There are plenty of good reasons to switch to one of the best Linux laptops: Linux is free and open-source, it can run faster than Windows 10 on weaker hardware, and since it’s not nearly as much of a target for malware as Windows, you might find it more secure as well. There are also many different versions of Linux - called distros - so you can choose a specific operating system that best suits your needs.
However, actually getting your hands on a Linux laptop can be tricky. You can install Linux on a Chromebook, but the process is long and complicated (despite Chrome OS itself being based on the Gentoo Linux distro). And, while it’s easier to switch a Windows laptop over to Linux, this still requires some tinkering in the BIOS: a level of DIY tweakery that not everyone will be comfortable attempting.
The simple solution is to buy a laptop with a Linux distro pre-installed and ready right out of the box, but such laptops are rare because major manufacturers focus on the more popular Windows 10 and Chrome OS platforms. Don’t worry, though, we’ve hunted down the best Linux laptops you can buy right now, from budget-friendly models to slimline ultraportables and powerful gaming systems.
Here are the best Linux laptops you can buy today
One of Linux’s biggest benefits is that it’s free, so a laptop as affordable as the Inspiron 15 3000 makes for a fitting combination. If it wasn’t obvious, this does mean making sacrifices to specs and performance, especially where the CPU and memory are concerned: this laptop is powered by only a lowly Intel Pentium chip, and its 4GB of RAM won’t be great for heavy multitasking.
Still, its Ubuntu OS generally plays nice with low-end hardware, and although the SSD is a mere 128GB in size, it’s a speedy NVMe model, so it will help keep up the pace when booting and loading applications.
The plastic chassis also houses a 1080p display, which is a rarer sight than you might think at this price, not to mention a relative bounty of full-size USB ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI output and a clever collapsing Ethernet port. Sure, the Inspiron 15 3000 is no powerhouse, but those who only need a Linux laptop for basic tasks will find plenty to like.
The Windows version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is our favourite business laptop on the market, and here, you get all the same great hardware with Linux pre-installed. Specifically, the Fedora distro, which is geared towards experienced Linux users who want to try the latest features as soon as they’re available.
This bleeding-edge approach can make for a more specialised experience than the crowd-pleasing Ubuntu, but since the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is also a high-end laptop for professionals, the pairing makes sense. This is no grey office bore, either: it’s crafted from a lightweight composite of carbon and glass fiber, and there’s an appealing assortment of security and privacy tools, like the integrated fingerprint reader and sliding camera cover.
The keyboard is also, in typical Lenovo fashion, one of the best in the business, so the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is worth considering if you want a Linux laptop for writing documents or code.
Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review. Note that this is the Windows 10 Pro version.
Linux gaming used to be a nightmare of incompatible graphics drivers and almost non-existent native support for the actual games. However in 2021, the state of play is much better: there are thousands of natively Linux-supporting games on Steam alone.
All you need, then, is the right hardware. Designed by London-based Linux PC specialists Juno Computers, the Neptune 15-inch is a Ubuntu system built precisely to get Linux games running smoothly. There’s the beefy, octa-core Intel Core i7 processor, a powerful GPU in the RTX 2060 and a 144Hz IPS display, which (unlike any 60Hz screen) will make the most out of high frame rates.
Nvidia’s RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 Max-Q are also available as optional GPU upgrades, though all configurations come in a tasteful aluminum chassis that’s quite slim by gaming laptop standards. Connectivity is a highlight too, thanks to its Wi-Fi 6 support and Thunderbolt 3 data socket on the rear.
The Librem 15 is a rarity of the laptop world in that it’s been built from the ground up with privacy and security in mind. That even goes for its Linux distro, PureOS, which was developed in-house by Purism and only supports open-source (in other words, auditable) software.
This will likely be too limiting to anyone who relies on closed-source apps, whether it’s Skype or Photoshop. And there are other concerns like the high price and use of an aging 7th Gen Intel CPU. However, there’s definitely something admirable about the Librem 14’s dedication to keeping itself safe. Besides PureOS, there are physical “kill switches” for the webcam and microphone, and Purism has managed to mostly disable the Core i7’s Management Engine, a component of Intel CPUs that’s commonly targeted by malware attacks.
The Librem 15 is a very specialist Linux laptop, then, but if you’re more protective than most, it could well be worth paying the premium. It’s not entirely devoid of comforts, either: a backlit keyboard and sharp 4K display are both standard features.
The Clevo NL41LU’s greatest strength is its incredible wealth of customization options. You can almost ignore that specs list up there, as all the key internals - as well as which Linux version comes pre-installed - can be chopped and changed before reaching the checkout.
That means a choice of 10th Gen Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 chips, up to 32GB of RAM and any SSD between a 250GB SATA drive and a 2TB NVMe model. As for the distros, Ubuntu, Fedora, Linux Mint and elementary OS are all on the menu, as are Kali Linux, Xubuntu and Zorin OS.
Admittedly, the NL41LU probably won’t look or feel like the most exciting laptop in your hands: it’s not especially thin or stylish, and the 14-inch, 1080p (60Hz) is arguably best suited for simple office software. That said, it’s hard to think of many other laptops that are flexible enough to be either an affordable budget notebook or a RAM-stuffed pseudo-workstation, and the sheer amount of choice when it comes to distros will help make sure you have the right OS for the job.