Seeking advice before buying a new laptop

Hi everyone,

I need to buy a new laptop for myself, which will run Linux, of course, but I have some things I’d like to ask you:

  1. Which GPU? And I really wont to start a binary vs free drivers debate here. The thing is that in my current laptop I have an NVidia board, which I use with binary driver and it works.
    But there are really good laptop offers which have ATI boards in it, but I heard that ATI/AMD drivers are not so good nowadays, although no experience. I mostly use KDE, sometimes GNOME, and I like desktop effects, I do very little gaming.
    What are your experiences with ATI/AMD or Intel GPUs? (powersaving tips counts too)

  2. I never used more than one monitor with Linux, but this time I will buy one for home too (I have multimonitor setup at work, but that station runs Windows). My question here how linux handles multimonitor setup? Does the GPU driver counts here? If my monitor will have a FullHD (1920x1080) resolution, but the laptop a smaller one, will I be able to use both?
    I want to use my big monitor as primary and the laptop as secondary screen, not mirroring.

  3. I’d like also to connect with my TV to watch movies. Is anything to take into consideration here? Planning to connect with HDMI.

Thanks in advance!

Trying to put everything you like that all works with Linux into a price you can afford with an item you can actually find is not an easy task to assemble. Your location of Debrecen, Hungary as listed makes it hard for me to know just what you can really get a hold of PC wise. So, here are some things that I might suggest.

  1. I have had real good luck with Dell and Linux for all laptops listed for business usage.
  2. The best Priced Laptops often work mainly with Windows it seems.
  3. Be wary of new Windows 8 Laptops that have or only work with the UEFI BIOS enabled and the signed Windows OS.
  4. Consider buying a Laptop pre-loaded with ANY recent version of Linux.
  5. Consider buying an Intel i5 or i7 CPU.
  6. My Graphic preference is 1) nVIDIA, 2) Intel & 3) ATI as last.
  7. Stay away from nVIDIA Optimus or ANY Dual Graphics Laptop where nVIDIA or ATI is paired with Intel.
  8. A LCD or LED TV Monitor with a VGA input works just as well as HDMI often and I like DVI better than HDMI for computer monitors.

Just my thoughts on the subject and I wish you the best of luck in finding a new computer for Linux.

Thank You,

My personal opinion is much like jdmcdaniel3. I have become a real big fan of Dell. I’ve set up Linux on several laptops and desktops and I find that as far as Laptops go, the Latitude line works great. I have an nVIDIA card that has had no issues in Linux. Upon installing OpenSUSE 12.1 and 12.2, I had zero configuration issues. Everything just works from bluetooth, wireless connectivity (using atheros mini pci card b/g/n), Smartcard reader, sound, dock station, external video direct into the laptop as well as through a dock station.

My video card preference is also 1-nVIDIA, 2-intel, 3-ATI.

I have no experience with Solid State Drives, so I can’t speak on that, I also have no experience with installing Linux on a Windows 8 machine.

Good luck!

futureboy, jdmcdaniel3:

First of all, thanks for the quick replies! My videos card preferences are the same, what I wanted to know is if I get a really good offer with an ATI gpu, should I buy it or better wait for an other with NVidia.
Anyway, I’m also planning to buy a DELL or Lenovo laptop. Right now I use a Latitude E6400, which is my work laptop, but I configured to dual boot Windows 7 + OpenSUSE, and everything worked out of the box. So this is the two brands I am searching for.
And no, I don’t want to buy a Windows 8 preloaded one, in fact I’m trying to buy one without any Windows, don’t want to pay for something I don’t use.

So thanks again!

Just to add some colour and confusion to the responses, thought I would share my thoughts :).

I haven’t tried Intel GPUs but certainly I’ve had good experiences with both Nvidia and ATi board on laptops working with openSUSE. If you don’t do games, I don’t really think preferring one to the other is all that important when it comes to modern laptops.

I’ve never tried this in Linux. If you’re using nvidia on GNOME, there is a extension called disper that may help you. Search

I know that nvidia provides a guide to Linux users on configuring TV output:

…not so sure about ATi

I would agree that there’s more to buying a laptop than specification and aesthetics, such as personal preferences. For instance, I highly disklike the layout of Lenovo laptops (e.g. the trackpoint buttons unnecessarily take out space and the shift, function, or control buttons are in the wrong places), and not too impressed with Dell laptops. Since I switched to Sony laptops, things have been better…

Good luck! If you succeed please tell use where you managed to buy a laptop without paying for Windows because my guess is that’s not going to be easy! I find setting up dual-boots on laptops these days is fairly time-consuming and headache-inducing as manufacturors start sticking the contents of the Windows recovery disc on additional primary partitions rather than actually providing physical discs. When the laptop hard drive already has three primary partitions, and you haven’t yet installed Linux, prepare for a late night…

  1. I am using a multimonitor setup for several years now. Nowadays, this is pretty painless (see details below).

  2. My laptop has a DisplayPort connector only, but I bought myself a DisplayPort to HDMI cable. This works fine under Windows7 for 1080p video and surround sound. Under Linux, a 1080p video picture works just like any other multimonitor setup, but there is no sound at all (Phonon does recognise an High Definition Audio Controller and does not report any problems, but I am just unable hear any sound over it.)

I only have experiences with business line laptops, which are usually expensive. After trying Toshiba, Fujitsu-Siemens and HP, I am a big fan of Dell since 5 years now. I use it daily: all day for work as my only machine and in the evening as my private machine (gaming & movies), and the two Dell Precisions Laptop that I have used thus far proved to be very tough (the first laptop is still used by my wife nowadays). Almost all the hardware works out of the box (except for the DisplayPort Audio and the fingerprint reader), and I just love the three physical buttons beneath the touch pad.

Multi-Monitor: I use a multi-monitor setup since 2005. It was a bit painful to setup back then, but nowdays it is just point and click in KDE’s standard system settings for me. No more editing /etc/X11/xorg.conf like it used to be. However, I am using the nvidia proprietary driver, as I had made pretty bad experiences with ATI (~2006, so this may or may not have chanegd nowadays, but since I had no troubles with nvidia, why should I change?).

My setup is usually the laptop in a docking station stand with one big external monitor next to the propped up internal monitor (so that the upper edge of both monitors are aligned on the same level). Both monitors have the same resolution 1920x1080, which is a little bit problematic as one has to choose a font sizes that suits both screen sizes.

The problems that I still have with my multi-monitor setup:

  • I have two docking stations, one at work and one at home. I have not figured out an automatic way to switch the orientation of the screens. So on both workplaces, I have the internal laptop LCD to the right of the external monitor. I then moved office, and the internal monitor was now to the left. Changing it is just a couple of clicks, but its annoying if you need to do it twice a day. So I gave up and rearranged my desk at home to match my workplace.
    (Note: the external monitors have largely differing resolutions. This is not much of a problem. A minor result is that KDE desktop widgets will always be moved to a screen area that can displayed on both screens.
  • Docking/undocking: Again, I could not figure out to make it automatic. Clicking the settings work, or just logging of and logging into KDE get the right screem settings. I find this too annoying still, so my workaround is to keep the internal LCD as the primary screen at all times. So if I undock, the second screen is just invisible, but still there, which is much less of a hassle than changing the layout. (I do have a Global-KDE-Shortcut to move a window between screens; the Alt-Tab app switchers shows all windows on the active screen with the mouse cursor by default anyway.)
    Of course, if I booted undocked, say on the way to work, then I do have to enable the second screen through krandrtray or nvidia-settings - or I just log out and log in again, not a big deal.

I can’t really help much. But I’ll try!!

I’ve got an old ASUS nV81p laptop (Wolfsdale Core 2 Duo w/ AMD Radeon M4650M). Everything works really well considering hardware support (proprietary buttons for wi-fi, etc.) I got this particular laptop because the Nvidia mobile GPUs where in a strange wilderness back then and I wanted a mobile GPU that would game under Windows 7…

The radeon OSS driver has some major holes (like the power-management sucks balls) - otherwise it’s progressing quite nicely (e.g. STALKER : SOC works in Wine - really sucky FPS and shadows noticeably blob-like - but IT WORKS). Multimonitor works very - using the laptops HDMI port out. It can be set directly from within the KDE System Settings utility No reboot required. I’ve not used this as an audio path - so can’t comment on this.

I use the AMD Catalyst driver generally. So was not pleased when the plodding development of this driver was frozen at the 12.6 release - for all cards <=4xxx.>:( (Contrast with Nvidia - which still supports my 8800 GTX with the latest 310.xx drivers…) Multi-monitor works OK (you can set monitor placement in the Catalyst Qt GUI utility - drag and drop monitor icons about) - but does require a reboot for changes (which is a pain)… Like the radeon driver mismatched monitor resolutions (i.e. builtin vs external) are handled very nicely - a charm to use with KDE really. Again can’t comment on the audio path (using HDMI).

Personally I am not a big fan of the ATI graphics drivers - but they have been slowly improving. However lack of any proper driver-supported video-acceleration is a big pile of fail to my mind. The whole XVBA thing is unsupported, takes voodoo magic to get working and then only supports <=4.1 profile x264… >:(

I do like the look of companies like System76 that actually offer machines that are targeted at Linux users (from the custom-BIOS upwards) - no PCIe power management fails here!! Really only suitable for US residents I guess (import duties and shipping are a ***** >:)).

Good luck anyway!