Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024


Love Linux? You’ll want to get a laptop built with the open-source operating system in mind, instead of settling for a Windows laptop and having to do the installation yourself. These five picks work with Linux right out of the box.


UPDATE: 10/16/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations, and we have updated our best overall and best premium picks.

What to Look For in a Linux Laptop in 2023

You can buy nearly any laptop and install Linux on it. However, there’s no guarantee that the laptop’s hardware will properly support Linux. If the right hardware drivers aren’t available for the Linux OS you pick, some of the laptop’s features won’t work, or the laptop may just get worse battery life due to poor optimization.

You don’t have to settle for this kind of experience. Some manufacturers release laptops that come with Linux pre-installed. These manufacturers officially support Linux on their hardware, so you know that everything will work properly and that the laptop will keep working with future software updates.

Sure, it’s now much easier to run Linux applications on Windows 10 and Windows 11 thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux—and that’s a great solution for many people—but it’s not the real thing.

Chromebooks are also well worth looking into, especially since you can install Linux on a Chromebook or use certain Linux apps on Chrome OS. The main downside is that Chromebooks have become rather more expensive than they used to be, but without any substantial improvement in their specifications.

Whether you’re a developer looking for a Linux laptop for programming, a big believer in open-source software and privacy, or just a Linux enthusiast who prefers the operating system to Windows and macOS, we’ve got some options for you. You can even get powerful gaming laptops that come with Linux now—after all, Linux is good enough for Valve’s Steam Deck.

Ready to step into the world of Linux? These are the laptops to do it with.

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Dell XPS 13 Plus 2023

Pros

Cons

Great specs and plenty of configuration options

Only two ports

Options include a 4K display

Thunderbolt 4 ports are useful

Great look and feel

Dell’s XPS line of laptops has been popular among Linux users for years thanks to their combination of a solid, lightweight design and powerful hardware. The Dell XPS 13 Plus bumps up the power slightly more, giving you a do-it-all Linux laptop.

The XPS 13 Plus ships with a 13th-generation Intel Core i7-1360P processor with four Performance cores and eight Efficient cores for a total of 12. Even the lowest-spec version comes with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage, but you can configure the laptop with 32GB RAM and as much as 2TB storage.

The screen is configurable as well. The lowest resolution is still a full HD 1920×1200, with 500 nits of brightness. Alternatively, you can choose a 3.5K, 400-nit screen or a 4K, 500-nit version with a resolution of 3840 x 2400.

If you choose the version with Linux preinstalled, it comes with Ubuntu 22.04 LTS. If you’d rather dual-boot, you can choose Windows 11 Home or Pro and choose your own Linux distribution to install instead. Historically, Dell’s XPS line has been fairly Linux-compatible, so you should be able to install most distributions easily.

You don’t get much in the way of ports with the XPS 13 Plus, with just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, both of which support DisplayPort and Power Delivery. You also get USB-C to 3.5mm headphone and USB-C to USB-A adapters in the box.

You even get a choice of looks with the XPS 13 Plus. It’s available in either Platinum or Graphite finish options.

Dell XPS 13 Plus 2023

Dell XPS 13 Plus with Linux

Best Linux Laptop Overall

The Dell XPS 13 Plus with Linux combines powerful hardware and a great screen in a lightweight, great-looking chassis to create a fantastic Linux laptop.

Star Labs Starlite laptop partially open
Star Labs

Pros

Cons

✓ A lot of laptop for the money

✗ Very modest specifications

✓ Open warranty

✗ May be too small for many users

✓ Open Source BIOS option

✓ Good battery life

✓ Wide selection of Linux distros to choose from

There are laptops that work with Linux, and then there are laptops that only exist because of Linux. The StarLite 11-inch laptop from Star Labs is the latter, offering something entirely different from just about anything else on the market.

The specifications are modest, sporting a N5030 Pentium Silver, 8GB of RAM, and a 240GB SSD in the lowest tier option. While you can’t opt for a better CPU or more RAM, you can increase the SSD size to 960GB if needed.

When you order a StarLite, you can have it pre-loaded with most of the Linux distributions worth having, not just the mainstream darling Ubuntu. At the time of writing, there are 16 flavors of Linux listed for the StarLite 11, and you can even opt out of an operating system entirely.

The choice of a proprietary BIOS from American Megatrends or an Open Source Coreboot BIOS is even more intriguing. The final pillar of StarLab’s commitment to openness is the inclusion of an “open” warranty. StarLite says the 1-year limited warranty allows you to “take your computer apart, replace parts, install an upgrade, and use any operating system and even your firmware, all without voiding the warranty.”

While the specs are undoubtedly modest, many Linux distros aren’t power hogs and will run fine on such hardware. If you’re looking for an open-source and budget-friendly laptop that can be used for most daily computer tasks, the StarLite is a very tempting option.

starlite linux laptop

Star Labs StarLite 11-inch

Best Budget Linux Laptop

The Star Labs StarLite is a true Linux laptop with good enough specs for daily use, a compact build and intriguing open source BIOS and open warranty options.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11

Pros

Cons

Solid hardware with plenty of configuration options

ThinkPad look and the TrackPoint aren’t for everyone

Great screen options include a touchscreen

Available with Fedora or Ubuntu pre-installed

TrackPoint is useful for those who like it

While the line has moved from IBM to Lenovo, the ThinkPad name is still synonymous with high-quality laptops. Combine this with Lenovo’s deeper commitment to shipping laptops that run Linux out of the box, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 with Linux may be the perfect premium Linux laptop.

This laptop is powered by a 13th-gen Intel Core i5-1335U Processor with two Performance cores and eight Efficient cores for a total of 10 cores. You can choose more powerful CPUs, up to the i7-1370P vPro CPU, which also comes with a RAM upgrade.

You get 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD for storage in the base configuration. Depending on which CPU you choose, you can configure the laptop with up to 64GB RAM and up to 2TB of storage.

The display will always be a 14-inch screen, but you can choose from different options. By default, you get a 1920 x 1200 IPS panel, but you can upgrade to a touchscreen or a non-touch 2.8K OLED model.

As the “with Linux” in the name implies, Lenovo ships this ThinkPad with Linux, but here, you get to choose which distribution it ships with. By default, Fedora is the pre-installed distribution, but you can also choose Ubuntu.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Linux

Best Premium Linux Laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Linux takes everything that is great about the iconic ThinkPad line, adds powerful hardware, and lets you choose between Fedora or Ubuntu pre-installed.

Purism Librem 14 on pink background
Purism

Pros

Cons

✓ Open source BIOS

✗ More expensive than the alternatives

✓ Minimal closed-source firmware

✗ 10th gen Intel Core CPU instead of 11th gen

✓ Hardware kill switches and other privacy features

If you want a powerful computer where everything is open source and you have more control over your own hardware, try the Purism Librem 14. Purism says these systems are “designed chip-by-chip, line-by-line, to respect your rights to privacy, security, and freedom.”

These systems come with an open-source coreboot BIOS firmware and no Intel Management Engine (ME) code running at a low level. To be as open-source as possible, Purism avoids using “binary blob” closed-source firmware on its hardware whenever it can, although some binary blobs are still present. The Librem 14 comes with PureOS, a security-focused Debian-based Linux distribution developed by Purism.

Beyond open source, Purism is designed to put you in control as a user. The laptop includes physical kill switches that disconnect the included camera, mic, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth when you flip them. Hackers gaining access to your webcam and mic is a real fear, and a physical kill switch helps to protect you against it.

The Librem 14 also has a BIOS write protection switch on its motherboard, preventing potential malicious software from installing updates without physically changing a switch’s position. Features like PureBoot and the Librem Key help you ensure only trusted software boots on your computer and protect your laptop’s encrypted files with a physical security key.

All this aside, you’re getting a solid 14-inch laptop with an Intel Core i7 CPU. However, note that this is a 10th generation Intel Core CPU for compatibility with the open-source BIOS instead of an 11th generation Intel Core CPU—not a big deal in terms of performance. Still, for the price, it does sting not getting the latest hardware. You can customize the memory, storage, and other features during the purchase process. Finally, Purism promises 9 hours and 48 minutes of battery life in light use.

But, be warned that the Librem 14 is a more expensive laptop than many others on this list. It’s a premium product, and Purism clearly had to do a lot of extra work to provide these incredible and rare features.

If you’re looking for more laptops with open-source firmware, System76’s line also has open firmware.

Purism Librem 14

Best Open Source Linux Laptop

Purism’s Librem 14 takes the open-source nature of Linux to the next level, with the company developing this laptop to respect freedom and privacy.

A System76 Oryx Pro Linux gaming laptop on a desk.
System76

Pros

Cons

✓ Hybrid NVIDIA+Intel graphics

✗ Only 1080p screen resolution

✓ 15-inch or 17-inch options

✗ Low TDP GPUs with a largely pointless 3080 Ti option

✓ Customizable hardware

✓ Open source BIOS

For gamers or anyone else looking for powerful GPU hardware, you’ll want to look at the System76 Oryx Pro. This is a hybrid graphics laptop with switchable NVIDIA and Intel graphics, so your laptop can save battery life by automatically using Intel-integrated graphics when you don’t need the GPU horsepower.

The Oryx Pro is available in 15-inch or 17-inch sizes, and you can choose between NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, or 3080 Ti graphics, up to 64 GB of RAM, and up to 4TB of storage. The screen has a 1080p resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate. There’s no option for a higher-resolution screen, although that is a nice speedy refresh rate befitting a gaming system. Unfortunately, both GPU options are the 80W Max-Q variants, so there’s little point in opting for the more expensive 3080 Ti GPU, given that both chips perform virtually identically under the same power limits.

System76 only makes Linux laptops, and all of System76’s laptops come with open-source firmware. The company offers a whole line of PCs, including prebuilt Linux desktops.

These laptops come with their own Ubuntu-based operating system, Pop! OS, but of course, you can install other Linux distributions. Pop!_OS offers its own desktop environment with auto-tiling windows and keyboard navigation shortcuts, but it also integrates with the hardware.

You can also choose which GPU your laptop uses or configure the OS to automatically use a specific GPU when you launch a specific application in a few clicks. Pop!_OS is encrypted by default, too.

You can install Steam or any other Linux gaming software on Pop!_OS, and System76 even has a guide to gaming on Pop!_OS that will walk you through setting up Steam, configuring the open-source Lutris software to run emulators and Windows games, and using the GameHub software to combine your game libraries from multiple storefronts in one place.

System76 Oryx Pro

Best Linux Laptop for Gamers

Are you a gamer who doesn’t want to be tied to Windows? The Oryx Pro gives you the hardware specs you need while giving you the freedom of Linux.



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By John P.

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