Laptops for Alternative Operating Systems
Despite the hundreds of different laptop models on the market today, there are only a few operating systems available. Two of the most common, Windows and MacOS, have been around for over three decades. While they have been upgraded and modified to fit the ever-changing needs of connected users, both of these operating systems still lock you into the same digital ecosystem.
Linux is the lesser-known younger brother of Windows and MacOS. This unique operating system has been around since the early 1990s. Back in those days, Linux was reserved for tech-savvy users who understood the complexities of its code and open-sourced nature. However, it has since become a very popular option among computer users wanting a versatile and powerful computing experience.
More and more people are making the switch to Linux. While some laptop manufacturers do offer pre-installed Linux operating systems on their hardware, your options are few and far between. The best way to experience Linux is to install it on a laptop yourself. To ensure that the installation process goes as smooth as possible, you’re going to need to choose a suitable laptop that also meets your unique needs.
Linus Laptop Guide Contents:
Some Of The Very Best Laptops For Linux
This laptop from Star Labs Systems is simple, compact, and ready to use. It comes with either Ubuntu or the Linux Mint Distros. It’s designed to be an all-purpose machine for everyday use. An Intel Pentium N4200 quad-core processor provides more than enough power for the average user. It clocks in at about 1.1 GHz and can be turbo-boosted up to 2.5 GHz. When it comes to RAM, this laptop has 8 GB. It also has a speedy solid-state drive with a capacity up 240 GB. The chassis is sleek and lightweight. The screen measures approximately 11.6 inches diagonally. When it’s closed, the laptop is only 0.54 inches thick, making it a great option for users on the go.
With its InfinityEdge touch screen, this laptop from Dell looks very sleek. The screen bezels are significantly thinner than those on other devices, creating more screen real estate for work or play. Touch screen functionality is built right in, so you’ll need to choose a Linux Distro that supports it. This laptop comes with Windows preinstalled. It’s equipped with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space on a solid state drive. Powering the laptop is the seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors. The chassis of the device is made of beautiful aluminum. It has a thin and tapered design, complete with USB and Thunderbolt ports.
The Dell XPS 9350 is a slim and beautiful marvel of a laptop. For those who like to work and play in new settings, it should be noted that this powerful laptop is under three pounds and is only 12 inches wide for easy carrying. The average battery life is 18 hours, so you can enjoy plenty of time untethered.
The hard drive is an SSD and offers 128 gigs of storage. For users who plan to install Linux, be aware that you’ll need to change your BIOS (basic input/output settings)from RAID On to AHCI so Ubuntu can recognize the SSD. To do this, you’ll need to go into Update and Security in your Windows Settings and work through the change via the Troubleshooting menu. You’ll need to restart the machine so you can access the UEFI Firmware Settings.
It’s important to note that this is not a gaming computer; you’ll need more memory for that. However, this is a great work and school computer and will run Linux quite effectively.
If you’re looking for a laptop that can handle a dual-boot with Linux, consider the Acer Aspire E 15. Not only does it have 1 TB of storage space, but it also has 6 GB of dual-channel RAM. It also has more than enough gusto to handle two operating systems without any issues thanks to its Intel i3 processor. It comes preloaded with Windows 10. The screen is quite large, measuring in at 15.6 inches in diameter. Multiple ports on the side of the laptop are included for charging mobile devices or adding peripherals.
With its cool colors and sleek aluminum body, the Asus ZenBook is a great-looking laptop. Beyond its style, the computer is packing plenty of power as well. It has an Intel Core i5 processor that clocks in up to 3.4 GHz. Opening files and software is also quick thanks to the 256 GB of flash storage and 8 GB of RAM. Overall, the laptop is ideal for everyday use and some light gaming. It comes preloaded with Windows. Next to the trackpad, you’ll notice a discreet fingerprint reader. To ensure that your Linux system performs smoothly, you may need to find a compatible Distro or driver.
Another great option from ASUS is the VivoBook S15. This laptop is sporting some serious style. It’s available in a handful of vibrant colors. The laptop is also designed to produce a better viewing angle. The 15.6-inch screen has a unique hinge on the end. When you open the hinge, it props the laptop up at a 3.5-degree angle. Within the colorful chassis, the VivoBook is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. It has 8 GB of RAM and a fast 256 solid state drive. The laptop is a great option for dual-boot setups. However, like the previous ASUS laptop, it does have a fingerprint reader you will need to work around when installing Linux.
This laptop from Dell is a powerhouse of a machine that can serve heavy-duty computer users very well. The great thing about this laptop is that it’s available in a number of different configurations. You can even get it with Ubuntu pre-installed. For this particular build, the laptop includes 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB solid state hard drive. It’s powered by the i5 processor. To keep things cool as you work, the laptop has an innovative dual-fan system that dissipates heat as you work. This 5530 is a great option for heavier Linux Distros and more processor-heavy workloads.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly machine that can handle lightweight Linux Distros without any problems, this laptop may be for you. It’s powered by the N3060 Intel Celeron processor. It also includes 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of flash memory. The laptop is designed with portability in mind. The body is relatively compact, despite having a 14-inch screen. When it comes to battery life, the Stream does not disappoint. It can last up to 14 hours on a single charge. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 Professional.
The Lenovo X1 is a an excellent gaming computer that will run Linux well for work and business. This laptop offers 8 GB RAM and a 14″ display. The casing is carbon for only two pounds to carry for tremendous computing power.
Security is critical for professionals, students and gamers alike, so your Lenovo laptop offers both a fingerprint reader and facial recognition software with Windows Hello. There are also programs available that can protect your access to your PayPal account.
You can pack this machine for a day’s work far away from your desk and other distractions; once fully powered, you’ve got over 15 hours of power. If you’re ready to settle in and hook up with other monitors, there are two thunderbolt ports to make a multiple monitor connection quick and easy. The graphics on the attached screen are well supported thanks to full HD and WQHD resolution.
The Acer Aspire is a larger machine with a greater variety of uses; this is a business computer with a built-in 10 key for quick calculations. However, it offers 8GB of RAM, so gamers may enjoy putting this laptop through its paces.
This laptop offers a 256 GB SSD and a 15.6″ full HD screen for video viewing. You’ll have up to 7 hours of battery life. The installed system is the Windows 10 Home, but as previously noted, Linux Ubuntu and Mint will both run alongside Windows with a simple change to the security setting.
You’ll enjoy a backlit keyboard for early morning writing or late night gaming projects. There are multiple ports, including
1 USB 3.1 Type C Gen 1 Port
1 USB 3.0 Port
2 USB 2.0 Ports
Internet speed will give you all you nee thanks to the 802.11a WiFi. Finally, this laptop will lay completely flat, allowing you to determine the very best viewing experience for whatever images you need to view.
The Pop! OS 17.10 has great visual appeal and plenty of viewing capacity. The fully backlit keyboard has a glow all its own and the monitor screen is 17.3 inches. You can put 4 USB 2.0 ports to use when this machine is powered up, and it’s designed to host Linux Ubuntu 16.04.
This laptop offers a full keyboard with 10 key. Despite the screen size, this laptop weighs in at only 2.9 pounds. You can easily transport this tool for work, school or gaming and can enjoy 5 hours of battery life, no matter how much work you have to do.
The body of the Pop OS 17.10 is made of aluminum; it’s a bit heavier than many of the carbon laptops currently on the market. However, this tool features a large screen for video and film and makes it quick and easy to link up to additional monitors when needed. This laptop will make it easy for you to get to work or to get playing!
The Lenovo ThinkPad T460 is a great laptop for school or some business applications. You may find that you’re a bit hindered by the Windows 7 Professional Operating System, though an upgrade to Windows 10 is easily procured.
The T460 offers 8 hours of battery life and a 14 inch screen. This laptop doesn’t feature a 10 key, nor does it offer a backlit keyboard. If your work calls for a lot of calculations, you will likely want a 10 key you can plug in.
This laptop offers only 4 GB RAM. so gamers may not find it the best tool for their needs. However, this is a great option for students; it’s just under 4 pounds and has a great screen for study or video training as needed.
The 14″ System76 Lemur offers a terrific display and comes with lifetime support from System76. This extremely thin laptop weighs in at only 3.6 pounds and features an Intel processor.
If memory is a challenge for you, the Lemur offers 16GB of RAM and a 500 GB SSD hard drive. This laptop is a gamer’s delight. You can take this laptop anywhere easily and work or play for hours with few challenges.
Linux is an operating system that is a favorite of coders, and this laptop will easily handle Ubuntu or Mint. Ready to learn to be a better coder and enjoy plenty of memory to work with? The System76 Lemur is the tool for you!
The Dell 5520 is a machine built for work and school. While this laptop doesn’t feature a 10-key for quick calculations and number keying, there are multiple USB ports where you can plug in a 10-key for easier data entry.
This machine will run Linux Ubuntu extremely well; in fact, you can get it pre-installed and avoid the extra cost of Windows installation. The 5520 has great battery life and will run up to 8 hours on one charge.
The Dell 5520 is also built for transport. You can easily move this 3.3 pound laptop to the workstation of your choice and enjoy the long battery life. This laptop is extremely slim and features a 15.6 inch screen for videos, graphics work or just room for writing layouts.
This is not a great gaming computer, but for basic business record-keeping, web surfing and writing projects, this laptop will serve you extremely well.
What is Linux
While Linux is typically referred to as an operating system, that term is technically incorrect. It’s actually a kernel, which is the heart of the operating system. The kernel communicates with the hardware and handles all of the technical processes to compute. It’s the software above the kernel that makes up the actual operating system.
Regardless of the terminology you use, the Linux operating system is completely open-sourced and free. It was first released back in 1991 and has since grown to accommodate virtually any type of computer user. It’s a favorite among programmers and developers, though it’s accessible by anyone. There are many different forms of Linux available. Your exact user experience and features you have on your laptop will depend entirely on the Linux Distro you choose.
What is a Linux Distro?
As mentioned earlier, Linux is comprised of numerous pieces of open-sourced software. Traditional operating systems package all of that software up internally, resulting in a single file that needs to be installed. A Linux Distro, or Distribution, is essentially the same thing.
All of the necessary software is compiled into one operating system that can be loaded onto your laptop. It includes the graphical interface, the kernel core, the terminal interface, and so much more. Sure, you could compile the various components on your own. However, this takes extensive coding knowledge and a lot of time to complete.
Linux Distros handle all of the hard work for you. To ensure that you still have the flexibility you need, there are many different Distros available. They each have their own themes, interfaces, and unique software. Some of the most popular Distros include Ubuntu, Mint, and Fedora. They tend to be the most user-friendly for beginners, so they may be a good place to start if you’re new to the world of Linux.
How to Choose the Best Linux Laptop for Your Requirements
Choosing a laptop to install Linux is not as simple as choosing any product you can get your hands on. While the operating system is quite versatile, not all Distros support every piece of hardware. Some laptops may need additional drivers to get around compatibility problems. Even then, certain hardware features may not work. To avoid issues during installation, you need to choose a laptop that works for your requirements and preferred Distro. Here are some tips on how you can choose the right laptop.
Stick With Your Preferred Specifications
Before you install Linux, you need to make sure that your laptop has all the hardware you need for smooth operation. Linux is pretty flexible when it comes to hardware specs, so you can look for devices that meet your unique requirements. Think about how you’re going to be using your laptop and consider some of the common issues you encountered on your previous operating system. Then, choose a laptop with specifications that exceed those parameters.
You can choose a laptop based on the standard hardware specifications. These include RAM, processing power, hard drive space, etc.
Scrutinize Additional Features
These days, laptops are equipped with a lot of great features. You can easily find laptops with touch screens for enhanced functionality, fingerprint readers for better security, additional LCD screens for convenience, and much more. While these all work great out of the box with the pre-installed operating system, they may not work with Linux.
If you choose to get a laptop with these features, make sure that your Linux Distro is compatible. Popular options, such as Ubuntu, can support touch screen functionality and fingerprint logins. However, you may have to download and install additional drivers to get these features to work with other Distros.
Check Linux Distro Compatibility
Once you find a laptop you think will serve you well, check with the Linux Distro you want to install and make sure your device is compatible. Many Distros have a list of tested laptops, eliminating the risk and uncertainty. If there are any compatibility issues with certain features or hardware, you may even be able to find quick solutions.
The open-source nature of Linux makes it easy to find in-depth information about computer compatibility. There are dedicated forums where users share recommendations and troubleshoot issues together. Use these to your advantage and gather as much information as possible before you make a purchase.
Stay Within Your Budget
You don’t need to break the bank to get a smooth-running Linux system. Of course, higher specifications are going to let you do more things with your laptop after installation. However, Linux is relatively light and efficient on its own. It doesn’t use up as many resources as larger operating systems. In fact, Linux tends to thrive on hardware that’s difficult for Windows.
If you want to save money, you can get a lower-spec laptop and utilize a lightweight Distro. There are many Distros that are specifically designed to run on as little as 256 MB of RAM!
Pre-Installed Operating Systems
Most laptops purchased from stores are going to come with an operating system pre-installed. Linux will still work with these devices, but you may end up paying more for the computer due to licensing fees from the operating system.
If you want to keep the operating system, you can still install Linux. Due to the operating system’s lightweight nature, it’s a perfect candidate for dual-boot setups. When you do this, you’re essentially partitioning part of the hard drive and dedicating it to Linux. You’ll be able to switch between operating systems based on your needs, all on the same laptop.
Want to avoid having to check compatibility issues altogether? If so, you can purchase a Linux-ready laptop. These laptops have a Linux Distro already installed. Depending on the manufacturer, you may have a couple of different Distros to choose from. These laptops take all the hard work out of setting up your system. Simply turn it on, boot the operating system, and you’re good to go.
The downside with a pre-installed Linux operating system is that you may not have all the customizations you want straight out of the box. Most manufacturers only offer the most popular Distros. They may also have limited hardware specifications, so keep those considerations in mind when you’re looking at Linux-ready laptops.
Frequently Asked Questions About Linux Laptops
Q: Will installing Linux affect my laptop’s warranty?
A: This all depends on the manufacturer and circumstances. Unfortunately, sometimes it does. Some manufacturers provide explicit warnings about this on their paperwork, so make sure to check beforehand.
Q: Can I install Linux on an older laptop?
A: In most cases, you can install Linux on an older computer. Most laptops will have no problems running a Distro. The only thing you need to be wary of is hardware compatibility. You may have to do some slight tweaking to get the Distro to run properly. It’s important to remember that there are many different Distros out there. Chances are, you can find one to work with a slightly older laptop.
Q: Can I create my own Linux Distro?
A: You can create your own Distro through the use of a compiler, though it’s not recommended. Compilers take the source codes of software and create your own unique Distro. The process takes a lot of time and requires advanced computer knowledge to complete.
Q: Can Linux be installed on Apple computers?
A: Linux can be installed on Apple computers with the right Distro. Of course, you’ll need to check hardware compatibility beforehand, as many Apple computers contain unique features not found on traditional PC laptops.
Q: Is Linux difficult to learn?
A: This all depends on the particular Distro you choose. Most Distros come with their own unique graphical interface that imitates a traditional desktop. They’re designed to be user-friendly, especially to those migrating from a conventional operating system. Most of the features will feel familiar, allowing you to learn Linux relatively quickly.
Q: Is Linux compatible with popular software titles?
A: Not all games and programs you used on your traditional operating system are going to work on Linux. Some developers offer a Linux version of their titles. If they don’t you may need to find a way to work around compatibility issues. Luckily, there are many free Linux programs that emulate the Windows platform, allowing you to play games.
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