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Linux is amazing unless it won’t install. Then it just hurts. Fortunately, a number of laptop makers build Linux laptops that don’t suffer from any driver or software faults. But how many of these offer good performance?

This article covers three manufacturers who make Linux-equipped laptops and a few of their wares.

Three Laptop Companies

Unfortunately, purpose-built Linux laptops cost slightly more on average than those with Windows. Even low-end laptops, oftentimes with Intel Celeron processors, include a premium, provided they come with Linux. I’m not sure why this is, as Linux lacks licensing fees. It could be that Linux laptops target a niche market, willing to pay more, and the companies operate on smaller production runs.

Three companies offer high-end, purpose-built Linux-flavored laptops: System76, ZaReason and Dell. Other companies offer repackaged systems from Dell, HP, ASUS and Lenovo that include Linux distributions optimized for that particular laptop. Ubuntu keeps a list of Linux certified machines which come with Windows installed by default, but function flawlessly when you install Linux.

System76

System76 builds a variety of configurable, Ubuntu-equipped devices. The laptops feature high-end hardware with beautifully designed chassis (we’ve reviewed their Gazelle laptop System76 Gazelle Professional Laptop Review & Giveaway System76 Gazelle Professional Laptop Review & Giveaway As an avid user of Linux, I’ve been very interested in laptops specifically built to operate Linux, as my own laptop had a few minor issues that were never resolved. This high interest led us... Read More ). They also make Ultrabook-form factor-like models, although their cases are built from brushed, faux-aluminum, instead of metal. Their designs include Skylake CPUs, in six basic models. The six models range in price from $699 to 2,499. Unlike many Windows laptops, System76 offers matte screens as an option, instead of forcing ubiquitous glossy models on customers.

system76-lemur

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Bonobo WS

  • Starting price: $2,499
  • CPU: Either Core i7-6700 or Core i7-6700K (both are full quad-core desktop Skylake CPUs)
  • GPU: GTX 1070 or SLI configured dual GTX 1070
  • RAM: 8GB to 64GB
  • Hard drive: 500GB HDD to 1TB SSD
  • Linux version: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS or 16.10
  • Screen size: 17.3″ 1920×1080 IPS, 120MHz touchscreen

The Bonobo edition also includes room for two M.2 drives, two 2.5″ drives, and can optionally replace its optical bay drive with either an HDD or SSD. This means it’s possible to have a five-drive laptop. However, the price for a fully loaded system can run up to $8,725. Even so, this is one of the beefiest laptops that I’ve seen in my life. The only weakness is its 1080p screen, although it does run at a fast refresh rate of 120Hz.system76-bonobo-WS

I should also point out that System76’s lines of linux laptops includes the $700 Lemur, $700 Gazelle, $900 Kudu, $1,500 Oryx, and $1,900 Serval WS models.

ZaReason

ZaReason offers customizable desktops and laptops outfitted with your favorite Linux distribution. Its older series of Ivy Bridge (2012) laptops (and an Ultrabook-like model) includes the Alto 4335 ( starting at $699) and the UltraLap 430 ($899). ZaReason’s most expensive model, the Verix 530, costs $999. Its newest model, the Strata 7440, starts at $749. Unfortunately, most of its builds are currently out of stock (although that will change soon). Their newest model offers really good specifications at an excellent price-point.

Strata 8110

  • Starting price: $849.99
  • CPU: Two CPUs available, from a Skylake Core i5-6300HQ (quad) to a i7-6700HQ (quad)
  • GPU: GTX 960M (optional, add $200)
  • RAM: 4 to 32GB
  • Hard drive: 500GB HDD to 2TB SSD
  • Linux version: Any version of Linux
  • Screen size: 15.6″ 1920×1080 IPS, with matte coating
  • Battery life: around 4 hours

zareason strata 8110

 

Dell Computers

Dell is perhaps the only laptop manufacturer to offer Ubuntu as a discounted alternative to Windows 10. Choosing Ubuntu on checkout lowers the price of their laptops by around $105 (a substantial amount). However, there are two caveats: First, all of Dell’s computer are configurable, so you must select Ubuntu as the operating system. Second, only two models of Dell (the XPS 13 and Precision 15 3000) include Ubuntu as an option and there’s a limited stock available.

Dell Precision 15 3000 (2016 Edition)

The Dell XPS 15 offers a winning combination of workstation-class performance and a reasonable price-point. Its lowest-priced configuration offers an Intel mobile quad-core processor. Its midrange GPU is a FirePro W5130M discrete graphics card. Combined with its low-resolution 1366×720 twisted-nematic screen, the Precision is suitable for Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and other professional uses.

  • Starting price: $950
  • CPU: Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon quad core
  • GPU: AMD FirePro W5130M
  • RAM: 8 to 16GB of RAM
  • Hard drive: 256GB M.2 SSD or 1TB SATA HDD
  • Linux version: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
  • Screen size: 13.3″ 1366×720 TN LCD with matte treatment
  • Battery life: Reported to be around 10 hours

dell-precision-15-3000

Dell XPS 13 (2016 Edition)

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook (we reviewed the Windows XPS 13 Dell XPS 13 2015 Review and Giveaway Dell XPS 13 2015 Review and Giveaway The XPS represents the pinnacle of laptop design in 2015, and it's the best bang for your buck out of any laptop we've ever seen in the $800 price range. Read More version) employs a combination of aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber in its clamshell design. The combination of light, high-durability materials allows the XPS to weigh in at a very low 3.03 pounds. The XPS can include Ubuntu Linux 16.04, LTS (long-term support). But all these features don’t come cheap: The lower end Core i5 XPS costs $950. The Core i7 version with maxed out specifications runs for $1,800.

  • Starting price: $950
  • CPU: Either Core i5-4500U or Core i7-4500U (both are dual core Haswell CPUs)
  • RAM: 8 to 16GB of RAM
  • Hard drive: 128GB to 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD
  • Linux version: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
  • Screen size: 13.3″ 1920×1080 IPS (options go as high as 3,200 x 1,800)
  • Battery life: Reported to be between 10 and 18 hours, depending on workload

dell-xps-13

 

Other Companies

Several companies sell laptops from ASUS, HP, Dell and Lenovo (and some from Acer), which come pre-installed with various Linux flavors.

  • EmperorLinux: EmperorLinux offers a very wide selection of Linux-equipped products including laptops, desktops, and server gear. Additionally, EmperorLinux includes its own special variant on the Linux kernel, which includes additional features of use to the average laptop user, such as throttling.
  • Best Buy: Best Buy, believe it or not, sells a variety of Linux-equipped laptops. These are mostly older, weaker models, with the same or similar specs to Chromebooks.
  • The Linux Laptop: The Linux Laptop sells three models of Dell Inspiron with Linux pre-installed.
  • ThinkPenguin: Specializes in selling Thinkpads with Linux installed.
  • LinuxCertified: Sells a range of products, and at least one custom laptop, designed for Linux.
  • Google: While Google doesn’t sell laptops designed for Linux, most Chromebooks can install Chrubuntu How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More , a custom version of Ubuntu.

Should You Buy Linux Laptops or Install Linux?

For Linux users, there’s a large number of laptops that come with your favorite operating system pre-installed. This means no more hunting for drivers or tweaking your settings. However, for those of you who feel like installing Linux on your own, you can always buy a Ubuntu-certified laptop. Ubuntu keeps a list of all equipment, including laptops, that received a Ubuntu Certified credential, meaning they work with Linux out-the-box.

For those of you who want both operating systems, I strongly suggest reading our guide on dual-booting Windows 8 alongside Linux Tired Of Windows 8? How To Dual Boot Windows & Ubuntu Tired Of Windows 8? How To Dual Boot Windows & Ubuntu If you discover that Windows 8 isn't quite your cup of tea, and you have no feasible path to downgrade, it may be a good idea to dual boot with Linux to have an alternative... Read More . However, due to issues with Secure Boot, you may end up needing to research how to install Linux on a Windows How Do I Install Ubuntu on a New Windows 8 Computer? How Do I Install Ubuntu on a New Windows 8 Computer? The introduction of personal computers with Windows 8 preinstalled with them also introduced a controversial under-the-hood modification - Secure Boot. Secure Boot is a technology which is included in any new computer that has Windows... Read More computer.

  1. Snippy Snippy
    November 24, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    If in UK try Entroware.... I've got an Apollo

  2. Paul
    November 24, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Who writes this sh**? You can get Linux to work on ANY platform (get the idea !!!!!!) Only Windows freaks, paid journalists (you wouldn't happen to be one of them ???) or technical idiots (same question!!!) can't get it to work !! A short, simple course on Internet can help you understand what you can't understand. Don't be downhearted !!! I'm sure you will be able to do it and get Linux working. Ánimo !!! (That's Spanish!!! But someone like you might need a bit of help - It means - Go for it)

    • Kannon Yamada
      November 24, 2016 at 12:19 am

      Thanks for the comment. Sometimes features in Linux do not work out-the-box and requires a lengthy troubleshooting process. I could edit this article to better make that point. I appreciate your criticism.

  3. Roy
    April 2, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I've loaded Linux Mint on 3 win 7 laptops, 2 dual boot and 1 linux only, and have not had a single problem. Everything worked perfectly straight off. No device driver problems. Am using Mint Quiana right now and it works far better with TimeWarners new high speed modem they brought out last month when I upgraded my internet than when I boot in Win7. I keep getting thrown off line in windows, never happens in Linux. And Linux runs so much faster, with no worrying about spyware or viruses.

  4. Tom
    February 9, 2015 at 2:57 am

    I got a Lenovo ThinkPad t61p with a dual core 2ghz cpu, 4gb RAM, and a 250 gb disk and a decent battery for $139 shipped from eBay, and put Ubuntu on it and it rocks using the Cairo dock to simulate OSX. It boots fast, runs fast, and is a pleasure. Only issue is it wont wake up from sleep but that's not a deal breaker. It's my blogging rig and runs so much faster than my quad core 8gb win 7 machine.

    BYO works.

    • Kannon Y
      February 10, 2015 at 4:20 am

      Thanks for sharing Tom. The best luck I've ever had with a Linux laptop was from HP. Every installed without a hitch. But some HPs, Dells and the Thinkpad series I think come Linux certified (IIRC). There are brands out there with terrible Linux support, particularly if they use a third party module to add additional functionality.

      Sometimes the Linux vendors sell custom written governors or other drivers which they claim will improve battery issues. Also, I've heard of sleep issues even with custom drivers, but I'm sure on average their incidence of driver problems is lower than with BYO. What I'd really like to see is someone getting Intel's governor working properly.

      Good choice in laptops, by the way. The style and build quality of Thinkpads nowadays is nowhere near what it used to be. The keyboards, trackpoint and matte screens of earlier Thinkpads have no comparison in today's market. It's really sad to see their design philosophy go.

  5. Bredin
    December 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Hi
    Has anyone purchased an LC22 UltraPlus or any other laptop / hardware from LinuxCertified in the last month? i.e. Nov / Dec 2014? I ordered and (stupidly) paid for one 21 days ago and the (international) delivery seems to be a problem. It's just not happening and I cannot seem to get a sensible response or timeline from the company. I am getting very anxious about the state of the company. Any feedback would be very helpful. Thanks

  6. Petro
    February 1, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    nvidia GPU's kidding me?
    performance ratio 0% cus no drivers

  7. Joe
    January 26, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    ThinkPenguin != ThinkPad /w Linux...

    ThinkPads are a brand of Lenovo, proprietary, DRM-encumbered, bad, ThinkPenguin is a company

    EmperorLinux sells ThinkPads /w Linux

  8. Scott T
    January 16, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Most laptops will be able to run light-weight Linux distros. Anyone who like to use Linux in most cases would like to have an OS that is customizable and configurable.

    • dragonmouth
      March 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Most laptops will be able to run full blown Linux distros. No need to settle for Puppy, TinyCore or Slitaz or other any other cut down distro. I have run Mepis and Debian on an Inspiron 7500 and ThinkPad T21. Both laptops have P3 mobile CPUs. Granted they do not offer head-snapping speed but they are capable of running full blown distros.

  9. Richard Steven Hack
    January 7, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Does anyone dual boot any more? Throw on VirtualBox, run two OS at the same time (RAM permitting)... Unless you're a gamer needing every ounce of CPU, this is the way to go these days with fast processors and large amounts of memory.

  10. Smiling_Jester
    January 7, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Having computers with Linux installed out of the gate is awesome, but c'mon, $1000 - $6000? I thought Apple and Microsoft were crazy. Give me an affordable machine and a Linux USB, any day. I understand companies need to make money, but if we're going to call foul on Apple and MSoft, we need to call foul here. One of Linux's greatest strengths lay in it being accessible to everyone. These machines remind us that elitism can be found even here in the open source community.

  11. dragonmouth
    January 7, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I roll my own by buying refurbished laptops with Win 7 (avoids UEFI problems). Then I give Windows the heave-ho and replace it with any Linux distro that suits my fancy at the particualr moment. One distro I will never install is Ubuntu. I prefer a distro I can customize and control. Besides, Canonical is trying very hard to become the M$ of the Linux universe. I did not dump one monopoly (Windows) just to replace it with another one (Ubuntu).

  12. Robert B
    January 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Just a comment concerning secure boot, even if it is activated on a new laptop or desktop it is not mandatory that it be turned on with x86 hardware. That is any PC with an Intel or AMD processor. If you are in the market for a new system and think that you would like to use a different OS than Windows 8 ask Dell, HP or who ever how secure boot can be disabled in their BIOS chips. If they will not tell you how then don't by it, if you already own one then demand that they tell you how to disable it. For new laptops another good choice would also be Sager, they are mostly known for custom gaming laptops but they also have some normal spec laptops available that do not cost thousands. If you are there and click on the customize button for their products you will see that you have the option to have Windows 7 or Windows 8 installed. If you see this you can rest assured that secure boot is not activated because if it were you would not be able to put Windows 7 on it. You also are given the option to have it with a gloss or matt screen. There are few laptops and desktops today that will not run Linux. You may have to try several different distros but eventually you will find one that has drivers for your hardware complied into the kernel, a favorite of mine is Linux Mint. They have versions based on Ubuntu as well as Debian.

  13. Igor R
    January 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I am currently using Dell 3521 budget laptop clocked on 1,5ghz (ivy bridge) ,2 gb of memory.I have tryed to use mint,ubuntu and it works great out of the box.I switched to Lubuntu,because its laptop-based and energy efficient.

  14. Roddy6667
    January 7, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Every laptop I own is Linux. Install latest LinuxMint and I'm good to go.

  15. Vishal S
    January 7, 2014 at 6:19 am

    I still believe the beauty of Linux is to install it yourself and customize it to your taste.

  16. Manny R
    January 7, 2014 at 2:12 am
    • John
      January 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      I am definately buying one of these. Thanks for the link, will be ideal for bike touring. Thanks for sharing

  17. Kevin M
    January 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    The whole idea behind a Linux system is cost and what you are showing here is in line with all the rest of the MS trash that is already on the market. You want to sell a real Linux user on a computer find some that are in a price range that fit the concept, what you have here is CRAP!

    • Roman
      January 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

      Most are, with the exception of the high end System76 ones. Drivers in order, these things can be the most powerful linux laptops you could reasonably have. Best is still to get xeon e5400 series processors, a t5400 mobo, and build an 8 core linux beast because WHY NOT?

    • Kannon Y
      January 8, 2014 at 3:43 am

      I'm inclined to agree with you Kevin. Linux laptops should cost at minimum $50 less than those with Windows. Unfortunately, most manufacturers only sell Linux-certified laptops that have already paid the Windows tax. The OEM pricing of Windows 8 is probably somewhere between $50 and $80. Unfortunately, we don't often see that translated into lower prices on laptops because manufacturers almost always include Windows. I listed these laptops because they were high end machines. Unfortunately, low-production numbers always translates into higher prices.

      I installed Linux because Windows is inherently less secure than Linux. The entire reason why I use Linux isn't so much the reduced cost of it, but rather the dramatically superior security.

  18. Mike the mechanic
    January 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Not always best way ;) did it my self with r30 thinkpad - all I can say is: the horror, the horror...
    But where is will, there is a solution, look for suitable equipment on forums, avoid rare parts (network,tragic cards etc), look for Linux friendly manufacturers (finaly they will learn -Linux pays) :)

    • Michael T. Babocck
      March 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I disagree completely. I use Linux for functionality, not price. I'd rather use $2,000 hardware with Linux on it than a $500 Windows machine any day.

  19. Mike the mechanic
    January 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Not always best way ;) did it my self with r30 thinkpad - all I can say is: the horror, the horror...
    But where is will, there is a solution, look for suitable equipment on forums, avoid rare parts (network,tragic cards etc), look for Linux friendly manufacturers (finaly they will learn -Linux pays) :)

  20. Ted Kitch
    January 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    You can also purchase the Acer Aspire V5-131-2887 on Amazon. It comes with Linpus Linux

    http://www.amazon.com/Acer-Aspire-NX-M89AA-003-V5-131-2887-11-6-Inch/dp/B00CU2K5IS

    • Kannon Y
      January 8, 2014 at 3:36 am

      Acer seems to limit their Linux builds to laptops with Chromebook specs. Celeron 847 and slightly more RAM than you would find in a Chromebook. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that they're building Linux machines. Unfortunately, they're building Chromebook machines with budget laptop pricing.

      I ended up going with an HP 17.3" Pavillion with the latest Intel CPU for around $335. I slapped the latest nightly Ubuntu build on it and it worked perfectly out of the box. All of the function keys except WiFi toggle worked, which was something of a minor miracle.

      Thanks for the comment!

  21. Shawn
    January 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    You forgot the BYO System
    - $150 - $300 for old Laptop
    - Linux Distro - $0.oo
    = Awesome

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