Best Laptops for Linux

We are all familiar with the proprietary operating systems (OS) – Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS. But there is another software platform that has been gaining popularity, especially among programmers and encoders- enter Linux.

A few years ago, Linux was widely used mainly to handle servers and was not on personal computers. But with constant innovation and its better user interface, it has become a great alternative to the mainstream OS. Today, you can now see people using Linux on their desktop and laptops. A lot of businesses and educational institutes have also begun using it.

Linux has several advantages that make it a practically better OS than the rest. It has better security as the system is known to keep viruses and malware away. The system is also very stable and experiences fewer crashes. It’s also easy to maintain because you can update the OS centrally in its corresponding software repository. Furthermore, you can pretty much run the system on any hardware so long as they are compatible. And have we mentioned it’s FREE!

Top 8 Laptops for Linux of 2019

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Product

Specs

Availability

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Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition 9370

 

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Ubuntu
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Asus Zenbook UX303UA

 

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Intel Core i5 6200U
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Entroware Orion

 

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Intel Core i5 8250U
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HP Spectre X360

 

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Intel Core i5-8250U
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

 

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Intel Core i5-8250U
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Purism Librem 15

 

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Intel Core i7-6500U
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Star LabTop

 

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Intel Core i7-8550U
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System 76 Serval WS

 

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2.6 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U
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1. Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition 9370

Dell has constantly been updating their flagship laptop the XPS 13 making it more powerful and portable year after year while keeping its chassis classy and sleek. The Developer Edition 9370 is its latest refresh with a noticeable drop in volume and weight. They also upgraded the already gorgeous QHD+ display to a 4K resolution on its 13.3-inch touchscreen. This laptop also comes with several configurations including a Full-HD non-touchscreen option.

At its heart is a 1.8 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U processor which can be turbo boosted up to 4.0 GHz. The Intel UHD Graphics 620, although is not meant for gaming, can handle pretty much all other graphics requirements of most computing tasks. This laptop also has 16 GBB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD storage which allows it to boot faster.

Dell has also improved the laptop’s thermals especially its fans which now run more silently. You also now have 4 cores and 8 threads compared to the previous U series which only has two. As a result, you can notice a significant speed boost to the new XPS. Furthermore, the device is now 30-percent thinner than its predecessor but still retains its durability. The XPS battery life remains unchanged at 11 hours.

The backlit keyboard remains as comfortable to type on as ever. Each key has been coated with titanium oxide allowing it to resist stains better while keeping the surface shiny. It also has some of the essential ports such as a MicroSD reader, headphone jack, a USB Type C, DisplayPort, and two Thunderbolt 3.

However, the laptop also has the same issues that are associated with the XPS 13 line. The webcam’s placement at the center bottom screen remains awkward, especially for video calls. The 4K resolution also has an average color accuracy, which means you can’t use it for tasks such as video editing. Lastly, it lacks the legacy port USB Type A.

Overall, the Dell XPS 13 is a great laptop with a Linux OS out of the box as it offers more bang for your buck than most of its competitors in its price range.

Display: 13.3-inch touchscreen; 3840 x 2160 resolution
Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 16 GB DDR3
Storage: 512 GB PCIe SSD
Pre-installed Linux: Ubuntu
Battery Life: 10 hours
Weight: 2.67 pounds

Pros:

  • Sleek and portable design
  • Vivid display
  • Powerful CPU
  •     Great cooling system

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have USB Type-A port
  • Awkwardly placed webcam

2. Asus Zenbook UX303UA

The ultrabook category is perhaps one of the most stacked laptop class with every major brand having a stake in it. Price-wise ultras are classified as mid-range and above the one thousand dollar bracket. However, the budget-friendly, aluminum cased Asus Zenbook UX303UA makes its competition look overprice by keeping its prices low without having to sacrifice the quality of its build and components.

Running things for this laptop is a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 6200U processor mated with the usual Intel HD Graphics 620. Asus also equipped it with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD storage. While the specs are pretty mediocre compared to premium laptops, this device is more than competent for daily usage that involves browsing, watching movies, typing, and other basic computing tasks. Because it doesn’t have any bloatware, except for its speakers, this laptop can also serve as an affordable Linux based laptop after a few tweaking.

The 15.6-inch FHD touchscreen has an IPS panel that makes the display look vivid and dynamic despite having a 1920 x 1080 resolution. It’s considered to have the brightest display in its class with 322 nits and has an excellent 115.6 percent sRGB color gamut rating. The Bang & Olufsen speakers also provide a pleasant audio experience thanks to a program called ICEpower AudioWizard. The chiclet keyboard is also comfortable to type on and is also backlit.

Moreover, this Asus laptop has plenty of ports despite being thin. It has the essential ones such as three USB 3.0, HDMI, headphone jack, SD card slot, and a mini DisplayPort. The 1.2-megapixel camera also takes color-accurate photos and is useful during video calls. This laptop also regulates heat effectively and seldom crosses the comfortable temperature threshold.

Even so, this laptop also has a few disadvantages that you should be aware of. While the chassis is smooth and sturdy, the bezels are a bit thick. The ambient light sensor can also be annoying at times. The speakers are good, but its rivals have better.

Overall, the Zenbook UX303UA is an excellent ultrathin notebook to run on Linux because of its solid performance coupled with a striking design.

Display: 15.6 FHD touchscreen; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 6200U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Pre-installed Linux: None
Battery Life: 7 hours
Weight: 3.2 pounds

Pros:

  • Sturdy aluminum chassis
  • Strong CPU performance
  • Excellent keyboard experience
  • Bright and colorful FHD screen

Cons:

  • A few bloatware
  • Irritating ambient light sensor

3. Entroware Orion

Setting up a laptop to use Linux distribution is not an easy process. There are lots to consider including hardware compatibility and user interface. Luckily there are manufacturers like UK-based Entroware that provides Ubuntu Linux-based produces such as the Orion. While the black plastic exterior may seem bland especially so because it doesn’t have a brand logo it serves as a blank canvas for EFF stickers and customization.

Inside this machine is a 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5 8250U processor which can be turbo boosted up to 3.4 GHz and mated with an Intel UHD Graphics. Entroware also equipped it with an 8 GB RAM and a 120 GB M.2 SSD storage. While these may not be impressive compared to premium laptops, it serves our intended purpose just right. Its 14-inch matte IPS display with 1920 x 1080 resolution is not something to scoff off.

Typing on the Orion is also quite pleasing because of two factors. The screen extends beyond the hinge and slightly raises the rear of the keyboard up to create a nice typing angle. The chiclet-style keys also have more travel than most ultra-thin laptops. The laptop is also built to take advantage of cloud-based services thanks to its Intel AC Wifi.

The added bulk also helps with the airflow and heat distribution inside the laptop which keeps the laptop cool throughout your daily usage. This thing also has a plethora of ports such as two USB-A, a USB-C, HDMI, SD card reader, VGA, Ethernet and separate jacks for its microphone and headphone.

However, despite being a portable workstation this laptop also has a few quirks. The trackpad is horrible at registering movement and is often finicky with the clicks. The display is also quite dull and has poor viewing angles.

Overall, the Orion is a great alternative if you want to get the benefits of the Linux or Ubuntu OS without having to shed out a lot of dough.

Display: 14-inch Matte FHD IPS; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5 8250U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 8 GB DDR4
Storage: 120 GB M.2 SSD
Pre-installed Linux: Ubuntu, Ubuntu MATE
Battery Life: 6 hours
Weight: 2.9 pounds

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Great heat management
  • Decent CPU performance
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons:

  • Small, unresponsive trackpad
  • Dull display with poor viewing angles

4. HP Spectre X360

This 2-in-1 convertible laptop is a popular choice for users who want a flexible device that they can carry around effortlessly. The sleek, lightweight and thin design of this gadget are perfectly matched with a smooth aluminum chassis. The laptop also has several “physical modes you can switch from depending on what you are doing including tent, writing and watching mode.

HP has equipped this device with a 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor which can reach up to 3.4 GHz when turbo-boosted. It’s mated with the usual Intel UHD Graphics 620 and has 8 GB of RAM. You also get a pretty respectable 256 GB SSD storage. With these specs, you can do a bit of video editing, animation and mobile gaming on top of other basic computer functions. However, it requires a bit of tinkering if you want it to be compatible with Linux distro.

Versatility remains as the best selling point of the Spectre X360. The keyboard deck is still rock-solid with long travel keys which is excellent for typing. Despite being thin, it contains plenty of ports such as a USB 3.1, HDMI, card reader, a headphone-mic combo and two Thunderbolt 3. You will also be delighted of its Bang & Olufsen audio which has top-notch quality, especially when aided by HP Audio Boost. The laptop also comes with an HP Tilt Pen which is rechargeable and slides open to unveil its USB-C port for charging.

However, this 2-in-1 laptop also has a few disadvantages compared to other convertibles. The trackpad is responsive but is a bit wide. Moreover, the Full HD display seemed to take a step back in terms of quality.  Its Tilt Pen also has lower sensitivity than those provided by its competitors.

Overall, the Spectre X360 remains as one of the top 2-in-1 laptops because of how well its features were packaged. Run it with a Linux OS and its versatility and performance will kick off a few notches.

Display: 13.3-inch FHD PS micro edge; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 13 hours
Pre-installed Linux: None
Weight: 2.78 lbs

Pros:

  • Well-built and attractive chassis
  • Awesome battery life perfect for productivity
  • Very comfortable keyboard to type on
  • Above par CPU performance

Cons:

  • Gets hot when computing great load
  • The trackpad is a bit wide and sometimes gets in the way of typing

5. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Lenovo’s workhorse, the ThinkPad, has jazzed up its top-tier model the X1 Carbon, which is now on its 6th generation. The latest model comes with an 8th generation Intel processor and has been updated with a USB-C charging. It now comes with voice command far-field microphones and optional 1920 x 1080 touchscreen. But, the more it changes the more this laptop remains the same business first machine.

Powering this laptop is a 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U processor which can be turbo boosted up to 3.4 GHz. Lenovo has also equipped it with a standard Intel UHD 620 and 8 GB worth of RAM. Moreover, it also has a 512 GB NVMe SSD which has a fast data transfer rate and helps speed up the booting process. The X1 also has a fingerprint reader feature called the Match-in-Sensor which adds an extra layer of security.

The bread and butter of this laptop though is its vivid 14-inch HDR screen with 2560 x 1440 resolution. The images on the screen are deep and saturated that it almost felt life-like. Going by the numbers, this laptop screen has a whopping 199 percent sRGB color gamut rating and 469 nits of brightness. Both stats are way beyond the average of a business laptop. And who could forget the excellent keyboard of the Thinkpad that has excellent tactile feedback matched with the comfort of the soft-touch deck? Typing on this laptop is as enjoyable as can be.

The iconic Trackpoint also allows more precise and efficient navigation. Meanwhile, the 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpad was quite accurate and responsively smooth. The laptop also has a wide array of ports- three USB Type A, HDMI, a micro SD card reader, audio jack and two Thunderbolt 3. It also comes with a 720-pixel webcam, which produces mediocre images but is quite useful for video calls. Finally, its battery lifespans at 10 hours.

Despite all these great things, this laptop also has a few minor inconveniences. The audio quality is OK, but the volume seemed too low. The fingerprint scanner is also unpleasant at times. When active, the fans can also be noisy.

Overall, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a popular choice for people who are work-oriented and still prefers to have a good display while at it.

Display: 14-inch high dynamic range (HDR); 2560 x 1440 resolution
Processor: 1.6 GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U
Graphics: Intel UHD 620
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD
Battery Life: 10 hours
Pre-installed Linux: None
Weight: 2.49 pounds

Pros:

  • Portable yet sturdy design
  • Fast CPU
  • Class-leading keyboard
  • Plenty of ports

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • So-so webcam

6. Purism Librem 15

Data privacy and security is a serious issue for many computer users, especially since the discovery of Vault 7 and other online monitoring schemes. Hence, it isn’t unusual if some people want a laptop with pre-installed GNU or Linux OS which are harder to exploit from such attacks. If you are a person who values security and privacy even if it costs a premium then the Purism Librem 15 is your laptop of choice.

Keeping things busy for this laptop is a 2.5 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7-6500U which can be turbo boosted pp to 3.1 GHz and is mated with a robust Intel HD Graphics 520. Purism has also thrown in 16 GB of RAM and a packed storage courtesy of 256 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD. Its 15.6-inch Full HD screen isn’t shabby at all and comes with a respectable 1920 x 1080 resolution.

What you are truly buying on this laptop though is freedom. Two of its most security elements are actually hardware features. This laptop has hardware kill switches which turn off the use of mic and camera and prevents anyone from accessing it remotely. Likewise, you can shut down the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth via a hardware kill switch whether for security purposes or if you just want to save some battery. Furthermore, it also has hardware switches for the keyboard to ensure your laptop isn’t sending any data or instructions in and out of your laptop.

The laptop is pre-encrypted using LUKS or LVM as default.  GnuPG and SSH keys are also readily created by the GNOME Seahorse application. Its Operating System also has an OpenVPN so you can create your VPN connections out of the box. Additionally, uBlock Origin and HTTPS Anywhere are also pre-installed with its PureBrowser.

The chiclet-type keyboard is pleasantly tactile and has a nice feedback with plenty of travel. Meanwhile, the touchpad is decent and comes with a middle-click. This laptop also has some of the necessary ports such as HDMI, two USB 2.0 and three USB 3.0 Type-C. For connectivity, it uses an Atheros Wi-Fi.

However, this laptop also has some minor flaws you should be aware of. Aside from its expensive price, the data transfer rate in this laptop is also much slower brought by the full-disk encryption feature. If you also happen to purchase this laptop in the UK, take note of the 20-percent duty charge that you will shoulder.

Overall, the Purism Librem might be an expensive notebook but for those who want security and privacy owning one can be a rewarding experience.

Display: 15.6-inch Full HD matte; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 2.5 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 16 GB
Storage:  1TB HDD + 256 GBB SSD
Pre-installed Linux: Pure OS
Battery Life: 8 hours
Weight: 4 pounds

Pros:

  • Guaranteed privacy and security
  • Decent performance
  • Plenty of free software installed
  • Awesome keyboard

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Slower data transfer rate

7. Star LabTop

The number of companies that are building laptops based on Linux OS has steadily been increasing in the past few years. Among these new PC, builders are Starlabs, which has a few laptop models on their arsenal. Among their top sellers, though, is the 14.8-mm thin LabTop ultrabook which is now on its 3rd edition. The current version benefits from the new Kaby Lake processor and a faster SSD storage. The battery is also changed to a 45.6-watt variant to allow longer battery life.

Giving life to this laptop is a 1.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7-8550U processor which can be turbo boosted up to 4.0 GHz. It is coupled with an Intel UHD Graphics 620 and 8 GB worth of RAM. Its manufacturer also equipped it with their own Star Drive SSD which has up to 3200 MB/s sequential read speed and up to 2200 MB/s sequential write speed. The SSD storage also helps its fast booting process.

The aluminum chassis is quite sturdy and has a smooth overall finish. Furthermore, this laptop also brandishes a 13.3 inch IPS screen with LED backlighting and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The resulting display is crisp and clear and can be viewed up to 178 degrees angle. Furthermore, it has a backlit keyboard which also has a function lock key. Once enabled it makes all the F-keys function without having to hold on the Fn key. The glass trackpad is also smooth and allows easy gesture control and precise tracking.

This laptop also has the essential ports such as HDMI, USB-C with power delivery, headphone jack, USB 3.0 and a micro SD card reader. For connectivity, it has the usual Bluetooth 4.2 and a Wi-FI that can reach up to speeds of 867 Mbps. Finally, it has a decent 720 pixel HD camera for Skype calls.

On the other hand, this laptop also has a few quirks. The island-style keyboard has small keys which have less travel resulting in an awkward feedback. The Full HD display is great but it feels short in terms of color accuracy. Lastly, it gets hot faster than its rivals in the ultrabook category.

Overall, the Star LabTop is a phenomenal alternative to most mainstream ultrabook given its fast data transfer rate and compatibility to Linux.

Display: 13.3-inch LED IPS; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7-8550U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8 GB DDR4
Storage: 480 GB SSD
Pre-installed Linux: Ubuntu
Battery Life: 7 hours
Weight: 2.87 pounds

Pros:

  • Thin and very portable
  • Respectable CPU performance
  • Function key lock
  • Large viewing angles

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Subpar keyboard

8. System 76 Serval WS

Not all of the most lucrative gaming laptops run on Windows OS. Even Linux-based laptops can also be a powerful gaming rig especially if that is made by the company System 76. Its flagship Serval WS is a hell of a machine that has everything an avid gamer, even non-Linux fans, would surely want their hands on. The laptop is even configurable in a ton of ways but it ultimately involves- 8th generation Intel cores, Nvidia GeForce 10-series, NVMe PCIe SSD storage and even up to 64 GB of RAM. That’s just about everything you need to run the best gaming titles at ultra settings.

Our choice is the midrange configuration which in our opinion offers a good balance between gaming, coding and everything else. It comes with a 3.7 GHz Hexa-core Intel Core i7-8700K processor which can be turbo boosted for 4.6 GHz and coupled with a GTX 1060 video card for a stable gaming experience. The build also comes with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD. Now, that’s powerful setup which can easily cut down the FPS rate at silky smooth levels.

There is a lot to like about this laptop not just because of its over-the-top gaming capabilities. At its price point, no laptop can even come close to all the top-of-the-line components that this laptop has. It comes preinstalled with either the Ubuntu Linux or the brand’s own custom POP! OS. In terms of raw power, it can do even the most demanding tasks such as video editing, scientific computing, and code compiling. The bulky exterior also gives it better heat regulation.

The keyboard is also phenomenal, with each key having its own customizable backlight. Because of its wide body, it is also able to fit a complete 10-key number pad. A massive frame also allows it to have plenty of ports such as HDMI, DisplayPort, stereo mic, stereo speakers, headphone jack, S/PDIF, SD card reader, one USB 2.0, three USB 3.1 and two USB-C with Thunderbolt. You also get a 1080 pixels HD webcam which takes clear and color accurate photos.

One pressing issue about this laptop though, aside from its luxurious price, is its weight. The 15-inch already weighs in at 7.5 pounds, while the 17-inch variant is at 9.2 pounds. This, of course, takes away most of the portability of the laptop. In the first place, this shouldn’t even be called a laptop but rather a slightly portable desktop.

Overall, the System 76 Serval WS serves a very niche market. But if you have the money and prefers a fast performing Linux laptop for work or gaming this one is a definite must-have.

Display: 15.6-inch IPS Matte; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 3.7 GHz Hexacore Intel Core i7-8700K
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
RAM: 16 GB DDR3
Storage: 1 TB GB SSD
Pre-installed Linux: Pops! OS, Ubuntu OS
Battery Life: 6 hours
Weight: 7.5 lbs

Pros:

  • Great for gaming
  • Very customizable base on your preference
  • Overloaded with ports
  • Has a number pad

Cons:

  • Heavy and hard to carry around
  • Too expensive

Kali Linux for Penetration Testing Professionals

If there is one group that will get the most benefit out of the Linux OS, it’s the penetration testing professionals. Their job is to test out the security of a system and develop countermeasures so that hackers won’t be able to hack them.

Kali Linux is one of the best Linux distribution (or distro) that is geared for advanced security auditing and penetration testing. This Debian-based distro can perform different information security tasks such as reverse engineering, computer forensics, and security research. It was developed by Devon Kearns and Mati Aharoni of Offensive Security. It was released in March 2013 and is free to download.

Laptop for Linux Buying Guide

The good news is you don’t really need a powerful laptop with the best hardware and components to have smooth usage. Many Linux distros are lightweight and don’t require too much CPU power and RAM. However, there are a few things you should also consider before buying a laptop that has a pre-installed Linux OS or distro. Likewise, these factors also apply if you want to convert laptops that run on Windows or iOS to Linux.

1. Compatibility with Linux distro

Linux has tons of distros you can choose from such as Ubuntu, Elementary OS, Linux Mint and many more. Its best to check first with your target distro for their official recommendations and if your laptop is OK to run their system.

2. Potential bugs or glitches

If you find a laptop with a pre-installed Windows that you want to convert to Linux, check first if there may be some small bags that may affect your overall experience with the new OS. You can also install Linux on Mac laptop but the downside is the Apple laptop is generally more expensive.

3. Value for Money

Depending on your budget and your purpose for the Linux laptop, you may also want to consider if you want to consider some extras. For example, if you also are going to use the device for video editing then go for a laptop with a great screen and performance.

Linux popularity will continue to grow as more people realize the benefits that they possess over mainstream OS. If you are someone who is into programming or just want a faster laptop without the extra muscle from its hardware, then it’s time to check out other Linux-compatible laptops on the market.