In 2020, this question is both easy and difficult to answer at the same time. On the one hand, the Linux kernel has made great strides in improving compatibility with hardware components, and it’s now very rare for a laptop to not work with Linux at all. On the other hand, the sheer number of attractive laptops that work with Linux can be overwhelming and make the buying process feel tiring.
To make it easier for you, we selected the best Linux-friendly laptop brands in 2020 and picked one laptop for each brand. All there’s left for you to do is choose the laptop that best matches your requirements.
Linux-Friendly Laptop Brands
There are several things that make a laptop brand Linux friendly:
- Preference for hardware components that work flawlessly with Linux.
- Selling laptops with Linux instead of Windows.
- Customer support that understands and cares about Linux users.
Based on these criteria, we selected five Linux-friendly Laptop brands, and here they are, in no particular order.
There’s a good reason why the Linux community is in love with Lenovo laptops: they work great with Linux and provide amazing value for money. Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of business-oriented laptops appeals to Linux users because of its legendary durability, broad connectivity options, and admirable performance.
In 2020, there’s a ThinkPad for everyone, from professional software developers to students who need a lightweight and compact machine that can comfortably fit inside any backpack. If even the most affordable ThinkPad doesn’t fit your budget, you should know that there’s a huge market with used and refurbished ThinkPads on sites like eBay.
Recommended model: Lenovo ThinkPad T480
The Lenovo ThinkPad T480 packs a lot of processing power in a compact 14-inch form-factor. The laptop is equipped with a wide array of ports, a backlit keyboard, and enhanced security features. The 2020 model comes with the Intel Core i5-8250U processor, up to 32 GB of RAM, and up to 2 TB of SSD storage.
In 2019, Dell shipped Linux across 162 unique platforms, and the number is expected to be even higher in 2020. Dell is aware that there are many Linux users interested in Linux-friendly laptops from a company they already trust. Its Project Sputnik team works alongside such Linux titans as Red Hat and Canonical to develop Linux drivers for Dell’s hardware, such as the well-received Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition.
In addition to the XPS line, which offers an excellent value proposition for those desiring powerful computing on the go, there are also Linux models of Precision Workstations, Optiplex, Latitude, Vostro, and Inspiron lines.
Recommended model: Dell XPS 13
Often hailed as the Linux champion of the ultrabook market, the Dell XPS 13 (and especially the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition) is an amazingly versatile laptop that can effortlessly handle everything from casual web browsing to multimedia to software development and video editing. The most expensive model has a gorgeous 4K InfinityEdge touchscreen display that makes lesser displays look outdated.
System76 is a Denver-based manufacturer of Linux-based laptops, desktops, and servers. The company was founded in 2005 by Carl Richell and Erik Fetzer, who wanted to sell freedom-respecting computers at affordable prices. Fast-forward to today, and System76 has a sizeable customer base that enjoys not only its products, which are named after the fauna of Africa, but also its Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, Pop!_OS.
Pop!_OS is privacy respecting Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It enables full-disk encryption out-of-the-box and doesn’t collect any information from user installations. System76 customers running Pop!_OS can enjoy automatic firmware updates that keep their devices reliable and secure.
Recommended model: System76 Oryx Pro
The System76 Oryx Pro is intended as a desktop replacement. It comes in two sizes (16.1 inches and 17.3 inches) and offers a high-performance H-class Intel CPU and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-Series GPU. The laptop is equipped with two mini DisplayPorts and one HDMI, so you can easily hook up three external monitors for maximum productivity.
Based in South San Francisco, Purism is a social purpose computer manufacturer that believes people shouldn’t be exploited by their own devices. The company was founded in 2014 by Todd Weaver, who was increasingly concerned about the state of the tech industry and wanted to do something about it. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, he launched Purism, and the rest is history.
Today, Purism offers a growing range of high-end devices as well as its own operating system, PureOS. All Purism laptops focus on privacy, security, and freedom, giving their users complete visibility into the operating system, software applications, and the hardware itself.
Recommended model: Purism Librem 13
The Purism Librem 13 is a compact laptop that respects the privacy and security of its users. The laptop has two physical kill switches, one for the microphone/camera module and the other one for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Inside its unassuming chassis is a seventh-generation Intel processor with integrated graphics.
Known mainly for the Pine A64, a single-board alternative to the popular Raspberry Pi, Pine Microsystems is a US-based manufacturer of freedom-respecting computers. It embraces a community-driven approach to product development, given its customers enough time to tell the company which features they would like to see shipped.
The company also believes in long-term hardware and customer support. For example, PINE64-LTS, SOPine, Pinebook, and Pinetab all share the same SOC, the Allwinner A64. Similarly, both the RockPro64 and the Pinebook Pro use the Rockchip RK3399, which is intended to be the foundation of several future products. For developers, it means guaranteed out-of-the-box software compatibility and easy access to an established userbase.
Recommended model: PINEBOOK
If you’re looking for a compact laptop for writing, casual web browsing, and other tasks that don’t require a whole lot of processing power, the PINEBOOK from Pine Microsystems is a solid choice. The laptop is powered by the ARM Cortex A53 64-bit processor, and its most recent iteration boasts a 1080p IPS panel.