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Best Laptop for Linux

Editor's Choice

Dell XPS 13 7390

5/5
Editor's Choice

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen)

4.5/5
Editor's Choice

Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 14

4/5

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The fundamental question of whether you want to use Linux, or a commercial closed source operating system, is as much of an ideological question as it is a technical one. Many of the differences between the two come down to comparisons of features, compatibility with third party software or hardware, and ease of use. But it’s also for many a matter of wanting to use a computer that grants you full access to its inner workings, so you can see what’s behind the curtain, and tinker with it should you so choose. Closed source software can only ever be trusted to the extent that you trust whoever has licensed it to you, and with Microsoft’s participation in government surveillance programs like PRISM, doubts over how much they can be trusted are more than conspiracy theories and paranoia. 

Our Recommended Best Laptop for Linux

Editor's Choice

Dell XPS 13 7390

5/5
Editor's Choice

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen)

4.5/5
Editor's Choice

Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 14

4/5

Asus Chromebook Flip C434

4/5

How We Picked

Should you want a laptop with which to use Linux, you may have success in just buying any laptop available today, but some will represent more of a challenge than others.

Back in the day, it used to be fairly hit and miss with using Linux on consumer grade hardware, where it was a lucky dip as to whether certain components would be supported, or whether Linux drivers would be made available. I know I have struggled with wifi drivers for quite some time in the past. These days things can be a bit more straightforward, with several popular laptops being officially certified with widely used Linux distributions. The beauty of Linux is that even if something doesn’t work right out of the box, you likely can find some way to get it to work, but in picking out a device that is well supported and has a broad userbase of people sharing advice and tips, you can remove some of the headache.

Beyond traditional laptops that are officially certified to run Linux, there are also Chromebooks. These ship with ChromeOS, which is directly based on Linux, and so users wanting to run Linux software on these have a few options. You can either dual boot with ChromeOS and another Linux distro giving you a full install of a Linux based operating system alongside the standard ChromeOS it ships with, or you can simply enable a beta feature in ChromeOS which will allow you to run Linux based software from directly within ChromeOS.

How We Tested

However you want to run Linux on your laptop, we’ve picked out a selection of solid choices that will offer you a high degree of compatibility, and are popular models with robust dedicated communities behind them should you need to turn to a community for support. Linux has a lot of advantages compared to standard commercially licensed operating systems, but for any kind of support your best hope is the community, rather than any kind of commercial customer support service. These are all widely used Linux laptops, which should make troubleshooting problems far simpler than with more niche devices.

Our Recommended

Best Laptop for Linux

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Editor's Choice

Dell XPS 13 7390

It’s a brilliant pairing of form and function, packing a lot of power into a small frame, and with a premium build quality and feel. Dell’s top of the line compact laptop, and it’s an obvious choice for anyone after a premium ultraportable Windows laptop.

Pros

  • Fully certified for running Ubuntu
  • Extremely premium design and feel
  • Excellent performance

Cons

  • Ships with Windows
  • On the pricey side
  • Awkward webcam placement

Dell XPS 13 7390

This is Dell’s top end luxury laptop, and it has received full certified official support for popular Linux distribution Ubuntu, this means that not only have Ubuntu extensively tested it for running Ubuntu without any issues or incompatibilities, but that there is also a dedicated community of users who are running Linux on this machine.

You’ll have to set up Linux yourself, but if you’re interested in Linux in the first place, that’s perhaps part of the appeal.

The XPS 13 has a premium feeling aluminium shell, and a beautiful edge to screen with a tiny bezel framing it. It comes in a variety of configurations depending on your preferences, but they’ll all function excellently as a performance Linux machine.

Editor's Choice

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen)

This is the workhorse of the Lenovo lineup, a business laptop for serious business. What it lacks in flashy aesthetics and ornate design, it more than makes up with raw functionality. It’s built for durability and reliability rather than beauty.

Pros

  • Fully certified for running Ubuntu
  • Rugged and robust design
  • Can be used as Laptop of Tablet

Cons

  • Ships with Windows
  • Functional but dull aesthetics
  • Modest battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen)

For anyone after a powerful Linux laptop that can also be used in tablet mode, this is a great choice. It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but if you’re planning to use Linux on it, then there’s a good chance you care more about functionality than how flashy something is.

This is another Laptop that has officially received Ubuntu certification, meaning that this model has undergone extensive testing by Ubuntu to ensure everything runs smoothly. You can be confident of avoid any major driver issues or other challenges that might otherwise occur in devices that have not been certified in this manner.

In somewhat of a throwback, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga features a cursor nipple in the middle of a keyboard, an input mechanism that has somewhat fallen out of favour with most laptops, so if that’s something you are interested in using, this seems like an obvious choice.

Editor's Choice

Dell Inspiron 2-in-1 14

Cheap and cheerful mid-range Chromebook, this is a great little laptop for browsing the web and running android apps. With a high resolution touch screen, and the ability to be used in Laptop or Tablet configuration, it’s a nice simple machine for many basic tasks. It’s not going to blow anyone away in terms of performance, but it’s a well put together machine.

Pros

  • Stylus included
  • Brushed aluminium shell
  • Works in Laptop or Tablet form factor

Cons

  • Heavy compared to similar Chromebooks
  • Weak speakers
  • Mushy keyboard

Dell Inspiron 2-in-1

The Inspiron 2-in-1 14 is a well put together machine, if a little on the basic side.

Rather than a Windows based laptop that you can install Linux over, this is a Chromebook, shipped running ChromeOS. There are a couple of options with regards to how to get Linux running on this. Since ChromeOS is based on the Linux Kernel, you can actually activate a beta feature to add support for Linux software into the existing operating system. Think of this as a way of extending the functionality of your Chromebook, rather than a total operating system replacement. Alternatively, you can install an operating system like Ubuntu onto the device, and have it dual boot into either ChromeOS or Ubuntu depending on what you need during any given session.

It comes in either 4GB or 8GB of ram variants. For ChromeOS 4GB is plenty, but if you’re planning any advanced tasks that Linux opens up the possibility of, you might wanna opt for the 8GB version. The Intel Core i3 processor is mid range processor that can’t keep up with it’s high end siblings, but is not slouch either.

One thing to bear in mind is that it does not come with very much system storage, with just 128GB of eMMC Storage. It does have a MicroSD card slot for expandable storage though, something you may want to use if you plan to store any large files locally.

Asus Chromebook Flip C434

Easily one of the best Chromebooks on the market. This is cheaper than many traditional laptops, but doesn’t sacrifice on display quality or design. Great for browsing the web, running Android apps, and using in either laptop or tablet configuration.

Pros

  • Very light
  • Premium look and feel
  • Works in Laptop or Tablet form factor

Cons

  • Small trackpad
  • Weak CPU
  • Very small amount of system storage

Asus Chromebook Flip C434

This another Chromebook, that also supports both the beta feature that lets you install Linux software on it, or dual booting with a Linux distro such as Ubuntu. This is a mid range Chromebook, and as a Linux Laptop it’s fairly weak. The Intel Core M3 powering it is fairly end as far as Chromebooks go, but pretty low end when considered as a Laptop CPU. It’s going to be perfectly adequate for basic tasks like web browsing and emails, but don’t expect this machine to handle any tasks requiring high performance.

If you don’t have any demanding tasks in mind for it, this makes a great and highly portable email and web browsing machine. The bonus of being able to run Android apps makes this particularly powerful, as there are tonnes of great apps that can fill the gap left by many different commercial software and services not having any native Linux support.

The all aluminium body makes this a durable and aesthetically pleasing machine, and it’s got a slim and highly portable design that make this a great machine for on the go. It’s a particularly flexible machine, even if it can’t compete in the raw power stakes.

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Our Verdict

Dell XPS 13 7390

5/5

Dell XPS 13 7390

5/5

Dell XPS 13 7390

5/5

For us, the Dell XPS 13 represents a no compromise design that will likely appeal to many users. If you want to use Linux as your operating system of choice, but don’t want to compromise on performance or design, the XPS 13 is the obvious choice. It’s got a powerful CPU at it’s heart, it’s got one of the best screens available in any laptop, and it’s all packed into a remarkably slim and attractive package. Official certification from Ubuntu remove any concerns over driver issues or incompatibility, and ensure that this is a popular model among various different Linux communities.

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