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Suggested linux laptops

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  • Suggested linux laptops

    Hi, I'm new on the forum but I've enjoyed reading phoronix articles over the years. I need to buy a laptop asap and hope I can get some advice from linux users' perspective.

    Due to Meltdown/Spectre, and Vega iGPU performance relative to Intel's iGPUs (for longevity purposes, given iGPU is probably the weakest link in such systems), I've been favoring Ryzen-based options.

    As far as I know there are only 4 in existence right now: HP x360, Acer Swift 3, Lenovo 720s, and Asus GL702ZC (desktop Ryzen). Of these, only the HP x360 makes sense for me despite its shortcomings, since the Asus seems very unbalanced in configuration and the Lenovo and Acer have soldered (8GB) RAM which is simply unacceptable to me. Are there any others that might be available, say within a month?

    Recently though I read articles on this site showing 8th gen Intel CPUs still generally performing far better than Ryzen, which has given me some second thoughts. In addition, the driver situation with Vega is something I wouldn't mind avoiding... although using open source drivers would be nice, IF and only if they work and don't give me headaches.


    Important factors for me:

    - linux compatibility (+ dual boot with Windows)
    - upgradability (i.e. support for 16GB+ RAM, hdd/ssd bays)
    - longevity (I keep computers a long time (eg 10 years) and don't know how well iGPUs age)
    - silence at idle (on 24/7 in bedroom)

    Are there any models available now or very very soon that are at least as good as the HP x360?

    Thanks in advance for your input.

  • #2
    The topic is a few days old, Hoping I'm not late and this will be useful for others too.
    I have reviewed all of those and a few dozen others and settled with the GL702ZC because it fits my needs.

    Linux compatibility:
    GL702ZC has RX580 and the driver situation is not bad at all, Ubuntu set almost everything up without a single command. The only problems are the wifi and bluetooth drivers which are fixed in 4.14. I'm still using 4.13 because I hate everything that bluetooth stands for and I can get by with a usb wifi dongle.
    All of the keyboard Fn keys work out of the box.keyboard backlight is adjustable. It has pause/play, forward, previous Fn keys on the arrows which are not printed.the ROG key is 'launch-1' it can be used to do something else.

    My old acer worked for ~6 years and almost died(spontaneous shutdowns) because I failed to keep it cool and used it to compile a project for about 20k times * 20~40 minutes. So I got a CoolerMaster NotePal U3 for this one so that it can live longer, the compile times are less than 5 minutes now, should work for at least a few years more than the last one.
    The ROG logo and top row of keyboard get a little hot. palm rest gets a bit warm but it's still comfortable.
    left side of keyboard is cold. if you're a player, you're not gonna feel any heat.

    M.2/hdd/wifi, ram and CPU(yes, cpu) are replaceable.
    Only 1 memory slot is used, 2400MHz, CL17 DDR4 SO-DIMM.

    The fan noise is a little above average because it's a ~300W laptop. I have the same 24/7 on in bedroom situation, it's not that bad. probably depends on you.
    btw, It comes with a headset that make the world silent.

    i7-8550U is the latest mobile i7 as of now, ryzen 7 1700 is about 150% faster, that's 2.5x.

    my own experience with it:
    The cpu performance is amazing, My compile times dropped by about 80~90%(comparing to i7-3610QM on acer V3-571G)
    Somehow I fucked the gpu driver and there is alpha dithering in some places in the gnome desktop(still looks much much better than intel iGPU).
    Gaming performance is good enough for a casual gamer too. stable 100+ fps DotA2 with max settings.
    Last edited by FastCode; 03-01-2018, 02:43 PM.


    • #3
      The Ryzen 7 1700, octocore 16 threads is absolutely droolworthy on a workstation. I'd really like to go for it, but the rest of the GL702ZC makes it really hard to justify. In no particular order:

      - Silence of the fans. After living with fans in the bedroom for years and now having silence, I noticed an improvement in sleep quality. It's really hard to go back; I hate noise. At load, it's ok, but I really want silent idles.
      - 1hr of battery life is abysmal even on such a machine. I use battery mostly just as a UPS and even then I'd want it to last longer.
      - 7lbs is really inconvenient, even if I 'transport' it rarely.
      - about $1000+ more than the HP x360, depending on configurations

      The huge pro is the CPU. The AMD graphics drivers seem to be ok/better now, so perhaps that's not an issue. After suffering with fglrx years ago I had sworn off ATI/AMD graphics for good, due to drivers.


      I have the HP x360 right now and I'm testing it to decide whether to keep it or not.

      - AMD CPU (no Meltdown)
      - Vega graphics (about double Intel iGPU performance for better longevity)
      - Wireless (Realtek RTL8822be) and video drivers seem to work out of the box on Ubuntu 18.04 daily build (kernel 4.15)
      - Upgradeable to 32GB RAM !! Huge benefit on a "thin and sorta light 2 in 1" and the only other Ryzen-based laptop currently upgradeable.
      - Nice sleek and professional exterior looks.
      - Silent at idle in Windows. Fans may occasionally turn on under light duty, eg if browsing on a media-filled page.

      - CPUs throttle to 2 GHz under load within a few minutes. I question the value of the Ryzen 7 2700U for this form factor. Probably same with i5/i7.
      - Not silent in linux; fans stay on. I hope this is due to how new the hardware is. I didn't find a way yet to read temperature sensors in linux.
      - Atrocious backlight bleed on the monitor.
      - Webcam colors are way off (purple) in sunlight/incandescent light; apparently HP tuned it for fluorescent lighting and this is a known issue/feature since years. I don't care much about webcams and have an external one, but it's still stupid.
      - Touchpad is not particularly precise compared to other laptops especially in linux
      - Touchscreen + digitizer/pen are not precise (Windows) or don't work at all (linux). In Windows Ink, drawing a straight line with the pen looks rough. Also, it requires a fair bit of pressure; drawing with light strokes or tapping (clicking) gently with the pen do not register even though the screen recognizes the pen's presence with a cursor. Contrasting again with other laptops (Lenovo) that are much smoother and more sensitive.
      - Overall quality control not great coming from someone used to Asus, and recently Lenovo Ideapad, models. eg. backlight bleed, power connector is a bit wiggly not snug, SD cards get stuck when ejecting from card reader, etc

      Other notes: I tried upgrading to 2 X 16GB 2666 MHz RAM. All 32GB are recognized in BIOS and OSes, but clocked to 2400 MHz.


      • #4
        Originally posted by blueweb View Post
        - Wireless (Realtek RTL8822be) and video drivers seem to work out of the box on Ubuntu 18.04 daily build (kernel 4.15)
        Do not use a non rolling OS and point release drivers with a new hardware. They have old and buggy software. Test with my distribution.


        • #5
          FastCode Despite my concerns about the GL702ZC, your post made me reconsider it. I think when I first heard about it a couple of months ago, I immediately dismissed it due to my misgivings about AMD graphics drivers and before learning about amdgpu, etc.

          If some of my key concerns can be addressed, which I posted in the GL702ZC thread , I might actually get it as a workstation, since I'd really like to have that CPU. Later I could get a proper ultraportable for the portability and battery life if needed.

          8 cores, 16 threads is just so refreshing after 2/4 cores have been standard for too long. Also the HP's quality control issues worry me about how much longevity I can expect.


          • #6
            InsideJob I really wish I could wait for meltdown- & spectre-fixed hardware, but I don't have the choice. I need something now. The best I can do is avoid meltdown.

            I can't speak for HP build quality in general, but I have to say I'm rather disappointed in the quality control on this Envy model, at least for my unit. The build *quality* of the materials and design seems good, but not nearly as nice as the Spectre line. Handling both side by side, the difference is very noticeable. However my issue is with quality *control* issues such as really bad backlight bleed, misaligned plastic trim, SD card reader with ejection issues (never had this even with cheap laptops), etc.

            Also, disassembling the x360 is a pain: the backplate is held on tightly with not just screws but plastic clips that are difficult to pry, and then the entire perimeter of the plate is literally razor sharp! For fun, HP decided to throw in 3 torx screws instead of just using phillips screws, so I had to get a toolset for that. It just seems this unit frustrates me at every turn.

            I won't bother ranting about the Windows/software issues as this is a linux forum, but suffice it to say the out of box experience is a good remedy for those with low blood pressure.


            • #7
              Ice Lake fixing meltdown in hardware? Very unlikely.

              I'd look for Lenovo ThinkPads, which usually have good Linux compatibility. The Ryzen based A485/E485/E585 will reportedly launch in April.


              • #8
                HP sent me a replacement x360, and it is much better:
                - almost no backlight bleed now
                - SD cards no longer get stuck when being ejected from the card reader
                - quieter fan which stays off longer
                - touchscreen/pen are more responsive: requires less pressure to register a click/stroke, and drawing strokes has less lag
                - software/OS setup on first boot was much faster/smoother without errors like the last one

                But I got new problems:
                - the new screen is a Chi Mei with the notorious dim light and off/faded colors: white looks yellowish, red looks orange, etc
                - it seems the Chi Mei might not be compatible with FreeSync according to Radeon Settings in Windows

                As I was preparing the first unit to send back, the fan started making grinding noises. I had noticed a bit of wheezing/whining before, but grinding... on a 2 week old laptop? This is exactly the kind of quality control and reliability issues I was worried about.

                On top of that, I got a message from HP Support Assistant on the new unit: "Extend your HP Support Coverage:
                Your HP warranty for your HP ENVY x360 Convertible 15-bq1xx is scheduled to expire on ‎November‎ ‎30‎, ‎1899*."

                Yeah, I think I'm done.


                • #9
                  Quick follow up on fan and temperatures on the x360: setting the kernel boot parameter "acpi_enforce_resources=lax" (without quotes) results in roughly similar temperatures and fan levels as in Windows. Without this parameter, temperatures were 5-10 degrees hotter in linux (48-51C at idle, vs 40-44C), and thus the fan was always on. With that parameter, the fan does often stay off at idle, and is quieter even when it turns on under some load.