While almost any laptop will run one Linux or another, there are laptop models that are better than the rest for a particular Linux distro or for Linux in general. If you are about to choose a laptop for Linux, here are some tips to consider.
1. Think About the Parameters You Need
Your quest for the best Linux laptop starts in a traditional way – with the same brainstorming you would do when purchasing any new laptop. Think about the hardware parameters you want your new laptop to have. These include CPU speed, amount of RAM, storage, on-board or stand-alone cards (graphic, network, etc.).
At this stage the process isn’t much different than choosing any other computer – browse what’s currently available and shortlist the models that meet your hardware requirements.
2. Consider Buying an Older/Less Powerful Computer
Linux uses computer resources in a more efficient way, and even with less powerful hardware, you can achieve a better performance than with a more powerful laptop running Windows. I am saying this from experience!
If you are just an ordinary user, with Linux you don’t necessarily have to go for the newest and most expensive hardware. Most new or used hardware/laptops that are one or two years old are fine for you. As an ordinary user, you hardly need the most expensive graphic cards, an ultra fast CPU, or TBs of disk storage capacity.
Linux gives a lot of choice – if one distro won’t run on your computer, simply try another. When I bought a new computer last year, it was too new for some of the Ubuntu distros I tried. Some of them wouldn’t install at all. Then I tried LXDE, a distro for old computers which is packed with all sorts of drivers, and it worked like a charm! On top of everything, since this was a distro for old computers, it ran at light speed.
LXDE was a solution for me because I didn’t need a particular distro. If I did, maybe I would have had to wait for a couple of months until the distro of my choice released a new version and hope that the drivers I needed are included.
3. Check Open Source Compatibility Databases
If you already have a few preferred laptop models, the next step is to check if these particular models are certified for Linux compatibility. There are quite a lot of places you can check. For instance, you can start with this database of hardware that works with free operating systems.
If you are going to install Linux Mint, then their hardware compatibility resources are a good starting point.
For Ubuntu, you might want to check their vendor certification list. Choose the provider and then select if you want to see all their certified models or only laptops/desktops, respectively.
You see, the lists of Linux-certified laptops are pretty long, and it’s hard to say there is a single best laptop model or brand for Linux. Generally, from what I know, IBM Thinkpads do pretty well under Linux. Dells also have a large number of Linux-certified devices.
4. Browse Online to See What Other Users Are Saying
Even if the laptop brand and model you’ve picked are on the certified laptops list, it won’t hurt to do some more research. You can check support forums for possible issues owners of the model you’ve picked have had.
Ideally, you are looking for information about the distro you plan to use. For popular laptop models and Linux distros, chances are there will be info, but don’t take this for granted. For less popular laptop models and Linux distros, there might be no information at all, which unfortunately doesn’t mean there will be no issues.
5. Get a Laptop with Pre-Installed Linux
As a last resort, if you don’t trust your skills to choose a Linux-compatible laptop on your own, you might consider the option to buy a laptop with pre-installed Linux. Needless to say, this might limit your choices, but if you really need it, go for it. EmperorLinux and LinuxCertified are two places where you can get a laptop with pre-installed Linux, and the choice of distros there isn’t bad.
Choosing a Linux laptop isn’t that much different from choosing a laptop in general, but it’s good to know some specifics, such as where to find pre-installed Linux or where to check for compatibility. It’s true Linux will run on almost any laptop, but if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises, just check in advance if your particular model isn’t known for its problems with Linux.