I have heard it said before that Ubuntu has the best hardware support of any Linux distro, but I'm confused how that could be the case. Don't the drivers go into the kernel, which means the only thing that should matter for hardware support is what kernel version you're using? I know the non-sourced drivers are stripped out in distros that use the Linux-libre kernel, but set aside those for a moment--is there any particular reason why some hardware would work on Ubuntu but not Fedora/Arch/SUSE when they're on the same kernel version?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Thomas Dickey, Anthon, HalosGhost, Archemar, slm Sep 30 '16 at 16:27

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    Certain Linux distributions don't go the extra mile for proprietary drivers. Ubuntu makes it rather easy to include those drivers, whereas other distribution need special care, e.g. you have to download and install them yourself. And yes, I'm looking at you, NVidia. – Zeta Sep 30 '16 at 13:24
  • You know the old joke about an expert charging 10,000$ for "knowing where to knock"? The fact that a driver exists for your device is worthless if you don't know that it does and how to activate it. Distros differ massively in how much they assist you in this step. – Kilian Foth Sep 30 '16 at 14:20

Short answer: Yes, but I'm lying.

Long answer: ultimately what you need to support some hardware is driver. Some drivers aren't open source, which makes it harder for them to be fixed, updated and adapted to changes.

Some drivers are also compiled in kernel, so you might need to recompile your kernel if you wish to use these (rather exotic) features.

However, if we compare Gentoo - the distro known for compiling (almost) everything from source code and doing things from scratch, with Ubuntu - the distro which's "noob-friendly", we will see that if you want to get your standard laptop configuration(webcam, microphone, speakers and optimus dual graphics card setup), you need to do much more on Gentoo side - you need to find proper drivers to compile, compile them, and set up configuration so that X recognizes both cards. In Ubuntu it usually "just works" or is fixable by few simple commands.

However, ultimately you will be able to receive the same support on both of the distros. That's why I'm lying. The true difference llies in ease of using the device. Ubuntu is "plug-and-play", Gentoo requires some handwork.

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