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Linux is an operating system that many consumers, businesspeople, and developers swear by it. It may not have the backing that the other big operating systems have, but it’s still a very capable, not to mention free, operating system. There are at least a few laptops out there that come with Linux pre-installed, but your options are limited. The fact is that the majority of major computer manufacturers simply don’t build laptops with Linux — but the trade-off is that there’s plenty of room for smaller companies, many of which are quite good.
The Dell XPS 13 is already considered one of the best laptops out there, period, and the fact that it’s available with Linux too makes it the clear top choice for those who want a stylish, powerful, and lightweight laptop with Linux.
Under the hood, the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition has a lot to offer. The base model comes with an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. That's more than powerful enough for the Ubuntu 18.04 build that it comes with. The computer can, however, be customized to include an Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The base model’s 13.3-inch display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, though you can upgrade it to a 4K display. Weight-wise, the computer is only 2.67lbs.
This laptop certainly isn’t the most powerful device out there — but for the price, it’s a great choice for those who simply want to try Linux a little.
Under the hood, the laptop features a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage. There are also two USB 2.0 ports, a MicroSD card slot, a digital video port, and a headphone jack. The display on the base model comes in at 11.6 inches (though it can be upgraded to 14 inches) with a resolution of 1366 x 768. It’s pretty thin and light, too, with a thickness of 0.47-inches and a weight of either 2.30lbs or 2.78lbs, depending on the size of the model you go for.
Just because a laptop doesn’t come with Linux pre-installed, that doesn’t mean that you can’t install Linux on it yourself. MacBooks are loved for their great design and powerful hardware, and there are plenty of guides out there on how to install Linux on your MacBook, though it’s something we only recommend to those who know what they’re doing. If you’re interested in this, we recommend the new 2018 MacBook Air, which is beautifully designed and features relatively powerful hardware.
Spec-wise, the base model of the new MacBook Air comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It can be upgraded to offer up to 16GB of RAM and 1.5TB of storage. Apple has adopted modern ports for the laptop too — you'll get two USB-C ports and a headphone jack. As you would expect from a MacBook Air, the 2018 version is nice and light, with a thickness of 0.61-inches and a weight of 2.75lbs.
If you want a Linux laptop and simply need the most powerful option out there, then the System76 Serval WS may well be the laptop for you. Unlike many of the other options out there, this laptop features desktop-class Intel Core i7 and i9 processors, which are quite a bit more powerful than the laptop-class i7 chips you’re likely to find on other computers. Not only that, but the Serval WS also features NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs, which makes the laptop even better for graphics-based computing.
The base model of the computer comes with a 15.6-inch display with a 1080p resolution, along with a GTX1060 GPU, Intel Core i7-8700 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 250GB SSD. The computer can, however, be upgraded with up to a 17.3-inch 4K matte display, a GTX 1080 GPU, Intel Core i9-9900K processor, 64GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive. By default, the laptop comes with System76’s Pop!_OS Linux build, but you can opt to have it ship with Ubuntu 18.04 instead if you choose. The only real downside to this computer is that it’s relatively pricey and a bit bulky, weighing in at 7.5lbs for the 15-inch version or a hefty 9.2lbs for the 17-inch version. Still, if what you want is power, then that extra weight is pretty much unavoidable.
Security is becoming more and more of a concern in the tech world, and while there’s a lot more malware out there for Windows, Linux can still be a target. That, however, is where the Purism Librem 13 comes in. This laptop is specifically designed to protect your files, featuring two hardware kill switches that turn off the microphone/camera and wireless/Bluetooth. It also has PureOS, Purism’s version of Linux that has an emphasis on security.
Under the hood, the Librem 13 features an Intel Core i7 processor, coupled with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 4TB of storage (though the base model has a 120GB SSD). The display on the laptop sits in at 13.3-inches, and the device features two USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI port, and an SD card slot. The laptop is pretty thin and light too, coming in at 0.7 inches thick and 2.2lbs, which makes it a great option for those who want a device they can carry around.
ZaReason is known for its Linux server equipment, but it builds more consumer-facing products too, like the ZaReason UltraLap 6440. The laptop is a great choice for those who want some customizability from their laptop as it offers the ability to choose your hardware options and which version of Linux you want pre-installed on the device. That’s good news for those that don’t necessarily want Ubuntu, which is the more popular version of Linux.
Under the hood, there’s the hardware you would expect from a top-tier laptop. The base model includes an Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD, but the laptop can be customized to include up to an Intel Core i7 CPU, along with up to 32GB of RAM and up to a 2TB hard drive. You can even choose to add a second hard drive to the computer, which means you can get a total of 4TB of storage. Port-wise, the laptop comes with a USB-C port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an SD card reader. The laptop isn’t exactly "lightweight," but it’s not too heavy either — it has a thickness of 0.87-inches and a weight of 3.6lbs.
You don’t necessarily have to buy a laptop that has Linux pre-installed. Alternatively, you could buy a Windows laptop and install Linux on it, though we recommend that only to those who know what they’re doing. If you want to simply buy a Windows laptop and then install Linux on it after the fact, then we recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad E570. Why? Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops are known to work pretty well with Linux, plus they’re built like a tank.
Under the hood, the Lenovo ThinkPad E570 features an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage, which is more than enough power for running Linux. The display on the device should be big enough, too, at 15.7 inches. It is a bit bulky at an inch thick and a little over five pounds, but if you can deal with the heft then it’s an excellent choice.
Google’s Chrome OS is known to work well with Linux, so it makes sense to buy a relatively low-cost Chromebook for Chrome OS. The Samsung Chromebook Pro is more than powerful enough to run Linux, plus it’s relatively sleek and stylish, which is always nice. A word of warning: we only recommend trying to install Linux on a laptop if you know what you’re doing. If something goes wrong, you could end up with an expensive paperweight.
The Samsung Chromebook Pro comes with an Intel Core M3 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. The laptop is relatively slim, with a thickness of 0.5 inches and a weight of 2.38lbs, which means that it’ll be nice and portable. It’s not overly expensive either.
Our writers spent 40 hours researching and testing the most popular Linux laptops on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.