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I've always been unlucky with regards to choosing a laptop that I can install Linux on. If it's not the wireless card that's not working out of the box, it's the video card. Also, I'm still not able to hibernate my computer, close the lid and resume where I left off at a later point. I always have to shut down the laptop or leave it on.

Is there a laptop vendor that is considered to have the best trade off between performance and compatibility with Linux? If not, then what should I look for when buying a laptop?

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6  
This question should be closed, as it will be quickly out of date. –  KeithB Aug 24 '10 at 21:22
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@KeithB most of the answers so far aren't very model specific, more vendor. I don't think they'll be out of date that quickly. –  xenoterracide Aug 24 '10 at 21:42
    
While the question is specific some ansers are not: "buy computer with preinstalled Linux", "check linux-laptop.net/"; etc. –  Maciej Piechotka Aug 25 '10 at 0:04
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(see this meta discussion) –  Michael Mrozek Aug 25 '10 at 15:38
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I'd like to state that I don't actually agree with closing this... –  xenoterracide Aug 25 '10 at 22:13

9 Answers 9

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I'm not sure what issues you're constantly experiencing but I run Gentoo on Lenovo Thinkpad without problems (fingerprint reader does not work) - with possible problems with removal of BKL in recent kernels (however 2.6.33 worked ok). Previously I used IBM Thinkpad.

From my small experience with them:

  • Thinkpads seems to have a community which helps configuring them (IRC channel, website).
  • Unless you need high-performace of graphics use intel. I had much trouble with getting ATI card (XPress 200M) to work (basic OpenGL was ok but there were problems with KMS - at least some time ago)
  • Don't trust windows recovery tool. Back up the position of partitions - it said it won't change partions other then C: but it deleted first secondary partition (/dev/sda5). Strangely grub was left on its place and data was undamaged (fortunatly I could reverse-engeneer the positions).

In addition to recommending linux laptops I can recomend Thinkpads (you asked) - I didn't use many other laptops but they worked.

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I did ask, thanks! Typical issues are graphics, wireless and/or power saving features. For example, my current laptop, an HP pavilion crashes if I plug in the power cord during boot up. Or if I just close the lid and unplug the laptop, it won't come back. –  Louis Salin Aug 25 '10 at 13:53
    
No. I have both suspend & hibernation. I had minor issues with graphics (sometimes blonks) on 2.6.34/35 but the long term support kernel (2.6.32) works. –  Maciej Piechotka Aug 25 '10 at 16:51
    
I agree with this comment. I have a Lenovo Thinkpad SL400 (the model with Intel graphics) running Xubuntu and the only thing that does not work is the card reader for XD cards, wich in fact is something that does not exist for linux at all (as far as I researched less than a year ago). Bluetooth, Wifi, brightness buttons, HDMI, etc... working perfectly. –  nozimica May 5 '11 at 2:07

I'd suggest buying one with Linux preinstalled so you know the hardware is compatible. Dell still sells some, though not sure if you can still use the web interface... Rumor has it you have to call now...

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system76 and zareason seem to be highly regarded linux laptop vendors. –  rschuler Aug 24 '10 at 20:18
    
Last I looked, www.dell.com/ubuntu still worked. I don't have any idea how you're supposed to find it, but it listed some machines. (Not that I'll guarantee that they're still current....) –  David Thornley Aug 24 '10 at 21:26
    
@David some models were removed from that... though I don't know which ones. I know the Dell I bought was, but it's a desktop, thought I read a couple months ago that another model was removed from it. –  xenoterracide Aug 25 '10 at 19:53

You can check on this site: http://www.linux-laptop.net/

You look a lot of laptops and their level of "compatibility" with distributions of GNU/Linux that other user have tested, maybe you can find something that you like there.

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The problem I have with the site you linked to is that you need to know what you want before you can check it. Otherwise, it's a good resource. –  Louis Salin Aug 24 '10 at 22:35

There is no best laptop for Linux, because this heavily depends on your usage. I'd recommend getting a laptop with Linux preinstalled.

Other than that I can safely say that an Aspire Timeline 1810T runs Linux very well, but it is only a subnotebook.

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I understand there is no "best" laptop. I know quite a few people who use Thinkpads, though, and wondered if they had the typical issues I'm constantly experiencing. –  Louis Salin Aug 24 '10 at 22:37
    
Check this counterargument: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/1203/… –  Tshepang Jan 19 '11 at 7:43

My experience is mostly with Dell latitude series of laptops. Looking for Linux compatibility, their actual series is a go, and, on Fedora, they work with all the power saving features (suspend, resume, disk spinning...)

I am not biased, but Intel hardware (Centrino brands, Core2 Duo, new Core i3, i5 and i7) are good to go, mostly because all of the hardware drivers are open source and kernel included (apart for firmware blobs of wifi cards), so they are a safe bet.

The same for netbooks (apart from the Poulsbo graphic adapter).

For a safe order, the Latitude or Vostro series with an intel wifi adapter should be ok.

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And have them ship it with Linux preinstalled. –  Johan Nov 2 '11 at 14:15

The problem with notebooks with Linux preinstalled is which distro comes with them.

I've bought one which had an unknown distro (Satux) that was Debian-based, but included proprietary drivers and no access to the sources for the distro or drivers.

When I finally decided to install Ubuntu over it, I started to have to chase drivers all around the internet, for the video adapter, and wi-fi (power-saving seems to be working).

But the wi-fi could not work reliably so I disabled the internal adapter and bought an external USB wi-fi dongle that works nicely (but with manually recompiled drivers, too).

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Most internal WiFi are mini-PCI cards that you can replace easily, so you don't really need an external USB dongle that gets in your way... –  JanC Aug 25 '10 at 19:11

Always have a live USB/optical disk of your favorite OS handy, so that if you come across some laptop, you can boot off it and see how it fares. Ensure that you test problematic stuff like WiFi, 3G, and GPU (and maybe Bluetooth).

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My Thinkpad X200 runs perfectly on Linux. Everything but the finger reader works out of the box with Ubuntu.

The suspend-on-lid closing works, the wireless resumes very quick and the connection is steady. Bluetooth works like a charm, the Battery life is huge (over 8 hrs).

So far, my experiences with Ubuntu, Arch and Gentoo on this laptop have been phenomenal.

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I am using Linux in my HP laptop, and it's working very well. I would like to suggest you to buy Hp laptop but make sure if you buying new laptop it should be preinstalled with linux.

http://www.maintainmypc.com/technical-support/laptop-netbook-support.php

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