The Missing Linux Laptop
For the past one month or so, I am looking around for a good personal laptop running GNU/Linux. I was looking for something similar to my current Mac Book Pro
My constraints were following
- Intel processor – 2.4 GHz or better
- 16 GB or more RAM
- 15-16″ screen since 14″ screen does not work for the software development
- Sleek body – ~1″ or less in thickness
- Good build quality
- At least 1080p – 1920×1080 resolution
- the chiclet keyboard and preferably without the useless numeric keypad
- Preferably running GNU/Linux – porting GNU/Linux to a laptop can end up being painful)
- Preferably 16:10 or lesser – I gave up on this constraint since it seems all laptops come only in 16:9 nowadays, except Macs and Chromebook Pixel
After spending several days looking for the same, following were my conclusions
- The only good GNU/Linux laptop sellers are System76 and Mythlogic – They resell the laptops made by Clevo/Sager and Compal, who are Taiwanese ODMs. Unfortunately, these ODMs are not interested in producing good quality laptops. And the resellers are stuck selling the laptops provided by them. Or, in words of AnandTech, “As I said, though, the interior of the W550EU is utterly devoid of style. This is an inherent problem all the Taiwanese ODMs have: either obscenely bland, chintzy, and style-free (Clevo and Compal), or gaudy to the point of delirium (MSI)” [source].
Lenovo, ASUS, or Samsung, none of them have decided to produce a good Linux laptop, which competes with Apple’s Mac Book Pro(MBP). Chromebook Pixel is underwhelming not only due to its 13″ screen size but even in specs – 1.8 GHz processor with just 4 GB of RAM – for an obscene price of $1600.
- Mythlogic has Callisto 1512, which seems to fit great (except for the build quality), but they told me that it’s not their active model anymore.
- System76 has two great laptops Gazelle Pro which is more than 1″ thick and heavy, and Galago Ultra Pro, which is sleek and has 14″ screen. Both are great, except none of them offer the build quality anywhere even close to Dell/Lenovo due to their ODM Clevo.
An Australian company Logical Blue one seems to have good GNU/Linux offerings.
- Some good windows laptops left were Samsung Series 9, ASUS 15″ Zenbook UX51z, Sony S – all look good but are almost as expensive as MBP and way more expensive than Mac Book Air despite being underwhelming in specs.
Vizio looks excellent except for running windows and no RAM/processor customization option.
- ThinkPad S531 looks great, but as of Aug 20, 2013, even Lenovo’s customer care is not aware of a launch date.
The writing is on the wall. Apple’s Mac Book Pro’s are incomparable for software engineers who prefer GNU/Linux like interface. Apple has complete control not only over the higher end of the market but also over software engineers who can afford one. The others seem to be playing a catchup game. Hell, even Linus Torvalds love them. Three months back, Mark Shuttleworth fixed a bug that Microsoft no longer has majority market share; I wonder if he would file another one for Apple anytime soon.
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