Which Linux Laptop?

What are anyone’s thoughts on the following linux laptop options ? If one isn’t listed then please mention it.

  1. Dell XPS 13 2021 Developer Edition using Dell’s custom Ubuntu image ?
  2. Lenovo X1 Gen 8 Carbon with Lenovo’s custom Fedora\Ubuntu image ?
  3. System 76 Serval using PoP!_OS
  4. Kubuntu Focus (same as the Oryx Pro but with a custom Kubuntu image)


I haven’t personally used any of those particular laptops, and to know how successful you might be, I’d have to know what hardware would be inside. Sometimes, there could be a difference in hardware in a model sold with Linux vs that same model sold with Windows. For example, with at least some XPS models, they’ll have a different WiFi card installed on the Linux version compared to the Windows version. I’d have to know what GPU, Ethernet, and WiFi cards the models have at a minimum. But if Linux is preinstalled on those models, then it’s probably fine.

I wish I could give you a more detailed response, but I can’t even get Dell or Lenovo to send me a review unit.

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Hello Jay,

A. Dell’s states, and their spec sheets state, that the Dell XPS 13 Windows and Dell XPS 13 Linux are now identical in every regard.

B. The Kubuntu Fous is nothing more than a System76 (Tuxedo) Oryx Pro. All the hardware specs are identical. The only difference is Kubuntu is installed on the Kubuntu Focus.

C. Lenovo also states, and the laptop specs state, that both the X1 Carbon Windows and X1 Carbon Linux are the same.

I’m currently using a PineBook Pro x64, and I gotta tell yah… the trackpad, the keyboard are not a good user experience. The Wifi is slow. And there have been intermittent freezes where the system simply freezes and must be reboot.

After using the PineBook Pro for nearly 6 months, my impression is that it is best suited to learning the Linux command line. Otherwise, the user experience just isn’t that great. It’s been annoying enough that if I had the choice I wouldn’t use it. But hey, we all use stuff we don’t really like, right ? That is the IT way…

I have owned Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo X1 Extreme both Windows.

I am thinking I will wait to see if Lenovo releases the X1 Extreme with Umbunu. If not, my next choice is the upcoming 14 inch Apple MacBook Pro with Gen 2 of its ARM chip.

I would by the Serval, but as System76 told me, because it is an AMD chip, support for coreboot, power adjust utilities, and a whole other slew of things requires the community and them to go a lot further is fully supporting AMD chips.

Thank you. Best Regards.

If Dell and Lenovo are releasing identical models for Windows and Linux, that’s good - I can’t think of any logical reason for a company to maintain two versions of the same laptop with different hardware configurations.

My personal opinion on Dell vs Lenovo, is that I’d choose Lenovo every time. Dell Latitude laptops are my favorite when it comes to Dell, and I’ve always been very partial to the T-series and X1-series from Lenovo. The consumer-level laptops I’ve used from both Dell and Lenovo, I’ve hated them all. So for me personally, Latitude has been my only consideration when it comes to Dell, and T and X1-series for Lenovo. The landscape could’ve changed since I started forming my opinions, but I have to say that the X1 Carbon from Lenovo is an amazing machine. At least the three or so models I’ve used, I’ve loved them all.

My experience with the first-gen X1 with Linux has not been amazing. It’s good - but there are some annoyances. The fan is loud as heck, constantly. A colleague of mine who had that same model but it ran Windows, told me the fan was not as bad. So there might be some sort of optimization only in Windows. That said, I have the first-gen model so everything I’ve said may not apply now. If Lenovo does put out a Linux version of the X1 extreme, that would be AWESOME. However, every model of X1 Extreme that Lenovo has put out so far (at least as of last year) has been orders of magnitude less powerful than System76’s Oryx Pro (and even Gazelle). For example, the X1 Extreme has a GPU with just 4GB of video RAM for several iterations now, and System76 offers models with much more than that. I’m pretty sure 64GB of RAM on the X1 Extreme hasn’t been an option either. If they put out a Linux version that supports higher-spec hardware, it would be a slam dunk.

In regards to Coreboot, I prefer that in much the same way as I prefer open-source on everything by default. But the landscape isn’t completely there yet. No matter what you get, there’s probably going to be a proprietary blob somewhere. Right now, it’s a matter of choosing what downsides you’re okay with - there will definitely be downsides, and nothing is perfect (yet). It will get there, hopefully in 2-3 generations of hardware from now.

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There are some interesting options from Tuxedo Computers, Starlabs Systems and Slimbook. I’m not sure about the differences in hardware but since they come with Linux installed I think it should be fine for the most part.

I’m actually going to request another review unit from Tuxedo Computers. If they agree, I might have a review of a newer unit of theirs soon. Stay tuned. I’m not 100% sure this will happen but I think it will.

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Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 3 is available with 64 GB RAM. You can also opt for an i9-10885H. However, Lenovo doesn’t give buyers the option to choose graphics, so it is still the 4 GB 1650i MaxQ. That config is going to cost you $2,750.

The thermals for a laptop like the Lenovo X1 Extreme make one with an i9 sort of a bad deal because the CPU cannot attain full performance.

I don’t need graphics. I basically work on the command line and with virtual machines.

I question Dell’s and especially Lenovo’s commitment to Linux. Lenovo announced last year that all the X1 devices would be available in Linux by early 2021, but it is only offering Linux on the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga.

Only having 4GB of GPU memory, still, and the price going up to just shy of $3k, that’s not good in my opinion. I can understand that with the Gen 1, maybe the Gen 2, but to still have the GPU memory ceiling this long after it launches is embarrassing to me. My Oryx wasn’t much more than that, and I was able to get a much more powerful GPU. And unless they’ve fixed the fan issues, I don’t know if I would consider an X1 Extreme. But if they do end up shipping it with Linux, I’d trust it more.

In regards to Dell and Lenovo’s commitment to Linux, I am not sure about it either. Time is what tells you how good the commitment is. Dell’s developer laptops have been out for a while, but they still have a small footprint. So that, to me, means their commitment isn’t as solid as I’d like. Lenovo’s endeavor is not even a year along yet, so there hasn’t been enough time.

I went with a Dell laptop after checking the Ubuntu compatibility guides. They have more than the XPS 13, they have large laptops and towers that will run Ubuntu or Red Hat. You do have to catch them on sale or pick up a machine off lease.
Since I have specific needs, I went for a Precision 7750. It’s really a portable workstation more than a laptop. I wanted to run multiple VMs and a virtual network. It came with Ubuntu 18.04, but as soon as I clear the time, I’ll load Pop OS.

I also run an older XPS 17 that has lasted for almost 10 years. Currently has Fedora 33, but I need to reload it since it has been a tested bad for everything. Maybe Pop OS or something vanilla…

I really wanted to support System76, but their shelves are bare and Support admitted that the refresh of laptops may be April or later. Fully hoping they go with the newest AMD chipsets…

I have a Dell Precision 3551. It’s OK. Often-running loud fans and warm. The Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 2 I had was faster and better than the 3551. I’ve also had a XPS 15 and it was competent too.

I suppose I will wait for mid-year or early-autumn vendor refresh.

I think there’s a Thinkpad P Series model that is equivalent to the X1 Extreme that you can order with Linux preinstalled

I have used an old HP ProBook 430 G2 which I have used Linux on the past it’s a 5th Gen i5 and I’ve upgraded it to 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. The only thing I never tried getting set up was the fingerprint reader

To add some additional feedback to your question, I generally agree that I prefer Lenovo’s ThinkPad T series or X1 series of laptops. That being said, I believe Lenovo does not offer a glass trackpad on any model. I really wish they did, because I have become very partial to the glass trackpad on my MacBook Air and my HP EliteBook x360. I am surprised as to how much I’ve enjoyed the HP EliteBook, although mine is not running Linux. It is a company provided laptop and the firm uses Windows naturally. I’m not sure the price on it but I believe it is nearing the $3k mark. The keyboard on it is quite nice as well as having a glass touchpad.

For me, I think I still would pick a X1 carbon as a Linux Laptop. Lenovo machines are really great. Currently typing this on a Lenovo T460S running PopOS and its a great machine.

I got a Dell inspiron for a good price back in 2017, of course, it came with win 10. After a while of using it I found Pop OS and decided to slash my windows 10 install. Tried the live image and checked the wifi, network, camera functionality was ok with linux and decided to take a leap of faith. After some tweaks in the BIOS got my Pop OS ready and here I am, writing this review on a linux OS. This inspiron is the 3000 series.

I ended up ordering a ThinkPad T14 (AMD) from eBay (new…possibly a refurb, but we shall see). I had to make some compromises, but I am hoping it works well. I know there are some issues with power drain from reading the Lenovo forums, but I will deal with it. This model is only listed as supported with Lenovo’s OEM Ubuntu which I have downloaded (as the machine comes with Windows 10 Pro). I am hoping it will run Fedora as well…which I assume it will.

When it comes to Linux laptops, it is pot luck.

The Dell XPS 13 and Dell’s Linux workstations are OK, but their general support does not handle any support matters for Linux. Dell general support has to forward any Linux technical support tickets to the internal Dell Linux division.

I don’t know about Lenovo support of Linux, but my guess is that it has its own quirks similar to Dell’s.

All the white label vendors out there - such as System76, Tuxedo, Kfocus, etc - they’re all using Clevo or Tongfeng laptops. There are two problems with this arrangement…

Clevo and Tongfeng are configured for performance, but they cut corners on build and component quality. For example, it is 2021 and yet there remains no 350 or 400 nit display on Clevo or Tongfeng laptops. Also, both have notoriously bad cameras and speakers. Considering that people are paying Dell and Lenovo prices for these Clevo\Tongfeng systems, I would expect that people would demand more for what they pay.

Then there is the issue of “collaborations” between Linux OS distro developers (Tuxedo, Kfocus), hardware manufacturers (Intel, Clevo, Tongfeng) and white label re-branders (Schenker\XMG) and you end up with laptops like the XMG Focus 15 or the Kfocus laptop. Now how long do you think support for these systems will last ? You’d be lucky if it was 5 years. And if you switch from a “proprietary” Linux OS distro, such as Tuxedo for example, and switch to Ubuntu and you run into problems - then neither Tuxedo nor the white label re-brander nor the hardware manufacturer is going to help you. They will say “go ask on the Ubuntu forums.”

The XMG Fusion 15 with the Tuxedo or Ubuntus OS on it is a perfect example. XMG is not involved in any support of the Linux OS on it. They have to defer everything to mostly community fixes, workarounds and Tuxedo itself - which I bet won’t support the current model for long. As a side note, Tuxedo was also the one that assisted with bringing the Kfocus to market - a Clevo system with a customized Kubuntu OS on it. When you need support, there are like 2 or 3 knowledgeable people that you can get on the phone at Kfocus. However, once these people move on in life, you’re left with a $2,000 unsupported machine.

Looking out there, Linux laptops are a dubious investment - when considering how expensive they are relative to what you get.

I know it’s not on your list, but I am currently running Linux on a Levono e595, which is an AMD Ryzen 5 3800u. It came with 8GB of ram and 256 SSD. The laptop is very easy to work on and I have upgraded to 32GB of ram and a 1TB SSD. It does not come with a cd/dvd drive, so there is room for another HDD/SSD. The only thing I don’t like about this laptop is that it does not have a backlit keyboard. Otherwise, this is a great budget laptop that is small and lightweight, but still has a 15" screen.

I’m getting old and I’m beginning to struggle with my Asus Zenbook 13", which is the smallest, lightest laptops I’ve used. It’s an older model, but I’ve been using the Zenbook for about 5 years now and it still works as good as the day I bought it. I mainly use it as a couch computer these days.

I searched the web for both laptop models to confirm Linux compatibility before I bought them and they both work flawless, even all of the Fn keys to control screen brightness, volume, etc.

The Dell XPS is a great laptop. I don’t have any experience System 76 (yet), but I’m sure that any of their laptops would work great.

Good luck with your search.

I use a Pinebook Pro 64. Good grief it is both underpowered and lacks sufficient memory. However, it is good for those that want to do CLI for LPI certifications.

I’m thinking about picking up a consumer i7 Lenovo during Best Buy’s August back to school sale. Typically you can grab a model at a $400 or more discount on the very first day. Then I will throw Ubuntu on it.

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I’ve only owned one Levono laptop, the e595 AMD, and it run Linux like it was designed for it.

Good luck with your purchase.