If you’re shopping for a laptop and know you’re planning to run Linux, you can either get any laptop, reformat the hard drive and install your favorite Linux distro on it or just get a laptop that is running Linux right out of the box. Here are some of the best Linux laptops you can get in 2021.
1. Lenovo ThinkPad T490(s) and T495
The Lenovo ThinkPad T490, T490s, and T495 are all essentially the same laptops with some slight differences. They’re all 14” ultrabook-style business laptops that are built to last, being tested against 12 military-spec tests to ensure durability. The T490 and T490s are both Intel-based, with options of both 8th and 10th Generation Intel U-series CPUs, and the T495 is AMD-based with 3rd Generation Ryzen CPUs.
All are available with up to 16 gigabytes of memory from Lenovo, and the non-s versions have selectable RAM slots for some upgradability. Lenovo ThinkPads in general are some of the best laptops for Linux, but the 14-inch T-series ThinkPads are some of the classics. Plus, given that these are technically last generation, the price is quite agreeable, starting at around $750.
These systems are all certified from Lenovo for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, with some being certified for RHEL/CentOS as well. However, the Intel or AMD integrated graphics and Intel WiFi card mean that most Linux distros will run well on them. Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora, Pop!_OS, Manjaro, Arch, whatever you want, will work well.
2. Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
Of the many systems you can get pre-loaded with Linux, the Dell XPS 13 Developer edition is easily one of the most stylish and aesthetic. It’s a slim and light 13” laptop that’s packed to the gills with as much performance as you could want for a small laptop. 10th Generation G series Intel CPUs, up to 16 gigabytes of fast RAM, and an optional 4K 16:10 aspect ratio IPS display make this a prime candidate for anybody looking for a new Linux laptop. To add to the beauty, there are two exterior options: silver with a black carbon fiber weave palmrest and white with a white carbon fiber weave palm rest. The price for the performance is also good for what you get, starting at $1,099.
These all come preloaded with Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, which is a solid base for any of the various flavors or just vanilla Ubuntu. Many of the drivers have been contributed upstream by Dell, so many distros that use newer kernels should be able to take full advantage of the Killer Wi-Fi cards and Intel Iris Plus Graphics.
3. System76 Oryx Pro
System76 is one of the leading Linux-first laptop manufacturers in the business, and with good reason. Its Oryx Pro is much more than a laptop with a reskinned Ubuntu distro. The Oryx Pro is a 15” or 17” Nvidia powerhouse that runs open-source Coreboot firmware and System76’s open-source Embedded Controller firmware, giving you access to switchable graphics on its distro, Pop!_OS.
It comes with a beastly Intel i7-10875H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, 2070, or 2080 Super, and up to 64 Gigabytes of RAM. It’s a great laptop for anything from gaming to editing videos. The price is somewhat steep, starting at $1,699, but you’re paying for all the work System76 has put in for switchable Nvidia graphics and Coreboot.
Pop!_OS is the obvious recommendation. System76 developed it specifically for its machines, and it comes with all the various accoutrements that accompany a factory image designed for its systems. Anything with good Nvidia support would also work well, but Pop!_OS is the cream of the crop on System76 hardware.
4. Pine64 Pinebook Pro
Pine64 has been in the news often for its Pinephone, but the Pinebook Pro is another great product from them. It’s a 14” ARM laptop that weighs less than 3 lbs/1.5 KG and sips power. It’s a great little machine that helps to push Linux forward on the ARM platform and comes in just under $200.
Given that Pine64 devices use the mainline ARM Linux kernel, you can run just about any ARM Linux distribution on them. Some notable examples are Arch, Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora.
5. KDE Slimbook 15
This laptop is hot off the presses, and it is pushing Linux workstations into the next generation. The KDE Slimbook 15 showcases the 4th-generation Ryzen H series CPUs, which outperform desktop processors in many situations. The KDE Slimbook 15 is a CPU powerhouse with up to 64 GB RAM. With all the issues plaguing Ryzen 4th Generation on Linux, the KDE Slimbook 15 is a huge step forward.
Currently, any distro that runs a newer kernel would work incredibly well on a 4th-generation Ryzen system. Fedora and Arch have reportedly had great results. However, the KDE Slimbook 15 comes preloaded with KDE Neon, and early reports have great results.
If you are looking to switch to Linux, make sure to check out our commonly asked questions for new Linux users, these GNOME Shell extensions to make your Linux laptop more usable, and learn which Ubuntu flavor you should use.
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