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August 19, 2014

The 7 best places to buy yourself a Linux laptop

Leave Mac and Windows behind with an open source notebook.

By Jimmy Nicholls

For most people buying a laptop, the choice is between Windows and Mac. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t a bit familiar with the former, and Apple fans territorial nature tends to preclude them from using anything but the latter. Yet there is a third choice, and that is Linux.

Given the slender market share of the open source operating system it’s not surprising that computer vendors rarely stock laptops that run the software. But there are still some that do, and here are seven of the best.

1) System76

System76 is a computer manufacturer that has specialised in Ubuntu machines since 2005. Laptops begin at $749 and go up to $1,579, with the option to choose from a range of processors, and hard drives, among other bits and pieces.

All stock is equipped with nVidia graphics cards and Intel processors, with screen sizes vary between 14 to 17 inches. While most Linux distros provide easy access to free software, this firm provides you with most of the basics out of the box, in a novice friendly move.

2) ZaReason

ZaReason occupies a market similar to System76, with many of the standard models having similar specs and sold at similar prices. As well as a number of Ubuntu variants, customers can choose from the likes of Mint, Debian and Fedora.

Screen sizes are less varied that some of the firm’s rivals, at only 14 to 15.6 inches, and all machines come with Intel processors. Customisation is generally more limited than the alternatives as well, which will no doubt be disappointing for some.

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3) EmperorLinux

Unlike other items on this list, EmperorLinux cater specifically to businesses, as well as governments and academic institutions. The site not only offers a huge range of laptops suitable for consumers, but tablets and ruggedised machines for use in all sorts of environments.

Prices can reach more than $5,000, but you’ll find few other places with the range of this store. Customers can choose from an extensive list of models and distros, meaning that even the most discerning customer should find something to suit.

4) ThinkPenguin

ThinkPenguin has only a small selection of laptops, but the company is happy to set you up with whatever distribution of Linux you prefer – evidence of its commitment to customer support. Prices are similar to the other consumer brands, beginning at $600, with a fair degree of customisation available.

European and Latin American customers are explicitly catered for, with a range of keyboards and power adaptors available from the firm. Unfortunately support hours are only friendly to the Western hemisphere, but it’s more of an effort than most firms make to reach beyond the US.

5) Dell

As one of the few mainstream computer manufacturers to load Linux onto their machines, Dell have decided to target a specific niche. It argues that developers require less support than the average user, which the firm is unwilling to accommodate because of the lack of economies of scale.

While neither of the standard models come cheap, at over $1,000, some may appreciate the convenience of the system, especially since specialised developers tools are already installed. But it is debateable whether the kind of savvy users this machine is marketed to will not prefer to set up the laptop themselves.

6) LinuxCertified

LinuxCertified specialises in bringing Linux to more corporations, and thus not only offers laptops with Linux, but various training courses. As with many of the firm’s competitors, the variety is limited, with prices starting at $750 and going up to more than $2,000.

As an added bonus customers can choose to have Linux installed alongside Windows, which is handy for anyone who wants to use the odd bit of Windows software. That in mind this is an ideal option for gamers, Linux being a hostile place to get video games working.

7) The Linux Laptop Company

Splitting itself between Fedora, Mint and Ubuntu, the Linux Laptop Company offers four different machines with very limited customisation, ranging in price from $599 to $1,390. In addition to the various Linux distros on offer customers can also choose to buy a laptop with dual boot set up, much like the above entry.

Orders can be heavily customised on request, although customers must contact the firm directly to do so, which is far less intuitive than the in-browser system on other sites.

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