Looking for a *decent* Linux laptop

Hello Gareth and all you other lovely Linux people.

I’m on the lookout for a lightweight laptop with a great battery life, and certainly wouldn’t be against the idea of running Linux on it as I’m keen to force myself to learn it properly. I have my eye on the TOSHIBA Satellite T130-16W but have no idea how compatible it would be, and obviously it would be a lot cheaper to get one without Windows preinstalled.

I’ve seen a few Linux Laptops for sale on the net, but the vast majority of them aren’t particularly great laptops. I thought DELL would be my salvation as they have both good laptops and a reputation for supporting Ubuntu, but after a look around their website {especially their “Windows or Ubuntu?” section which was clearly written by Microsoft} it seems the only chance you have of getting your hands on an Ubuntu Laptop is by phoning them up and demanding one.

So really I’m just wondering what other Linux Laptop users recommend?

The Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset as used in the TOSHIBA Satellite T130-16W does seem to be supported in Linux, but it contains the Intel GMA4500MHD graphics chip, which “some” people seem to be having problems with… do a search “gma4500m Linux”.

Personally I would try to find something with an nVidia, or second best ATI graphics chip, but do your homework first.

The things “most” likely to give you problems are graphics and wireless, so check what is installed on prospective purchases and google for known problems.

Or try here for info on Linux on specific laptops

Sorry I couldn’t be more help than that, maybe others can be more specific.

Well … it depends on what you mean by “lightweight laptop” … if you “really” mean “netbook” then I’d be inclined to recommend a Samsung NC10.
(there are newer versions which you ‘may’ want to look at, but you don’t ‘seem’ to be getting much for the additional price tag)

I’ve installed two of these for people, over the last ~18 months, not heard anything other than praise.
Full support of all devices (as far as I can make out incl. WiFi and Webcam) by Ubuntu Remix edition.

Full Spec here;

(yes it’s an Intel Graphics Chipset, but this just means that for now [as per the news item on the front page] you just need to stay with Ubuntu 9.10 and don’t go for 10.04 which currently has problems with Intel Chipsets …)

It’s a “nice” bit of kit to use … if it wasn’t for the ‘samsung’ tag you’d think it was made by Sony … :wink:

If you don’t mean netbook, then you sort of need to set yourself a price tag,weight and power rating before going any further, there are sooooo many to choose from …

Or pretty much any netbook without an intel GMA500 graphics chip… ever tried to get Linux to use one of those?.. as above do your homework

The NC10 uses an Intel GMA 950 GPU as do many Atom based netbooks. Although it appears that Ubuntu 10.04 will install and run properly with the full / accelerated Linux driver, the driver is known to contain bugs that crash applications (specifically on the 950 chipset). Nobody seems to have a list of known issues on the 950 although graphics intensive programs seem to be the ones falling foul of the issues, notably applications running under WINE.

Specifically there appears to be a bug in the driver’s ‘pixel shader’ code and applications using this feature of the driver at a low level may have a tendency to segfault. Some people have documented methods for disabling the pixel shader (specifically) which apparently fix some of the reported crashing issues.

As far as I can see there is only one accelerated ‘Intel’ driver for X11 which seems to cover all Intel based chipsets. As it appears there are known issues with Intel 8xx and i8xx chipsets (documented here https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Bugs/Lucidi8xxFreezes) and further potentially different issues are appearing with 9xx chipsets, unless you want to run on non-accelerated mode (vesa) I would recommend sticking to 9.04 or 9.10. After trying to ‘break’ an NC10 before shipping it with 9.04 (and failing) I’m fairly confident this version won’t cause any problems … I’m assuming users have subsequently upgraded to 9.10 and I’ve not heard complaints so I’m sort of assuming this too is ‘ok’, but it’s only 9.04 I’ve tested.

Note; there are some ‘really’ crappy and really expensive netbooks out there … there may well be a good nVidia based machine you could consider, but I wouldn’t be inclined to sacrifice the overall specification just to avoid Intel or to use nVidia (which I would prefer) … I’m pretty sure Intel will resolve the issue eventually. In this case I think it’s just that Ubuntu “jumped the gun” with their release.

Thanks for the replies, guys. It’s funny that you mentioned the NC10, as the machine I currently use for work is its big-brother, the NC20 (essentially the same machine, but without a reduced-size keyboard). While it mostly gets the job done, there are times when I notice its slowness, even after sticking an extra gig of RAM in there. The Toshiba Satellite caught my eye because it had the same advantages of the NC20 - full-size keyboard, doesn’t weigh a tonne - but without the poor spec limitations.

While I don’t have a specific weight in mind, I’m really looking for a ‘lightweight laptop’ as opposed to a netbook. So a 13" screen with a full-size keyboard, no optical drive, decent specs and good battery life. Just not one of those behemoth ‘desktop replacements’ you see on the market nowadays.

Budget of around £600, but that is flexible.

What is the laptop going to be used for (mainly)?.. the reason I ask is because weirdly enough the nVidia ION graphics chip used in some netbooks, hands down is supposed to outperform HD graphics chips like the ATI HD4330 used in more expensive laptops… see here:

and is well supported in Linux.

Or is CPU speed more important?

On day-to-day usage: web browsing, email and a hell of a lot of word processing [hence the need for a good keyboard]. Nothing especially demanding. However I do also use Photoshop {and I’m guessing there’s a good, hopefully less-intensive, Linux alternative} and certainly wouldn’t complain if I could get Steam running and play a few older games on it outside of work (although am by no means after a gaming machine).

Might be worth looking at an ASUS Eee PC 1201N (or similar)
Intel Atom 330 dual core
nVidia ION graphics
12.1" screen
2gb RAM
250gb HDD

Although battery life is lower than other netbooks like the N10

100% Linux compatible… see here:

the only problem they had (with ubuntu 9.10) was having to download and compile a driver for the wireless adapter.
Should be OK with 10.04 too.

I can’t see that you would have any problems with the TOSHIBA Satellite T130-16W and Linux, as long as for the time being you steer clear of Ubuntu 10.04… stick to 9.10 until the intel drivers and kernel mode setting problems are sorted… then you can always click the Upgrade button in the Update Manager, to upgrade 9.10 to 10.04.

If you are thinking of Steam in Linux, ATM you are out of luck… see here:
http://forum.linux.co.uk/general-help-advice/my-general-help-questions/msg5732/#msg5732 (onwards)
There is NO native Linux Steam client ATM… it can be made to run in WINE, but not very well, although there are “signs” that a native Steam client for Linux “may” be on the books… keep reading from the post in that link.

Photoshop alternative = The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)… every bit as good as photoshop, but the interface takes a bit of time to get used to… but I read they are going to change the interface in the next version anyway… whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen :slight_smile:

Thanks for your input, Mark. Will definitely take it all into consideration.

PS: Has anyone actually seen this thing? →


Incidentally, would you advise running a standard edition of Ubuntu on a laptop? Or would it be wiser to look into some of these ‘netbook remix’ distros?

Personally I’d go for a distro with a full Gnome desktop as the default (Ubuntu, Mint etc.), most modern Laptops (and at least the dual-core netbooks) can easily handle a full blown desktop… they handle Windoze (and required AV etc.) after all, :wink: not to mention the fact that I can find no “online” evidence that the netbook remix is much faster anyway (but I must admit I have no experience of UNR/NRE)… if speed is what you are after, look at a fluxbox desktop, but you will loose some functionality and find it a bit harder going… specially on the support front.

Other “lite” desktops include XFCE, LXDE and Enlightenment amongst others.

And the “other” main desktop KDE… Personally, I just can’t get on with KDE4 and found it heavier than Gnome.

Karmic Koala it is then. :slight_smile: