5 of the Best Laptops for Linux in 2019

Many laptops will run Linux, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into issues. Chances are the newer the hardware, the more likely you are to have trouble with it. You can usually get things working, but there’s an easier way.

If you’re shopping for a laptop and know you’re planning to run Linux, you should keep this in mind. Instead of buying any laptop and hoping it will work, buy one you know will work.

Things to Keep in Mind While Shopping

While any hardware from Wi-Fi adapters to touchpads can be tricky with Linux, there are a few key items. Graphics cards are a big one. Nvidia GPUs tend to be faster when using Nvidia’s drivers, but AMD cards are better supported out of the box.

Intel Graphics are even better supported and easy to use but don’t offer great performance. Intel CPUs are more common, but after patching around recent vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown, AMD may give you better performance.

These are just a few examples to give you an idea of what to look for. We have an article on choosing a laptop for Linux that can help you out.

1. Purism Librem 13

If privacy is part of the reason you’re interested in Linux, the Librem 13 might be for you. Purism says its 13-inch laptop is “designed to protect your digital life,” and focuses mostly on security and privacy. It uses the open source coreboot BIOS, so it’s free software from top to bottom as well.

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The Librem 13 starts at $1,399 and features anywhere from 4 GB to 16 GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 620, and an Intel Core i7 7500U CPU. There are even physical toggle switches to disable the built-in camera and microphone.

Recommended Distros

The Librem 13 ships with Purism’s PureOS, so this is a good choice. You can also use any completely free software distros like Trisquel or Hyperbola.

2. Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

The Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition has been a go-to for Linux users for a few years now. The latest version is no different, and the Developer Edition even ships with Ubuntu installed out of the box. Dell contributes to Linux development, ensuring that the hardware is well supported.

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The Dell XPS 13 starts at $939.99 and is available with either an i5 or i7 processor and either 4 GB or 8 GB RAM. The graphics are handled by the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620.

Recommended Distros

In addition to Ubuntu, users have reported successfully running Arch, OpenSuSE, and Fedora.

3. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (6th Gen)

Thinkpad and Linux have a long history of working together. While those into the free software movement will likely go for older models, the sleekness of the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon can’t be denied.

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The Thinkpad X1 Carbon starts at around $1,400 and features either the Intel Core i5-8250U or the i7-8650U CPU. For memory, you get either 8 GB or 16 GB RAM, while the integrated Intel UHD 620 handles graphics.

Recommended Distros

If you don’t want any hassle, the 6th generation Thinkpad X1 Carbon is certified by Ubuntu, so that’s a great choice. There is also extensive documentation in the Arch wiki on this model, so Arch is another good option.

4. System76 Darter Pro

Another laptop that is built with Linux in mind, the System 76 Darter Pro is ultra-portable with serious hardware. System 76 touts the battery life of this system, though exact figures are hard to find. From what we’ve gathered, you can expect around seven hours of solid work on a single charge.

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The Darter Pro starts at $999 and features a choice of the Intel Core i5-8265U or Core i7-8565U CPU. You can run with either an M.2 or PCIe NVMe SSD and anywhere from 8GB to 32 GB RAM. Like many others on this list, the 1920 x 1080 15.6-inch display is powered by Intel UHD Graphics 620.

Recommended Distros

This laptop is available with either System76’s Pop!_OS or Ubuntu out of the box. If these don’t work for you, you might be interested in one of the many Ubuntu variants out there.

5. Pine64 Pinebook

If Linux is more of an experiment for you, the Pine64 Pinebook is a great way to go. This ARM-powered laptop sells for as little as $99. It’s powered by the Pine64, which is like a Raspberry Pi. All the Pinebook does is essentially wrap a keyboard, touchpad, display, and some ports around it.

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You’re probably not going to use the Pinebook as your everyday computer. If you’re looking for a project to tinker with, though, it could be great fun.

Recommended Distros

The Pine64 comes with a KDE-centered Linux distribution installed by default, but there are other options. According to the wiki, Arch, Manjaro, KDE Neon, and even Android are supported.

Not Sure If You Should Make the Switch?

If you’re not sure about fully committing to Linux, many of the above laptops will dual-boot with Windows. If you still aren’t sure, take a look at our list of reasons to switch from Windows 10 to Linux.

11 comments

  1. How can the high price of for-Linux laptops be justified? It can’t be the expense of the software which does not cost anything. Equivalent Windows laptops have prices that are 1/3 to 1/2 of the for-Linux laptops.

    1. My bet is those cheaper Windows laptops are subsidized (a.k.a. fully loaded with crap some vendor paid to have preinstalled, you know, like antivirus software, office software, etc).

      Second is quality, I’m not really sure your “equivalent” argument is valid in this respect.

      And third, most Linux laptop sellers are very small players, they probably have very small runs and have to pay higher prices for the components than say Dell, Lenovo or HP. And, as ChiefHart pointed out, there’s also the tailored service these small shops provide, sometimes having to test severl components to find a combination that works flawlessly with Linux.

      It’s a trade, you can buy a Windows laptop and keep the status quo, or vote with your wallet (if you can afford it, of course) and maybe help improve the situation in the future.

  2. While I would love to switch to a laptop built for Linux, for now I will keep using refurbished Windows laptops to wipe and install Linux. There is just not much for a lower priced but good Linux laptop. I am guessing a lot of people feel the way I do as the refurbish old Windows computers to Linux. $1,000 and up is more than I am willing or able to pay. I agree after reading reviews, while the Pinebook is built for Linux and really inexpensive, it is not an everyday laptop. I would love to see something in the $250 -$400 range built for Linux that was built for everyday use, not just for programmers.

  3. Some of the cost of System76 is the service they provide. I have had a Lemur laptop for four years, and I have on occasion needed some help. Sometimes they provided help and in one occasion I was able to help their engineers. That is typical opensource community. The Lemur laptop is the best matched with Linux I have ever owned. I have bought windoze laptops before and had problems with some of the hardware, or course I reas that windoze also had problems with it also. Even before reading this article , I had ordered the Darter Pro and am looking forward to using it.

    1. Using a refurbished Windoze computer is not all that hard. It could be if you already have a computer and want to use that, but if buying a refurbished computer just do a little homework. I was lucky when I switched to Linux as I had a HP laptop and I hated it with Windoze and HP assistant which I found to intrusive. For my next laptop I did some research and found out HP supports Linux quite well. I purchased a very good refurbished laptop for $250 which would have cost over $600 new. It works on most Linux OS’s without a problem. It does have a Broadcom wireless which only was a problem with pure Debian, but plug in the cord, install the available Broadcom driver and I was ready to go wireless. Same with printers HP and Brother offer the best support I could find. While I started with a HP printer I switched to Brother because the ink cost of HP was to high, though again both offer great Linux support.

  4. Hey, how about the KDE slimbook?

  5. Lenovo yoga 730 is running mint 19 great; but there’s on catch: you have to rfkill thinkpad and then the wifi works again. no proprietary drivers installed. fast as lightning, and a very good deal at 800, highly available at best buy. I also had to disable the power button (thru the gui) to “ask” because it turns out I happen to hit it; and also have to disable any sound powersave because when i plugged in headphones it shut down the laptop. These are easy fixes; and so far this computer runs linux beautifully

  6. I see this as a double-sided topic. On the one hand, I love the idea of laptops that are specifically built for Linux Operating Systems out-of-the-box. If…back in 1995 you told me that one day the Linux from back then would be offered to the masses by OEM’s?…I’d have laughed in your face while I took another swig of my Medium Pepsi from McDonald’s!…LoL! But after the rise (and fall?) of both Apple and Windows, we are now able to purchase a laptop with Linux pre-installed AND knowing that the drivers for the wi-fi / graphics / sound / touchpad etc. “Just Work”! This is it, this is where we wanted to get to all this time…
    On the OTHER hand? The whole PREMISE for using “FREE and OPEN SOURCE software”? it to keep spending down…WAY down, and a lot of the people who actually worked on the kernel, and developed drivers for the various hardware out there?….did it on machines they cobbled together from spare parts, or on machines that were too “old” for Windows…but were “perfectly aged” for Linux. I myself have in my possession the “original” laptops that I LEARNED how to use Linux on! Lenovo ThinkPads (T-410 / T-420) and While I might have had to perform “surgery” on them once each? (they got max RAM…and faster SSD’s and one of them got a screen swap, while the other one got a replacement keyboard swapped out.) the total cost-of-ownership is hundreds of dollars LESS than buying a brand new device from one of the companies mentioned in this article. And I understand it……making a laptop,….one that works on all sides with Linux?…IS expensive, and will require a lot of man-hours of research…development…..testing….analyzing, and even more testing. No person works for free…you think the guy who’s spending in excess of 12 to 15 hours a day working on one of these devices is going to do it FREE of charge? Why?….what would give you that Idea?…..is it because its “Free & Open Source Software”?…..because even if it IS FOSS…..the ELECTRICITY used to power the lights that allow someone to work until 3AM?…..costs MONEY…..and the small hand tools used to put your laptop / desktop together? costs MONEY….and the branding and logo creation…..and the mass producing of laptop keyboards…..screens…..power supplies….etc they all cost MONEY. So I can indeed understand the pricing of these machines. I’m in the process of saving up enough to get myself one of them…because not for nothing?…but I really DO love open source, the the entire community and want to contribute and help out. I might not buy ten of these computers, but just buying one does help. Until I have that amount?….the two low-end ThinkPads that cost me upwards of $350 for BOTH of them?….will have to do for me.

  7. Thinkpad X1 Carbon is great laptop, BUT I wouldn’t really recommend it:
    * expensive (still, probably worth its price)
    * fingerprint scanner and LTE modem do not work in Linux!
    This IMHO disqualifies X1 gen6 as “Linux laptop”

  8. Lenovo? are you kidding me? :)

    Ever worst experience on Linux was the Lenovo Ideapad 2 Yoga 13. After about 3-4 years they got WiFi stable because of one open source activist, not because of Lenovo’s efforts. And even after 6 years Lenovo wasn’t able to help fixing a sticky key issues. Touchpad is almost impossible to tune. Screen orientation isn’t working even after 6 years.

    Most painfull is the keyboard.

  9. Thinkpad fan forever, but unable to get newer thinkpads (that support more than 8GB ram) that are free from intel ME or the amd counterpart, undermining the security of the whole system. Would pay extra for peace of mind, having the vulnerability removed by the manufacturer. Then I can take off my tin foil hat.

    https://puri.sm/learn/intel-me/

    If only the librem keyboard had a trackpoint…

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