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  • Linux laptop recommendations

    I want to buy a laptop which will mainly be used to run Linux so I thought it'd be a good idea to try and get some suggestions from the Phoronix forums.

    I'm not a gamer or heavily into gfx - apart from web browsing and watching the odd film its main purpose will be audio production. I'd prefer a quiet n'cool GPU/laptop (versus the extra heat, noise and power drain created from having a discrete GPU) and the fact that Intel seem to employ more people to work on its (open source only) Linux graphics drivers I would prefer an Intel GPU.

    Desired specs include:

    At least 1600x900 display (I can't believe most laptop displays top out at 1366x768 in 2013 - only slightly more pixels than your average smartphone display)

    i5 or i7 CPU

    At least 1 x SATA3 and 1 x USB3

    i4000 (or later) integrated gfx w/ HDMI out

    Gb NIC

    Unless it comes pre-installerd with a fast SATA3 SSD, I'll be swapping out its drive for a good SSD (256GB most likely) so if anyone can recommend a good SATA3 SSD too, that'd be great!

    Thanks!

  • #2
    No such thing as an Intel GFX laptop with a Full HD screen?

    I have managed to find a few laptops with Intel gfx with 1600x900 displays but not one with Intel gfx and a Full HD screen. It seems every laptop with a 1080-capable display also has discrete (NV or Ati) gfx. OEMs don't consider my micro-niche when it comes to laptops it seems!

    The two best fits for my needs I've found so far would seem to be the ASUS F75A-EH51 and the HP Pavilion 17-e032sa. They're both about £500 but I've not been able to find a UK seller of the F75A-EH51 and the Pavilion 17-e032sa loses a point or two for not having a Gb NIC.

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    • #3
      You might consider the Mac laptops too, as they tend to have high-res displays, while the low-end models do not have discrete graphics. YMMV.

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      • #4
        Macs? No thanks. Although I quite like OSX, I've been there before with Macs and don't want to fill their already bulging coffers any more.

        Turns out that Dell produce laptops with 1080-capable displays with Intel GFX but only with 13" screens, which at that size seems like a waste to me as I'd need to squint to see small text, if I could read it at all, so I should add to my required spec 'at least a 15" display @ 1600x900 or higher'.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by danboid View Post
          At least 1 x SATA3 and 1 x USB3
          With SATA3 you mean an eSATA port? These are not common any more.

          You can disable the discrete GPU on most laptops so it won't use any power. If you still want a laptop without any discrete graphics, some models of the Lenovo ThinkPad S440 touch (e.g. 20AY-006) may fit your bill.

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          • #6
            What is the best 7xxx or 8xxx ATi chipset wrt FLOSS drivers currently?

            chithanh:

            By SATA3 I mean its chipset/internal SATA interface should support SATA3 (aka SATA600). I realise many laptops don't have eSATA (or Firewire, or Thunderbolt) but all those would be welcome additions. Thanks for your suggestion- that Thinkpad sounds good.

            Everyone:

            I read Michael's recent comparison of the various open source Linux gfx drivers and his conclusion was that if you want the best gpu performance using only FLOSS drivers then the Radeon HD6xxx series are the ones to go for. That's OK if you have a desktop machine but you cannot buy a new laptop with a HD6xxx - everything has a 7xxx or 8xxx series GPU these days, if its a laptop using Radeon. Is there an optimal mobile Radeon GPU chipset model these days wrt to completeness (perf. and stability) of its open source radeon drivers?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by danboid View Post
              I read Michael's recent comparison of the various open source Linux gfx drivers and his conclusion was that if you want the best gpu performance using only FLOSS drivers then the Radeon HD6xxx series are the ones to go for. That's OK if you have a desktop machine but you cannot buy a new laptop with a HD6xxx - everything has a 7xxx or 8xxx series GPU these days, if its a laptop using Radeon. Is there an optimal mobile Radeon GPU chipset model these days wrt to completeness (perf. and stability) of its open source radeon drivers?
              What Michael meant was "a GPU with the same VLIW architecture as HD6xxx", which includes some HD7xxx parts and may include some HD8xxx parts as well (I haven't really been paying attention to part numbering since changing jobs). Those parts all run the r600 driver.

              Pick something midrange and up from the "Northern Islands" row of the decoder ring in RadeonFeature and you should be fine :

              http://www.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature/#index5h2

              EDIT -- I tried looking up some specific models but apparently the "AMD product finder" on our web site doesn't list systems with Intel CPUs
              Last edited by bridgman; 10-05-2013, 08:05 PM.

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              • #8
                Thanks for your input bridgman!

                I've had another search for ATi laptops today but I've been unable to find a single laptop/notebook/ultrabook with AMD GFX and a Full HD screen - the AMD GPU devices seem to top out at 1600x900 and if you want full HD it seems you have to have NV.

                A lot of the AMD GPU devices also use the AMD A4 CPU but, whilst AMD may make faster GPUs than Intel they don't win in the CPU benchmarks. CPU speed is much more important to me than GPU performance.

                Whilst AMD have won the console GPU wars, they're clearly trailing badly behind NV (and Intel) in getting OEMs to use their mobile GPUs.

                Why oh why do most laptops still only have 1366x768 screens in 2013? Its no better than what we had in 1993. You'd think they'd say "Oh look! Most smartphones have HD screens now so maybe we'd better update our laptop displays so as to make them worthwhile for consuming 12x the space and power to bring them into the 21st century". Nope!

                Another frustrating aspect to the tiresome life of the Linux user hunting a laptop is that all too many sites only list the diagonal size of a laptops display and neglect to mention its res. Its as if they realise how embarrassing their laptop display specs are and so they are trying to cover it up!

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                • #9
                  7650M FLOSS drivers status?

                  I've found 1 laptop that has both a decent size, 1080 display plus an AMD GPU - the Sony VAIO E17. Its quite affordable too so I'm considering it.

                  Apparently it uses the Radeon HD 7650M so can I play (and edit) 1080p video at >30fps and without major probs using the open source radeon drivers on a 7650M currently?

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                  • #10
                    There is also the 13.3" ASUS VivoBook U38N which comes with 1920x1080 screen and 7600G (ARUBA, Northern Islands) graphics. The 15.6" MSI GX60 additionally has a 7970M (PITCAIRN, Southern Islands) but I don't know if that is hybrid or discrete-only.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by danboid View Post
                      I have managed to find a few laptops with Intel gfx with 1600x900 displays but not one with Intel gfx and a Full HD screen. It seems every laptop with a 1080-capable display also has discrete (NV or Ati) gfx. OEMs don't consider my micro-niche when it comes to laptops it seems!
                      They exist in HP's offerings. There are 15.6-inch laptops with full HD and Intel HD graphics and 17-inch notebooks exist but have to be custom ordered as default configs are almost always discrete graphics but some models can downgrade to integrated graphics. Occasionally, you can find such laptops in stores - but not listed on HP's website - and buy them. Same with other manufacturers.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by danboid View Post
                        Turns out that Dell produce laptops with 1080-capable displays with Intel GFX but only with 13" screens, which at that size seems like a waste to me as I'd need to squint to see small text, if I could read it at all, so I should add to my required spec 'at least a 15" display @ 1600x900 or higher'.
                        You can also connect external LCD. Using 15'' laptop screen long time isn't comfortable.

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                        • #13
                          The System76 Gazelle Pro sounds like what you want:
                          Code:
                          4th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU's
                          15.6" 1080p Full High Definition LED Backlit Display - Glossy or IPS with Matte Finish (1920 x 1080)
                          Intel HD Graphics 4600
                          Up to 16 GB 204 pin Dual Channel DDR3 @ 1600 MHz
                          1 x mSATA, 2 x 2.5" 9mm Removable SATA II/III 
                          Multitouch with two finger scrolling
                          Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000), WiFi
                          Intel Centrino
                          HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, eSata/USB 3.0 Combo, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, SD Reader
                          Built-In 2.0 MP High Definition Webcam
                          Kensington® Lock
                          Suspend and Resume
                          Removable 62.16 Wh 6 Cell Smart Lithium-Ion
                          Full Range AC-in 100~240V, 50~60Hz, 90W AC Adapter, DC output 19V, 4.74A
                          14.72" x 9.92" x 0.55"~1.24" (WxDxH)
                          5.40 lbs. (2.45 kg.)
                          Edit: comes with Ubuntu preinstalled, so hardware support should be fine.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by danboid View Post
                            Why oh why do most laptops still only have 1366x768 screens in 2013? Its no better than what we had in 1993. You'd think they'd say "Oh look! Most smartphones have HD screens now so maybe we'd better update our laptop displays so as to make them worthwhile for consuming 12x the space and power to bring them into the 21st century". Nope!

                            Tell me about it. I'm also looking for a good AMD powered laptop and I'm frustrated that everything in a good size is 1366x768. Unless you special order them or go for the 17"+ laptops (and I have no use for those) you are stuck.

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                            • #15
                              Thanks to everyone for your responses!

                              chithanh:

                              The Vivobook I won't consider, like the Dell FHD ultrabooks, for having a 13" screen. I realise I can plug these machines into an external HDMI display but that won't always be available as an option so I want a decent sized (15"+) internal display.

                              MSI GX60, at least the model I found that had ATi, suffered from having an A4 CPU.

                              TheLexMachine:

                              I have been unable to find any real laptop customization options on HP's UK website. If you know where such a page is then please link it!

                              Pseus:

                              I was aware of System76 but didn't consider them as I didn't think they shipped to the UK but thats no longer the case it seems although I don't know how much I'll be paying to have it flown over the pond yet. Provided they don't charge silly money for the postage, the Gazelle Pro upgraded to 8GB and an i7 would seem my best bet. Not only does it work out cheaper than the Vaio E17, it has the plus points of not forcing me to pay for a copy of Windows I'll never use and I've never forgiven Sony for stealing Linux from PS3 users and selling that console under false pretenses (Look! Its a computer too! <sneaky firmware update> Now its not - haha!).

                              As for FLOSS Radeon status, is this the best page?

                              http://xorg.freedesktop.org/wiki/RadeonFeature/

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