Time for a Linux laptop

The bottom: System76

System76 has one laptop in my size requirement range (this one), but despite the fact that it gets glowing reviews, its lone processor option is extremely underwhelming to me. What bothers me more is that up until about a month or so ago, System76 offered a 12.6″ laptop that was EXACTLY what I’m looking for, and now it’s completely missing from their site, which disappoints me greatly. Had they kept that option available, I wouldn’t have even bothered writing this article, because I’d already have made a firm buying decision. Now, not so much.

At this point, if I had no other reasonable options, I’d consider buying System76′s “Lemur”, despite its unimpressive CPU and lack of flexibility on other options.

But since I have other reasonable options, this one is squarely at the bottom of my list.

The middle: LinuxCertified

Above the bottom we have LinuxCertified, who, despite their sporting a website that looks like it came straight out of 1997, has a decent selection of laptops with various flavors of Linux pre-installed on them.

The one to which I am immediately drawn is their LC2100SN. Going down the list of options, it has a great number of CPUs which fit my requirements, the ability to handle up to 8GB of RAM, it’s 12.1″, which is perfect for what I want this time around, comes with Ubuntu as an option, has a great starting price, is sold out, has reasonable shipping, is–

Wait a minute. Sold out? Gah. Great.

So. What else do they have?

Well, there’s the next best option, which is the LC2210Si. It’s a 14.1″, so it’s back up near the upper end of my size range again, but it can also handle up to 8GB of RAM (wow!), has lots of CPU options, lots of hard drive options, and has a good starting price. I wish it had an LED backlit display, but hey, for the price, it still isn’t bad at all. LinuxCertified’s laptops are nowhere near as sexy or slick looking as System76′s, though, nor are they as nice as the one currently at the top of my list.

The top: ZaReason

Currently at the top of my list is ZaReason, which has a 14″ laptop called “the Alto 1451” that meets my requirements. Great CPU options, can handle up to 4GB of RAM, lots of hard drive choices, and it’s got a really great look to it that I find very appealing.

Unfortunately, I’m just now noticing that some time over the past couple of days they too have sold out of this, the only option on their site in which I was interested.

So, unless something changes in the next week or two, I might be stuck compromising more than I had wanted, or waiting an indeterminate amount of time for the landscape to change.

My plea

So, I’ve discussed several vendors which I’ve already ruled out (Dell, Emperor Linux, The Linux Laptop), and a few that I’ve already been giving serious consideration, but I’m still not finding anything that makes me really enthused or excited right now, at least, not like the one option that System76 had offered that mysteriously vanished from their site last month (and about which I have not received any answers to my questions I’ve emailed to their sales staff).

Sadly, even my compromises as a result of that are now largely gone, meaning I will need to “settle” for something even farther removed from what I originally wanted, or wait Torvalds-knows-how-long for one of these vendors to offer something more in line with my desires.

There is another option though. Since I have a few of you guys out there who occasionally do me the courtesy of a Linux Critic drive-by, I figured I’d throw a plea out there to the Linux loving community to ask you if I’ve missed anyone who might sell me what I really want.

So help me out, guys. In my searches on the web to find the perfect Linux laptop for me, is there another vendor out there I’ve overlooked? Where else should I be checking? Please use the comment thingy and tell me your suggestions!

- Trent

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25 thoughts on “Time for a Linux laptop

  1. I dunno, but I’m commenting so that when someone else gives you some great advice, I can have it too :D

  2. I have read that Ubuntu and Dell are a good match, and that Ubuntu and Dell have made some arrangements for mutual give-and-take. And like you said, if it runs Ubuntu, you can bet it will run Mint. I’m not a Dell fanboy or anything, just offering the thought that hardware compatibility with Dell is prob’ly a “given,” more so than with some other manufacturers.

    • You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Most of Dell’s laptops have Broadcom wireless and Intel graphics modules that are a real pain to get working in Linux, even something relatively forgiving, like Ubuntu.

      I wouldn’t do Dell again, not until they start using more Linux-friendly hardware, and have better Ubuntu options available. Their lone laptop offering is rather insulting, frankly.

  3. I know that you always have your reasons, but, only Intel? I have been more content with AMD.

    All AMD CPUs include hardware virtualization support. Only the high end Intel CPUs have it.

    Intel is famous for skimming the high-end market and hobbling their CPUs to fill the low end niches. And, Intel has historically lost the price / performance comparison (much like a certain software tyrant).

    Once, long ago, Intel was the only robust choice — but times have changed.

    So, what am I missing, Trent?


    • I know that you always have your reasons, but, only Intel? I have been more content with AMD.

      Availability. Show me a laptop that meets my other requirements that has an AMD processor on it and I’d gladly add it to my list.

      I like AMD just fine (currently the most reliable, best performing computer I have in my house is powered by an AMD processor) but I don’t know of any Linux laptop vendors that offer any of their products with AMD processors.

      So, since those aren’t an option, that leaves Intel, and among Intel’s laptop processors, I prefer the Core 2 Duo for performance reasons.

  4. I’ve got the same requirements, a similar shopping list, and the identical heartache at the dearth of choices. The Lemur is my favorite (with its cute Ubuntu key) — the only thing that’s stopping me is a few reports of ~2h battery life. I’d love a 3 button mouse, such as on the Lenovos and some older HP Compaq laptops. Finding a Linux laptop shouldn’t be so hard!

  5. I have the 12″ System76 that was exactly what you are looking for. While it’s a darned impressive machine, there are a couple of issues with Flash performing properly, but nothing unlivable. I think it was only phased out as people are starting to look to i5/i7 processors and DDR3 RAM over it’s Core 2 Duo processor and DDR2 RAM.


    • … there are a couple of issues with Flash performing properly…

      If you’re running Ubuntu 9.10 on it, I can believe that… as I posted in the Mint Fluxbox forums this morning, I’ve consistently run into the same Flash issues on Ubuntu 9.10, Linux Mint 8 Main Edition, and Linux Mint 8 Fluxbox CE.

      Unless you’re talking about a different issue, of course.

  6. Agreed: Emperor may support Linux, but they sell their PCs are sold for ridiculous prices for what you get.

    Tried zaReason?

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  9. Any determinations yet?
    I’m trying to decide between a ZaReason or system76 laptop, anyone purchased a system from either of these companies? Good, bad, indifferent?

    • Ken,

      Well, I ended up buying a System76 laptop… but Los Alamos Computers would have been in the running I think, had I been aware of them a few months ago when I was still shopping around. I see a couple of their smaller “ultra portables” that would have met my criteria or come pretty close anyway.

      At any rate, I’m pretty happy with the Darter Ultra I got from System76 (I got the last one they had!).

  10. I picked up a Dell Vostro 1014 for $329. It came with a Celeron 925 single core processor, 1gb of RAM, a 250gb HD and Ubuntu Linux. I upgraded it to 8gb of RAM, a 64gb SSD and Linux Mint. Now it’s really fast and I only have $550 into it.

  11. I grabbed an acer aspire laptop from linucity that was surprisingly light for its 15.6″ size and the power of i3 core was a perfect solution for me.

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