' key started getting picky. Last July, it was the '7' - a simple cleaning made it a little better, but the 'n' is just screwed.

    Had an Asus before. Chicklet keyboards suck. 'nuff said.

    Still have a Dell that I like. Good keyboard and it is about 5 yrs old. The wifi support was hard to get working - should have spent the $15 upgrade for a better wifi microPCI card (better linux support).

    A friend picked up a new Dell XPS 13 about a month ago - WOW! That thing is sexy, but at $1600, it should be.

    We had an installfest last week and saw a lot of new laptops. Avoid HP. They break the BIOS, badly. I'd say to avoid Apple HW too - there was always 5 special incantations to get those to work ... except for one MBP which we never got installed. That was with 3 Mac-lovers and linux 20+ yr experts helping.

    Lenovo is known to HW lock addon cards, so you can only put in approved replacements. That means replacing a bad wifi card isn't $25 - it is $50 because only specific models are allowed to work. It is a BIOS thing, I hear.

    So - the old rule of making a list of chips and verifying each has Linux support is the best advice. Buying anything less than 6 months old is asking for driver trouble.

    • Using Ubuntu 15.04 LTS:

      Both the Toshiba s75 and Lenovo z710 have:

      - Terrible keyboards: Fat flat chicklets that don't work well and resul in lots of typos. The lettering is coming off the Toshiba's keys and the backlight doesn't work with Ubuntu. On the Lenovo I was able to get the backlight to work but the keys were painted clear plastic and after a few months not just the letters, but the black paint surrounding them, chipped away letting the light shine through horribly.

      - Terrible touch

  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Monday September 21, 2015 @08:37PM (#50571077)

    I've bought used high end Dells a generation or two behind for the past 15 years, ever since I've had a laptop. I've had an Inspiron 8000, 8200, 9400, and for the past 4+ years a Precision M6500, which is a beast -- i7-920XM,16 GB RAM (which can be expanded to 32 GB), 2x2.5" bays, optical bay, mSATA, 17" WUXGA screen w/Radeon HD7820, a pair of USB3 ports, and an eSATA port. The only things I've had to replace have been the keyboard twice (due to my sloppiness around it; it's no more fragile than any other), the battery, and some memory that developed errors (not likely due to the laptop). I've run various versions of openSUSE on it with no problems of any kind, and no blobs either. The tech's a bit dated -- first generation i7, SATA2 (3 Gb/sec), only 2 USB3 ports -- but with the mSATA it's plenty fast for the photo processing I do on it. If you need something more up to date, you can pay a bit more for a used M6600 or M6700, although you'll give up the WUXGA. No mechanical problems with the lids and that that I had with the 8000 and 8200 (the 9400 was disappointing, having a 64 bit processor but basically set up as a 32 bit system that couldn't exceed 3 GB of usable RAM).

    There's no comparison between the low end and the high end Dell laptops. The high end ones are built solidly, easy to repair and upgrade, and just plain feel solid. Of course, this puppy isn't light, and the power brick itself is substantial. Battery life isn't great either. But if you want a solid system that will run Linux well and won't give you any trouble, this is worth considering. If you want a smaller system, the Precision M4x00 is a 15" screen but otherwise basically the same, I believe (it may not have the second drive bay).

  • My Z580 has been rock-solid under Ubuntu 15.04, though I really don't use it as a laptop. But all the hardware worked without fussing around, and it's been 100% stable since I got rid of Windows 10. Windows 7 had been reliable on it, too, but I was having hardware problems with 10 (the sound drivers stopped working), so I switched.

    My main system has been Ubuntu for years, but it was getting pretty old and slow and I didn't need to be able to run Windows database engines any more, so Microsquishy got th

  • Another option, if you want a true portable, is a Chromebook.
    It is easy to add a full Linux desktop which runs in a chroot, using Crouton, a bit like a lightweight virtual machine, and flick between that and the ChromeOS desktop, if you like.
    It means the vendor is looking after the tricky stuff like power management and wifi drivers, but you still can have a full Linux desktop of your choice.

    And it helps that you can get a 4GB full-HD IPS with 9 hour battery for under $300. (Or the Pixel for a lot more.)

  • Not only they're built as bricks but they have excellent Linux compatibility all across the board.

  • On a laptop, I'd settle for OS X and buy Apple.
    Desktop is different, but still...
  • I've always liked Thinkpad (Lenovo) laptops, they generally ship Linux-friendly hardware and are tough and durable, it's the company default where I work. If you were unfortunate enough to procure the second to last model the touchpad needs some work [hobo.house]

    Regardless of the make/model you use, be sure to implement hybrid suspend [hobo.house] so you'll never lose your work should you run out of battery while suspended. I'm currently using a Lenovo x240 on Fedora 22 with great results, regardless of the spyware shipped on the

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @03:46AM (#50572511)

    One of the few non-mac laptops with simular resellability are the ThinkPads. A refurbished one will come way less than half the original price and still have all the quality. Get a high-end refurbished thinkpad, max ou the memory, replace the hdd with an ssd and you've got yourself a high-end linux laptop for a bargain-deal. I use a pimped out refurbished TP W510 as my main linux machine - it's the best I ever had.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @05:26AM (#50572725) Homepage

    i recommend contacting http://thinkpenguin.com/ [thinkpenguin.com] for several reasons. firstly, yes they install GNU/Linux by default (so they've done all the hard work, and the research, in advance. is that worth paying for? yes!) secondly, they actually go to the trouble of replacing the BIOS with Coreboot. is _that_ worth it, and worth paying for? yes!

    and thirdly, they make sure that the hardware that they've selected is FSF-Hardware-Endorseable, which needs some explanation as to why this is important - and it's not *actually* to do with some sort of stupid or idealistic or neo-fascist or brain-washed or self-righteous or [insert suitable continuation of series of derogatory sentences towards the FSF, Dr Stallman in general and their goals, here, which may be in your mind as to why you feel that you should completely ignore anything and everything associated with the FSF, which we're about to show you are completely moot] reason.

    no, the clear benefit from buying FSF-Endorsed hardware such as printers, WIFI and 3G dongles etc. is that they JUST WORK. peripherals these days usually have built-in firmware. because the firmware is pre-loaded in FSF-Endorseable products onto NAND Flash or EEPROM, they're pretty much guaranteed to be more expensive than the devices that require the proprietary firmware to be uploaded to the device, from the main OS, before the device can actually function.... BUT...

    what that means in practice is that if you don't *have* that proprietary firmware, or if it happens not to be compatible with the OS, or if you lose it, or if the file system becomes corrupted, or if you perform an upgrade of the OS, and many many other reasons all of which amount to a great deal of hassle, you cannot use that device, period.

    the most ridiculous instance of this is that ethernet is becoming less common, CD/DVD drives are becoming less common, creating USB-sticks to boot-install systems has always been a pain, EFI-boot (only) is becoming more common.... how the hell is anyone supposed to install an OS when the only network access is WIFI, and the WIFI requires bloody proprietary firmware that has a license that prevents and prohibits that firmware from being installed on the bloody installation media?? how stupidly ridiculous a situation can you possibly get into! and don't get me started about usb-ethernet devices, which, due to them being USB, are often *excluded* from selection as a "main internet connection" during the install process, because, by nature of them being removable, the OS can't guarantee that the device will be there on the next boot.

    avoiding all this hassle is what you pay for when you buy pre-vetted products from http://thinkpenguin.com/ [thinkpenguin.com] and other companies that are listed on the FSF's page http://www.fsf.org/resources/h... [fsf.org] . you can also go to http://h-node.org/ [h-node.org] and take a look there to see if what you want is listed.

    so when you buy a product from http://thinkpenguin.com/ [thinkpenguin.com] you know that it's "just going to work". if you genuinely want to replace the OS, you can... and it will be a very straightforward job, unlike, i can guarantee, absolutely every other recommendation at the time of writing of this comment with a category "5" score here on slashdot.

    ironically, and not surprisingly, thinkpenguin get less support calls (hardware "just works"). their customers are happier.... and so are more loyal. is that worth paying a bit extra for? yeah i'd say so.

  • Make sure the wireless will work beforehand, and everything else will fall into place. In the past I had good luck with most Thinkpads but it's been a couple of years.
  • I'm also in the market for a new linux laptop, after seeing what Windows 10 has done to my security. However, I'd hold off for a couple of months. Dell and others are releasing versions of laptops [digitaltrends.com] with Intel's new Skylake architecture. I believe that it has enough improvements to warrant the wait.
  • It has been my experience for a decade or so that everything works with Linux.

    In our household, we have three laptops, all working fine with Linux.

    One is Dell, and two are Toshibas. All are 6-7 years old.

    None came with Linux pre-installed. All ran fine with Kubuntu LTS. Everything works, sound, WiFi.

    What does not work are the multimedia buttons (a button may work, e.g. Mute, but the ones next to it would not, e.g. Play, Stop, ...etc.)

  • I got an HP Stream 13 at Microcenter for $200. It's not a top-of-the-line machine and the keyboard has some annoyances (especially if you're used to quality Thinkpad ones which nobody else even comes close to anymore). It is good enough to play fullscreen video without issues. Ubuntu/Mint seem to work fine (not 100% out-of-the-box but pretty close to it by Linux standards) including wi-fi, webcam, bluetooth, and all the other bells and whistles I'm aware of.

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