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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.